Friday, 30 April 2010

Tea, biscuits and rockers
Vegetable soup
And coming to my blog
Days out in the country

Monday, 26 April 2010

Vegetable Soup

Vegetable soup

Mission 2

Story 2

Birmingham at St Martins in the Bullring

In the late sixties I was living in Birmingham and trying very hard to have an effect on young people.  At that time we were running an event each Sunday night at my local church, it was attracting hundreds of youngsters including ‘rockers’ on their motor bikes, which did not make us particularly popular with our neighbours or the ‘nice’ leadership people who had permitted us to use the building.

After the demise of the ‘9 o clock special’ due to the arsonist attack, which subsequently led to the leaderships refusal of permission to continue our use of the hall, because they did not want ‘nasty unchristian, non churched people in their building’ I was left wondering what next?

Fortunately we were working with another local team, who were friendly and supportive.  This was headed up by Dan Wooding, who as it happens, was best man at my wedding. Dan and I and a few others were invited to meet with Cannon Brian Green, the rector of St. Martins in the Bull Ring, a city centre church; he was quite a pioneer being one of the prime movers of the first visit to the UK by Billy Graham. Cannon Green had just overseen the completion of a large 500 seat hall attached to St. Martins and was seeking to make an impression on the young people in Birmingham.

The outcome of the meeting was that we were given the opportunity to re-launch the ‘9 o clock special’. We used the same format of very loud music, a testimony and a 10 minute talk following by tea, biscuits and chat.  All over bar the shouting, and there was often a lot of shouting, in three quarters of an hour. We launched with a large team of 100 plus and attracted capacity crowds.  They were not exactly polite and knew nothing of church etiquette but they came nonetheless.
People prayed, dished out invitations on the streets, gave their money and their time. Cannon Green also offered us financial support, meeting any shortfall on our weekly costs. He did this faithfully, every time we had a need.  The average donation he made on many occasions was £50. You may think that is a drop in a bucket, but if you take inflation into consideration, then that is in the region of £745 per donation in today’s money.

As I mentioned, the youngsters who came were not polite, couple this with the fact that the building we used was right next to the fruit and vegetable market. By the time we kicked-off on a Sunday night at 9:00 pm, there were always many stray vegetables lying around on the street.  These became useful missiles if the crowd didn’t like the band or the speaker.  On nights when the crowd considered the speaker poor, the post meeting hall clean up could produce enough veg to make a large and hearty soup!

I cannot now remember how many years we ran the ‘9 o clock special’ in the city centre, but I do remember that many young people had encounters with the living God, and many went on to become history makers and bringers of change, introducing still more people to The Way.

One day many years later, when I was leading a church in Grangetown, Middlesbrough some young lads from Birmingham contacted me and offered to come and help with work we were doing on a nearby estate. Four or five of them showed up one day and knocked on my door in Wilton Way. One of them seemed familiar, ‘don’t I know you’ I said, he simply laughed.

Later in the evening, over coffee and sandwiches, I said to him again that I was sure I knew him from somewhere. He again found this amusing, and when he had finished laughing this was the story he told me.

“I used to come to the late night specials at St. Martins in the Bullring and I made a commitment to Christ.  You said that you would pick me up each Sunday and spend time talking more about what my commitment meant. You came every week, and every week I would hide behind the curtains and tell my mum to tell you I was out.  I couldn’t believe that you didn’t give up, that you kept on coming week after week, that’s why I was laughing.  Years later I strolled into another meeting in central Birmingham and the guys who were talking were saying the same stuff that you had said, I finally  realised that this is life, from then on I have never looked back, but that first encounter made the initial impression and put the spark in me.”

When I look back on what we did and how we did it, I feel as though we were blundering around. However, maybe God honours our blundering, commitment and love for him and his world. Later on we were privileged to have small glimpses of what he was doing in people lives as a result of his blessing on our blunderings. We don’t always get to see what we want to see, and we don’t always get it right, but if the love of God is in us, it definitely has an effect.

To quote Gerald Coates, the founder of Pioneer, ‘Often God is doing more behind our backs that he is in front of our face, but every so often we get to laugh at the success he has brought from something we did that we hadn’t even dreamt was possible and actually maybe what wasn’t even that good.’ Perhaps that’s mission?

Gerald Quotes                                                                                                              

Adrian L Hawkes
Monday, 26 April 2010
For Our Lab Stories
W. 967
Editor: A. Brookes

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Tea Biscuits and Rockers

Tea, biscuits and rockers

Mission 1. Story 1.

I am always puzzled by what people mean when they used the word mission. Do they mean sharing good news, or something else?  Claire Smith from ourlab blog fame has asked me to write some stories about mission, so stories I will write, are they about mission? You decide.

