Just wanted to say 'happy birthday' to Send a Cow - they're 20 years old and do a wonderful job. As you can see by the birthday cake (made by Maggie which is how I got the photo), they don't just deal with cows. www.sendcow.org.uk
Saturday, 28 June 2008
Just wanted to say 'happy birthday' to Send a Cow - they're 20 years old and do a wonderful job. As you can see by the birthday cake (made by Maggie which is how I got the photo), they don't just deal with cows. www.sendcow.org.uk
went to see Prince Caspian last night - haven't yet read any reviews so don't know what I'm 'supposed' to say. I've got two words: 'brilliant' and 'imagination'.
Friday, 27 June 2008
Ever since people started labelling me, I guess I’ve felt I’ve been a ‘both/and’ kind of guy. It’s a place I feel comfortable in. However, when you get comfortable with something it’s easy to assume you’re there when you’re not. This week I’ve been caused to reflect on the tension between immanence and transcendence. It has to be ‘both/and’. Where does it feature in the worshipping rhythms of our Churches, but more pertinently, where does it feature in my own heart’s awareness of Christ? Emily asked this week why there’s little evidence of spiritual gifts on Sunday’s. I felt as if I gave her a history lesson and what amounted to a lame excuse. Then I read two things:
‘we expect movies to tell us stories. We expect no such awakening of our imaginations when we approach the Scriptures.’ (this was in ‘intuitive leadership’ by Tim Keel) and then:‘Whatever we may think of the philosophical and ethical contours of late modernity, and whatever we may think of the revival of interest in spirituality in the last two decades, the overwhelming worldview that still dominates us is an undiluted pragmatism…. Our profound preoccupation is with the world of our own making…. We are engrossed with our own small world of living, loving, studying, working, relaxing, achieving, and producing.’ (this was in ‘The Seeking Heart – a journey with Henri Nouwen’, which is a wonderful book for a daily). May the Spirit empower me to live open to the mysterious, the supernatural, the empowering presence of God.
Wednesday, 25 June 2008
well, it's the first of the Euro semis tonight and, guess what, I'm out - the story of a Minister's life! However, it's the third of a Church Review night with Stratton Green so it's something I shall enjoy. Apparently, both a newspaper in Germany and in Turkey carried the same headline on Monday: 'Let football be the winner'. I hope so. There's loads of Turks living in Germany (and not a little tension) as I found out when I spent some time with the German Baptist Mission Network earlier this year - a German Church Planter in Turkey there is one of the most wanted men by one radical muslim group. It got me thinking, though, especially as several people have repeated the mantra to me recently 'you must be really busy'...
I’m too busy….
If I don’t have time to sit down (yes, especially an activist) and pray daily
If I don’t have time to study my bible at least 5/7 days a week
If I don’t have time to read something regularly - @ least three books on the go.
If I don’t have time to spend time ‘doing nothing’ with my family.
If I don’t have time to spend time ‘doing nothing’!
If I don’t have time to exercise regularly.
If I don’t have time to take regular breaks from ‘work/ministry’.
If I don’t have time to find some creative outlet.
If I don’t have time to share family responsibility.
If I don’t have time to just 'be' part of the family of God.
If I don’t have time to be with people in whom I can invest friendship.If I don’t have time keep up to date with KopTalk.
Tuesday, 24 June 2008
Don’t know if you saw ‘Primark on the Rack’ on BBC last night – I’ve not caught up with it yet, but intend to via BBC iPlayer. We often respond feeling somewhat helpless - what can we do other than stop buying from Primark, writing to our MP’s etc.? Well, one alternative label could be RAJE who are one of three National Winners of Make Your Mark in Fashion. The following text is taken from the Make Your Mark in Fashion website.
R.A.J.E. want to create a range dictated by consumer needs rather than seasonal trends; with this in mind they designed four signature t-shirts named after each team member and designed to flatter different woman’s body shape; each t-shirt will be produced in four seasonal colourways, featuring unique prints. The team chose THTC as their mentor because they spotted an opportunity to build on the THTC urban street wear market by developing a range that would appeal more strongly to young women, whilst maintaining all of the social and environmental values championed by THTC. The panel loved R.A.J.E. for their dedication to making fashion more sustainable and their determination to design for real women.
