Thursday, 13 December 2012

Census video summary of Religion in England and Wales.

Simply following on from yesterday, here's a four minute clip, from the Office of National Statistics, which is an excellent video summary of the changes in Religion in England and Wales, recorded by the 2011 census.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Census figures from 2011 revealed

I need a longer look and reflection on the census figures released yesterday. However, the headlines, mostly picked up from the car radio, are already very illuminating. The number of those, identifying themselves as Christians, is down from 72% to 59%, whereas the increase of those claiming no religious faith has risen sharply from 14% to 25%. Of course, these figures do not have, either any meaningful connection to actual attendance at a weekly Christian gathering for worship, or help us understand much more than Christendom is still alive, albeit waning fast. Maybe these figures will help us in the Church, to acknowledge what someone, at least, has been saying for 2000 years – there is no point trying to put new wine into old wineskins.

Here's a four minute clip, from the Office of National Statistics, which is an excellent video summary of the changes in Religion in England and Wales, recorded by the 2011 census.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Stuck for Advent and Carol Service inspiration?

For the last two Sunday's I've used clips from The Nativity, first shown by the BBC, in 2010. I must admit, I thought it was only last year, so obviously, my 'must buy the DVD when it comes out' didn't happen! So, this year I made sure it did. However, whether you show clips, or not, is not my point. I simply want it to get more airplay. I've been watching it again right through, partly whilst signing our WEBA Christmas cards (not my favourite Advent pastime), and, for me at least, it brings so many things into sharper focus, which have been a huge blessing, this Advent. Next year, I'm thinking of running some Advent groups.
Better still, buy it via this blog and your pennies will go towards our WEBA new initiatives fund!
Here's the interview with Tony Jordan, the writer of The Nativity, from The Telegraph, published in 2010 when it was first shown. My advice, if you've not yet finally prepared for your Carol Services sermons, is watch it again. It's both beautiful and brilliant.
There have been countless retellings of the story of the nativity over the past 2,000 years and they divide roughly into two categories – those that stick faithfully to the traditional gospel account of a virgin birth, and those that reject it in favour of something more biological.
Given that this year's big BBC One Christmas offering, The Nativity,comes from the pen of Tony Jordan, the award-winning scriptwriter best known for the gritty, down-to-earth world of EastEnders, it should, logically, fall into the second category. But think again, for the making ofThe Nativity has been something of a personal Road to Damascus for Jordan.
The 53-year-old former market trader, who only started writing professionally in his mid 30s when he sent a script in on spec to the BBC, has risen in recent years with Echo BeachHustle and Life on Marsto top the chart of British television screenwriting talent produced byBroadcast magazine.
To his list of credits must now be added The Nativity. "I don't come from a religious background," he explains, as we sit surrounded by panoramic views of open fields at his home in the Chilterns, "and I don't think I'm anybody's fool. I was expelled from school at 14. I've been in trouble. I know that people from my sort of background have always discounted the story of the nativity and I certainly didn't believe it when I started on it three years ago. But now I do." So what changed? It all began when Jordan, whose runs his own production company, Red Planet Pictures, was in Cardiff discussing new projects with BBC Wales.
His meeting overran and got mixed up with another where they were looking to follow up The Passion, broadcast at Easter 2008, with a new version of the nativity. "I'd probably had a couple too many rums, but they asked me what I would do," recalls Jordan, "and I pitched the ridiculous notion of doing the inn in Bethlehem as a single play, a bit like'Allo 'Allo. So you'd have the landlord and the Roman soldiers with silly accents, and about 50 minutes into a 60-minute play there would be a knock at the door, and our version of Rene would open it on a man saying, 'My wife's pregnant, can you help me?' Rene sends him to the stable, and right at the end goes to check up on them and walks in on the nativity. A week later, I had I forgotten all about the conversation when I got a telephone call from someone at the BBC saying, 'We love it, can you write the script?' It was a bit of a shock."