Very early Birmingham

I grew up in Brum and at around 19 years old, somehow God had got hold of me and a group of other young people. For me, it was one of those ‘blinding light’ revelations, I was in a coffee bar with a guy called Tony Stone when he commanded me to go and talk to some young people about Jesus.  My pulse was racing, and my breathing was shallow as, carefully carrying one of those frothy coffees that had had just come on the market, I approached their table and hesitantly asked if I could join them.

Much later, as I walked out of the coffee bar and the cold air hit my face, the light of revelation also hit me; I knew the reality of a relationship with the living God.  During the evening, as more and more people had crowded round the table, listening to my quiet conversation about Jesus, I realised they were not anti, they just didn’t know anything about him, but the fact that they stayed, and listened, surely meant they were interested. I knew God, they didn’t, but they were keen to hear.  For you, perhaps that is not so profound, but I wanted to fall off my donkey and lie on the ground in awe.  I didn’t actually have a donkey, and the pavement looked hard and cold, but nevertheless the light had flashed down on me.

I was so turned on by this experience that I gathered a group of like minded young people and we decided we would ‘evangelise’, we didn’t know what to do, and for many of us our extended church background did not prepare us to engage with the real world, but we were keen to do something. We decided to ask the church leadership if we could borrow the building in order to hold some ‘special meetings’.  Their response was confusing and disappointing, ‘you might bring some nasty people into the place’.  I thought that Jesus came for the sick and needy, not the healthy and secure?  Our youthful enthusiasm was not thwarted, and we kept on nagging, eventually they agreed to let us use the building on a Sunday evening, at 9:00 pm, after all the nice people had gone home!

Looking back it now seems very old fashioned, unsophisticated and perhaps a tad crazy, but we did what we knew; we printed some flyers and dished them out to local young people. The flyer heading was ‘Nine O Clock Special’ printed upside down, beneath this the text read ‘in this upside down world, 9 o clock special is a must.  Tea and biscuits. This was the early sixties!

The programme ran as follows, for 15 minutes our musicians played hymns, very, very fast, then someone gave their testimony, and then to wind it up, a preacher, who had strict instruction to speak for no more than 10 minutes. It was all over by 9:45 except for the tea, biscuits and chat.

To my amazement, the place was packed Sunday night after Sunday night, 52 weeks a year. Hundreds of young people came through the doors and due to the fact that some of our clientele were rockers, lined up outside the church building were rows of gleaming motor bikes.  At the end of the evening, the rockers usually all left at the same time, each one firing up their bike and waiting until every one was ready, the deep throated machines revving in unison; finally they peeled off one by one, in a cacophony of sound, up the Walford Road. This did not make us popular with the neighbours.

One of the regular speakers made a lasting impression on me.  He was the oldest guy in the church, Mr. Holt was his name and he must have been in his late seventies. He spoke in authorised version bible English, and I am convinced to this day no-one understood a word he was saying. However, he loved the young people and wanted them to know his God. The impact he had no other speaker could replicate; when he came more people than ever wanted to make a connection with Jesus. The fact that he loved God, followed Jesus and so obviously cared for his audience was communicated despite his words.

These strange meetings, at least when I look back they seem strange, went on for many years; people were inspired to become church leaders, lives were changed and the effect of those meetings echoed and re-echoed. Years after they had ceased, I was still meeting people who told me that the ‘9 o clock special’ was where they had their first encounter with the living God, where Jesus first became their friend.

The end came early one Monday morning, the phone jolted me awake and I was summoned to the building by one of the church leaders. I was greeting by a swathe of fire engines, police cars and disgruntled church leaders. In the middle of the night an arsonist had broken into the building and used our advertising materials to set fire to the back hall, the one we had been using to hold the meetings. The leader’s attitude was ‘we told you so, we knew if you invited nasty people into our sanctuary something terrible would happen’.

Once the insurance had paid up, the renovation and redecoration was complete, and everything was looking better than ever I was summoned before the church leaders. As I listened to the case they made against me, it felt a little as if I had organised the fire; they left me in no doubt that I would never again be permitted to use the ‘sanctuary’.

And that was the end of the story, or at least this part of the story. Jesus, or rather his people, were not interested in rockers or ruffians. They only wanted nice people, in a nice tidy building.

Adrian L Hawkes
1st April 2010
For Ourlab stories
W. 1060
Editor A Brookes

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Tea, biscuits and rockers
Check it out Tuesday on

Friday, 2 April 2010

To Sexy

The Questions
This is my first ever blog and I don't want it to appear negative but it is something which came from a discussion at a Bible Study last night.
Where do we draw the line? I've been on Facebook for a while now and it has been great to meet up with old friends and make new ones. The most upsetting thing on there for me is to see some of the young people who we have met through the years. They still profess faith, yet from their posts, sometimes language and certainly photos; there is often no difference in life-style to other youngsters. Kids who have never entered a church, let alone made a commitment to Christ... frankly there are no difference. Clubbing, drink and sadly often frankly a lack of decent clothing, seems to be the norm. I have just a sneaking suspicion that some of Paul's letters did have a bit to say about life-style and modesty.
People who know me, know that I haven't buried my head in the sands of time, not a prude and try to keep abreast of today’s world. However, I do think somewhere along the line our youngsters need to be taught that the FRUIT ought to be growing in their lives.

