Monday, 19 October 2009

making waves?

I thought the best line from Roy Searle during our Saturday morning with leaders drawn from across our region was 'if you want to run something, go and get a job at Curry's - the pay's about he same, but the hours are a lot better.' Cheers Roy, I'll use that not a few times, I'm sure, in the months ahead. Saturday was a good event where we brought twelve groups of leaders together, plus a number who came on their own. My sense is, this needs to be one part of the criteria for what we put on as WEBA - will it be more than event? will there be at least the potential of multiplication? Roy helped us ensure both were a good 'yes' this time around.
The picture here, however, is from our retreat last week. I wonder how often most of us get back to that point where we realise God is speaking to us regularly, but we've been too preoccupied to listen? Certainly (once again!!) that was my experience last week and I'm hugely grateful to God for the opportunity to stop and listen. We talk about making a difference, but whatever we do needs to arise from a place of having met and hearing God. Just look at how the light is breaking through that clearing in the cloud.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

remembering people were God's idea....

If I was a normal, rational human being, I should be moaning all day about a stupid beach ball which greatly influenced Liverpool's defeat (1-0) against Sunderland yesterday - now even the non-football readers are vaguely interested!
However, and this is much better for my sanity and sanctification, I'm thinking about the gifts of God, which come our way in the shape of people.
Ray and Annie are two of them. These wonderful people opened up their beautiful home for seven of us to share a retreat together last week in Wales. There are people who have the gift of hospitality and then there's these two are in the premier league - thanks for everything.
Roy - Roy Searle is a wonderful gift and has been again this week. Roy led us brilliantly through the two days, but was also sufficiently part of us - thanks Roy.
My other five colleagues - we had a three way retreat for the Regional Ministers of South West, South Wales & WEBA and we had a great time together - thanks guys.
And then I start thinking about the willingness of Roy's wife, Shirley, which enables him to travel. i'm thinking about the Ministers who came to Thornbury yesterday morning - I thank God for those who have the wisdom and foresight to bring along other leaders and who are genuinely concerned about spiritual leadership. I think about the nice people we met, just briefly, in the theatre last night. What a blessing to simply receive such good gifts.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Roy Searle retreat week....

I've just read my friend, Geoff Colmer's blog to see he's looking forward to Roy Searle leading their Ministers conference as a retreat this week. Well, I now know what Roy's up to all week - because from there he's coming over to lead a retreat for our Regional Ministers cluster - consisting of ourselves, South West & South Wales. This is about deepening our relationships with one another and God and I'm confident it'll have a fair share of fun included too - hey, they call this work! Following that Roy is leading a morning at Thornbury for us which is aimed at those in local leadership teams in our churches - elders, deacons, small group leaders etc. This is a Saturday morning, which a good number have decided to give up to come to and I'm sure it will be worthwhile. One of the things we're discovering is how crucial it is for a team to have a sense of journeying with God in discipleship together. I do hear a number of people saying they don't have time, which by observation proves to be counter-productive.
One point of posting here today is to let local enough people be aware they don't have to be part of any formal leadership to come along. Details are on our WEBA website and whilst it'll most beneficial to come as a team, it will be personally applicable too.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

