Thursday, 26 February 2009

Jesus, fun, evangelism - same sentence?

My recent reading of Luke 10, where Jesus sends out the 72, has led me into various places sharing how Jesus wants to put the fun back into the dreaded 'e' word evangelism. At the risk of appearing glib (not for the first time I hasten to add) 'staying there, eating and drinking whatever ever they put before you' does sound more like a fun night out with some friends to me than the variation where folk in our churches feel they're being pushed, or pulled, out into the big wide world where dragons rule. So, whilst I was absolutely delighted to get into the car last night and discover Liverpool had beaten Real Madrid 1-0 at the Bernabeu, surely I'd had been better off serving the Lord, watching the match down the local pub with a bunch of not-yet Christians?

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Imagine APEPT in every local church

We’ve started Imagine – term 5 – this week and it’s already interesting to see how people are responding to the idea that, as a leadership team, we need the impact and influence of each of the APEPT ministries in Ephesians 4. Most leadership teams I know are based around either general distinctives (some are elders, some are deacons), or specific functions – youth, discipleship, mission, worship, etc. Building team around the APEPT ministries does not have to be apart from either model (you can have a prophetic youth leader for example), but it does mean we are more likely to equip a broader base of people ‘for works of service’ as the passage says. With a pre-dominance of either the ministry of ‘pastor’, or ‘teacher’ it should be no surprise what ‘teams’, or ministries, are most likely re-produced in the local church – worship groups, preaching teams and pastoral care teams. One implication of an approach which seeks to draw upon all five areas of APEPT ministry, at least means we should be equipping more people in areas of ministry which engage beyond the walls of the church. Our typical common practice is another of those abberations of NT study and an example of re-producing in our own image. I remember Nigel Wright saying many years ago now ‘a gracious minister begets a gracious church’ – and I would add, a teacher begets teachers and so on. The task of the key leader, or leadership team, must therefore include a drawing upon a broader range of ministry. Here again the primary role is to create an environment in which the APEPT ministries can grow and re-produce.

Monday, 23 February 2009

slumdog millionaire and hope

Eight Oscars for Slumdog Millionaire – pretty good for a low-budget, non-Hollywood big-name UK film. It seems to me that 'hope' is something behind the reason for the success of this particular film. We’ll have a conversation around this one for our next film club night, which should be interesting. Some of the quotes from those involved in the making of this film are fascinating. ‘We had passion and we had belief and if you have those two things, truly, anything is possible.’ – so said Christian Colson, the Producer. The composer, AR Rahman, who received two Oscars, praised the city which inspired the book, which led to the film, praising ‘all the people from Mumbai and the essence of the film, which is about optimism and the power of hope and our lives.’  This thing called hope keeps popping up –still haven’t read Barack Obama’s ‘Audacity of Hope’, but will get to it I guess. Oh yes, I thought the film was really good too! Enough said about Liverpool practically throwing the league at Man. Utd. after a dismal display yesterday – I couldn’t bear to watch MOTD 2 after having listened to it on the radio. So, if we meet up soon, don’t ask anything about football! All this blogging is really therapy on the hoof – get it out in the open, out of the system, ready for the week ahead!   Imagine begins again tomorrow night at Counterslip. This time we’re looking at one or two aspects of the whole leadership team area. Where do the five-fold ministries as they’re called in Ephesians 4 (which seem to be normative there) find their place in the typical local church leadership? Hopefully, we wont get bogged down in the many potential red herrings, but help folk get somewhere more ‘hopeful’, but we’ll soon see.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

pioneers wanted/needed

OK so how do we ‘produce’ pioneers? Maybe some will feel this is a daft question – nurture versus nature and all that. However, if we can’t produce how do we harness those with the appropriate gifts for the kingdom – and, dare I say it, the church? Both the Anglicans and the Methodists are developing some training for pioneer Ministers of some kind or another and those of us in the so-called freer marketplace could easily be left behind once again. (I’m sure we don’t mean to, but there is a veneer of arrogance which Baptists  can find themselves coated in when we merely respond ‘been there, done that’ = we have nothing to learn). One of the problems is what Spurgeon’s discovered some years ago – which comes first the planter or the planted? Consequently, in the absence of up-and-running plants who wanted a character who was anticipating full-time, paid, accredited ministry, many of those ‘trained’ (what does that mean?) in, or for, planting had nowhere to go. As a result many gravitated to the pastoral ministry and became frustrated with a one-size-fits-all mentality. So, one question I’m asking again is can we equip planters on-the-job? Obviously, there’s a load of issues here, but why not? So far no one’s given me a good answer – plenty of excuses, but no answer, which has put me off thinking along such lines. If anyone wants to drop me an e-mail with the kind of wisdom I need to hear, feel free via

Monday, 16 February 2009

a culture of expectation?

