C U L T U R E – Peter Lynas

C U L T U R E – Peter Lynas

tonight our topic is being a church in a post-pandemic world does that sound good say ooh [Music] being a church in a post-pandemic world so um this last year so as you all know has been a time of massive change for all of us um i don’t know whether you were studying or whether you’ve been working but it’s really changed our lives in many ways over the last year or so and um a massive area of change has been within churches obviously for many of us we couldn’t physically go to church gather with other believers for a whole year but there’s also been a lot of other stuff going on in society some of that’s been triggered by kovit and some of it has been alongside covet so that’s really what we’re gonna talk about tonight and the goal of tonight guys is that you being equipped to engage your culture for christ so that you can kind of get equipped on what’s going on your culture should as you’re sharing christ you know what’s going on in the world today what kind of ideas are being formed in people’s minds what kind of views are out there so that you’re kind of ready to answer some of the tougher questions you might get so to kick off our conversation tonight peter question one um high has our society’s attitude towards church changed as a result of covet and pandemic and how might that affect us as followers of jesus and his churches as well and so the first bit of the response that is we don’t know i mean that sounds bad when you’re asked to come and do an ender that’s going to be reggae come on ricky get that sorted i can’t see anything so i can just accuse ricky is the only person here i really know [Music] just to make sure you’re all listening we’ll just turn it down about wreck it i’ll be great thanks ricky can i talk yet is this your revenge riggy used to intern with me and so um we don’t know for sure some of the stuff that we know that happened um during the pandemic in terms of church and society was that more people checked into church and so it was easier to come to church so we knew we know that non-christians came in we know that because churches tell us that we know that because there were surveys done by like yougov and independent surveys so there was a good thing because there was never an easier time to sneak in the back door of church if you like like in any other context you would look online check something out church was a really big step to come physically in the door and arrive at church so actually you could do that online and that worked out really well we also know that more people checked out of church at the same time you’re like hold on is that not just the opposite of what you just said yeah they’re both true and so the danger is at the end of this we kind of see a trend line that maybe says slightly up or i suspect personally slightly down but in that you miss it actually what’s happened is there’s lots of new people have turned up and checked in but also a lot of people have checked out for whatever reason and now that might be nominalism people who just turned up and then for a year there’s been no church so the church of england are really concerned about that they think i think it’s 12 of their churches won’t reopen after this and just habits have been broken and the frequency with which you go to church so somebody was you know if everybody’s going to church five times a month and that drops to four that that’s like 20 drop in your attendance it appears overall so it’s really hard to work out who’s turning up and how often they’re coming and as we kind of return back in this staggered state are people not coming because they don’t feel safe have they changed their patterns so we just don’t know all of that and we don’t know how many new christians are turning up like i mean how many make the transition so you’ve come along online you’re enjoying church to start going on to a group online but then you turn up at church and find out these people sing they dress weird they’re cool whatever it is like it’s a big step to then turn up and so there’s lots of really interesting things like that like church and government relationships been really interesting in this season the government’s kind of going oh churches actually do really important stuff they need special passes their ministers need to be considered essential workers they actually do do food banks when nobody else wants to turn up and they are incredibly helpful chaplains in a hospital actually play an incredibly important role and it’s not fair to ask a medic or doctor sometimes to sit in that moment immediate that moment when actually that’s what chaplains did brilliantly like there’s huge areas in which the church just did a whole range of things the government oh right actually you guys are important and so some really good stuff around the vaccine as well they came along to church and said actually be really helpful if you guys could open up your churches and centers to do that or provide information about it because people don’t trust so particularly with the black church we’ve been working with across the uk particularly in london where there was a great deal of vaccine hesitancy and black church leaders said no we’ve looked into this we’re a trusted source we’re prepared to talk about this and engage on the issue and then church in the community like in various ways or was that saying would anybody notice if our church wasn’t here so for some churches who were really engaged yes they did and they were like set up the whatsapps get out there people who needed food banks you needed community engagement those who were lonely were like where’s the church we need it and the church got out there and in other places the answer was probably a bit more challenging nobody noticed the church was closed oh okay um and you know we’ve got to live with some of that too so there’s some real challenges like what does society think i mean it’s big questions like what is the church what is the purpose of church if our doors were closed do we still have a function does it still work in our lives and in the lives of other people um and and like for society like do we need a church um do we you know so i think in the early part of the pandemic people were panicked they were like death is really real every single day in newspapers it was like how many people have died and so for a season death became really real in a society it doesn’t like to think about death something we might return to we’re very distracted society we love getting on our phones we don’t want to think about big issues and suddenly you couldn’t run away from this it was really lonely it was really isolating and it was a lot of death and science didn’t seem to the answers and we lived in a world of prior that seemed like science could do everything and as we come out of this now a moment we’re back to science as the answers the vaccine saves ha we’re all okay again that’s a real challenge again because the church had a moment where people went i want something more something broke through our kind of i would say our kind of