But why say yes? Religion is hardly at the cutting edge of television output. Jordan laughs. There's something endearingly honest and direct about him. "It was hardly religious at that point, and I only said, 'yeeees', but the more I thought about it, the more I thought my idea would be a travesty – to take the most beautiful story in the history of the world and turn it into a cheap gag."
So he began researching. The gospels weren't, he reports, much use. Two of the four don't mention the nativity at all, and the other two "very helpfully contain about 400 words on the whole subject'', which wasn't going to make much of a dent on four peak-time half-hour slots on BBC One in the immediate run-up to Christmas Day. Past attempts – reverent and controversial – to bring the story to life didn't impress him either. "I knew I wanted to put heart in it. I've never seen that done before. Even the iconic imagery is cold. With Mary, all you ever see is a one-dimensional image with a halo and a Ready brek glow."
Jordan read history books and consulted theologians – as well as Nasa in an effort to understand the star over Bethlehem. "I began to realise how little I knew about Mary or Joseph. Some of the research suggested Mary could have been as young as 12. What fascinated me was that she then became something different in my eyes – a child. I had never seen Mary as a child before. And with Joseph, I tried to imagine what I would have said if Tracy [his wife] had come home and said, 'OK look, I am pregnant but don't worry, its God's'. I don't think I would have slept on it, had a dream, and been OK about it [like Joseph in the gospels]." Jordan tells the tale of Mary and Joseph's betrothal as a simple boy-meets-girl romance and it is Joseph, an earnest but lovable innocent who emerges from the shadows as the pivotal character of this drama. "It is about Joseph finding faith," he explains simply. "I had to ask the questions the audience would ask. You cannot have Mary going away to see her cousin and coming back pregnant without Joseph asking if she'd had too much to drink one night and ended up in bed with a soldier, or if she was raped, because that's what the audience would ask, what he would have asked."
And it is by posing those questions that Jordan, along with a young and largely unstarry cast, and his award-winning director, Coky Giedroyc (sister of comedian, Mel), manage the seemingly impossible task of giving a new feel to a familiar narrative.
Once he makes the Mary-Joseph relationship as normal and credible as anything in Albert Square, he allows the supernatural elements of the story to sit less uneasily because they have a context.
Was he ever tempted, writing the script in the wooden shed at the end of his garden, to dispense with the virgin birth?
"If you accept that Jesus is Son of God, why would you not believe that Mary was a virgin, and that God must have had some hand in the impregnation.
''Quite how – whether it was a whiff of steam that came through the nostrils and into the semen, or whatever – is beyond my comprehension, but to me, as a sequence of events, it makes perfect sense." That's a big "if" he's starting with. I thought he wasn't religious. "I have a distaste for organised religions," he corrects me, "because they tamper with stories, add a bit here, take a bit off there, and then start killing each other because the other one doesn't agree. The only thing I know for sure is that the words I read as coming from Jesus Christ are the most truthful thing I have ever heard. As a blueprint for mankind, it is so smart that it couldn't even have come from a clever philosopher. Who would have been smart enough to say 'He who is without sin cast the first stone'? Wow! That's pretty cool."
Writing The Nativity may have converted him to the virgin birth, even to Jesus's blueprint, but it won't inspire Jordan to take his seat in the ancient church a few doors down from his house on Dec 25.
"I have a distaste for people who say to me if you come through these doors, walk down this aisle, sit on that wooden bench, and sing these hymns in this order, I have got God in a little bottle under my pulpit and I'll let you have a look," he says. "I don't think was God's intention."