The Comment

Lynn Green one of the leaders of Youth with a Mission UK said that “the last teenagers able to rebel where born in the 60s” It’s a funny old statement, what do I think he means.

Well Culture is a changing process, sometime imperceptibly but changing nevertheless, sometime changing radically with great upheaval often time that is linked to National and sometimes international event such as the last world ward changed the roles of Women in the UK probably for ever, things like the spinning Jenny, the internal combustion engine, and mass productions, and the printing press have all had massive cultural changing effects. We shouldn’t forget Television and the Internet being the latest of those cultural changing events.

So why am I going on about Culture, well we make culture but culture makes us, and right now we have had particularly for young people a huge cultural shifts. We have for a long time, particularly if you were born before the 60’s lived in what is loosely called in cultural terms a modernistic period. What that means in rough terms is that we think about things like cause and effect. We assume beginnings and endings, we have a value system that is, and at least we think it is linked to some kind of logic. For those of us who would call ourselves Christians, or Muslims, or even Communists we have what is known as a meta-narrative view of the world. What that means is that we think in terms of the big picture, which is what I have alluded to above. Beginning, endings, and cause and effect, we therefore place experiences that we have into a context of that meta-narrative, we do that even if we have never used the word before!

Post Modernism
Post modernists are not interested in meta-narratives, they are interested in the present, the present experience is all important ‘if it feels good do it’ that means that discussions on right or wrong don’t apply, you just are, it means that value systems are on a sliding scale depending on what is ‘happening’. Again another leader from a large youth organisation in the UK said at a lecture I attended, and he said it with some sadness, “it is not unusual to see a group of the greatest teen and twenties you would want to meet in one of our training sessions on a Friday Night, praising God, and thoroughly immersed in worship, only to find that on Saturday Night they are fully immersed in a drunken party, and move of to sleep with the nights partner, and find no conflict in any of the events. Why is that, they are truly post modern people, the present is the import thing! All events are equally valid especially if they are happening to you. If you listen to current ‘culture speak’ as I try to do, you will not hear words like Sin, Wrong, Right, you will hear words like behaviour, unusual behaviour, unacceptable behaviour in current society, you should note that when the press used the word evil in relationship to a particularly nasty killing recently people where up in arms saying that the ‘evil’ word should never be used, particularly in reference to children. No wonder Lynn says young people can not rebel any more, there is nothing to rebel again, and there are just different kinds of behaviour. So is the Question posed by David Butcher correct, yes it is; there is a change in the cultural behaviour of today’s teens and twenties! If there is nothing wrong or sinful you can not rebel, if it’s only your different, preferred behaviour what is there to rebel against?

So is there anything we can do
I think so. Culture is made up, influenced, changed by the four legs that hold it up:

1. Business,
2. Media, newspapers, Art TV, Internet, Advertising, music, in fact all media things
3. Politics
4. Education, and in there I would put the Family

The church that I was part of before the 60’s actively discouraged its Christian young people from getting involved with things like the media, they were evil things. Even today there are those that would say, stay out of politics if you are a Christian, I run Christian Schools because I believe what I am saying here, yet my biggest opposition often come from Christians. Can you be in business and still be a Christian some others would ask. Yet these are the thing that mould and make the culture what it is. We have no right to complain if we have opted out of the moulding process. We need to get back in there and remould it, we need to seek the Kingdom of God in the big wide world, and we need to find the Kingdom, find the values of the Kingdom, which at the end of the day are highly beneficial to all people.

Those who are already Post Modernist – what hope is there?
It seems to me that most of the ancient world of Paul’s day was probably more post modern that it was modern, and Paul got on with it, and those early Christians turned the world upside down, at least that what the Roman Governor Plinny writing to Cesar said. The other good news is that post modernist love stories, but sadly they don’t understand that there is a big story, one with a meta-narrative, its actually HIS story and there is a plan there is consequences, and there is a purpose. I think we have to keep telling the good news stories to these people, because life style described by David is very short lived and very destructive, and young people need to urgently hear that there is a good story for them too!

The Plug
I believe that in today’s world understanding culture is very important, so can I ask you to look at my latest book Culture Clash, published by: iUniverse, ISBN Paperback is 978-0-595-50707-8 in E-book version ISBN 978-0-595-61619-0 available from most good bookshops and certainly Amazon.UK and USA. And even in the UK from Tesco on line.
CULTURE CLASH: A book, a trainer's manual and a student manual on the subject of culture for continuous professional development
21st March 2010
Editor A. Brooks
What's all this about modernism and post-modernism, is there really a clash of cultures?....