world that has no space for god we’ve uh we don’t need god we’re done with god and suddenly death was very real and there’s this weird mad upset of a pandemic we’re like oh i’ll look elsewhere for something more big moment for the church as we come out of this and we kind of freedom day and science has solved all our problems and we’re back to normal again the risk is always i don’t need god anymore thanks very much so some really interesting so we don’t know all the answers i don’t even know if i answered your question probably but i think there’s a lot of different trends going on then how do we respond to that and well there’s no return to normal the same way as is for businesses for the health system like it’s not going to go back to the way it was or or we’re mad if we do if i can be as bold as to say that but i do think it comes to a fundamental question and what’s the purpose of church and that’s what church are really wrestling with what’s the purpose particularly of the sunday gathering but beyond that if you can go and get teaching elsewhere if you can sing at home on your own if you can get community over here like what do we do uniquely when we gather together and some of that’s quite easy we’re like thank goodness we can gather we just want to chat we want to have community we want to engage with one another we want to have communion in the broader sense as well as the act of communion we want to sing you know some of us notice that we really really enjoy singing and actually the physical things that we do is talking to dj just before like yes we could come into church in the early stages with marcel and we couldn’t do like there’s a physical interactive being with people singing worshiping and being in community that we miss as well as the preached moment but those bits are arguably a bit easier to replace depends on your personality typing listen to a podcast there are other bits of being gathered and then responding to what you hear preached and engaging in a different way in a community response set up so i think it raises big questions to what church should look like and could look like i could go on all day on that but i’ll let you come in that’s that’s brilliant no i think there’s a couple of really important things to denote there peter that you raised one other thing is there’s definitely been a thing in our culture not just in the uk but across the world of kind of like denying death so if you look at any advert for like a car or like a aftershave or whatever it is it’s always young models in it and kind of youth is the the ultimate goal you’re not going to see a lot of kind of older folks advertising that stuff on your screen and there definitely is a culture out there of kind of like uh like the whole yolo sort of tag i suppose yolo no one uses that anymore it’s lame but um this idea of like kind of living for the moment we’re we’re never going to grow up we’re never going to have to face those challenges um of death and in many ways in the pandemic just brought that right to the fore where like every time you scroll down your bbc news app or whatever it was just depressing like a big counter of you know people being affected by the pandemic and i think suddenly when people are confronted by death like you say they’re out they’re asking the big questions so i know that um pete greg who um works with the 24 7 prayer movement he was putting up stuff all the time with like look how many people are accessing stuff online look how many people are googling like the big questions during the pandemic and that really created an opportunity for the church too so we know prayer went up we knew reading the bible and inquiring about the bible and we knew going to church went on in that season and i guess the question for us then again is this mission and evangelism question what does that continue to look like for us so we weren’t able to invite people to church or an event in the same way and yet people were interested and so again we turned the church and said we become the church again again but it’s true like we this is what it’s always supposed to be we were the people out there so what does it look like for us to connect with our friends and bring them into an encounter with jesus rather than relying on a particular gathered event that had a church now those will come back and they’ll still have a place but more and more that that’s the moment i think the season to push in with people because they’re still going to be and upsets us so maybe combine the same but i don’t think science has answered all the questions i don’t think it’s that simple but there will be for some people like vaccinate it’s fine life can go back to normal but actually there’s going to be a long tail to this around the loneliness around the mental health around employment our own job work patterns all these things are going to kick in and i think there’s going to continue to be opportunities they won’t have the same moment where it was really crystallized but i do think there’ll be lots of and that’s the real question for us like where’s the mission of moment in this where’s the evangelistic moment where where do we get to share our faith in a contested culture that we’ll talk probably more about yeah that’s brilliant peter it’s loads we could talk on that so as we’re moving through these questions guys in a moment we’ll have an opportunity to talk with each other but if you have like a burning question in your mind because we’re not going to cover everything here write it down on your phone and you’ll be able to ask that at the end if we haven’t uh cover what you want to say so peter pandemic is affecting churches affecting us as followers of jesus jesus in one way and what i’m hearing from the answer in that is that there’s obviously there’s been some negative impacts in terms of like you said church of england like what was it 12 or so churches unlikely to reopen so you can look at that as a negative thing but then we also look at this positive like open door for evangelism and mission but as covet 19 has been going on there’s been like other massive cultural shifts especially in northern ireland going on or certainly things that maybe began right before the pandemic but have started to gain momentum can you talk to us a bit about that like what’s been going on in northern ireland there’s like obviously politics can we talk about politics and there’s been lots of different things going on but that’s affected uh church and how to engage with culture i think so there’s been there’s there’s massive cultural trends going on so i mean probably the most obvious right one is abortion that kicked in just before the pandemic and and we’ve seen the implications of that um so i rang a caller because i thought i better not get this wrong like what are all the strands of what’s going on at the minute i mean there is a bill going through the assembly on this paul gibbons brought around disability there’s a court case live at the minute trying to force the minister to bring around these services and there’s two other court cases going on trying to