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I was excited from the moment I first heard about this project. It didn’t take much to grab my attention when I read the scope of the proposal: teaching Christian worldview and apologetics to teenagers, on an island, in a camp. This isn’t new to me.

So the first thing I did was to reach for my globe. ‘Right, where are the Azores?’, I mused. Finding at first the Canary Islands, I went hunting around and quickly discovered this little island chain, a thousand or so miles off the coast of Portugal, slap bang in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

A couple more emails, one purchased ticket later, and now I’m en route to Portugal.

I’d love to say that I was full of vision and purpose at this point, but when it came to it, sitting on that flight, I did wonder what on earth I was doing. I had at this point only exchanged a few emails. I really only knew the bare bones of the project, and next to nothing of the people involved. The excitement of the potential gave way to the fears of the unknown.

Well, half way to Terceria Island, in the Azores, I met Henk and Corrie in Lisbon. Henk is a businessman. Well, that’s not really it. I mean, we sum up people by their trade, but that so often falls short of who they are. Henk is a man possessed by a higher vision who seems – from what I can tell – to have led a life of adventure in business and ministry all over the world. He’s one of those people who seems to have really been captured by a calling. Meeting Henk along with his lovely wife, Corrie, is the beginning of the development of the picture of my weekend ahead.

Upon landing on Terceira we meet Art. I want to call him Doc immediately for some reason, but this wouldn’t be right on a number of points. Art was a Registered Nurse in the US Air Force with the rank of colonel, until he retired 10 years ago to pastor a church on Terceira Island. Bright-eyed, tall, and friendly, he offered a warm welcome.

Art and his wife, Debbie, took us to their home where we were made to feel very welcome. A quick walk down the promenade by the sea, in the dark, a snack and it was bed time.

Sunrise in the Azores

Sunrise on Terceira Island (View All The Photos from the trip here)

Well, the next day dawned and revealed the full beauty of the island. If the Big Island of Hawaii met Devon, England, and had a small love child, Terceria would be it. Green fields, bisected by small black stone walls lined the hills. The ocean met the shore over more black, volcanic rock but this was the familiar notes of the Atlantic Ocean, not the Pacific. For some reason they smell different to me.

The countryside was, to me, a mixture of Devon and Hawaii

The countryside was, to me, a mixture of Devon and Hawaii (View All The Photos from the trip here)

The climate was humid, but cool. Light breezes and steady temperatures were the norm for the weekend. When we drove higher in the hills we entered the clouds, and a mist perpetually hung over much of the island.

One of the first orders of the day was to go back to the airport and pick up Barry. Barry – who to me bears a striking resemblance to Tony Stark – is an energetic American from Little Rock, Arkansas. Despite the jet lag and horrid lack of sleep, Barry was brimming with excitement. He and Henk had last met over a decade ago, in Tanzania, at an Ostrich farm. That is a story way past the purview of this tale, but if you ever do hear it you won’t stop laughing from amazement. A truly incredible intertwining of the threads of life, and rich with deep meaning for both men.

DYG Camp

Looking out over the camp (View All The Photos from the trip here)

With Barry in tow we proceeded to the camp. Art has been working on this camp for 8 years, and more recently has made it a prime focus after stepping down from his pastoral role. Now, when I first heard ‘camp’ I thought of some land with some tents and some facilities. I was not prepared for what I met.

Tents? Pah. Cabins. Beautifully constructed, little wooden cabins. Dotted around like hobbit homes across undulating land. There were sports areas, and camp fire areas, an amphitheatre, a fire pit, brand new showers and space for the new kitchen and camp shop. This was no ‘lets have a go and see’ operation but rather the result of careful planning and work over a long period of time.

Camp Cabins

Camp cabins, dotted about the site (View All The Photos from the trip here)

Camp cabin interior

Each cabin is furnished and ready to go (View All The Photos from the trip here)

Under construction

A few buildings are still under work, estimated to be complete by early June (View All The Photos from the trip here)

In this setting Art shared his vision for bringing youth to the camp – English speaking youth from all over the globe – to train them in worldview and apologetics. More and more it is being observed that young Christians across the world aren’t properly equipped to a) know what they believe and why, and b) give a defence of their faith when asked. So, when they get to college/university and run into that beautiful/crazy/overwhelming confluence of ideas, their faith can be rocked.

A little while ago, at a school in High Wycombe, I witnessed first hand the wonderful questions that teenagers ask. They ask their own questions. They weren’t rehashed, or run of the mill, but framed by their own thought processes. Many university students, on the other hand, might rehash objections that they’ve overheard. But a school student has in many cases not been exposed to these yet. It’s a wonderful time of life to engage them and challenge them to think for themselves about their faith and why they believe it.