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Discipleship - start with yourself.

My Christian DNA Groups workbook is going well - already I've heard about a number of people planning to start groups int heir workplace, which is really exciting. I realise I'm going to need to start doing some 'frequently asked questions' somehow, sometime soon, but time .....!
Anyway, here's a link to a clip I watched earlier, from the Verge Network website. David Platt (not the footballer) is saying exactly the same thing, as I'm trying to say - start with yourself. The DNA groups workbook, isn't a reading book primarily and I guess the biggest problem with getting it onto leaders shelves, is that's where it stays. My advice is start using it, or at least buy it for three people who will.
So far, I have people from 45 different churches, I know of, who've bought a copy of DNA, but discipleship won't grow until there's groups in place.
Have a listen to David Platt, it's only 3 minutes.

Sunday, 4 November 2012


“The name is Bond, James Bond”. Bond is back and Skyfall is, I think, the best script we’ve ever had. Obviously, that’s only my opinion, but I’ve been watching James Bond films all my film going life, beginning with the annual trip with my dad from, From Russia with Love, onwards – I think that was a double-header with Dr. No.
The thing, which appealed to me in Skyfall, in particular, was the fact we have a Bond for our own time, not simply a modernised version from Ian Fleming’s day. There’s no doubt this film plumbs the deepest psychological depths of any Bond film and sidesteps the macho stereotypes usually drawn to 007 like a magnet. Bond is real, which means flawed. He’s past his prime, which means there’s some inner conflict seldom previously even glimpsed. There’s a lot here for any Christian leader to reflect on and much to offer. That’s not to suggest everything is worth trying to emulate, as Maggie reminded me, when driving out the car park afterwards!
Another interesting facet, with Skyfall, is the mirroring of our culture (not that this hasn't been done with Bond before) with the post-modern tension between tradition and individualism presented between Bond and arch villain, Silva. Again, much to think about.
Apart from all that, there were some great performances, a terrific bike chase and a few surprises. 

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Christian DNA Groups hits the web!

Pretty excited to hear my Christian DNA groups book is now available via the BUGB website:  

Christian DNA GroupsNew to the Online Store, this resource written by Nigel Coles (West of England Baptist Association, Team Leader/Regional Minister) seeks to encourage discipleship, engagement and authenticity.  Priced at just £6.00, click here to place your order.

Friday, 19 October 2012

God sees diamonds

I was in Koln last week for the conference. Always a fascinating gathering of diverse and creative people with a heart for Europe and church planting in common. Gerard Kelly shared something, but I was also brought into contact with this poem he wrote previously. Having repeated the phrase 'if it doesn't kill you, it does you good' to myself many times this year, I'm finding Gerard's 'God sees diamonds' a much healthier and kingdom perspective - sorry to miss you to say 'thank you' Gerard, but this has been an immense blessing ....
(apologies for changing the spelling in the last line of the first verse!!)
We believe… 
…every human being 
has a worth worth seeing
Every name is a sound worth saying
Your potential a prayer worth praying
You see coles - God sees diamonds
We believe in the grace 
Of the gifts God gives
His breath in everything that lives
Greater gifts to be discovered
Deep in you, disguised, dust-covered
You see coal - God sees diamonds
We see traces of truth
In the yearnings of youth
God’s image in imagination
We crave a community 
that will honour audacity 
And cherish the dreams of its children
You see coal - God sees diamonds
We see God seeking
A servant generation
Kindness as the kindling
To Kick-start transformation
Love as liberation
Of a captive creation
We are digging 
for the diamonds God sees
written by Gerard Kelly

Monday, 15 October 2012

Big Hearted in WEBA

We've just had The Big Hearted Tour with Chris Duffett pass through the WEBA region and I believe shall be all the better for it.
Chris - apologies for the photo, but I forgot I had my camera, until nearly too late, but it's probably your best side!
Those of you who know Chris will not be surprised he's manage to help a number of people overcome their fear of the 'e' word. One thing we need to work out, however, is how we can encourage more people to engage with the agenda Chris is bringing to our attention. That is, the desperate need for Christians to engage other people, in such a way and with such an appeal (what Ray Brown, when at Spurgeon's used  to describe as 'winsomeness') that they ask us the questions.
Chris has also, rightly, rebuked me - 'what's happened to your blog?' I'm not sure whether it's the encouragement someone's missing it, or something else, which has provoked me into blogging today, despite a remaining overfull inbox, but thank you Chris.

One thing I've been aware of for a long time, is the fact we don't know what to do with evangelists. Hopefully, BUGB will get full marks for making one BUGB President, but if this becomes merely a nod in the right direction, then Chris' Presidency will be in danger of becoming tokenism of the worst kind. Obviously, at least to me, we cannot dump the responsibility for this on Chris' shoulders, so we need to work out how we can better equip more people in our churches as 'e-Christians'. 

-  If Ephesians 4 is, first and foremost, a local church text then it's reasonable to expect a good percentage, of any church, to be primarily gifted in evangelism. Some have suggested 10%, but I'd go for 20% - on the basis five times 20% equals 100%!

-  The response to Chris' Ministry is people who feel they are not primarily gifted in such a way, discover they can do it. So, shouldn't we (local Ministers in particular at this point) nurture far more people to believe they can act evangelistically, even if they are not primarily evangelists?