say no he doesn’t have the right to do that basically a number of different parties moving that and the whole thing is just super contested it doesn’t it doesn’t matter your view i was going to say but in the moment i’m not even as the sheer kind of contesting and aggression and pushback around that is such a difficult area and then there’s a lot to pick up in the news about the protesters outside hospitals particularly down in uri and and trying to navigate through that same time we’ve had same-sex marriage also come in to northern iran within the context of this you’ve seen a lot of debate around transgender something like conversion therapy that we’ll pick up in a minute like those are some of just the big again headline issues are also going on at the same time and then you throw into the um race and george floyd and so again this week one year on from that one of the probably the other issues probably the only issue really to globally break through on this so the reason i meant because so those first four all things we feel maybe in the contested bit as christians but if you look at something like um climate change and creation care um and there’s the cop uh sort of stuff coming well maybe coming to glasgow in november subject to covert um you look at the kind of questions are being raised around the health service the issues around race and education vaccines who do we vaccinate social care like actually all those things we’re going we’re pretty much aligned with everybody else on this we’re going yes these are really important issues and we have something to offer and to say so sometimes we can get hooked on the contested ones and they’re really important and i spend quite a lot of time on them but at the same time there’s lots of areas where we either agree or would have something to bring that i think is unique like a lot of churches doing really good work on multicultural and like how you gather and worship together in that space about how we do race better but how we want to talk about that and maybe take the lead in that space so i’d want to push in on that and i think cover’s going to have this really long tail where education health are going to have massive questions can we maintain the same system doubtful on all of us andy trimble today was asking questions around education how we’re framing that in northern ireland um the very use of digital devices like we’ve had a fundamental recess to how we do work in our generation or for our kids if you have them like the amount of time they spend on devices legitimately for school that’s reorientated and rewired their brains in a year and a half and what that looks like and we know the mental health implications and then what’s going to happen in economy and jobs so lots of stuff going on in those around and within that um yeah i was trying to work out where i was mentioned in the dup this might be the point i mean there’s a there’s a what’s that there’s a cultural so what might happen in northern the real risk at this moment is that we go into a really accelerated short-term cultural war and the reason for that is just to state the obvious and without trying to get me into too much trouble but i mean you so tonight i think i think both parties are voting on their new leader to confirm it so doug b has been pretty clear he’s going to take ultra unionism in a much more progressive pathway and album puts it’s been pretty clear he’s going to take the eup in a much more conservative pathway and let me so i think what will happen is in some of those issues some of the things that that one of those parties says are going to align closer with many of christian values but the way it gets there and the debate around it might not be the way we want that to happen and that gets really tricky and you end up in a kind of american cultural war scenario and i think we are in danger of seeing that in a very accelerated tlm because we’ve kept christendom and the huge influence of christianity longer than many other places and it’s going to be a interesting couple of years potentially christendom for those who are like not up to date with all the different terms so what’s christendom well big art kristen what i probably should have said we have been a very christianized culture for a lot longer so england moved away from that in various forms 20 30 years ago countries like well the south saw a very accelerated version of this you might say 10 or 15 years ago the catholic church had huge influence and then suddenly has none and what do you see there’s like a moral vacuum nobody’s quite sure on what basis to make decisions so you have to repeat in the referendums down there it was interesting even the debate in the referendum didn’t have a framework on which to debate it didn’t really have language that everybody could agree on and so the real danger is we go through a period like that too where they the move i think in the dp is towards a more fundamentalist form of christianity and that kicks in and then what you see is a culture that’s reacting way to the other side of that so you see a move out to the two extremes and that’s very difficult to navigate through if you want to inhabit and and dwell a god story in a really healthy flourishing way and create a pathway through that so i think that’s going to be tough i just think now we might talk about one or two of those actual issues in a minute or two and as to how we do that better but conversion therapy and abortion and trends are difficult issues to talk about and the danger is they get politicized in a particular way that isn’t healthy for us and we as christians of god do a really good job getting out from under that saying we’re not with you we’re not with you we’re navigating a third way like and it’s the biblical way it’s not we created a new way this is what we believe the bible says and it does hold the line on some of those things but it does it in a really missional engaging and healthy way because it seeks the flourishing of all people and we need to articulate that really well otherwise you get typecast into one of the other pockets either you’re fundamentalist or you’re kind of progressive and have given up and i don’t think in fact more than don’t think i don’t want to go into either of those pathways so here’s a big cultural conversation that’s going on northern northern ireland right now especially but all over the uk um which is conversion therapy peter where did that come from why is this a big issue in northern ireland right now and how are we going to interact with that um yeah the conversion therapy is actually is a really difficult issue partly because it’s not an issue it’s very real for some people and so there’s lots of things to say about that first one is for a lot of people there’s a lot of pain and there’s a lot of hurt around this issue is there lived experience it’s something they’ve gone through in some shape or form and one of the biggest issues what do we mean by conversion therapy this is not defined um i’ve spent some time trying to persuade um the westminster government to define it um and then