"Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers." - VoltairE

The strange little band of the gospel

November 19, 2018
'Mission in Community' is the theme of the latest edition of Agapé's MOVE magazine. In it, the principal of my college, Rosalee Velloso Ewell, has written a profoundly challenging piece about being on mission together:

"I would suggest that one of the greatest challenges to the gospel in Western culture is independence and the individualism that goes with it. There is nothing Christ-like about being independent.

In the Bible, when independence is prized, things go badly. Adam and Eve sin so that they might have ‘free minds’ under the knowledge of good and evil; David kills Uriah so that he can have his wife; Judas leaves the disciples’ community to betray Jesus. Independence is not a valued character trait in the Bible, though our society seems to like it very much. In my eyes, this gives Christians an even greater reason to bring the gospel to all people, and to press into the question that goes against such individualism: what are we inviting people into?

I want to look at the example of one of my favourite people in the Bible, Peter. Temperamental, competitive, speak-first-think-later, Peter. Maybe you're a bit like him!

In Luke 5, having just dropped everything to follow Jesus, Peter and his friends witness the healing of two people, and are then confronted with a huge challenge, as Jesus calls the next disciple: Levi, the tax collector.

Now, in their society, culture, and religion, this was not done. Fisherman and tax collectors belonged to two very different groups; there was nothing normal about Peter and Levi being put into the same little band. Fishermen were at the bottom of the social scale: people running the family business, trying to survive under the rule of a foreign power. Though poor, they were devout Jews: they tried to live by the Mosaic laws, to go to prayers, and to respect the words of the law-keepers, the Pharisees. Fishermen were exploited by people like Levi. A tax collector was someone who served the evil empire; a corrupt official who took money from his own people to give to the Romans and pocket for himself. This man was a religious outsider, too. And yet we know that like the fisherman, Levi also accepted Jesus' invitation to follow him. If Peter wanted to be near Jesus, he would also have to be near Levi. What was Jesus thinking?

For Peter, learning to follow Jesus and be a part of his kingdom meant learning to be with those with whom he didn't get along. Sometimes, loving one's neighbour is the same as loving one's enemy.

As we get closer to Jesus, we get closer to one another. This isn't always easy. In fact, it's usually pretty hard, as Jesus is the one choosing those who join the band. Like Peter, I think we would prefer to choose our own band mates! But that's not how Jesus does things. In John 17, he prays that we would be one so that the world will know him and the Father who sent him. In John 13, he says that it is by our love for one another that we are known. This unity, this love, is a key part of the missionary calling of the people of God.

Mission in twenty-first century Britain must be about learning the hard lessons of friendship and loving one's neighbours, even when we don't like them. If we as Christians are to be united by Jesus and in Jesus, then we are going to have to be with others who are also called to be close to Jesus. He is doing the calling, not us.

We don't grow closer to Christ in a vacuum. We need one another if we are to grow deeper in our faith and to learn to love our neighbour as Jesus loves. To be faithful in mission we need to be those Christians who dare to cross the boundaries, for the sake of Jesus and the mission into which he draws us, so that the world will know the triune God."


Excerpt from a lecture given at Agapé’s National Leadership Forum in May 2018.

Dr Rosalee Velloso Ewell is the Principal of Redcliffe College and is part of the Christian community called Companions for Hope: www.companionsforhope.com. Previously, Rosalee served as Executive Director of the Theological Commission for the World Evangelical Alliance. She is the author or editor of various books and articles and lives in Birmingham with her husband, Sam, and their three children.


Tips for debating better on Facebook - Guest post

October 18, 2018

One of my friends recently shared some really helpful advice about engaging in Facebook debate. I can’t share his name as he’s a missionary in a sensitive context, but he’s given me permission to use his material here.

“There are people with whom I disagree but whose posts I always read carefully and appreciate. There are people with whom I agree where I cringe when reading posts. (All of these are people I like, agreeing or disagreeing doesn't change that.)

Most arguments on Facebook a...

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"God is your Father, not your boss"

October 11, 2018

Recently I have been experiencing a bit of a dip in mental health. I went to the doctor and he said that I needed to take things easier, so I have been attempting to do that. I've realised that I don't find it very easy to relax and be still. I've even been working hard on trying to get better and trying to feel closer to God, but had been feeling flat and frustrated.

This weekend I was at the True Freedom Trust annual conference and God used it really powerfully to help me. I was apprehensive...

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Top apps, tools and websites for students

September 7, 2018

As I’ve gone back to studying, I’ve found some useful tools to help. As this new academic year kicks off, I thought it would be useful to share my favourites:

  1. Reference manager - Zotero (free). Zotero is a brilliant way of organising all your sources including books, papers, presentations, journal articles, videos, podcasts and more. It’s really easy to generate bibliographies from your source material and use tagging to organise and sort your material efficiently. It really is an excell...

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PrayerMate Send

August 30, 2018

For a few months now, I’ve been using PrayerMate Send which is a brilliant way to help people know what to pray for in my ministry. It’s ideal for anyone in Christian ministry, churches, youth groups, social action projects, charities and anyone that wants to encourage others to pray for their work.

PrayerMate is a great, free app for smartphones which allows users to organise the things they’re praying for, add contacts, create lists and subscribe to feeds from organisations and individ...

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Bible character collecting cards

August 23, 2018

I've always loved collecting things, especially fact cards, so I was really pleased to discover this free trading card creator. You can use one of their pre-made templates or create your own categories. The above example of Paul shows one I created to include information about when and where he lived, his role and family background, Bible books he appears in and wrote, major events in his life and a couple of famous quotes from Scripture.

They have ready-made templates for people, places, obje...
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The joy of giving

August 15, 2018

This morning I was interviewed as part of some research on charitable giving at Northumbria University. I was asked about which charities I give to, how I give and my motivations, which was a great opportunity to reflect.

I haven't always given to charity and for me it's been a process of growing in my faith, trusting God more, appreciating what he's giving me, and realising that what Jesus said is true - it really is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20: 35).

There are a number of thi...

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Picture This Thought

August 3, 2018

I'm exploring different ways to do discipleship and outreach, especially over the summer as it's harder to see people in person. I think that digital media can be a helpful tool to engage people with faith and help them to think about Jesus.

I have just started recording a short video reflection each day based on a photo I've taken. The aim is to think about what the picture might tell us about God and his world and my prayer is that it will spark offline conversations with students and others...

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Life in the Fast Lane

July 31, 2018

I have just had quite a busy two months, what with a work trip to Paris, running training in Birmingham, speaking at two conferences in London, doing a Master’s assignment, going to Granny’s funeral, completing the 3 week summer school intensive for my Master’s in Gloucester and visiting family in Manchester. I’m now home and supposedly having a bit of a rest, but I’ve realised how hard it is to stop.

I have a wooden block by my bed with the verse ‘Be still and know that I am God...

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What’s your favourite smell?

June 25, 2018

I've been thinking a lot recently about smells and more specifically about the power of smell to recall long-forgotten people and places from the distant past. We've probably all had the experience when we've been going about our daily lives when suddenly a scent will stop us in our tracks and we feel that we are once again in our grandmother's kitchen or walking through the school doors for the very first time. Smell can transport you back to the moment in a way that no other sense can and c...

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