Friday, 29 April 2011

Free Church radical anti-establishment .... falls in love with the Royal Wedding!

Personally, I get a little tired of the typical Baptist inverted snobbery when it comes to the Royal Family. Don't get me wrong, there's loads of questions I have and things I'm uncomfortable about, but I love people, I recognise their place in our society and I'm for them.
Just texted my daughter to tell her about the tear in my eye, whilst watching the Royal Wedding! Having planned to use today to get some digging done on the allotment and a few DIY jobs, I've spent far more time in front of the TV watching the wedding build up than I imagined.
I'm very thankful there remains a prominence for the Christian message on such occasions:
such hymns as 'Guide me O thou Great Redeemer' and 'Love Divine', the Romans reading was read by Kate's brother so well, the address by Richard Chartres, Bishop of London was very good too.
Richard Chartres mentioned today as a day of hope and there's little doubt there is so much hope riding on this marriage. Unfair and unreasonable yes, but here we have embodied in the relationship of one young couple, so much of hopes for the values of our nation. Can one marriage, faithful, true, loving, hope to make any difference?
One thing I've realised again today is the extent to which I miss, from local Ministry, is my involvement with newly married couples. I always enjoyed the pre-wedding groups as a highlight I never delegated to anyone else, partly because it was such fun and provided many precious times. I always found most couples, even when not practising followers of Jesus, were always very open to discover how the love of God found through Christ could actually be part of and enriching their own loving relationship. Oh boy, it's really doing me in - just looking forward to an invite to a garden party at the Palace - yes, who does get them?

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Is Guardiola another genius?

I suspect when I spoke of Gaudi, Guardiola and Picasso in the same breath many had an instinctive 'I know those two, but what did Guardiola paint? Of course, football fans may well have responded by asking 'who did Picasso play for?'
Pepe Guardiola is the coach (in British terminology 'manager') of Barcelona Football Club. Currently, Barcelona can lay a very reasonable, and generally accepted, claim to being the best footballing club side in the world. I said this before last night's victory over their arch rivals Real Madrid!
Last night's game was not a pretty match, full of unsavoury incidents, little great football, but some scintillating moments of sheer brilliance. Whether managing a football club to the highest of heights makes someone a genius is debatable, but it makes Guardiola an artist - along with Gaudi and Picasso, of a high order. To argue otherwise, it seems to me, is to deny any leader of a congregation needs to be an artist. People are the common factor. Guardiola has to play through others on the pitch every bit as much as any Minister has to minister through others in their congregation.
I found comments during last night game, most of which I managed to watch, very interesting. 'Madrid will stop Barcelona playing football any way they can' seemed to be the refrain. Mourinho, the present Real coach commented afterwards 'sometimes I am a little bit disgusted to live int his world.' Sometimes you have to remind yourself this is a game we're talking about.
However, the thing I've been reflecing upon since our trip over to Barcelona last week (yes, I'm not keen to let my holiday go too soon) is something referred to as 'the Barcelona way'. It's a reference to 'how' Barca play football. (The pain for me is we used to hear talk of 'the Liverpool way' - my hope is Kenny Daglish can revive 'the way' rather than merely the language, which is the problem Ministers fall into!).
Last week, I stood on a bridge and watched a game of football between boys of about 9 & 10 for just a few minutes. It was part of a complex clearly belonging to Barca Football Club. In those few minutes I saw a degree of skill and thoughtfulness about how to play football I seldom see in a typical amateur match between British adults. They played the ball, they seemed to have time, they were not rushed, passing to another member of their side with accuracy appeared natural.
The Barcelona way did not 'just happen'. Any coach of Barcelona has to fit into the traditions of 'the way', or they do not last long (most don't last long in any case, probably akin tot he tenure of a Southern Baptist Pastor!)
Ministers, traditions of local congregations, working through equipping and releasing other people, developing skill in engaging others to bring out their best, allowing the work of others to do your main talking, respecting the past, finding creative solutions to age old problems, fulfilling potential, aiming for excellence, seeking an even more fruitful future, placing values before words. Guardiola is an people artist for sure and I think we need a bit more artistry in our ministry.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