Whatever, we do, let's do something to rescue evangelism for the local church.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Christian DNA groups.

Well, I now have 996 copies of "Christian DNA Groups" in boxes in my study. At long last, it's printed and arrived. 

Essentially, it's a book to be used, rather than simply read. Aimed at groups of three people meeting regularly around the words of Jesus, I'm hoping it'll be used to deepen Christian, or Missional, DNA.

My understanding of what this is comes from Jesus telling us, in what we call the great commandment, all the law and prophets hangs on: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind” (D for discipleship). 
“Love your neighbour” (N for eNgagement). 
“ As yourself” (A for authenticity). 

For individuals, a DNA group will help you make the difference God is calling you to make. 
For Church leaders, I believe it will be a useful framework to work with and they can work alongside, or replace existing small groups.
I'm hoping as many of the 1000 copies will be taken up by WEBA Churches, but I'm looking to roll these out over a wider area in due course, so if anybody wants to try them, or wants more details, let me know, via
They're £7 for an individual copy, or £18 for three (£6 a copy), or £90 for eighteen (£5 a copy).

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Back to life .... and a new future?

I've been on holiday, not for the whole of August, but a blogging holiday. No clever sabbatical idea - simply life has been way too hectic, at a time of year I count on things slowing down.
However, it's September again and the traditional start tot he church annual cycle is upon us.
There's a lot I could say, but too adverts today:

If you're anywhere near Weston-super-Mare 26th-28th September, why not pop in and hear Nigel Wright? It's not often we have someone of Nigel's calibre among us for three nights running and speaking about  'The Christian Mission in 2012'. The only thing i'm annoyed about is I can only make one evening.

The details I have are:

Weston Bible Week 2012.
"A wideness in God's mercy, an exposition of the book of Jonah"
Dr Nigel Wright, Principal of Spurgeon's College, who will be speaking about: 
'The Christian Mission in 2012'.
7.30pm each evening - 26th, 27th, 28th September 
at Bristol Road Baptist Church, 
BS23 2QS.

Secondly, we are calling our Baptist Churches within BUGB, to prayer this coming Sunday.
Please join us, as we make some key decisions soon, which might potentially, at least, enhance the potential of us becoming more movement than institution again.

Here are some of my prayers, if anyone is short!

Lord, may our decision-making be directed by your Spirit and be in line with your kingdom purposes.

Lord, may we have the courage to make the right decisions for the right reasons.

Lord, may we see more of the potential of your future and focus less on the narrowness of our present.

Lord, may we grasp how big, how vast, how wonderful you are and know your grace is always enough.

Lord, may we know who you are calling us to be and what you are calling to do, as a result, whether we have enough money, or not.

Of course, I'd be grateful for prayer - for myself, the Regional and National staff who are potentially affected by budget decisions and our WEBA Trustees (because we need to respond to various challenges and questions in a short space of time).

Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Olympic flame burns brightly!

Well, it's hard to find time to blog during the Olympics - as if there's not enough work to do, in any case, there's also wall to wall Olympics - I love it.
It's been a great week - two days off up to London. The three day event show jumping in Greenwich Park on tuesday and in the Olympic Stadium tomorrow!

It struck me, whilst watching the medal ceremony, on tuesday (this is one of my 'I was there' photos), I had the mobile number of an Olympic medalist on my phone - more a friend of one of my children, than me, however.
Remember the five handshakes from anybody on the planet idea? Well, it means I must easily be that close for every single Olympic athlete, as you would be, if you stop and think about it. That's one reason why all the conversations about networking, movement, viral communication, social networking, etc. are so vital. It also means what people need most is a friend who knows Jesus.
Today, we had an Association Team Leaders day together. I drove back down the M5 with renewed hope for our Baptist futures. I suggested we re-ran the lighting of the Olympic flame at the next BU Assembly - great imagery and symbolism and we might even set something alight!

Friday, 27 July 2012

You want to join a movement? Here's how!

Derek Sivers' youtube clip on the subject of first followers: Leadership lessons from dancing guy.

I think this clip on You Tube is great. You may be one of the 1.5m plus viewers and so it'll be old hat, but if not and you're struggling with the growing talk about movement, it might help. Of course, it might not and the only thing I can guarantee is ... some of you won't like it!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

'changing our thinking'?