At our Sidmouth Conference last week we had Kingsley Appiagyei sharing something of his heart and passion to see revival again in the UK. Clearly, one big danger was always going to be, speaking to an almost entirely white group of West Country Ministers, the culture gap between us would become a void. Could we hear sufficiently what Kingsley was saying to actually benefit?

Well, the general response was a positive one, but I suspect this was more down to a meeting of one another as people and disciples together rather than a coming together of style, or thinking. One problem, from my perspective, seems to be around what I’d call a culture of expectation. Kingsley has seen a church grow from zero to 2000 plus under his leadership – they have also planted out others from Trinity as well. Some would argue it is easy to expect great things from God if that has been your context over the last twenty years. The same people might well argue that what works in one culture (black, African, South London) is not transferable to the predominantly white west country. Personally, I’m in the second group to a fair degree – what seems to ‘work’ in one culture does not automatically work elsewhere (haven’t we witnessed this often enough with imports from the US?). However, the sentences with babies and bath water comes to mind if we, therefore, argue we wont bother trying anything. To a large extent we do not operate within a culture of expectation – faith and trust in God are not obviously evident all around me (OK if it’s just the West of England!). There are individuals who have some expectation God will work and faith to match, but they’re not representative of the present church culture. If God is God and it’s about faith in him - more than what works, or doesn’t, why not?

Friday, 13 February 2009

today's inbox

On a day like this, you don't even need to look for anything - they just pop into your in-box.
This is a great advert! Well, for someone who likes football this will cement Virgin trains in their brain for a good while.
I received this today from a friend - good we can laugh at ourselves I reckon - made me laugh anyway: 

and as we're talking you tube here's an advert for the new WEBA website - doesn't he look weird!

finally glad to see John Sentamu is with me - another good Baptist!

Thursday, 12 February 2009

baptist union - wikipedia or oxford concise?

Well, we’re back from our Minister’s Conference at Sidmouth and it was a great three days in many ways – the place has something to do with it – a beautiful coastline, which is, for me, somehow more special in February than July – it’s certainly less crowded. From what I’ve heard and read so far, people enjoyed and sensed God’s blessing in various ways, so it sounds like it went well.

The thing which came back to me, however, the morning after the conference before, was a throw-away line in my own contribution before bread and wine - when I said the Baptist Union is designed to be more Wikipedia than Oxford Concise. What did I mean? Did I mean it? Don’t get me wrong, there’s not a queue of people asking me those questions, but they’ve come back to me.

Wikipedia is a recent, current and post-modern phenomena and has the characteristics of movement all over it. The Oxford Concise, however, has been around a long time, it’s part of our heritage, history and traditions. Whilst editions are always up-dated and reflect the nature of the shifting use of language, it smacks of an institution. Both are concerned about definitions – Wikipedia goes beyond dictionary into encyclopedia, I still use both.

Jimmy Wales, who was the catalyst behind Wikipedia says: ‘I couldn’t write an encyclopedia by myself, from the very beginning, Wikipedia was a community. The main thing about Nupedia, which was the precursor to Wikipedia, was that is was a failure. Essentially, the design of Nupedia was very top-down, in the sense that there were seven-stage review processes, committees for this thing and the other, and basically very little work ever got done. I always say, yes, Nupedia was a failed model, but the one thing it did for us was create a strong sense of community that got Wikipedia off to a strong start.’ ‘As a catalyst, it’s all about letting go and trusting the community.’ I just wonder whether we’re developing a stronger sense of community among many of our Ministers because similar things are going, but we still use the Oxford Concise as our main source of reference and, as a result, don’t feel we can write anything in, which will make us part of the movement?

