dedicated to rev. rich wilson. a very thoughtful man. thanks for a very stimulating and encouraging few hours. :-)


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About jonbirch

animator, illustrator, character designer, graphic designer. music producer/recording musician. co-owner of PROOST. proost.co.uk
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69 Responses to 774

  1. rockingrev says:

    Sounds so much like my text for Sunday evening from Romans “After all these years of refusing to really deal with God on his terms, insisting instead on making their own deals, they have nothing to show for it.” Don’t we all try to make God in our image and live our lives according to that?

  2. Spiralis says:

    Man in Green: Well…. I am striving to be more in line with Christ. Thank you for the compliment

  3. Forrest says:

    hi Spiralis, that’s what I’d like for the thing to be if it was me.

  4. subo says:

    boy – it’s a relief to know someone know’s what God’s saying

    I just bumble along, trying to work out how to follow texts like ‘love one another as I have loved you’.

  5. miriworm says:

    I see they both have no ears to hear what God is saying! I have ears but still don’t hear much God wise sometimes a bit like Subo (#4) I couls suspect he’s a mute. :-|

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  7. jonbirch says:

    we do indeed, rockingrev.

    yup subo… amazing how, in the bible, god doesn’t speak for generations, yet some evo’s get an authoritative word from the almighty once every few minutes. hmmm :-?

  8. jonbirch says:

    maybe for some it’s the need to control, for others the need for comfort, for others certainty etc…

  9. JF says:

    Everyone’s God is a projection of themselves, so God will always sound like the person who is talking.

    Hands up who has ever heard a minister talk about God, but not recognise the God that minister is talking about!

    That’s why people will drive past 5 churches to go to the one where other people’s perceptions are at least similar to their own. This is much less challenging than thinking about why this is the case.

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  11. beckyg says:

    I love this quote from Anne Lamott – you know you’ve created God in your image when he hates all the same people you do.

  12. Hello! I believe I experienced that twice in the same ‘prayer ministry’ time earlier this summer.

    Having said that, I’m sure I’ve mixed up what’s me and what’s God a time or two (or a million) too.

  13. Lewis says:


  14. dennis says:

    im pretty careful what I say in Gods name these days.

  15. Tiggy says:

    Hmm, I think God’s saying I should have a new dress…

  16. subo says:

    joking apart, I do find it important to try to hear God speaking to me

    it’s a tricky one, as the experience of people’s conviction that God’s spoken has been difficult for me, perhaps there might be a clue here – if someone is convinced, in a black and white way, then maybe they need to chat to their Dr,

    though the person who has a hunch, and tries to test it out, cautiously and humbly, might well be hearing from God

    One thing I’ve tried hard to work on recently, is letting myself experience God’s love and valuing of us, personally and for people I care about. It’s very hard to hold a useful faith without some tangible experience of God

    It’s often impressive to be with someone who has a quiet confidence in God’s continuing presence, and I wonder sometimes if the noisy wild claims come more from a longing to believe God, than a ongoing relationship with God, though a longing for God is going to be the starting point for all of us

  17. frauscharff says:

    How does God “speak” anyway?

    To me walking in God’s path is more a matter of changed perspective on myself and the people around me. It’s an attitude towards life itself and Jesus gave an example. But most of the time I’m not aware of this perspective.

    There are very few spiritual leaders I know, that manage to stay in this perspective and treat people as Jesus did. They may be authorized to say “God says:…”

    Many times it’s all just about manipulation.

  18. JF says:

    Clergy etc. do sometimes set themselves up as being in a position to say “God says…”, they are indeed ‘authorized’ by their employer to do so. But unless they can demonstrate that they have received some kind of divine revelation, they are essentially just expressing an opinion, like everyone else. And the Rabbi’s “God says” will sound different from the vicar’s “God says”. And the RC priest’s “God says” will be different from the Mullah’s “God says”. And there are thousands of other faiths, with millions of factions. Each one’s “God says” will be different again. Some of us seek out the “God says” that suits how we perceive the world, others of us wonder whether God ever actually said anything at all, or whether the human tendency to project hopes, aspirations, fears and concerns onto an outside agent is simply a universal phenomenon.