Art, Barry, Henk – all three were united in vision for the scope of the camp, and we were all excited for the opportunities we were tapping in to.

The camp will be completed this summer, and will be a wonderful location for training young students. In addition, Barry proposed another fantastic idea. Tim Caldwell, youth pastor at Fellowship Bible Church, Little Rock, had suggested to Barry that perhaps we could use the whole island as a classroom. As Barry told us of Tim’s idea we began to connect the dots. There are beaches, and forests, and volcanoes, and parks – a wonderful, great big outdoors. And so we trundled off around the island and our excitement grew and grew.

16th Century fort on Terceira

The 16th Century fort – could it be our classroom? (View All The Photos from the trip here)

Harbour lighthouse

Walking to the harbour lighthouse (View All The Photos from the trip here)

Terceira landscape

The dramatic Terceira landscape (View All The Photos from the trip here)

Terceira swimming pools

Swimming pools, only slightly improved by man (View All The Photos from the trip here)

Forest seating

Ancient forests complete with modern conveniences (View All The Photos from the trip here)

Lost in the woods

I could have stayed in this location for hours (View All The Photos from the trip here)

Terceira Island, by way of Portugal, has had some EU money spent on infrastructure. So for a small island where the predominant industry is small scale agriculture, the roads and public parks are very good. We found picnic areas complete with running water and BBQ pits all over the place. Not only that, but they situated in such dramatic locations film producers spend nights dreaming of. The island was stunning. Barry’s idea made so much sense!

We prayed, we talked, we Skyped Pastor Tim in the US, we walked, and we ate great food (thanks to Debbie!). I remembered those fears I had on the plane … What was I doing? Where was I going? Who was I meeting? Well, some times in the service of our Heavenly Father, he really does go ahead of us. No, it’s true! Christian ministry is not all based on what you or I can accomplish out of our resources, or our contacts, or our passion. God knows, we – the wealthy Christians – can do a lot in our strength. But God is always in control, and when we get on board with His plans He can do great things that are well beyond the scope of our imagination, and more beautiful than our fears are dark to us.

We set a date for a trial run this year: June 26th for 10 days. Knowing that with the European school holidays this will mostly be North Americans joining, but in the expectation that next year, 2017, we will run several camps across June, July, and August. If you know of anyone, 15-18, who you think would benefit from 10 days in the Azores, learning about worldview and apologetics, then please let me know. The Facebook page and website will be live soon also and I’ll link to them when they come online.

We had so much fun throughout the course of the weekend. These men and women that I met are passionate people who love God and from whom I can learn much. They have served God well and bring with them experience, compassion, and wisdom. I am excited to be joining in this project as we press in to the opportunities that we are presented with.

One incredible Azorean dinner later – the local food was exquisite – and we were rushing back to the airport. Henk, Corrie and I headed for Lisbon once again, with Barry heading back to the US the following day. As I write this now, on the plane returning to London, I am smiling as I think about how much fun we can have when following God’s leading. There is adventure and newness that reveals more of God’s character. I am thrilled to be involved and look forward to seeing plans unfold.

 

Apologetics for Men

November 13, 2015 — 1 Comment

In 2012 Carl Beech, Andy Kind, and I got together in a room in Chesterfield to talk about how we could help with the tough questions that are asked both of ourselves and of our faith. Carl – as the then head of Christian Vision for Men (CVM) – wanted to reach the men of the UK with the good news of Jesus. Andy – the comedian and storyteller – wanted to blend his comedy with his apologetics passion. I – fresh out of my training with The Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics – was eager to get stuck in where there was a need. And this is how the Demolition Squad was born.

Now three years in, with articles written, podcasts attempted, and conferences attended we’ve pulled together some of best content and blended it with a fresh, funny (thank you, Andy) voice in one book: The Ultimate Survival Guide: How to talk about God, the Bible, and stuff.

The Ultimate Survival Guide: How to talk about God, the Bible, and stuff

CVM are taking orders online now

25+ Common Objections Covered

Talk about Jesus anywhere and you will inevitable face questions in response. This is as true in the UK as in other countries. However each culture will frame questions in a particular way and with a particular emphasis. The challenge that Carl, Andy, and I faced was how to answer the questions being asked from men in the UK. Not this narrows the scope of book to too fine a spectrum, the book is still broader than something aimed at bird watching enthusiasts from Hull, for example.

Over the first three years we employed different tactics and approaches, and having distilled all our thinking, writing, and speaking we came up with three areas of questions tackle in the book: Scientific and Logical Objections, Personal and Emotional Objections, and Biblical Objections.