Here’s an example of four young women setting out to make a difference. I wonder if they’ll get much support from the Church, although most of them are Christians? As one of the winners of the Make Your Mark in Fashion project their next stop is the catwalk at London Fashion Week in September. They’re swimming against the stream, but are setting out to be eco-friendly, organic, suitable for all sizes (sound like Kingdom values to me). For me it’s a great example of how young people can really make an impact – oh, the ‘E’ of RAJE just happens to be Emily, my daughter. Yes, I am a proud father, but I hope you get the point and maybe next Sunday when you’re thinking of interviewing someone about their work place for mission, you might think a little wider than those who work in schools and hospitals? I'm really hoping for a ticket at Fashion Week and have started warning folk I may have to cancel certain dates - my team think it's absolutely hilarious 'oh, I'm really sorry, I can't now make your really special deacons meeting, I have to be at fashion week!' Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to the Euro semis - look out for the CBC Curry Club flag being carried by Bob Morris at the Spain v Russia semi. One of the books I've never written, because I doubt anyone would read it concerns the overlap between Christian leadership and managing a football team - how does Guus Hiddink do it? - could be an interesting chapter.
Monday, 23 June 2008
I was part of a group the other day and one of our Minister’s used the terms ‘old world’ and ‘new world’ - in relation to the Ministry he’d been prepared for when ‘training’ and the nature of the Ministry we are being challenged to bring today. I’ve got so used to saying we are in the midst of a massive cultural shift and it’s not yet clear what it’ll look like the other end (if there is another end – ie continual change is here to stay); I think I haven’t been stressing sufficiently the fact we are already in a new world. Whilst I don’t think this new world is necessarily all there is, it may only be a shoreline of a small island, we are already in a very different world to the one people encountered when embarking on the great ministry adventure 25 years ago. The fact that we are living in Post-Christendom, however, becomes far less obvious the more you live in the great Church ghetto where reality-denial is the order of the day. However, there are some very positive signs of hope, One, I believe, is the fact I’m now encountering a far greater number of people among our Churches who are recognising the need for a cultural change within their own Church. I accept resistance to change as a given in any human grouping and so don’t think that instinctive negative reaction to any change is in any way a marker of openess. However, where people have enough time to absorb the motivating reasons for it (mission), I’m finding a far greater openness than when the motivating reasons were perceived to be ‘open to the Spirit’. We’re almost at the end of Imagine 3 and the penny seems to be beginning to drop with a growing number of leader in this process. It seems that where people are genuinely willing to look at some of the real issues together they are finding an openness to the Spirit and a way forward, even if it’s only one step on a journey for which they don’t the destination.
Friday, 20 June 2008
My hunch is that if you’ve found my blog you’ll be well aware of ‘Second Life’, but just in case….. Second Life is a 3-D virtual world created by it’s Residents. It started in 2003 and by March this year had over 13 million ‘Residents’. Have a look at this introduction via youtube if you have no idea what I’m on about and have literally 4 minutes 13 seconds to spare.
Wednesday, 18 June 2008
I don't know whether you've seen the research recently released from Church House Publishing - 'Making Sense of Generation Y' looking at today's 16-25 year olds and their attitude to spirituality. I heard Graham Cray talking about the somewhat disturbing findings (for the Church) some time back and will be interested to investigate them further. However, I suggest you look at this early review by Jonny Baker, who came to one of our recent Leaders Days, which raises further questions beyond this piece of research: www.lausanneworldpulse.com/947?pg=all
This was the phrase I picked up when I was at Cirencester on Sunday. It summed up what they felt the Lord was saying to them after a 24-hour prayer slot the previous week and the challenge was to be salt and light - where they were and who they were with. Obviously, I loved it because it resonates with so much of what we’re trying to nurture among our Churches today. However, hearing the Lord is one part of a process. The really big challenges come along when any Church gets serious about nurturing the environment which encourages something like this to become reality. Ensuring it’s a priority for leaders means not expecting them to be at the Church building for meetings X nights per week. Encouraging every member to build this kind of priority into their weekly rhythms doesn’t just happen – it needs both regular encouragement, but also enough space to be created to enable it to happen. When, for example, did you last send a message to the congregation that making friends with other people beyond the Church is valued, other than in a sermon? I hear testimonies and interviews about all sorts – what we choose to focus on sends the big message: ‘we value this around here’, so what do we value?
