Friday, 29 January 2010

thanks David

We had our retreat for the South West Regional Church Leaders this week, which is always a really good place to connect with those from some of the other Tribes! This year we had David Coffey along to lead our sessions and I was delighted a Baptist was so much appreciated as we're not renowned for our retreat input.
The fact I was extolling the blessings of my Sat Nav to him en route from the station to the conference centre, and then we lost, is another story.
David is drawing towards the end of his five year stint as BWA President, which has involved a huge amount of travel.Whilst I fancy some of that, I'm not so keen on so much life from a suitcase. However, among other things he brought some reflections from his broad perspective and the one I've dwelt with was his comment about how we have failed to contend for the principle that life always precedes organisation. Bearing in mind his 'we' was addressed to denominational leaders he talked a little about:
- why do we choose to give our best energies to structures?
- we were chosen because we were considered 'safe', but safe leadership heads organisations, whereas dynamic leadership is called to lead a movement.
- life precedes order.
- relationships before structures.
Now, as I've been living in the tension between organisation and movement for some time now, I want to thank David for some bread for the journey.

Friday, 22 January 2010

ravers getting high on God ... and stuff

Oh dear, even the title is going to cause problems isn't it? Well, first a thank you to the BUGB E-news sweep for today who alerted me to this story on Sloshfest. Here's thelink, but you'd be best to sign up yourself, Baptist or not - it's an alert to news items with a Christian dimension. This is a great service (the BUGB communications one, not the rave one you understand) for me as I get alerted to all manner of items , which I'd usually miss. As a matter of course I don't comment, but isn;t this interesting? One interesting thing to me is it only happens once a year yet it gets into the Sun, which is not renowned for its free publicity for something the Church is doing. Second, it's noticable, but sad, the negative comments printed in a UK newspaper are all from the USA. Now, I'm not knocking the USA - I'll be spending the best part of three days with one because we have our Partnership for Missional Church Cluster weekend - but they do tend to see most things 'church' rather differently. Anyway, whilst I doubt if I'd enjoy the music, I'm enthusiastic about the principles behind it.
My friend, Geoff Colmer - wonder and wondering - also blogged yesterday about 'entry level church' - good point.

Monday, 18 January 2010

getting into rhythm...

I felt yesterday the new year had properly begun at last as it was my first preaching sunday - last week having been cancelled due tot he weather. Stapleton in the morning and Gorse Hill, Swindon in the evening - both good occasions, although Stapleton's heating system was not he blink, so it was not warm! Good things were in ample evidence, however, among both churches, so I went home encouraged.

On my way back down the M4 I passed two gritters working in the same direction - according to my car it was 8 degrees and not forecast below freezing. It did amuse me having listened to so many arguments about the gritting policy as these were the first two I'd seen since before Christmas - just like London buses I guess.

The whole news has been dominated, rightly, by the Haitian earthquake and time was spent yesterday in prayer and encouraging giving at most of our churches I guess.

I was interested by the response to a prayer I quoted both morning and evening - and people asked for a copy afterwards at both services. I was preaching from Exodus 33 and this wasn't a significant part of it all, it's not new, but quote it here as clearly it's touched a chord with some people:

This interesting prayer was given in KANSAS at the opening session of their Senate. It seems prayer still upsets some people. When Minister Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of the Kansas Senate, everyone was expecting the usual generalities, but this is what they heard:

Heavenly Father, We come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, "Woe to those who call evil good," but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We confess that: We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it Pluralism. We have exploited the poor and called it the Lottery. We have rewarded laziness and called it Welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it Choice. We have shot abortionists and called it Justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it Building Self-esteem. We have abused power and called it Politics. We have coveted our neighbour's possessions and called it Ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it Freedom of Speech. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it Enlightenment. Search us, Oh, God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent to direct us to the center of your will and to openly ask these things in the name of your Son, the living Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The response was immediate. A number of legislators walked out during the prayer in protest. In 6 short weeks, Central Christian Church, where Reverend Wright is pastor, logged more than 5,000 phone calls with only 47 of those calls responding negatively.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

social movements

I’ve just joined the All at Once Community. I was invited because I link to Jack Johnson’s (the singer-songwriter) website

Basically what they say is “the concept is simple: An individual action, multiplied by millions, creates global change.”

I’ve also registered with which is the website launched by Colin Firth just recently.

Brightwide is “a platform where you can watch the best social and political cinema. We screen films that make you want to change the world – and show you how.”

Two celebrities, two social consciences, two movements, because they essentially connect individuals looking to make a difference with needs. It’s so simple and Jesus-like in its approach I sit here wondering why within the Church we seem to struggle to work along similar lines.