  19. jonbirch says:

    thoughtfully put jf. some ‘phenomenon’ mind you! interestingly, prof robert winston, (good mate of dawkins, but undecided as to what he ‘believes’) talks about there being evidence for a faith gene… like the need for faith (in something) is hardwired into us. there seems no doubt that humanities need to exercise faith is unquenchable.

  20. subo says:

    manipulative stuff is horrible, have my share of being on the receiving end.

    I think we often try to cope with fear by trying to control things around us. This can be really destructive if it’s people we try to control – although maybe we do more of this than we want to admit?

    however, I don’t see why, just because some words are manipulative, that excludes the possibility of God genuinely wanting to communicate with us. There is a fairly vast number of witnesses to the reality of this through the centuries

    personally, I don’t see why God can’t speak to different groups differently, why shouldn’t God engage with people of all different faiths? do we have a monopoly on God?

    having said that, I think you can test experiences of God to see how closely they support what we do know of his character, i.e. God’s heart for justice and peace. I’d find it easier to accept a word as coming from God if it encouraged the giving of love, and the fair allocation of resources, than the building of the churches empire or the establishment of an individuals power

  21. Forrest says:

    The more life goes on the more I see God a sadistic prankster.

    Who says what they’ve heard God say has less and less impact – to the point of none, now.

  22. Robb says:

    Every morning we go through the readings. It surprises me haw many encouraging things in the bible were clearly directed at the clergy and how many tellings off were apparently directed at the congregation.

    As a junior member of the clergy I don’t believe a word of this!! I suspect that most tellings off were directed at us and most encouragements were directed at everyone else!

  23. Tiggy says:

    Our church leader recently told the congregation that some of them were ‘completely mad’. Many of them think HE’s completely mad too, but it’s all said quite affectionately. I think we quite enjoy the mutual madness!

  24. jonbirch says:

    funnily enough i have been toying with the idea.

  25. Tiggy says:

    Then I don’t suppose that’s all you’ve been toying with! ;-)

  26. subo says:

    Hi Robb, like your reflectiveness, though for me it’s not about a them and us ministry, it’s about all of us functioning as the Body of Christ, to find practical means to help each other experience God’s love for us.

    I’ve been aware recently, that a handful of people have reached out to me, and that through them I’ve begun to experience God’s love. They never told me what they thought God was saying, they just showed me understanding and empathy.

  27. Robb says:

    Subo – I completely agree with you. I just hate clericalism. I suspect that I will be judged much harsher than anyone else.

    I didn’t go for this to judge people. I am a sinner [believe me – truly truly I sayth unto thee I am a sinner] and was offered this wonderful gift of forgiveness. All I have ever wanted is for other people to have to too.

    I hate anyone lording it over anyone. I personally feel like I got demoted to deacon from laity. I guess that is probably as it should be. It means servant.

    I think that is what I am complaining about. I have colleagues who talk in black and white us and themisms all the time. It drives me up the wall!! Dr Ruth has heard me rant about it again and again and again! Poor Dr Ruth!

  28. Robb says:

    “All I have ever wanted is for other people to have to too.”

    What a pants turn of phrase I have. All I have ever wanted is to show people that it is the same of them.

    “Free gift with every purchase – Grace. No purchase necessary!”

  29. Tiggy says:

    “Free gift with every purchase – Grace. No purchase necessary!”

    Well that doesn’t make much sense! I think you need to change those pants, Robb.

  30. Robb says:

    Nah – that is exactly what I meant to say!

  31. Tiggy says:

    I’m not buying it!

  32. Robb says:

    Bummer – I hope you change your mind ;)

  33. Tiggy says:

    On the crummy Alpha course we were told that God had written us a cheque and it was free – all we had to do was accept it.

    Sounds suspiciously like the Nigerian scam to me.

  34. Robb says:

    That’s why I don’t like Alpha.

    No hang on “why I don’t like alpha” is a series of books I am writing…

  35. Tiggy says:

    Really??! A SERIES of books?

    I want to start a group called ‘Intellectuals Against Alpha’. Maybe that sounds a bit arrogant, but something along those lines. What I hate is the fascism of it – like having a national curriculum. It really goes against encouraging diversity of thought.

  36. Robb says:

    It is southern UK middle classness dressed up in the clothing of christianity. I hate that they wont let you change anything.