Monday, 16 June 2008
In ‘The Forgotten Ways’ Alan Hirsch sets out to explore what he describes as the Apostolic Genius’. How did the early Church grow so phenomenally before AD 310? How did the Chinese Church flourish so much after our missionaries were sent home in the 1950’s? There are no easy answers offered here for which I am grateful, but as someone who loves the Church and doesn’t believe God has given up on us yet, I find so much to challenge, inspire hope and ignite passion in this book. I have to say this is one of those books I first read thinking ‘I wish I’d written that’! – it’s probably the best compliment I can pay anyone because I’m saying it gives expression to some of those things deep within myself which I’ve not been able to find the words for and yet, simultaneously, stretching me to new levels of thinking, and hopefully practice, not previously reached. I realise some people will read this and respond with a ‘been there, done that’. I struggle to see that, because what Alan Hirsch is doing here is trying to help us translate some of the wonderful thinking we all do about the Church, Mission, Discipleship, Culture, etc. today and enable us to make the connections in such a way the dynamics, intrinsically there in the gospel, can be released. I think we’d all have to say we have some way to go, but I’ve found ‘The Forgotten Ways’ a source of hope. This is not so much a review as a buy it asap if you’re in any way concerned about the present and future state of the Church.
We’re very fortunate to have Alan speaking at our next WEBA Leaders Day on July 15th. and I am really looking forward to it. If you’re not part of WEBA, but want to try and sneak in for £10, try e-mailing The Old Forge - firstname.lastname@example.org - and see if there's any space left.
For further exploration: www.theforgottenways.org
Sunday, 15 June 2008
Saturday, 14 June 2008
One of the big dangers of regional ministry is that it is easy to be removed from significant opportunities to connect with people who are not yet Christians. My own feeling has been we need to be intentional about working against this tendency, which invariably means consciously building in time to create space for relationships to develop. Consequently, this morning’s lesson to me - about being in being still in one place - was one I needed to hear. I spent most of the morning cutting back bushes in our front garden. The best thing about it was the people I got to chat with. After I’d had two good conversations I began to think I’d seen more of my neighbours than for quite a while. No less than six conversations later I finished the bushes. I had chats about tennis, rugby, the allotments down the road, the lads who’s racket I obviously slept through, jobs, two friends stopped in their car I hadn’t seen for a while. The only problem as far as I can see is I’ll have to cut the bushes back more often!
I’m trying to think of more ways in which people might come to me, but can’t see it as an excuse for not ‘going’. I know the Christians in Malmesbury have set up a prayer chair in the town. They simply have a sign which says ‘if you’d welcome prayer, please sit in the chair’. Apparently on day 1 a guy became a Christian as a result, which can’t be a bad start. ‘The best form of defence is attack’ - something often said in football circles and it certainly seems to be the case from what I’ve managed to watch during this first week of Euro 2008. Some who are paying my stipend will be relieved to hear I’ve not seen that many games, but with Maggie away at Lee Abbey for the weekend I’m packing them in now! I managed to watch Spain stuff Russia and Holland beat France - both games finishing 4-1. Both teams have looked sensational going forward at times (Torres the best centre forward in the world?) – however, both look vulnerable at the back and Spain were unconvincing tonight. I know Benetiz would love to bring David Villa to Anfield, but we couldn’t afford him before his display this wek has added a few more millions on his price. Still I’m enjoying a stress free Euro 2008 and looking forward to Wimbledon too.
Friday, 13 June 2008
We’ve now finished two evenings in this round of ‘Imagine’. I can’t speak for those who’ve attended, but from mine and Alisdair's perspective, they’ve gone well. We’re trying to encourage some good habits for leadership teams and groups of deacons around WEBA so it was great to hear some feedback about changes some Churches have actually done following our last session, which focused upon ‘change’. For example, Nailsea have re-vamped their leadership structure and St Marks have had a congregation-wide listening to God exercise which seems to have gone well. For Imagine 3, we’re focusing on the whole issue of developing Christian character and how we can encourage such development among ourselves as those given some responsibility in local Church leadership as Ministers/elders/deacons etc. This time around we’re trying to root what we all believe into our practice and some of the synergy between following Jesus as an individual disciple, being part of a team and the missionary imperitive. For those not part of WEBA, Imagine is something Ministers are encouraged to bring their leaders to as a team – we’re exploring how we can encourage healthy habits as teams, which will do us, the rest of our Church and ultimately those beyond it a load of good.
Thursday, 12 June 2008
A third of bishops believe that 50 per cent of the paid clergy in their diocese are unable to meet the challenges of the job. This finding emerged in a Ministry Division report leaked to the Sunday Telegraph. Following the news story, the Division quickly announced that one finding the Telegraph had missed was that 80 per cent of bishops were confident that newly ordained clergy ‘have the gifts and abilities’ needed. Despite this, it stressed there was sufficient evidence to state in bold ‘There is a problem’. To address the issue, the Church has begun an investigation into the motivations and personalities of ordination candidates and is considering reviewing its selection criteria and levels of pay. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2059038/Church-of-England-Bishops-concern-over-quality-of-vicars.html
I missed this item via the Bible Society 'Newswatch' I receive every Friday, but someone mentioned it to me yesterday. I'm not sure I dare ask what our Regional Team Leaders think regarding Baptists.