I was talking to one of our pastors at the weekend (the church I was due to be preaching at cancelled due to snow). He told me how they’d phoned a load of elderly people during the week before to check they were OK due to the weather (I can’t say ‘adverse weather’ cos I like it). Apparently most people were pleased to be asked and were doing fine and typically said their neighbours were good and had checked they were OK. One lady, however, burst into tears saying “I was just beginning to wonder if it was worth belonging to a Church.” We had an interesting discussion about the particulars, but the question ‘how much to you do for others and how much do you equip others’ was the consistent theme.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

501 natural wonders

I have a lovely book called “501 must visit natural wonders” – I think Maggie bought it for me at Christmas 2008. Since then loads of 1001 ‘must visits before you die’ have appeared as well as 501 must reads, films, cars, restaurants, pretty much anything you care to mention. I also have that collecting gene – so I collect sets and series, I like to do everyone whether it’s mountain peaks, or working my way through cheese or a menu. There are more technical terms, which describe people like me, but obsessive is among the more acceptable from where I’m sitting.

Now, I love travel, but I’d be wise to admit defeat up front – to actually ‘collect’ all 501 around this wonderful planet would take far more time and money than I’m ever likely to have. Even if I had ample amounts of both, it would take a fair feat of human endurance and planning. If I was starting from scratch (which thankfully I’m not!) and I’ve got a reasonable expectation of 25 more travelling years ahead of me (assuming I maintain our typical ‘let’s go somewhere different this year approach to holidaying’) I’d still need to knock off 20 sights a year. Maybe David Attenborough’s done it, but I doubt very much if the compilers have.

So what? Life is too short to do even do everything I’d like to. Most weeks are typically too short to achieve all I set out to. Frankly, even the lists I might write at the beginning of a day are more frequently left unfinished than completed. So, how did Jesus do so much? Now, this is where it gets seriously challenging because he didn’t, did he (?) - not if doing is measured in events, distance covered, people won over. Of course, Jesus did actually do more than any other human being, however, if doing is measured in focus, legacy, mission, etc. So, what am I going to set out to do this year?

Thursday, 7 January 2010

snow..... at last.

Yeah, pretty much every meeting was cancelled yesterday because of the snow. Our team meeting went ahead via Skype, but I had to cut it short due to other important appointments...

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

a what new year?

Yesterday, I found myself writing to someone, in the exchange of happy new year greetings, ‘I expect it will be a challenging year for us all’. This morning, I’m wondering what I meant – after all, being a half-glass-full kind of person this sounded too gloomy for my liking.

The context is important – it was with someone else involved in the regional and national workings of our Baptist life in the UK. The reality is this is the year the recession is going to bite upon, (not simply the church, which is an important point to note), any of us dependent upon charitable giving. I don’t know of a Baptist Association, or Anglican Diocese, which does not have a significant deficit budget. Last years losses have been absorbed to a lesser, or greater degree – not without pain, but relatively not too bad. Nationally, the deficits are growing too – it seems as if the gap between aspiration and reality will grow this year to a point where it is undeniable. Pension funds are under serious strain – again not simply a church problem, but one, which will challenge some long held assumptions.

What seems apparent to me – and here is where my optimism returns with a vengeance – is that the institutions are creaking. We’ve been saying it’s been happening for years, but the impact of the shifting sands on which our pre-dominant cultures are built, are beginning to take effect. I speak to many pastors who reflect on their deep concerns for the future - even of the churches of which they are a part. We struggle with the impact, upon their local window, of the playing out of post-modernism, but now we’re seeing the wider impact. The challenges are with us – we need to find new ways of being. There are, in the midst of all this, many signs of hope, life and people on the way. In 2010, will we choose to put our trust in being part of the movement of God, or the institutions of God’s people? The life of faith, or the life of religion? All that said, I am more optimistic today than I was ten years ago. I still think many churches are in danger of closure over the next ten years, but the openness to the gospel is a growing reality among those, as yet, beyond the Church.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Happy New Year

Well, a happy new year to all my readers! Feels like I need to say that as I get back into a new blogging year. It never ceases to amaze me when someone pops something into the conversation, which clearly reveals they’ve read something here, but don’t really want to say so – or have forgotten – often hilarious (inwardly of course!).

We had a good time over Christmas and the New Year – mostly taken up with various gatherings of family, but a good time to catch up and, also, unhurried which I appreciated. Ministry can easily feel like you’re on a treadmill with next Sunday approaching at a rate of knots – so not preaching yesterday was welcome.

Am I alone in being hooked by Wallander? I’ve picked up on both the English version with Kenneth Brannagh as well as the original Swedish one, which I prefer at this stage, even though you have to really watch it and can’t read, or surf the web, at the same time (well, my Swedish means I have to watch the subtitles in any case). I think the photography is particularly evocative in both versions and demonstrates how vital atmosphere is.

New Year resolutions? Among my own reflections is the need for me to be more disciplined about finding silence on a daily basis – before I even bother to pray I need to re-kindle that space in, which God can get a word in. Oh yeah – do something about the diary and start practising the less is more I preach.