It was Albert Einstein who said: “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” I’m increasingly coming up against references to his way of thinking. Personally, I think it was John Wimber, visiting the UK in 1981-2 just prior to my going to Spurgeon’s who introduced the term ‘paradigm shift’ to me. Since then, we’ve become accustomed to the ‘post’ (modernity, Christendom, men, etc.) to the point of almost becoming blasé. However, I’m realising more and more how little we’ve taken on board, within the UK Church, over the last thirty years, which my testimony represents.

I regularly meet local Church leaders who suggest they really do believe it’s simply about trying harder at what’s not been working for most of that period.
I do still meet Ministers who appear to think the Church of which they apart (they tend to refer to ‘my’ church) simply needs to buck up and listen to their sermons and all will be well again (like it wasn’t in a previous decade lost in the fogginess of memory).
On the other hand, I meet many people (and I’m suspecting this is now a greater proportion) who have begun to key into their gut instincts the way they’re doing church is no longer making in-roads into contemporary living. This, for me, although maybe not for them, is good news.
However, I’ve been encouraged this week, by reflecting on my conversation with Charles last Sunday. After the morning service, where I’d been introducing my take on the great commandment as Christian DNA, he engaged me in the kind of stimulating conversation, which doesn't happen after every sermon I preach!

Charles was born in the Congo, to missionary parents and named after CT Studd, who dedicated him. He wanted to encourage me, about what he described as ‘the missional genetic code’. Charles was part of the core team planting Worle BC, when I was part of a College team in the 1980’s. He’s now 83, which just shows you don't need to be young and trendy to get what this missional thing is all about. I left encouraged! 

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Christian DNA groups

OK this is all pretty exciting and new to me. This may be the workbook cover, which is designed to get people moving and meeting together in DNA (D for discipleship, N for eNgagement, A for authenticity) groups (preferably in three's, an hour/week).

The first 1000 copies are planned to be a further, but much bigger experiment in cultivating Christian DNA, so I'll be looking for feedback, which I hope will lead to developments in the material, thinking and fruitfulness.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Which path to the future?

When people ask me what my D Min thesis is likely to be called, it’s always a difficult one. What I’ve found myself saying recently is ‘I don’t want the subtitle to become “why we made some really stupid decisions, in BUGB, in 2012”.
That’s because, what began as a relatively straightforward review of post 2000 in the life of BUGB, with a subtext of ‘can any trans-local body really enhance effectiveness in mission?’ quickly becomes a much bigger question, along the lines of ‘can we change the system?’
It strikes me, to ignore the inter-connectedness of our ‘system’ is not only to miss the wood for the trees, but to deny something of the essence of being part of the ‘body of Christ’.
What has become more widely known as ‘living systems theory’ is, I think, what Jesus talks about when he describes the kingdom of God. ‘The kingdom of God is like’ ……. and where does he draw the illustrations from? Human beings (inner and outer integrity), expressions of nature (the habits of God?), human connectedness (relationships), etc.
Margaret Wheatley (I’d like to call her Meg as her friends seem to, because she’s beginning to feel like one) talks about her work in her profession (broadly described as organisational change, or development):
‘when I talked to other consultants, I noticed that if we had an organisational change effort that was successful, it felt like a miracle to us’.
‘we weren’t even geared up for success. It didn't matter that we didn't know how to change organisations. We were all professionals who didn't hope to achieve what we were selling or suggesting to our clients.’
She says this to help describe how she developed some of her subsequent patterns of working.
What I think is really worth grabbing hold of is when she says ‘the real eye-opener for me was to realise how control and order were two different things and that you could have order without control’.
Isn’t this akin to ‘finding the path by walking?’
I’ve lost count how many times Ministers have become frustrated by trying to re-organise their small group networks. I’ve been there too, so it’s not without learning the hard way! How often does control actually work?
People don't often want to meet with X others just because they live near one another, neither does a mini church in someone’s front room, designed to represent the breadth of the whole fellowship, invariably result in genuine accountability, honest sharing and confessing of sin, or mutual encouragement.
However, do Christians generally want to belong and be part of a small group of people, with whom they can share life together? Absolutely!
So if control doesn't actually work in local church life and we think it intrinsically non-Baptist …….