Wednesday, 11 June 2008
Are pastor-teachers redundant? I realise that when I said we have enough pastor-teachers (May blog), some people felt I was saying exactly this. Clearly (I naively thought) this is not the case.
However, the situation I believe we find ourselves in demands a great deal more soul searching. The question I’m asking is whether, or not, the role of pastor-teacher (as it is customarily regarded), the elephant in the New Testament room? By that I mean: the role which we almost assume equates to the role of a typical Baptist Minister does not appear to be the role of a person taking a key leadership responsibility in the New Testament.
What typically happens when this question is raised is very interesting to me. We seem to respond to such a question by trying to re-define what a pastor-teacher really is meant to be – for example (I’ve used it myself many times), shepherds in the first century led their sheep rather than, what became the norm in places like the UK, drove their sheep. Personally, I now find this kind of response is missing the point.
The Ephesians 4 passage talks about five dimensions of ministry, which are rooted in individuals to such an extent that they become identified by their role and function. How come we have elevated two of those roles, merged them into one person, and made them normative? Now let me make one thing absolutely clear – in my mind there is nothing wrong with being a pastor-teacher. (I might even still be one myself). My problem is more with how it’s eclipsing the other ministries and focusing us upon one or two functional facets of Ministry, which can enable us to avoid the bigger purposes of Ministry. I resonate with something Ian Stackhouse shared on our Ministers Conference one year. Telling the story of how he was called to Millmead, Guildford – in response to those question/answer/interrogation sessions us Baptists put ourselves through - he was asked what his vision was for that Church and he responded simply ‘to be a Church’. Surely that’s where Ephesians 4 leads us.
The problems, looking from a regional perspective, seem to arise when the gifting(s) of one individual leader push out of the leadership pot the giftings of others, or the expectations of the Church reduce the leadership pot to a purely functional (and individual) role. I have now observed quite of number of Church situations where the leadership group and the Church as a whole, agree they want their next Minister not to do everything they previously expected, define their role differently in some way, etc. – only to return to the default position within a couple of years. It’s almost as if someone somewhere presses that little button ‘restore factory settings’. (I think there’s a Ph D thesis in here somewhere if someone’s looking for a piece of work, which could serve us all well.) Another aspect of missing the point is to argue about things, which take us away from the purpose of each of the five-fold ministries (leaving aside for this moment the ‘is it four or is it five’ debate). One of the most straight-forward readings of this passage tells me we’re talking about people (as part of a team together) equipping other people for ‘works of service’ and ‘maturity’. That is, the NT focus is far more upon the ministry and mission of the whole Church than upon the roles individual people fulfil within it, whereas the institutional Church appears to have a different focus. So, where do we learn how to develop others? How do we grow to be secure enough in our own role within the grand scheme of a local Church to actively encourage those with other gifts like apostleship, or evangelism, among us? One of things I welcome in the current questions about emerging Church and things missional, is it is forcing us to take a long hard look at whether we are equipping people to be like Jesus a bit more in their places. This in turn is pushing us to raise issues about the role of the Minister.
There are many questions re this I still want to find some part of an answer to, but I’m supposed to be blogging rather than writing an essay, so I guess I’ll have to leave it there for now.
Saturday, 7 June 2008
The reason I'll be having a film listed on my blog each month is because we are part of a film club - this month it's Amazing Grace. This will be the first film we've had which has an obvious Christian link. I've watched it once so far and been impressed by the story of Wilberforce again. How I feel about the film, purely as a film, is something I can't separate out at the moment. I've heard some gripes about historical accuracy and that Pitt is portrayed as a bit wet, but neither bothered me. It's a powerful film because it's a powerful story and well done in many ways. The people who opposed Wilberforce are a challenge to how we can all resist change - even when it involves furthering obvious Kingdom values - if we stand to lose something due to vested interests. We meet to discuss this one on 6th. July, so I'll post up some pearls of wisdom which will no doubt arise from the others. So far we've had some really interesting discussions and it may be of interest to know why we started it etc.
Some of our ideas behind it …
Enjoyment. We need to get out more! Why is it we think about going to watch a good film, or hire the DVD, but then seem to miss it? This is about finding and enjoying good films and the conversation around them.
Engagement. We want to both engage and be engaged by film today. Film is a massive vehicle for ideas and influence in today’s world. We want to find ways to engage with the culture they represent, the themes and influences portrayed, the characters, actors and whatever else seems relevant.