    It makes no sense here in Northern working class land!

    I could expand that to a series of books :lol:

  37. Tiggy says:

    Not all the south is middle class. I’ve heard about Alpha course groups in the East End of London having hysterics at Nicky Gumballs accent.

  38. becky says:

    Alpha hit the US shores back in the 1990s – works for those who are really into church and want to deepen their spiritual life. For those who aren’t church-y to begin with, it doesn’t seem to work. I was into clique Christianity in my twenties but that doesn’t work these days. And there’s a lot of Anglican Anglophiles – love the British accent so much they try to imitate it. Painful and pretentious.

  39. Carole says:

    I take your point, guys, re Alpha. But I have a bit of difficulty writing it off quite so glibly. Seriously, I wouldn’t be at the place I am at were it not for Alpha and, though others may beg to differ, I don’t see myself as completely gullible and incapable of independent thought. But, I suppose it depends on the church that is doing it. I can see how the nature of the Alpha ‘franchise’ could offend but you can make it more bespoke. The Alpha I attended was a joint church venture so I suspect that was a bit different for starters. We didn’t have the videos, we had the various church leaders giving the talks. And whilst the content was the same, the clergy/church leaders always issued the disclaimer that it was Nicky Gumble’s content and feel free to disagree at the group session. I still feel a special loving bond to the people that took me on my Alpha journey years back. I continued involvement for a few years as a small group leader (though I prefer the idea of fellow journeyer – I’m not even equipped to lead a dog!) We seldom pressed the requisite Alpha questions, preferring the results of relevant digression along a theme. We seriously crapped ourselves(metaphorically) about taking our guests on the Holy Spirit Day (we didn’t stretch to weekends) but didn’t pressurize, encouraged questioning and tried to respond with as much love as was necessary to whatever emotions may have emerged. I constantly felt that however hamfisted I may been in my approach to Alpha, I offered guests the opportunity to enquire, evaluate and make up their own minds. I made no effort to conceal my own fallibility but was constantly amazed by my own conviction that God made Him/Herself known to people in spite of us rather than because of us. I look back with particular fondness at one very forthright lady who came along with the intention of discrediting Christianity. She continued in this vain for most of the course. She enjoyed the Holy Spirit Day but didn’t seem especially moved by it. I was shocked when something seemed to have changed dramatically by the last session. She is now training to be a vicar.

    Further down the line, I have personally moved beyond the simplistic nature of Alpha but I cannot deny that at the time it was what I needed and it kickstarted the process of deconstructing the received faith of my childhood and building my own faith. And it was all done under the wise auspices of wonderful people. Now I just hang around places like this (with equally wonderful people) and listen to or engage in the debate. I’m not quite sure where I am going faithwise, but at least I know I do have a faith.

    If anyone has bothered to stay to the end of this epic, sorry I’ve rambled on!

  40. dadube says:

    Carole, don’t ever apologise for rambling – we love you :D

    I’ve never had anything to do with Alpha but am naturally suspicious of it (as I am of most mainstream church things I’m afraid). There’s an american here in bahrain doing something kind of similar (I believe) with videos by Joel somebody (Osteen possibly??) – apparently a few Muslims go too. But yeah, I find that as irrelevant to me as alpha. Sanctuary, Greenbelt, Asbo – that’s my holy trinity of church :D lol

  41. Kim says:

    So Robb, what do you reckon a northern working class version of Alpha could look like?

  42. subo says:

    hiya Carol, keep plugging Alpha, I’ve seen people find the opportunity to explore their faith, and what they believe over a number of weeks, prove really meaningful

  43. subo says:

    Sorry Robb

  44. Kayte says:

    How is it we can accept the Jesus is the ‘living Word,’ but then not expect God to be a God who speaks? (or comminicates, if that’s easier!)

    I’m not saying hearing God’s voice is easy, but I’d rather take a stab at prayfully seeking what God might be saying, (and potentaily get it wrong, but I would never tell someone ‘i think god is saying you should do x with your life;’ it’s also a phrase I don’t ever use lightly!) than espouse the attitude of the guy on the right who to me seems a little graceless and smug?