Sunday, 8 February 2009

the normal Christian prayer life

The normal Christian prayer life. The news stories this last week have caused me to reflect upon the question ‘what is the normal Christian prayer life’? Most people who’ve spoken to me have been deeply concerned about the implications of the North Somerset Primary Care Trust in suspending Caroline Petrie – one newspaper talked about ‘common sense’ prevailing in their decision to allow her return to work. However, their website suggests doctors (let’s remember this is something which would impact more than nurses) and nurses should only offer prayer if initiated by the patient. Never mind what they think are allowed to restrict etc, what is 'normal' for a Christian? Some Christians I have spoken to have commented they would never offer to pray for someone whilst they were work, but I'm unclear whether we're describing our own reticence, embarrassment, or something else. We're not talking about evangelism, we're not talking about forcing religious beliefs upon anyone, we're talking about an offer, someone can accept, or refuse - obviously they can nothing about us praying silently. 

We can look at this in a whole variety of ways, but does anybody have ‘the right’ (we seem to live in a world which thinks along these lines) to restrain a Christian believer offering to pray for anybody else, anywhere – whoever they work for? Let’s remember, those of us called ‘Baptists’ came into being as a result of declaring they would obey God rather than the king, or the authority of the state. Is this such an issue?

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to our annual Ministers Conference, which starts tomorrow (although it’s snowing there apparently, which should be fun) in Sidmouth. More than anything though, I’m relieved Liverpool sneaked a last minute win against Portsmouth yesterday – football is not good for your health, unless expressing anger and frustration outweighs nervous anxiety – it’s a difficult balance that one. Had a great morning (my opinion admittedly) with the leadership team of our church in Nailsea yesterday – any church which has just welcomed 18 new people into membership  can’t be getting it all wrong! What was great to hear was a group of people who seem to be genuinely grappling with the whole missional challenge – there seems to be some correlation between those willing to ask the hardest questions (of themselves and their church) and the amount of progress, or development, along the missional journey – can’t prove it, but observation seems to be bearing this out and I’m not sure what to make of the implications if I’m in any right on this one.


Friday, 6 February 2009

Statement regarding Caroline Petrie

It's seems sensible to log here the following statement, which was circulated to our WEBA Ministers today as other people pop in here who will be interested. I'm extremely grateful to John at Milton and Amanda who heads up BUGB Communications - this is not all my own work!...

I would like to endorse the statement made by John Smith, the Senior Pastor of Milton Baptist Church, and the Minister of Caroline Petrie -

I also noted with interest the latest statement from North Somerset PCT which indicates that they have contacted Caroline Petrie with a view to her returning back to work soon. I welcome the PCT’s recognition that Caroline felt she was acting in the best interests of her patients as she is clearly a nurse and a Christian of integrity.

It has been a heartening experience to know that many within our WEBA Churches have galvanised people to pray for Caroline and her family, but also about the wider issues this case has raised. It has also been wonderful to receive messages of support from many people and different places including atheists and agnostics.

I am conscious that this issue has led to constructive discussion in many church based home groups as to the appropriate ways to live out our faith as whole life disciples and would encourage others to do the same.

In the light of this case I would encourage every Christian to consider in their own context how best to express their Christian commitment in the whole of life, through deeds, words and winsome lifestyle. We are called to 24/7 discipleship and our new WEBA logo now incorporates our strap-line ‘making a difference’ – for God and his kingdom.

Please continue to pray for Caroline herself - who now has to have conversations with her employers and decisions to make in the light of them. She will need wisdom and hopefully be able to make her own choices out of the glare of the publicity, which has been so prominent this week.

Please also continue to pray for her employers as their practices have been brought so dramatically into the public domain this last week. As Christians we can no longer assume special rights, or treatment, and need wisdom, courage and the fruit of the spirit to hallmark all we do.

snow, snow and more snow.

What wonderful weather! That’s serious – I just love the snow and always find it highly amusing to discover how unprepared we are for it – we expect it, we even want it, but we just don’t seem to cope with it. Anyway a rough picture, but hopefully when the light improves they’ll be better. Yesterday’s outpouring had almost disappeared by evening due to a rapid thaw, but this one’s better (?) depending how you view it all. We had a great meal out last night for Emily’s birthday too in between snow falls – if you’re in Bristol sometime and like Asian food I recommend Cosmo (there’s a few elsewhere) our new Pan Asian ‘eat-all-you-like’ – I did and I liked! It’s quite large and a chain, but a good atmosphere and they’ve done the food really well with prepare on the spot Sushi and char grill for fish and meat skewers, plenty of sea-food too – really nice.