Enrichment. Art is enriching and films can provide a contribution to our appreciation of life and others. However, we can also be a source of enrichment in the lives of one another.
Inevitably, the fact the group was initiated by Christians will provide a distinctive flavour to this particular group – we hope! However, the intention is for the group to be open and accessible for all who want to enjoy and engage – enrichment will be a by-product! Part of the initial intention was to create a ‘3rd. place’ – that is, somewhere other than work or home where people could gather around a common interest, combining Christian and others alike.
How it’ll work …
We’ll choose a film and give reasonable notice for people to watch it if they wish – no rules on where, when, who with etc. We’ll simultaneously announce a date and place for conversation over coffee around the chosen film. The group for discussion, whoever makes it up, will choose the next film.
Thursday, 5 June 2008
I once had a beard and when I shaved it off, people looked at me very strangely (not for the first time), wondering there's something different, but what it is it? Apparently, Caravaggio presented Jesus beardless in this painting - wondering was this why Jesus was unrecognised on the road to Emmaus? I've seen this painting countless times, but only this week have I realised why it never 'seemed right' in my eyes. One of the lovely things about attending something like this Family Systems course is the rich variety of people you end up meeting. It's been good to catch up with Mike who I knew already, but I've also enjoyed chatting with Charles, a Catholic Priest, who's staying at the same place as me. Richard Blackburn was an Art Historian prior to his Ministry with the Lombard Mennonite Peace Centre in Chicago. He gave a few of us a tour round the National Gallery last night, which was, for me, a wonderful privilege. His particular specialism is Italian Renaissance art (I hope I've spelt that right!) and it was fascinating. I was still relieved to get to the impressionists, but I feel I understand a little more now of what has been a big mystery. We continued the theme at a little Italian Restaurant.
Wednesday, 4 June 2008
Family Systems – so much information to absorb, I’m in overload! (some might say it makes a change!) However, there’s a great deal here of benefit for any Church leader. In my own mind, I tend to operate within a framework of three dimensions which I think need to overlap in any healthy Church – our relationships with God, one another and those beyond the Church.
Personally speaking, I'm convinced I need to be working at bringing the missional dimension to be at the top of our agenda because of our present context here in the UK. However, I can’t remove the Church from the equation as some emerging Church writers would seem to suggest. Family Systems is a graphic reminder to me of the importance of health – for the Church and its leaders – and how we dare not replace one great omission with another – all three dimensions work in a healthy tension and indeed feed one another. One of the things I’m appreciating this week is the emphasis that we work first and foremost on ourselves – in fact the whole thrust of Bowen’s Family Systems Theory concerns defining who we are as individuals as opposed to setting off to sort others out as the main focus. We take responsibility for who we are and, therefore, what we can do – not what others can do. As Richard Blackburn, who’s leading the teaching this week, said today ‘Churches like over-functioning pastors, because then they don’t have to do so much.’ It reminded me of those surveys which declare, from the self-admission of Ministers, that of six key tasks they spent more time on what drained them the most (in this case administration) and the least amount of time on what energised them and their priority (in their minds at least!).
Tuesday, 3 June 2008
There are some great advantages of being in London for a week. This evening I managed to catch a Beth Rowley concert at Dingwalls, Camden Lock which is a terrific small venue - it struck me how thick with smoke it would have been just a few months ago. Beth Rowley has an amazing voice, but live she is so much more impressive, for me, than on her album, which is just a bit too polished - good, but lacking the slower, bluesy, raw, live gutsy version. Ben Castle, Roy and Fiona's son, was great on sax too (they co-wrote most of the songs on the album). I'd love to sit down with these two are ask about some of the lyrics - 'I felt the love and then I saw the light'; I had a mother and she did pray, so if I should die and my soul becomes lost, then it ain't nobody's fault but mine' - and others which have a strong Christian flavour.
Sunday, 1 June 2008
From tuesday-friday I'm at the Mennonite Centre in Highgate, London, to take part in their 'Church Leadership and Family Systems' course. I must say, I'm really looking forward to trying to get a better handle on Murray Bowen's Family Systems Theory. I've dipped into to it in the past through Peter Steinke's "Healthy Congregations' & 'How Your Church Family Works' which are both Alban Institute publications. Hopefully, it'll help me blend together theory and practice a little more - we'll see! I always love going to the Mennonite Centre - ever since working there for my dissertation about Michael Sattler's Theology of Suffering when at Spurgeon's: every morning I was there someone brought me the best peanut-butter sandwiches I've ever tasted.