the northern ireland government will probably sit underneath that and it’s also a global issue and that’s important as we think of definition so australia has done some stuff on this uh canada has done something germany and other countries um but what this is is i suppose can you go through therapy to change your sexual orientation or your gender the two have become combined that also gets interesting because that brings two of the most contentious issues in our culture today together and it gets complicated if you aren’t following this already because basically what they’re saying is you can’t change your sexual orientation so anybody tries to do that that should be banned but when it comes to gender it’s slightly different and it’s basically doing almost it feels like the reverse so if you help somebody stay in their birth sex that’s conversion therapy you follow that okay that was a little twist there at the end it was kind of a slightly strange one so actually what you’re supposed to do on the trans is you affirm the change and if you as a counselor or as a pastor are trying to say we’ll just take your time let’s do watchful waiting that stay in your birth sex let’s respect your body that’s conversion therapy that’s the thing they want to ban there so those are two very different things and that’s the complication of the whole um setup i mean the long story in that a little bit is the lgbtq plus community is a complex community um the scope and the spread of that is is interesting i think i’ve said this once before in this building but i mean the l’s the g’s the b’s and the t’s and the q’s well let’s drop the keys for now i mean the gay men drove that community lesbians generally thought the gay men were fairly misogynistic but they were the bigger group and more powerful so they needed to align with them the bees and the ls and g’s don’t like the bees because the bees are bisexual and say sexuality changes whereas the ls and g say it’s locked and then the t’s come along and that’s an entirely different category which currently is working together because it seems like a good idea but if you follow that at all closely it’s fragmenting right at its core so stonewall has fallen out substantially over this whole issue and so you have these kind of strange issues coming together and actually conversion therapy in terms of sexual orientation and gender should never be combined those are two fundamentally different ideas going on and we find ourselves saying hold on what’s the definition harmful and abusive things have been done in the past at the more extreme electoral shock therapy was provided under the nhs for people that’s harmful that should not be done that should be banned it already is banned it doesn’t occur but i understand that people have difficult stories and backgrounds around that i want to make sure it can’t happen again but at the same time there are people so then you’re saying hold on so that’s pretty simple let’s ban it yes but the most recent motion in the northern assembly said in all forms we said does that include prayer well just in all forms what do you mean by all forms so let’s just anchor this or write this down for saying my friend ed is same-sex attracted ed wants to be able to have people pray for him so can i pray for ed that he can stay celibate in all its forms no that would become a criminal offence right can ed actually tell his story and say as he grew up he was committed to following jesus but he realized he was same sex attracted and he decided to stay celibate somebody in the room listens to that they are persuaded by ed’s story to do the same guess what that’s conversion therapy all right so ed can’t even tell a story anymore and i’m not making it so i’d had a radio 4 debate with jane wazon one of the key in fact in belfast city airport last week at 6 30 a.m in the shop it was very fun and we were debating this issue and i was saying to jane hold on are you saying you can’t pray no prayer can be abusive well this gets into really tricky territory because what i want to do is make sure the harmful and abuse suppresses don’t occur and i think most of us christians are going to say yes that but what i don’t want to do is limit the prayerful and pastoral support for somebody who’s same-sex attracted so the irony an ed is a real person ed has written an article on this he said the irony is that somebody like him who’s same-sex attracted is the very person who’s deprived of support in that moment because nobody wants to pray with him in case they’ve committed an act of conversion therapy because what they want is this to be a criminal offense you go to prison if you do this kind of stuff and it’s happened in australia and what they’ve done is that means in a parent-child relationship if a parent says their child even though they’re young look take your time let’s wait can i let’s pray this through let’s talk this through that can be construed as conversion therapy and it gets most complicated i guess because most of the people who’ve been through this come from a christian background so a lot of people i’m dialoguing with on this they their experiences were in the church 20 or 30 years ago and often those weren’t great we need to acknowledge that we have not dealt with sexuality well like we were scared of it we just kind of went gay bad full stop like that’s the reality of certainly when i grew up that was kind of the experience that that wasn’t good enough we need to wrestle much more with this um so the ni vote a couple of weeks ago was a virtue signaling vote to be blunt like it was a total just vote it doesn’t make any difference that didn’t change the law that didn’t have any impact that was just somebody bringing a mention vote so that didn’t do anything but the in all its forms is a very dangerous piece of language i think and we’re working globally with organizations say hold on be really careful what you do so i wrote to boris johnson about this in my role but it was nice because he wrote back to me and he did sign it himself and i felt very excited then i spilled coffee over it and now it’s ruins this massive coffee stained letter can’t really put them all because you don’t really want a conversion therapy letter on your wall but there we go that’s my life um so borrow surviving said that we want to end the harmful abuse apprentices but we want to ensure space for spiritual support and that’s the conversation we’re trying to have and so there’s there’s lots of layers to it i think that’s but let’s not mess what’s going on here this is highly targeted at the christian faith and really there is an attempt to ban prayer and discipleship because when it goes to its core is the argument is this is abusive and some of the practices were but then it said it’s harmful and then i said it’s hurtful and for you to tell me what i need to do is problematic so let’s say if you’re same-sex dragon you say well the response to that is to remain celibate they say well no that’s depriving me of my sexual freedom so that’s harmful on me you shouldn’t be allowed to do that then you say well what about