demise of Forge Victoria

Had an e-mail last week telling me of the closure of Forge Victoria. Very sad - or is it? Forge has been at the cutting edge in many ways helping move the practice of ministerial formation in context forwards (in my opinion). The founding director was Alan Hirsch and for twelve years they've done some good pioneering stuff. Actually, I was planning to go out there next month for my final sabbatical month this year, but changed my own plans. Obviously, I don't know the reasons why, but it does sound as if it finances are, almost inevitably, a factor. It's tough making ends meet in pioneering something, which is not, by definition, exactly universally popular. It's making me wonder to what extent any organisation, which is subversive by design, can last very long. If it's job done, then maybe it would be time to change, or conclude. Sometimes, however, the original values become subsumed by the institution it seeks to change. This, I guess, becomes pretty subjective and nigh impossible to measure, but I am often amazed by what is not so amazing because I do not it myself on a regular basis. Christians and especially those with leadership roles and responsibilities, have a great ability of thinking because we've read it, or discussed it to the point we've discovered its weaknesses, we've done it. I remember, when I was part of the Mainstream leadership team, this was a question we asked regularly and I know some would take the opinion it's done it's original job, so why carry on? Maybe Forge has done its job and passed the baton on elsewhere - if missional movement is what we're after, it's bigger than grouping, but only if the DNA is sufficiently spread to continue momentum. One school of leadership suggests the aim should be to work yourself out of a job - not sure we do too much of that if we're honest, but I still ascribe to the ideal. Problem is, with ministry, mission, church, the job is never actually done - there's no perfect churches, no completed 'to do' lists. It seems to me Jesus also lived with that tension and we can only sensibly take responsibility for what we're called to contribute, but certainly not for the whole job. This whole meandering leads me towards sadness rather than anywhere else - the 'm' word is now 'missional' and has become part of the jargon we use. The problem is I've found it's merely replacing 'mission' and the real benefit initially, it seemed to me, was to be able to talk about why it doesn't simply mean doing, etc. I wonder whether the devil is getting us to where he likes us to be - thinking we're being effective, whereas in actual fact, the ship's till going down?

Monday, 5 October 2009

sorting out the apples from the pears

I'm always interested in people who are able to take some initiative - especially when there's a strong element, which can make a real difference. It was with some delight, therefore, I witnessed the mincing and juicing of apples of last week. Ian and Tanya are members of our church at Tytherington and have started producing their own apple juices, which are delicious - certainly the two varieties I've tasted so far. They have an orchard of 80 trees and are now in their second season - growing traditional Gloucestershire varieties. Ian's had groups along to hear their story without charge, but accepting contributions for Operation Agri.
Another couple who are doing something very significant are Geoff and Jan Wallis. They are significant players for who are seeking to raise significant money to build a six storey centre for Sofia Baptist Church.
My anxiety stems from the 'fact' I find too few of them among churches - the problem often surfaces when individual ideas are shared too widely in a way, which requires wider support. Because entrepreneurs, by nature, can't easily answer what the project will look for at the end of the day, or produce a nicely budgeted management plan they don't get off the corporate ground. It's a similar reason why many evangelists have to find expression for their ministry outside of the orbit of a local church.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

acknowledged communities

jonny baker has blogged about CMS becoming an 'acknowledged community' of the Church of England. Sounds a good idea in terms of marrying a pioneering missional agency with a traditional structure. Maybe us Baptists could learn something here? It always struck as ironic that in the early days of charismatic renewal the Anglicans managed to find a synergy between spontaneity and freedom whereas so-called 'free' churches, like ourselves struggled to cope with change.


'This is the time of the follower' is a phrase which begins a chapter in "Followership' by Barbara Kellerman, I've just started reading. I've turned to it because I'm looking for some clues to help church leaders (there's a word when talking about followership) re-connect more of what they do with more of the outworking of the lives of disciples who are the church. So far it's proving to be helpful and challenging to the church systems we work in. Of course, if anyone knows anything about what it means to be a follower it must be Christians - right? Wrong! Obviously, I exaggerate, but so much 'leadership energy' is, in reality, more about re-arranging an organisation rather than cultivating an environment for the growth of disciples. I see it networks of churches too, which as Baptists, we still call Associations or Unions. I'm grateful our own executive are becoming bolder in willingness to see the translation of desires into realities. If we do see at least ten new churches come into being over the next few years, then monday's meeting will prove to be a significant milestone. No guarantees, but these days most families are 'planned'. Sometimes when I look at today's people carriers I wonder if they'd have been produced a few years earlier, whether Maggie and I might have planned more children! Financial constraints are a feature for many in their thinking and planning, but within the church these are the issues which are often writ so large to be, not only constraints, but the rationale for our being. So, the size of the Home Mission budget determines the amount of ministry we do, rather than vica-versa. Churches with a full-time Minister 'can't afford' XYZ, but then in a pastoral vacancy 'we can't afford XYZ because we need to do up the manse'. I have three great children - we could never have afforded them.