Friday, 23 July 2010

a look on the bright side...

Well, Corsica beckons, but I think this has been a good week. There's probably something psychological going on around holiday's coming, everything seems rosy, but thinking about the last few days I developed a warm glow en route home this afternoon on the motorway, which was more than the usual friday evening feeling. So, what's causing all this chaos on the motorway system?
Basically, I think over the last three days I've had three meetings, which were all a reflection of significant potential in each of the churches represented. They were all different from one another and in significantly different places, but there was a confidence in God as well as an expectancy about what God might be doing in the future. To be honest I can;t ask for more than that. In one situation we were thinking about re-planting another church with the help of a larger one, another are re-shaping their structures to face the challenges of the future, the other were a group of elders struggling with some big challenges, but in faith. I might be going on holiday, but the west of England is in good hands!

Monday, 19 July 2010


I'm not planning on reducing any blog entries to once a week, nor am I intending a weekly update on where I've been preaching. However, it does just happen I was at Welton yesterday morning and, along with being at my home church in the evening, it's caused me to think a little more about why we meet on Sundays the way most of us do.
Before all that - I always enjoy meeting people at Welton and it is one of those churches I could easily feel comfortable being a member of. Yesterday, I had some great conversations afterwards with a range of people about how they're engaging during the week with other people, not-yet Christians. A couple leaving the church formally, but not informally (we had a commissioning) to engage more in their own village, a GP talking about his Practice as a place of engagement, a guy involved in the whole re-enactment of US Civil War battles & Western genre in general who's clearly bringing Jesus into their frame and others - no wonder dinner was ready when I returned home!
One of the questions I'm coming away with is what can I help multiply from what I hear and see Sunday by Sunday? It's not about the passing on of good ideas, but helping people to be inspired by one another because there's some great stuff going on.
So, what are we doing when we gather on a Sunday?
The phrase I hear more than any other, when I ask what people are looking for when they gather on a Sunday, I think, is 'to be fed'. 
I guess as Baptists are the pre-dominant group I'm asking, I shouldn't be surprised , or shocked by this. After all, we hold the preaching of the word highly and we are founded upon a foundation which relies upon God speaking through his word - to anyone, which also implies to everyone.
However, I am increasingly disturbed by the answer.
Not because I want to diminish the place of preaching - to be honest I'm not at all a 'let's replace the sermon' person and firmly believe the answer to bad preaching is not no preaching, but good preaching.
Not because, either, I'm not wanting people to be fed, or don't believe anymore in the ability of God's word.
My disturbance, I think, is wrapped up with what this says about people's expectations - Sunday gathering is being regarded as an end in itself in a way I do not believe it was intended. Sunday is the day of resurrection which is why Christians gravitated to this day for worship together. Something of this has been lost and with it teh sense of God re-creating and making all things new.
Yesterday we talked about how different Sunday is when we come together to celebrate who God is and where he's been seen and found in the previous week - both through our living and the wider world. Couple onto this the expectation God will be at work in and through us all next and we're onto something. Regarding the couple commissioned yesterday - it was great, but it in many ways we should not be seeing them as anyone special, or anyone different. We've talked a lot, as Ministers, about the relevance of the workplace, about workplace Ministry, about relating the work of God to the work of people monday-saturday, etc. in recent years. Honestly, how many references do I hear, or see, week by week? How much helps me in my life apart from the organised gathering? What degree of relationship is there between what happens when we gather and what God is up to when we're apart? The answer to all these questions, sadly, is 'next to nothing'. Herein lies a deeply disturbing issue.