if i said to somebody you shouldn’t be having sex before you’re married well no you can’t do that that’s harmful and hurtful so you start to see where this goes so any kind of discipleship where i’m sitting with somebody and saying you’ve asked me to disciple you i don’t think that’s a wise course of action am i being harmful am i hurting anything i say begins to be construed that way this goes right to the core of faith and discipleship and what it looks like so it’s a power conversation it’s been too long and it’s a par conversation and we need to be really careful because there have been misuses of power and we need to talk about that but if you can’t disciple somebody there’s nothing left of the faith no i’m cautious to where i say that i’m hoping this is a trustworthy room he says realizing he’s going to podcast but this is true there’s a balance the reason converts i part of me wishes i didn’t have to talk about conversion therapy it’s really awkward it’s really tough i feel like i’m the bad guy in the room but i think i see with others where this goes if we don’t say hold on not that because you’re in danger of banning prayer you’re in danger of banning any kind of discipleship any kind of spiritual leadership and any ability for a pastor or a youth leader or anybody to say to somebody i don’t think that’s a wise course of action i want to suggest you maybe don’t have sex before you get married i want to suggest you don’t have an affair do we have the space to still say that can people consent to come and have that kind of discipleship i think they can and should be able to so that’s why this kind of awkward issue off to the side is actually really important and i hope i’ve convinced you of that and that’s why we’re having to have this conversation um yeah there’s lots more yeah we’ll leave it there and the main debate here is around sexuality but the gender thing really confuses the matter because that really opens up a really interesting other conversation that i’m personally quite intrigued by where we go next on that and i might say more on that in your next question yeah that’s really how i don’t know about you guys but i just find it so helpful with peter’s kind of breadth of experience and and and just uh conversations he’s had with people into this it’s helpful to hear that sort of summary i was thinking the conversation i had was someone peter a couple of weeks ago and they were um actually just out on a local area here sharing their faith with people and they were sharing their faith with one guy and he said oh like i i wouldn’t christianity wouldn’t be really for me i’m gay and it’s really interesting the the comment the person made to them they came back and said them is that all that you are and that actually began a totally different conversation he said well what do you mean and i and basically this conversation ramble do you think just because you’re um attracted to someone of the same sex that somehow you’re barred from having a relationship with god there’s no so it is a confusion around what the bible actually teaches about identity at its core and who we are and i as you were talking there peter i’m wondering where what happened in our culture especially here in the west that and your orientation but also your gender identity started to move towards the center of this is who we are i am heterosexual or i am you know lgbt or you know whatever how is it that that’s such the center for identity that if i question that try to interact on that but everybody just you know gets so upset what do you any thoughts and where that might have came from [Laughter] that’s a 500 year journey to try and do in two minutes um we shifted from a culture of believed in god to a culture that didn’t believe in god over over 500 years this guy said 500 years ago was almost unthinkable not to believe in god today it’s almost unthinkable to believe in god so big shift is there is no god so what do you do instead you turn inwards so we have the rise of individualism you’ll have heard that kind of phrase so we’re the center of the universe everything revolves around me i am in charge and then linked to that we decided that eros was the highest form of love that the erotic love uh is the best not agape love if you’re familiar with those three phrases basically decided that sexual love is the most important part of love and that sexual fulfillment is absolutely critical to human flourishing you cannot flourish as human being unless you’re sexually fulfilled and so it is my right my basic freedom to define myself and to have sex with who i like that’s the journey that went on across those stages i mean that’s a kind of journey over a couple of hundred years that is simplest form there is no god so you turn in i become the kind of master of my own universe i decide that erotic and sexual love is key to to flourish i need to be having sex and i can have sex with who i like and then worms is what gets interesting so when people come to faith and they change the most fundamental building block there is no god to there is a god there’s a real problem with all the bits on top because we we don’t bother with those building blocks if you if you imagine that’s built up that’s whoops got five building blocks there is no god the individual is absolutely key um eros erotic love is is the most important form of love sexual fulfillment is key to flourishing and and therefore i have the freedom and right to have sex with who i like these top two or this top block in particular is the one we see in our culture today we don’t realize it’s built on all the ones beneath and when we change the most fundamental block and become a christian we’re like oh what i do with this sexual stuff up here so we have a real disconnect you either need to change that out working and we can build a different framework or you have to lose your faith and that’s where one of the problems come and what we need to do is build the alternative framework but there is a god and and god is the center of that cause most not i’m the center of the universe that agape isn’t for is in fact the highest form of love that sexual flourishing is possible sorry that human flourishing is possible without sex and it’s it’s the love of god that leads to that flourishing um and and therefore we submit our freedoms to god in our acts of worship and it’s a fundamentally different paradigm that builds through um and it’s a piece of work we’re doing what does it mean to be human in the ear and trying to chart some of that journey in ways it’s much more accessible than currently is um yeah like does that answer that that’s where the shift comes and so the reason it’s all about sex for those who are interested is because of freud everybody heard of freud yeah some of you have like freud and so if you’ve studied that stuff freud made it all about sex it’s not the church freud said and it’s all about your relationship with your mother and your father it’s all about sex and sex defines who you are and so that became really defining on the turn into the individual then it becomes about sex and then