Scientific and Logical Objections

From ‘There’s no such thing as absolute truth’ to ‘Science has replaced God’, the challenges come thick and fast in this category. We’ve focussed on 8 challenges:

  • There’s no such thing as truth
  • There’s no proof for God
  • Science has disproved God
  • The Universe is just there/has always existed
  • Who created the Creator?
  • We evolved out of chaos
  • So many different religions…they can’t all be right!
  • What about people who haven’t heard about Jesus?

Personal and Emotional Objections

Because man is not a purely rational being, many objections to faith will take a more personal tone. From ‘Is it a weakness to need to believe in God?’ to questioning the good and bad that religion – and Christians – have done, there are many responses to tackle here. We again chose 8 questions to focus in on:

  • Christianity is intolerant
  • Christians are hypocrites
  • All religion is brainwashing
  • Look at all the harm that religion has done
  • It’s just wishful thinking
  • You don’t have to believe in God to be a good person
  • A God of Love wouldn’t send (good) people to Hell
  • But Stephen Fry said it

Biblical Objections

The Bible is hugely important to our faith. Christians read it, believe it, and base their lives on what it says. So can we trust it? Sink the Bible, and you sink Jesus. But if the Bible can sustain its claims of divine inspiration & authority then Jesus is real, what happened 2,000 years ago really took place, and we have some thinking to do! We provide answers to 9 questions in this section:

  • All religions basically teach the same thing
  • Jesus wasn’t a historical figure, but was based on pagan myths
  • The Bible has been doctored and corrupted
  • Jesus didn’t think of himself as divine
  • I believe Jesus was a just good moral teacher
  • The Bible is irrelevant, outdated and outmoded
  • God is a moral monster
  • Jesus didn’t rise from the dead
  • Why did God kill his own son

Oh, and the Problem of Suffering, too …

This one is a biggy, so we added an extended section at the end of the book dedicating more time to unpacking this particular challenge and explore some of the hopeful replies that Jesus offers in response. Read an extract from this section on the CVM blog.

The Ultimate Survival Guide is now available to pre-order from the CVM website.

Quickfire: CVM Training Day

Date: Saturday 8th February
Time: 10:00am to 4:00pm
Location: Rising Brook Church, Stafford

This Saturday I will be heading to Stafford to give a talk at the CVM Training Day: Quickfire. Looking at the topic ‘Conversion Through Persuasion?’ I’ll be presenting a 20-minute TED-style talk covering the use of arguments, illustrations, and questions in our evangelism to men.

There are 8 other fantastic speakers presenting on a range of topics to equip as all as we seek to tell more men about Jesus.

Booking is available online.

Demolition Squad Update

September 17, 2013 — Leave a comment

In November 2012 the Demolition Squad was set up at Christian Vision for Men (CVM). Since that time Andy and I have got to work, writing blogs and engaging in the debates that followed.

As well as writing the blogs we had a great time at the annual summer conference, The Gathering (video coming soon!). Getting the opportunity to equip Christians in the UK with tools to share their faith was exciting and rewarding. Andy and I had a lot of fun!

Listen to the Demolition Squad podcast in iTunesNew Podcast

Our latest development from Dem Squad R&D is the new Demolition Squad Podcast. Starting with Intolerance Andy and I chat about a variety of issues confronting the message of Jesus. We engage serious topics with a splash of humour and hope that these talks are useful and thought-provoking.

View the podcast in iTunes or Feedburner.

Recent Blog Posts

The last 9 blog articles from Andy and myself.

Latimer Minster have recently launched a new devotional series on the books of Psalms. For the next 6 months we will be taking a Psalm a day and reflecting on it. My first reflection, on Psalm 5, is below.

Why not add this to your daily devotional? Sign up to the Latimer Minster mailing list to receive an email with the Psalm of the day.

Click to sign up for daily emails
Click to sign up for daily emails

Psalm 5: Protection in the Midst of Danger

There are two things that strike me as I read the second half of this Psalm. Firstly, David isn’t afraid to ask God for protection for his own responsibility. The nation of Israel had many enemies. As king, it was David’s job to protect the nation. The presence of conflict was never far from David and he grew to know God as the provider of his own, and his family’s protection.

This is rooted in David’s unswerving confidence in God’s assured love. In verse 7 we see that it’s by God’s ‘great love’ that David petitions God. This love is a divinely protected, confident favour towards David and it is the same resolute love Jesus offers his hearers in each of the Beatitudes. It’s a blessed, steadfast assurance and it’s strong enough to stand on.

David knew both the reality and source of the danger that faced him, and even more importantly, the source of his strength he would need to take his charge and confront that danger. He was fighting the battle that needed to be fought and he was fighting it the way it needed to be fought.