  45. Tiggy says:

    I only glibly dismiss it because I find it so glib in itself. I hunger for good theology and places where you can genuinely discuss things, but my experience of Alpha wasn’t that.

    I don’t think it’s a good idea for Christians, or anyone, to all go through the same course no matter whether it’s good or bad. Alpha has too much of a monopoly and it will lead to a lack of diversity in thinking or not thinking at all. It pushes one particular atonement theory and one type of theology.

  46. beatthedrum says:

    Its interesting isnt it. God clerly still speaks to His people, but people hear him in different ways and through differnt media.

    I am a charismaic so I believe that the gifts of the Spirit are still fullly in operation today. So I expect God to speak to me foremost through his word (the Bible) through Prophecy and through words of knowledge and wisdom. However I also am a realist and realise that any NT prophecy is only “in part”(1Co 13:9 ) and there is always a bit of the deliverer in what is said.

    That is why the scripture tells us to weigh everything (1Co 14:29). We do that against Gods word and through our growing relationship with him.

    We have to remember the NT Prophecy etc is differnt from OT prophecy that we read in the bible.

    Of course there are a few people out there who have heard the audable voice of God. Now that must be scary and weird!


  47. beatthedrum says:

    Alpha I like as a starting point or as part of the journey for people to come into their own relationship with Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.

    But it is only part of the process. Also one size does not fit all.

    Having said that I have seen people from city bankers and business people, through teachers and nurses, to unemployed people from the pit villages of durham (and you dont get much lower class or less educated than that) come into that relationship with Jesus through alpha.


  48. Tiggy says:

    I’m not saying Alpha isn’t a big success as far as roping people into Christianity. Why wouldn’t it be? It provides them with a set of pat answers and they don’t have to think any more. That’s probably very appealing to miners and bankers.

  49. Tiggy says:

    Curious to know, beatthedrum – what recent prophecies do you know of that have come true? Or are they just descriptions of how things are?

  50. beatthedrum says:

    The prophecy is not just foretelling it can also be forthtelling. They can be this is what you are going to do / be etc they can also be this is what God is doing….

    I have been out with people ‘treasure hunting’ of late and seen amazing answers to ‘prophecy’ in that area as well. People asking God to give them a picture of someone he wants to interact with on that day and some other details like time and location. Some of these have been very specific in term of the description of the person and exact location and time. These are written down on a piece of paper before hand.

    When we went there the people prophesied about turned up and they have been aproached and shown the piece of paper. We have then either shared the gospel with them or seen healings follwoing prayer etc.

  51. beatthedrum says:

    n the alpha front. I have never known Alpha to have pat answers as most of the work is done in the discussion groups not through the talks.

  52. Tiggy says:

    I’m not sure what you mean by ‘the work’.

    Was rather hoping for more specific examples on the prophecy front. The ones I hear are pretty vague – eg. There’s someone here with a bad ankle. Well there are probably at least three people there with a bad ankle, if not more. Reminds me of Spiritualist meetings, ‘Someone here used to have a caged bird and they know someone called Betty.’

  53. beatthedrum says:

    by work i mean people working out their faith…

  54. rebecca says:

    Beat the Drum: I saw this and thought of you…

    There’s going to be a talk at Greenbelt titled The Thoughtful Charismatic. See http://www.greenbelt.org.uk/festival/2009/lineup/event/2952 . Why does the speaker think it necessary to use the word “thoughtful”?

    I know you’re not going to Greenbelt, but if you want to listen to the talk, many talks are recorded and can be downloaded afterwards.

  55. Tiggy says:

    It’s just one of those pastiche titles Greenbelt likes. There used to be lots of books called things like, ‘The Thoughtful Teacher’, ‘The Thoughtful Pastry Chef’, ‘The Thoughtful Dressmaker.’ Just means it’s aimed at someone wanting to be a reflective practitioner. I don’t think it necessarily means that Charismatics aren’t thoughtful.

  56. Robb says:

    Tiggy – I was neither implying that all of the north is working class or that all of the south is working class. That would be clearly idiotic. I was trying to make the point that a lot of the cultural necessity that the alpha course insists upon makes little sense in the “working class parts” of the “north of england”.

    Carole – I am not dissing Alpha – I think it is great in theory but it could do with some leverage….