that gets pulled apart and deconstructed because they didn’t like normal it’s all about power of the what they call a heteronormative idea that one man one woman having kids in a family well that’s just what why do you get to say that’s normal let’s subvert that let’s play around with that let’s get to have sex with who we like and so we live in this deconstructed culture where we all define ourselves by our sex it’s the weirdest thing and if you went back 50 years they’d go what and if you go forward 50 years i bet you they go what were they thinking but at this moment it is the most normal thing in the world that we’re absolutely defined by our sexuality that wasn’t normal for the last x thousand years and that will not be normal going forward this is the weird moment but this is the water we swim in so we think it’s absolutely the most normal thing in the world it’s like us going somewhere else and trying to define you’re asking everybody else what’s your are you president you catholic you’ve heard stories of guys a muslim here and he says you’re president kelly i’m a protestant muslim he knew he had to answer the question i’m a catholic muslim like you know logic is a disconnect but he gets what the game is here we are so in the war that we swim in it’s all about present catholic it’s all about whatever it is another one and you go to a different culture and they don’t care oh like we’re in a weird moment where sex defines or sexuality and sexual orientation defines everything maybe hopefully that is bizarre moment in history that we’re currently living in and you’ll see it flare up and you’ll see it with the lgbt community as it grows then you’ll see a fracture almost inevitably you can see all the signs at the minute there’s an lgb alliance that’s separate from the transgender community the trans conversation is shifting radically and i’ll probably say more on that and answer to the last question about where i see some of those movements go but in this moment it feels like everything’s around it and we’re wrong the wrong side of history no we’re not but it will feel like it it’s tough but we need a much more positive articulation of flourishing including sexuality but it sits under a much bigger rubric of our identity as image bearers and in relationship with god designed for relationship with other people absolutely but sex is a part of that not the defining characteristic at the top that’s brilliant peter and that’s kind of answered that the next question is on here how do we as christians then engage with this conversation so um i don’t know if there’s anything else you want us i mean you’ve spelled that out so well there but maybe a word just a further word on how we engage on this particular one conversion therapy as christians how we engage in that conversation so for example if we have a friend who comes to us and you know say this legislation goes through and kind of well i suppose we’re not there yet so we may not go there yet but even where we are right now where it’s becoming a bit of a taboo to kind of like say i’ll pray with you or maybe like remain as you are right now let’s think about let’s let’s talk about this how do we as christians engage when it’s our personal friends like or or even you know someone in this room right now tonight is going well this is actually something i’m living right now is something it’s hard for people to understand how do we as christians engage in this topic and then as soon as you give that answer you t up the next question and then we’ll talk about it oh yeah um so uh there’s great organizations like living out who are fantastic at this if this is either your personal struggle or somebody you know and so they’re trying to journey that they’ve got great video clips and resources and they’ve thought through um because not my lived experience so i’ve spent time with guys and i asked ed and dave and others like okay explain what that’s like because i i don’t understand the sacrifice in a sense i’m asking them to make a life of celibacy what it means to lay down your idols but the person i find most helpful in this a guy called dave bennett and so you were telling the story about the guys on the street doing the ministry and dave’s story was somewhat similar he was a gay rights activist in australia because that’s where he was born it’s not his policies australia um but he was in a pub and this girl came up to him wanted to talk to him about jesus he said no you don’t understand i’m gay and she said that’s that that’s not a that doesn’t stop the conversation they got praying and fairly quickly um he had a pretty radical kind of encounter with the holy spirit in the pub and he tells a story in his book a war of loves and so for a couple of years then he journeyed between two different churches and one was a pretty liberal church that’s fine you gave brilliant crack on bring your boyfriend do it and he does and he brings his boyfriend and he writes and what i find a fairly uncomfortable way about it but i had to challenge myself to read it and but he’s also going to another church um kind of more charismatic church and they’re clearly articulating something different but they’re not kind of saying day one you need to change everything they’re acknowledging there’s a journey going on and over time you hear somebody preach i think it might be dawn carson i can’t remember um and ultimately he realizes he needs to lay down the idols in his life but what i love about this book is i can read and go out this could you lay down your idol that’s what you needed to do but he said no no what’s your idol what’s my what do i need to lay down what’s god asking me to lay down in dave’s case it was a sexual orientation he describes himself as a gay celebrity christian which kind of annoys everybody and not everybody likes his language i i like him so i’ve grown to like it you know because the gay community say why do you have to put the celibate there what they don’t like him and the christian community get a bit annoyed he still uses gay as one of his markers but he always puts him together gay celibate christian he kind of provokes everybody he’s very winsome very engaging very emotional and so his book likes on the lgbt list and he’s at oxford studying at the moment and he gets on invited to all sorts of different spaces because some of the other guys in the space grew up christians and they’re wrestling more from that and that’s great and we need that but dave came from outside came in from a gay rights background is really challenging lots of people in the way does it what i love is his missional age fundamentally so if you a war of loves this book it’s a fantastic read absolutely worth it if this is either you know something you want to get to handle on a bit more you said something really interesting that last um section peter where you’re saying you know like in 50 years time the culture then i’ll be looking back at us going like what you defined yourself in what way that’s bunkers what a way to build the society that kind of thing so as we’re moving from sort of supposed young adulthood