I received the sad news today that a man I’m deeply privileged to have called ‘friend’ and ‘brother’ was promoted to glory last night. He has been affectionately called “Bullfrog”, “John Wesley on a motorcycle” and even “Intelligence on fire!” I am, of course, talking about Rev. Dr. John Smith – founder of God’s Squad Melbourne, Concern Australia, mission-troubadour and ordained-pioneer way before it was cool.
The following is an extract from a piece I wrote on him for my BA a few years ago. There’s a bit of extra pain in sharing this today, as after a lot of prayer and discernment, me and the family decided in January it was time for me to resign my membership of God’s Squad. The colours given to me personally by John Smith have gone back to the club, but the radical Jesus Movement culture we learned from him and others will stay with us for the rest of our lives. Every time I find myself in some shady bar or risky situation – I’ll be raising a glass of good scotch to you Smithy. Rest In Peace good and faithful servant.
The reason I want to share this paltry piece (alongside recommending that you read some of his own work), is that I believe Smithy had a pretty unique gift – in that he was the real-deal. A deeply faulted person, like all of us, but the real-deal nonetheless. I see a lot of Christians virtue-signalling on social media about the latest fad cause, but I don’t tend to see them in the soup-line sharing a meal with people. Smithy was different. He lived it. And he started living it in a time when it cost him his job at a Christian ‘mission’ agency, surely cost him some friends, and certainly cost him his reputation as a ‘clean-cut’ Christian minister. He was a man of his time, and some of his views might seem a little out-dated to the younger generation, but I hope you can see past this.
So if there’s one thing I’ll be taking from Smithy’s legacy, it’s this – I’m not going to try to gain kudos by talking about issues which affect people I don’t have proximity with. Smithy showed us a type of pioneering-incarnational-mission that came with blood, sweat, and tears. Literally. I hope this is an encouragement to people who’ve never heard of this great man, and comes with some comfort for those of us that are grieving. I’m glad to have been part of a culture where it’s ok for men to show their grief, tears, and affection for one another.
I might not be ok for a few days.
Continue reading Intelligence on Fire – RIP Rev. Dr. John Smith
This is an abridged version of an essay I recently wrote, if you’d like to read the full thing do be in touch
It’s probably fair to say that the environment in which we share the Bible in the UK has changed radically in the last 100 years. People are bringing different kinds of questions to the table. As one author noted, the air of expectation and hope of the early twentieth century very quickly gave way to the cruel realities of “Auschwitz, Hiroshima and the Gulag Archipelago”. The West’s great hope of self-redemption and apotheosis through science, technology, education and the secular nation state gave way to a climate of fear, mistrust of institutions, and philosophical confusion. Continue reading Hermeneutics for Ragamuffins: Some things a former Calvinist has learned from Liberation theology
Last Sunday I had the great privilege of sharing with St Matthew’s Church Luton on the subject of ‘Good News For The Poor’ :
This week we started a new series on the book of John with our Church youth group. The series started with me leading a session on John 12:20-36, and my prep notes ended up being long form, so I though I’d stick them on the blog:
John was a first-hand witness of the life of Jesus, one of his 12 closest mates. They journeyed together like brothers, and John particularly had a deep and emotionally intimate relationship with Jesus. John’s version of the story of Jesus was written with one purpose in mind, that it’s readers would “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing [we] might have life in his Name.” (John 20:31)
…“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. (John 12:23-26 NIV)
Continue reading A Different Kind of Kingdom – John 12:20-36
Being a two-wheeled missionary to the fringes is a confusing business. People are wonderfully complex, and love to blast out of the boxes we put them in. It’s much easier to have well constructed opinions when regarding things from a distance, but when you get up close enough to feel the breath, the beast is a many-faced monstrosity.
Continue reading St Frank, Biker Cafés and Verbal Diarreah
I hear many Christians talk about being ‘led’ to do this or that by God. This is a concept which still puzzles me, and I fear that few really carry through the implications of that statement in their minds.
This was a day when I was ‘led’ by God.
It was a balmy summer afternoon, the kind where all of creation seems to hum with life. Spring was not long past and the heat was at that beautiful point before stifling. My transit van was dutifully hauling me home from a tiring day labouring in the sun. That was when I saw him. Standing thumb-out on the hard shoulder, heavy-laden with rucksacks and looking well-travelled. This is a fellow travellers way of saying he looked like a ragamuffin. When I say I was ‘led’ to pull-over what I mean is that to do anything else was an impossibility. Almost like there was no conscious decision in the split second between spotting him and hitting the brakes.
As he pulled his slight frame into the cab of my van, baggage and all, I asked his destination and purpose.
“I’m on a mission from God brother.”
Continue reading A Traveller’s Tale