Continue reading …

C.S. Lewis: A Life

Author Alister McGrath launches his new biography in Oxford on Thursday 2nd May

Alister McGrath’s new biography of C.S. Lewis, C. S. Lewis: a Life: The Story of the Man Who Created Narnia, has recently gone on sale.

To celebrate the launch of the book The Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics are hosting a book launch at Blackwell’s Bookshop in Oxford on Thursday 2nd May. See below for further details.

Alister McGrath and everyone at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics would love to invite you to the launch of his new book, C.S Lewis: A Life on Thursday 2nd May at 7pm at Blackwell’s Bookshop. For free entry, please email the RZIM office to confirm that you would like to attend.

There’s more info about the book launch on the attached flyer but you can ignore the £3 entry fee if you email us (as above).

C S Lewis: A Life has already had some great endorsements, including one from A N Wilson, who wrote what many regarded as the definitive biography of Lewis back in 1990:

There have been plenty of biographies of Lewis – I once wrote one myself – but I do not think there has been a better one than Alister McGrath’s.

RZIM Europe are Hiring

February 27, 2013 — Leave a comment

Keen to work in a growing, exciting ministry based in Oxford? RZIM are currently hiring for four positions.
RZIM - Join the Team

RZIM currently have a number of job opportunities for the following positions:

(The deadline for applying for the above roles is 1 March)

(The deadline for applying for the above roles is 9 April)

Click on the above job titles for further information about the roles.

It was a great privilege to study under Professor John Lennox last year. Here’s a recent clip of his November 2012 debate at the Oxford Union.

You can catch Professor Lennox, along with Amy Orr-Ewing and the RZIM team at the Oxford Training Day on Saturday 26th January.

Confidence in the Truth

Featuring: John Lennox, Amy Orr-Ewing, Keith Small, Tanya Walker
Location: Examination Schools, 81 High Street, Oxford
Date: January 26th 2013 – 8:45am start

For more details and to book online visit the event page.

The Radcliffe Camera

In February last year, whilst visiting Oxford for the day, I paused for coffee at G&D’s with a friend. Over the light chit-chat my friend, Tom, found out that I was leaving my job to study full time. “Why not come and study in Oxford?” he asked.

And so, in October I found myself in Oxford starting the one-year programme at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. Talk about your weak links coming into play.

Or talk about a God with purpose and destiny for your life.

I have found that opportunities for the next thing in life often pop up in a way one could hardly anticipate in advance. And so the next step in my life followed suit.

After a great week of mission in Sweden and another week in east-London earlier this year, one of my tutors came up to me and said, “We’re looking to launch an apologetics missional community in the heart Oxford. Will you come and lead it?”

And now, as I type, we are four days out from the launch of Latimers Oxford, a missional community in the heart of Oxford.

Dreams and prayers and planning have converged. A team has formed and is gelling together. A vision has blossomed and people want to be a part of it.

Latimers Oxford is a fresh shoot of the growing Latimer Minster church in Beaconsfield. We are a group of people gathering together to worship, pray, and get engaged in mission. The focus of the mission component is mission through apologetics – that is, dealing with people’s objections, intellectual and emotional, that they might see Jesus.

I fell in love with Oxford last year. This city of great heritage and history has played and continues to play such an important role in this nation. Great waves of revival and reformation have rippled out from this City of Dreaming Spires.

I long to see the vision of giants of the past sustained. Men like Wycliffe, Latimer, Ridley, Cranmer, Wesley, Wesley, and Whitfield.

The Hub
The Hub on Turl Street, where we meet every Sunday 3-5pm

Jesus’ hope is powerful to change lives, communities, and whole nations. We at Latimers Oxford seek to play our part in proclaiming the risen Christ as Lord and Saviour in our city.

We kick off the Sunday meetings with a look at the life and death of Hugh Latimer, the namesake of our little group. If you’re in Oxford why not join us? We’d love to have you.

Latimers Oxford meets every Sunday 3-5pm at The Hub, on Turl Street. Additionally, we meet to pray every Wednesday at 7am in Starbucks on Cornmarket Street.

Follow Latimers Oxford on Facebook and Twitter.

I’m speaking at the Making A Difference festival in Newham, London this Saturday (1st September 2012). If you’re in the area, join us!

Each seminar will be followed by Q&A.

Schedule

Don’t All Religions Lead To The Same God? – 1:30pm

If God Is Good, Why Does He Allow Suffering? – 3:15pm

Find out more and register for both sessions here.

Location

UPDATED: Christ Church, 663 Barking Road, London E13 9EX


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