into when does that happen and we could talk about um adolescents and delayed adolescents anyway but whenever we get there peter you know someone really old like you know like 40 or something in in in the next five to 10 years what are the big cultural shifts you see coming down the pipeline i’m just happy that everybody can now get the vaccine so there’s no prejudice in the fact that i’ve had it and i’m that old to have already got it when did you get that i get my second next week that’s how old i am it’s true it’s fair to say um cultural changes so the former chief rabbi jonathan sachs um had this great phrase about accelerated cultural climate change and i well i really like that not everybody else does but anyway so we know there’s climate change going on and we discuss it and we talk about environmental climate change and people have these conversations and and people may disagree on all the factors and what’s going on but there’s some level of engagement with it he his argument was look there’s culture is changing as fast and in his bigger way but we don’t even want to talk about it now he would have said that’s to do with like family and community and society as a whole and there’s massive shifts going on in that but nobody even wants to talk about it let alone begin to address the problems and i think he’s right so i think what we’re going to see is um it’s going to keep changing and even quicker and it’s going to be even more contested than it is now that’s the bad news um but what the contesting thing is interesting so when sometimes people ask me to talk about contested kind of cultural spaces or we say that you think what was contested for me as a christian but actually um this guy called charles taylor’s written by this and his point is one of the things about the age we’re living in is it’s contested for everybody so richard dawkins who we talked about earlier richard dawkins also made some comments a while ago about transgender richard dawkins has now had to hand back some awards and has got banned from certain things because of his views on transgender so suddenly dawkins finds himself on the wrong side of that when he was the cool new atheist 10 years ago every thought he was the man now dawkins actually gets quite a lot of abuse from everybody and jk rowling came out and transgender boom before she knew she was getting hammered and slammed everybody all those little actors and actresses who she made famous and came out and said oh no i don’t agree with jk um but you know so suddenly like everybody’s contested so we feel it whoever we are and whatever we believe probably most of you are christians in the room and you’re going ah so what you mean is christians would be contested no it used to be um so for example keir starmer sir kirsten had a labour party went to jesus house in london biggest black church in london and he went there because they had a vaccination center and it was all the thing to say let’s make sure that those ethnic minorities in particular who where there’s low vaccine uptake are encouraged to get vaccinated so jesus house and pastor aggie the the pastor there had done a great job in getting a pop-up vaccine center and care went and then somebody said oh these guys believe in conversion therapy and he went oh i’m so sorry i should never have been there that’s appalling no they don’t believe in conversion therapy and they’re very rabid well black church he didn’t even think to check but the shift there was that 10 years ago going the black church would have been a big thing and you wouldn’t have offended that community now immediately he apologized again to keep another community happy with the lgbt community and really annoyed the black community and so it doesn’t matter whether you’re hindu buddhist muslim christian atheist everybody’s contested their beliefs and their ideas nobody’s getting the free pass anymore everybody’s getting challenged that’s just good and bad that’s just the reality so what the guy charles taylor says the consequence of that is that doubters are tempted to believe and believers are tempted to doubt i think both those things are true doubters are tempted to believe so people have moments where they go hmm i’m interested in spirituality or faith or jesus or christianity not all the time they’re moments when they’re going to be open to that now the reality is in our culture i think that’s moments of death that’s moments of crisis or illness and sickness more often than not but not exclusively but people are more open to there being something else something transcendent something that cuts through this world of ours maybe there is a god there’s a great quote by this english author julian barnes i don’t believe in god but i miss him which is maybe my generation more than yours but this kind of sense of i hope i think maybe there’s something more so doubters are tempted to believe believers are also tempted to died i would say the average christian 20 years ago when i was three and had a conflict of faith once a month had a challenging situation in the workplace once a month it’s like every hour now for most of us like it’s at least every day something comes up some conversation you look at the news today there’s three different angles on abortion there’s something on shared education there’s something in conversion therapy there’s something the list goes on it’s like every day every conversation has an angle or an aspect that challenges us as christians and so believers are tempted to die that’s tough because people will go through seasons of doubt and belief a little bit differently i think again when i was growing up much more people became christians that was it was kind of almost decision for life you’ll see people weaving in and out a little bit more now i’m not that’s just descriptively i suspect true of what’s coming down the tracks that’s a real challenge for leaders because now you’re looking at people who committed christians and they seem to drift a bit then they have kids and they all come back a bit then they kind of just go through these seasons a little bit more but dieters are tempted to believe too i think there’s more and more opportunities for evangelism so i know this long answer to your question let me say three things i think are coming down the tracks culturally three other trends in light of the building blocks that we put in place in light of that there is no god that we’ve turned into a very individualized culture and all that that means and the kind of deconstruction and tearing apart i think there’s three ways that works itself out one is why i at three days because i’m still a preacher at heart disintegration despair and distraction disintegration we live in a more fractured fragmented world the filter bubbles of a few years ago the kind of brexit trump that brought that to the fore we are continuing to fragment into smaller and smaller and smaller tribes you see in the church if we’re not really careful we drop down into smaller and smaller groupings you see in the lgbt community you see on nationalism you know you see will we be a