  57. Robb says:

    The world in general – I like engaging with people. I don’t like “programs”. People don’t fit into boxes. I would rather facilitate people to enable them to use their gifts. Read the book and watch the video and have the food and ask the queations does nowt for me.

    The question – how can you angage with the community around you excites me greatly. Beer and bible would be much better raand ‘ere. We don’t have a dinner party culture. We don’t sit and debate higher thought. We don’t do cafe culture. We don’t hang around art galleries.

  58. Tiggy says:

    ‘a lot of the cultural necessity that the alpha course insists upon makes little sense in the “working class parts” of the “north of england”.’

    What do you mean by ‘the cultural necessity that the alpha course insists upon’? (Btw, not disputing anything, just don’t know what you mean.)

  59. Tiggy says:

    How did you answer my question before I posted it?

    Where DO you live Robb? It sounds like somewhere from another century! Even people in Romford and Basildon go to cafes and to each other’s houses for dinner.

  60. Robb says:


    I am a miners son from a pit village in yorkshire.

    A lot of the alpha course relies upon a middle class…. everything.

    BTW – I am middle class. That ain’t the problem. Being middle class isn’t wrong. I am saying that “programmes” are a nonsense as they don’t take in to consideration the people they involve.

    Broad brush strokes – if you stick the alpha course in mongolia – you may need to adapt it……….

  61. Tiggy says:

    Well it did come from ‘The Church of Christ, Sloane Ranger.’

    Well! You’ll be telling us next that these miners don’t go to a wine bar after the evening service.

  62. Allatsea says:

    Ha ha. Love it!!!

  63. Pingback: Digging a lot » Blog Archive » I wish I had said that…part 1

  64. Kim says:

    I think Alpha was developed with a specific group in mind, and it does serve that ‘type’ of person very well. Surely the point is to adapt the idea of wanting to reach out to the local circumstances, so if beer and bible works better elsewhere, then do that? A mate of mine used to preach in the working men’s clubs in the north east and she went down very well!

  65. Carole says:

    Well said, Kim. Alpha is a local model that has travelled as a result of massive marketing. But it is only a model and needs adapting to the preferred local style.

    If anyone has ever been pushed into accepting a set answers on anything, they have been served badly. This is not my experience. I was given space to form my own opinions, to question, to accept or reject anything that was stated and I hope I always allowed that basic right to others. Alpha is as much about group dynamic as anything else. Apart from occasional visits from Jehovah’s Witnesses at my door, I had never been given the opportunity to enter into any discussions on spiritual matters so I welcomed the opportunity, as I know many others have done. It didn’t churn out ‘cookie cutter Christians’ (as BeckyG might describe them) as a matter of course. Many ended the course saying it was a pleasant 10 weeks but I am happy as I am. Not a problem. If nowt else, they have a few more people to say hello to at the local shops and, personally, I think it is pretty much all about relationship.

    And, as BTD rightly said, it is a starting point, nothing more. If you want to go head to head with the Dali Lama, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Richard Dawkins, the Pope, St Augustine and the Chief Rabbi and argue them into submission, Alpha is not even going to tickle your tastebuds. Perhaps a hermitage on an otherwise uninhabited island is more appropriate…with Wi-fi Broadband, naturally… ;)

  66. Sophie says:

    I had a thought about people’s ideas of God being similar to what hey think themselves. I’ve come across the idea (in Good Goats by the Linns) that we become like the God we worship, so if our idea of god is a violent powerful being who’s a fan of genocide, then we become like that. If our idea of god is a loving being who is slow to anger and rich in love then we become kinder.

    The argument the authors make is that it’s very important to heal our image of god in order to be healed ourselves.

  67. Tiggy says:

    ‘if our idea of god is a violent powerful being who’s a fan of genocide, then we become like that.’

    Doesn’t that rule out believing in the God of the Old Testament then?

  68. Mark says:

    I didn’t read all the previous comments here, so it may have already been said. But very often when a preacher says, “God says..”, he is merely referring to what is written (like Jesus said: “It is written.”), in the Scriptures. Someone who doesn’t hold to an inerrant and infallable view of the Scriptures is going to take offense to that. Still, it is wise to “test the Spirits”, and know enough of what the Bible actually says to be able to discern when someone is spinning.

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