Great news about Caroline Petrie too – yesterday (before they received my letter I guess) the North Somerset Primary Care Trust have said she can return to work as soon as she wishes. So, if you’ve yet to contact them, please do recognize this piece of new first of all. Their website has a fairly good statement, but there is ambiguity there which suggests they will not condone a doctor or nurse offering prayer to a patient in the future, but I’m seeking some clarification on this particular issue.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Caroline Petrie

I am deeply concerned for Caroline Petrie and her family in the light of her suspension from work without pay, but also about the implications such actions potentially have for religious freedom in the UK. This week, I have met with both Caroline and John Smith, the Senior Minister of Milton Baptist Church, where Caroline Petrie and her family have been worshipping for 9 years.

John says: ‘As Caroline’s pastor I am delighted that she seeks to live out her faith 24 hours a day 7 days a week. I am supportive of the way she expresses this as a nurse caring for needy people offering prayer as a therapeutic opportunity in the holistic care of patients. Knowing Caroline as I do, I am confident that she has acted with integrity and dignity in making her offers of prayer, and that she has responded appropriately when people have declined her offer’.

Many of us are genuinely shocked that in an age when we hear of the value of a holistic approach by medical practitioners, and a widespread interest in spirituality that a nurse should be penalised for offering a therapeutic service – namely prayer.

I fully understand that her employers the Somerset PCT need to investigate complaints, but the fact that Caroline has been suspended without pay, suggests that a hostile judgment has already been made.

Baptists have a long history of championing freedom of speech in the UK and around the world. Caroline’s suspension suggests that such freedoms are under threat for us all.

If anyone feels concerned about this case and its implications, we have been invited to express comments and questions via the website of the North Somerset Primary Care Trust

I would encourage people to say something as silence can easily prove to suggest consent.

I would simply ask everyone to please be respectful of everyone involved if you choose to express your concern - some national editorials have not expressed their anger in the helpful manner.

A rough outline of this story as available on-line via the BBC website:

Monday, 2 February 2009

Caroline Petrie story

Well I was sitting down ready to listen to the football on Sunday afternoon when the phone rang … I was catapulted into the Caroline Petrie story, which has featured in practically every newspaper and news bulletin today. Sadly, my confidence in newspaper reporting has not been increased as I couldn’t recognize my own words within the speech marks attributed to me. However, blogging at least does you a chance to say what you do mean.

For those totally confused, Caroline is a member of our church in Milton, Weston-Super-Mare. For more details I suggest this one - BBC seem to have the gist:

Basically, Caroline has been suspended for offering to pray for a patient whilst working as a community nurse. On this occasion, the patient declined the offer and there, Caroline unsuspectingly thought, the matter was left. However, she now finds herself suspended under ‘equality and diversity regulations.’ My humble opinion on this? – Nonsense – it’s more a case of discrimination against people of faith. I was asked a question by the BBC about what this says about where the country is headed with our PC regulations. Thankfully, they didn’t broadcast that bit, but the issue seems to me to be what this says about where we already are.

If anyone offered a spoken prayer without someone’s permission it might be regarded as insensitive and inappropriate – fair game, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.

What we’re actually talking about is an attempt to separate people into physical and spiritual beings rather than whole people. I don’t pretend to know a great deal about nursing, but I’ve known enough over the years to know that this is a common practice and part of a fine caring tradition which goes back to Florence Nightingale at least! What is more, nearly every Health Authority in the country has realised people have needs beyond the physical and that their physical remedies have limitations by the appointment of Chaplains – as do our Armed Forces, the Police, Prisons and the Queen!

I also realise Caroline is also merely putting into practice what I preach on many Sunday’s – don’t separate faith and work, take your faith with you, pray for opportunities etc. I hope the health authority in question sees sense and re-instates Caroline without prejudice as soon as possible – otherwise we’re headed for far more confrontations of this kind.

3 points at last!

well, we beat Chelsea 2-0 - 3 points from a game at last and hopefully a week which puts us back in the title race, thanks to Fernando Torres. Robbie Keane is off to Spurs - what was that all about? Saturady evening saw Emily's 'Auction of Promises' at Counterslip to aid her Latin link trip - it was a great night for her and genuinely moving to see people's generosity and warmth towards all she's doing - thank you everyone