united kingdom in a few years time who like it’s just constant fragmentation down and disintegration and people feel that fracturing saying the second or not no word about saying this despair it’s like loneliness there’s anxiety there is fear in this moment we see mental health questions and issues on the rise you see self-harm on the rise so you see a response to all that’s going on with them and it’s despair like what is the point what is the future what i do with that and the third is distraction and that is often an addiction it’s often around attention it’s often on our phones i am that old i used to have a nokia 6310 um and you could only play snake on it and to make a phone call cost you about five pounds a minute so you couldn’t spend more than 20 minutes on one of those phones back in the old days that i used to have like that was it what what’s like i’ll not make you do you know is it three hours is it four hours how long are we spending on these devices but 2007 the iphone 2006 or the iphone didn’t exist facebook essentially didn’t exist in a meaningful form and twitter didn’t exist i don’t know what your day is like my confession is i spend quite a lot of time on this device on those platforms so i just told that up over a week and think that’s just a fundamental shift in the way i spend my time as a cultural shift why is that important there’s lots of reasons if you’ve watched social dilemma and some of those things are good i’ve sound watched that with my 11 year old just to try and get her reddish that you can have a phone but only when you go through all these things and when you’re like 22 or something you know um it’s the distraction at its core as it stops us thinking about anything substantive i think it’s the core issue behind that you don’t want to think about the meaning of life you don’t want to think about big issues when i think about this relationship and what i’m going to do is don’t think about god you don’t think about deep ethical purpose questions in life because between meetings when you get on a train when you’re on a tube if you’re in london if you’re when you’re on a flight when you’re just zipping around you’re just on the phone constantly you do even we don’t even watch a full tv program without being on our phone at the same time that’s an inconceivable idea why would we just do one thing when we can pretend we’re doing two like seriously when was the last time we watched the movie and didn’t go on our phone for at least like a few minutes of it like we’re so distracted we can’t even take a movie seriously and the danger of that is at some point you need to think about something substantive like what’s the meaning of life why am i here is there a god and we don’t do that that makes mission actually really hard when people don’t want to think about that so i think those three things the constant fragmentation and disintegration is a real problem and our response to that is obviously to try and bring people together in a different way there is a despair and an anxiety and a fear that i think the long tail of this pandemic will perpetuate and probably make larger so the kind of message of hope that we have is huge it’s as simple as our hopeful narrative and response and then the distraction just the inability to focus on anything and that’s digital and it might be addiction it might be drugs and alcohol for some people it’s going to be phones for other people that can manifest itself in different ways but it’s all about taking our attention away so you can’t focus on anything else we live in a culture that’s disabling us 60 70 80 hours a week and you come here and you think in half an hour anything i say or johnny says is going to offset that that’s not that’s not a reasonable competition that’s that’s not good odds for me you know there’s no chance because we are being shaped relentlessly possibly what 20 hours a week at a conservative estimate on this device alone like what else is shaping us in terms of ads and movies and culture and books and magazines and news media and so it’s really difficult to navigate that space but i don’t say that to depress you i really really don’t i actually think this is the most phenomenally interesting time to be alive man is it challenging yes the discipleship and formation required in that moment is massive but that’s the space we get to live in so my if i was to encourage you on if the problem is a secularism there is no god we need to focus on god at a personal level our relationship with god what’s your relationship with god like were you encountering jesus are we praying reading the bible like the basics if the problem is a kind of profound individualism where are we getting community beyond here where are we building relationships that are of substance that we can ask the most important things in our lives like do we really love our wives or our girlfriends or whatever are we taking this relationship seriously what are we going to do with our lives like who gets to ask the tough questions of us are we doing our quiet time do we love jesus who do you allow to ask you that question who are you asking that too that’s the relationship piece in a profoundly individual culture and if we’re being constantly deconstructed and torn down in our culture which i think we are then formation and discipleship is critical so who’s forming you and who are you forming who’s forming you so who gets to speak into your life who who’s that’s not necessarily one to one mandarin who’s actually forming or what is forming you because something’s shaping your life let’s not kid ourselves so i wonder what it is and then you’re now too old not to be forming somebody else who are you forming in shaping because that’s the only way this cultural battle shifts like we have to be mentoring and discipling other people the reason i’m not dismayed is we are playing like we’re on the wedding side now i don’t say that lightly and i don’t say that kind of arrogantly either this isn’t a cultural battle that we can lose that feels like it at this moment i don’t know if you’re a sports fan so it’s like we’re playing a game of football and we’re 10 10 nil up and there is one minute left in the game and they’re in the 18 yard box our 18 yard box and we’re going oh yex they’re going to score i’m like we’re 10 nil up and there’s one minute left to play let’s not forget where we are here in the game we can’t lose this thing the analogy sometimes uses world war two like it’s between ve day and and and the uh what it called the victory that the landings when we had the decisive battles fought at dunkirk and all but it was another six months before the war was actually officially finished we’re between those two things the decisive battle has been fought jesus has defeated the enemy let’s not have any doubt about that it’s game over but there are wranglings and there’s skirmishes and there’s moments and this feels like an oppressive one but we are on the winning side
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C U L T U R E - Peter Lynas

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