dedicated to a genius

Ten days off, back to work today, just managed, last night, to get my Olympic ticket bids in .... and now the sea of e-mail. Five Live this morning were comparing 1981 and 2011 - technology, e-mail in particular was a feature of the conversation .... tell me about it!
Confession time - easter took me by surprise this year. I know, it happens every year. I know, I'm a Christian Minister. I know, I had Lent to get ready for it. That's just it Lent just didn't happen, spiritually speaking, for me, or so i thought. As someone, not unlike many other evangelical, charismatic, activists, for whom Lent has become a fresh discovery in recent years, this was a disappointment. Admittedly, it's not Lent's fault, all mine, but a disappointment nonetheless.
However, this morning, driving through the Cotswolds, realising my appointments had all been adjusted to reflect Spanish time, I discovered all of Lent was not lost after all. This year, it has to said, this was more down to Gaudi, Picasso and Guardiola, than my traditional companions Peter, James and John.
We went to Barcelona for the beginning of Holy Week. I'd never been before and knew a negligible amount about Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926), but he was a genius for whom my awareness, and subsequent admiration, has gone off the scale.
If you ever go, the Sagrada Familia is a must. I always assumed it was the Cathedral, but it's actually a large, yet to be completed, Church. It's described in the guide books as the most unconventional Church in Europe. Construction began in 1882 and they reckon another 20 years should see it completed. Neither of us are Church building people, but Maggie and I spent an absorbing three hours inside this phenomenal construction. Gaudi has succeeded in building something, which is truly, in my opinion, (everyone says you'll either love it, or hate it)  acting as a signpost of the kingdom in the way many Christian architects have strived for. Anyone who can bring over two million visitors a year into an environment where you are intentionally invited to stop, reflect and pray to discover Gaudi's God has my vote.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Planning pays off ..... well, if you do it!

Planning pays. Once again, I'm learning the hard way, with hindsight. We'll be in Barcelona shortly and the first of the four El Clasico games between Real Madrid and Barcelona within 17 days, has ended in a draw.
Bear in mind Maggie has less than no interest in football, has attended two games in the whole of her life - both with me before we were married and that's 31 years ago this year. You'll, therefore, understand why when I mentioned 'if Barcelona are at home when we're there, how do you fancy going?' and she simply said, 'yes' I was a little taken aback, but did nothing about it. So, when I eventually look up the fixtures and see they are at home, to Real Madrid in the Spanish Cup, but on the evening we return, you'll appreciate, I hope, the word 'gutted' comes nowhere near.
I've agreed to take Tom for his 30th birthday by way of compensation!
Anyway, next time a church ignores my suggestions planning pays off, at least I'll know why they don't listen to me!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

identifying the adaptive challenge

Hopefully non-believers will forgive today's picture, as it's not been many mornings, after the match before, Liverpool fans have been able to wake up with a smile on their loyal and faithful faces!
I'm pondering how much I've clearly, although unwittingly, been influenced by the work of Ron Heifetz. He's written various books around change and doesn't appear on our radar, here on planet church UK, for two (we would say) very good reasons: i. he's American & ii. he writes out of the business leadership school.  'Leadership without Easy Answers'; Leadership on the line' & 'Practice of Adaptive Leadership' tend to be his quoted works.
Heifetz name keeps cropping up in the sidelines of our Partnership for Missional Church UK pilot. We believe already we're learning a tremendous amount about changing the culture within our churches towards a missional environment and, now I'm actually reading Heifetz for myself, a number of the really beneficial insights stem from him.
Here's six principles he identifies for 'leading adaptive work, which if I said was family systems theory, you may well take notice!:

1. Getting on the balcony (one of those lovely Americanisms, but we know what it means!)
2. Identifying the adaptive challenge.
3. Regulating distress.
4. Maintaining disciplined attention.
5. Giving the work back to the people.
6. Protecting voices of leadership from below.

Now, when I read Ephesians 4, I might change the words, but it sure sounds like the work of Ministry to me. It's also why the pension fund is not our biggest crisis.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

organising or networking?

Here's what I tried to put up yesterday, but couldn't remember how! Going back to Good News People: these are two slides I used to try and help us look at the need for Christians to be both in a supportive environment, which brings a certain accountability towards Christian values and practices. One represents what we tend to do when we operate from an invite them to us mindset, the other represents small missional communities, or groups, intentionally engaging others, but what do you see?

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Good News People

Absolutely manic week - one of those, only when you're into it, you realise the time needed to adequately prepare for everything agreed to doesn't actually exist! Still, more, or less made it and I don't think too many people noticed the little webbed feet frantically paddling away underneath the surface
One thing worth a mention was Good News People at Thornbury Golf Club on thursday evening. This was month three of a new initiative, initiated by Paul Griffiths, although Alisdair and he are hosting it. It's for people who think they might have an evangelistic gift form local churches to meet, share ideas and encouragement and have conversation around the table. I happened to be this month's guest and was asked to facilitate a conversation round 'being in supportive networks'.
It was a great conversation from my perspective, but also it's a great group with, I think, huge potential to be a catalyst for some real change and fruitful mission through a number of our churches. Numbers are disappointingly low, but my hunch is it'll grow gradually as people find a source for encouragement to find their place in the mission of God. So, must advertise the next one more.