Monday, 12 July 2010


Well, I stayed at home last night to watch the World Cup Final. I originally kept the evening free in my diary when the fixtures came out with the vague notion England might be playing! Thats aid, I was glad my pre-tournament tip, Spain, won as I think it was a victory for decent football. That said, it was a strange World Cup, but you can read 'why' in many other places - I still think there's a need for a 'faith in football' blog, which if anyone wants to join me on setting this up, get in touch.
The morning, however, was a different kettle of fish. I was preaching Paulton which is a small church south of Bristol. I announced tot he congregation I have two new heros. More accurately, a hero and heroine - the husband and wife team of Barrie and Sue Clarke. Barrie is a 'retired' Baptist Minister and Sue claims it's mostly down to Barrie, but they are clearly a great team and both have contributed significantly to what can only be described as a huge cultural shift in this particular church community. I'm not sure how old they now are, but Barrie wasn;t just retired when they arrived at Paulton. In seven years the church has turned around. Yesterday there were 43 in attendance including a group of young children. This is a stark contrast to seven years ago - my memory is of about ten people, seriously approaching a reasonable life expectancy and a very formal atmosphere. That's all changed and I came away shouting 'hallelujah', etc.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

all at once

I'm someone who likes to do everything, all at once! It's a personality thing (defect? - certainly in others', who are wired differently, eyes). It gets me into trouble, primarily with myself because I take on too much, attempt things in too little time, frustrate those around me because there's too little attention to detail, get frustrated when things don't happen quick enough.... oh boy, this list could go on for a fair bit.
However, there is something about 'all at once' which is at the very heart of these things called 'movements' and the antithesis is something, which is at the heart of institutionalism.
I've been looking at Jack Johnson's charitable work again following going to see him in Cardiff last week and I have to say the words are great in what and how they convey this sense of movement. See for yourself at but here's a few observations:

"All at once" - why not? He's talking about Global change and realises, as everyone else instinctively knows that change is only feasible in proportion to the people on board. Any one individual is limited by the sphere of their actions, which is why Jesus commenting about 'greater things than these' being done by his disciples only makes sense to me if it's, at least in part, about disciples multiplying his acts, words, etc - increasing the sphere of his operation.

"An individual action, multiplied by millions, creates global change". It says what it does on the tin. He says upfront what's going on here - only you can do something, it does make a difference. However, it's only when we see our small contribution as being part of a much greater purpose will we be motivated to do anything & glean any sense of it being worthwhile and effective. Isn't Jesus demonstrating this is how he works time and time again? Here's something to do, go and do it, before you understand fully what the kingdom of God is all about - when he sends out his disciples, the seventy-two, plus all in the great commission.

"your actions, your choice, your voice" Here's the culturally savvy bit - no one wants to be told anything very much today. The converse is, we only do what we want to do and that's always been the case. The kingdom of God is within you says Jesus and whilst, there's debate around what that means, it usually means we've run out of energy debating. However, doesn't Jesus when he's standing in front of any individual give you that sense he's looking at their potential, free of the shackles of sin, rather than their past, performance or status, etc.?

Thursday, 1 July 2010

roy hodgson and jack johnson...

Jesus never spoke once about the Christian life; he simply spoke about life.
I’ve often thought about writing a book comparing the styles and approaches of various football managers with church leadership. Unfortunately, even I’m not convinced anyone else would be interested!
However, Liverpool do have a new manager and the Guardian article is headed up by “Kop needed a new sage to restore spirit – now they have one in Roy Hodgson.” The article is littered with religious language and could easily be talking about a church or the Baptist Union in many ways. Well, as I say, I find it interesting!

Went to hear Jack Johnson in Cardiff this week. Now that was a great experience. Obviously, the music has to be something you really enjoy, but I find he’s also an interesting guy and someone I’d really like to sit down and have a coffee with, or I guess a long drink on a beach would be more appropriate.
Maggie & I were not the oldest ones there – I didn’t get everyone to produce their passports, but I’m sure it wasn’t simply wishful thinking. What I’d like to know is, with an audience and following primarily made up of 20 something’s, whether it’s simply his music people are drawn to, because it seems to me there’s something else going on about identity & ethos. There’s no doubt he promotes some healthy values in a very acceptable way, which knocks on the head some of the nonsense about what this generation are looking for and responding to. I’ll have to continue to muse on this one….