Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Happy Christmas from WEBA

A terrific short video by Var Smallwood: Still Small Films


Also, thanks to Ruth Whiter, our WEBA Christmas card: to all who pop in here not privileged to receive an original! 
May you know the peace and the joy Jesus has brought 
for you this Christmas.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Nativity Factor

This is just great from The Nativity Factor ( www.naticityfactor.com ) If you're into short clips for Christmas services, you could do alot worse than this, which will open up people's minds for you to expound something more:


Personally my input to the public Christmas festivities is finished, for this year. I've thoroughly enjoyed engaging in an Advent series of three evenings at my local church. Had some great responses, a number of people took some of the steps I tried to encourage - of Hope (looking through Mary's eyes); of Faith (looking through Joseph's eyes); of Truth (looking through the Magi's eyes). It's made me think about next year and I've realised, again, how most churches waste the greatest opportunity of the year to take the good news of Jesus' birth out from their buildings and church services. I feel a need for a Chris Duffett conversation coming on, to get us galvanised into action.

Talking with my friend Aaron last night. He went on a walk with Lindsay Hamon, through Bedminster in Bristol, where we're re-planting the gospel after years of shrinkage. He told me of a real openness from people to talk about how they might receive God's love in their lives, prayed with several and linked up a number with local churches, following prayer, etc. 'Out there' people are more happy to talk and seek God than many of us give credit for.

Friday, 6 December 2013

The camera never lies unless you have Photoshop!

Amanda Allchorn, who I always thought was a friend (!) sent me this photo. A few years old, but I can't recall anything about it, so have some doubts about its authenticity. Still threatened with putting the negs up for sale, I thought I'd publish it first, which seems to be all the rage …

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Advent through different eyes.

Oh no, it's Advent. It always has a habit of sneaking up on me, so when I start to 'prepare', I realise I'm not, so Advent always (it seems) begins with an awareness of my guilt. Of course, guilt's out of fashion in the mainstream culture's, which appear to be sweeping along the remains of Christendom in their flow!

So, having been rightly rebuked for my blogging lapses, I'm getting stuck into advent. A particular delight is my agreement to lead an evening series, at our church, in a moment of weakness. I recall perching one advent sunday last year, making the comment to our administrator I really missed leading series in the same place and Bob's probably her uncle. 
We're making use of The Nativity (surprising that, but I'm talking about the BBC DVD of their 2010 series with Tatiana Maslany as Mary and Andrew Buchan as Joseph). I said it then and a much more careful viewing, this year, has not changed my view, it's brilliant in many ways.
So, one week down on Advent - through different eyes. Last week was built around Mary and we had some great responses, which were prompted by the call to ask where people wanted to look for the hope of God again in their lives. I've been surprised how many people are yet to see the DVD, as this is a real gift. Tony Jordan, who wrote it, comments:  the biggest challenge was to find a fresh way in to tell a story that has been told a million times before – and to make it believable to people. For example, when Mary tells her fiancĂ©e ‘I’m pregnant but it’s God’s’, he says he wanted to show Joseph’s behaviour in a way that would make down-to- earth viewers say ‘OK, I sort of buy that’. If I can help with that process, great.
Next week, which prompted this blog, is Joseph and no, it's not yet prepared! 

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Too scared to start small?

Let's be honest, we're out of our depth. Talk about missional movement is a long, long way from our week to week experience. It's tempting, therefore, to back off and leave it to the pioneers, the mavericks, the risk takers, of whom we count ourselves out.
What are we frightened of? Ironically, one factor is we're not prepared (fear may be too strong a word, but I'll leave it hanging there) to start as small as Jesus was. One by one until he had twelve, a few loaves and fishes, outcasts, prostitutes, tax collectors, etc.
I'm hearing it in responses to the 'What Jesus Started' day with Steve Addison and I'm hearing it in responses to starting DNA groups. What people want is a quick fix, a method everyone will buy into day one, a structure for the whole church.
My advice? Start small. The smallest and best place is yourself. 
We've a good number for tuesday, but can take more - as we're providing lunch it will be a great blessing to pre-book, using the link below.

Friday, 1 November 2013

'Feeding' the pubs profits?

I wonder how many would feel happy about the percentage of my expenses going into the profits of pubs recently? I know, for example, my mother-in-law, would be most uncomfortable, of she thought her Home Mission giving was being squandered. However, before you press the comment button, I've not placed a single alcoholic drink on my expenses form recently. I have stayed at. Travel lodge, drunk coffee in Costas, eaten in a Harvester Restaurant and the list could go on, if I cared to do the research, which would highlight, who else, like these chains are owned by brewers.
My purpose here, however, is not to have a go at the brewers, but to try and learn from them. Businesses such as Whitbreads and Mitchell's and Butlers have transformed their future prospects in recent years. They do it differently, but the purpose is the same. The reliance on selling alcohol has diminished, but the range of people benefitted from their third places has radically increased.
Local pubs, like local churches, have been closing. Where I live, in South Bristol, I can think of four pubs, which have closed, within less than a miles' radius, in the last ten years, but no churches.

Interestingly, we were saying, twenty years ago, churches needed to learn from pubs, about how to create third places. Truth is, pubs have learnt from what wasn't working, but churches perpetuate recycling that well known sign of madness: keep doing what doesn't work in the hope we'll get a different outcome next time.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

a glimpse of mortality

Waiting for my hospital appointment for an ultrasound scan, on my foot, was the first conscious dwelling on the possibility of it being anything other than an innocent lump. The two GP’s who had seen it already were ‘fairly confident’ is was innocent, but ‘just wanted to make sure’.

How fairly is fairly, I began to wonder? I remembered being fairly confident I’d get an A in my English Literature A level, but came out with a C! I recalled many a football season and even more matches, when I’d been fairly confident of victory, like England v Poland in 1973 and the Liverpool v Wimbledon FA Cup Final in 1988 (especially painful going on a bus load of Wimbledon fans!).

I looked around the waiting room and just hoped I looked a tad healthier than everyone else! Then I began to recall friends who’d been diagnosed following the routine visit, I’d assumed this would be.

‘Here I am, wholly available Lord’ I prayed, thinking (as if the Lord might not notice) I’d prefer my wholly available to include my left foot!
‘How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news’ … yes, Lord, but how much more useful to have two feet! By now, the smile on my face, which brought a strange look from the elderly woman opposite had descended into a thoughtful frown as I began to contemplate a false leg.
What if the Lord had other things in mind than a long life, here on earth? Humour has always been a useful defence mechanism, but facing reality has been a watchword, so this was getting tense.

Thankfully the NHS came up trumps. No long wait. In, at an earlier time, than my allotted appointment. A really speedy diagnosis. An innocent fibroma ‘caused by running a lot’. At this point I resisted asking the Doctor to put that in writing, so simply said, ‘in that case, can I say I’m delighted to meet you’. Thinking – oh how trite this sounds and I bet you get this all the time. A big relief and I’d only been thinking, seriously, about it for half an hour.

Of course, my diagnosis meant it easy to post this. Of course, I’ve preached on how we avoid the death reality clause, built into the fabric of our human being. What I realised is I’ve become too aneathitised against death, which is really unhealthy for anyone, never mind a Christian. So thank you Lord for re-opening my eyes.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Faith restored ... in case of need!

Another fairly manic week, which has been great, but doesn't help me catch-up with 'stuff', which, for me, is not unrelated to that word 'maintenance'. I used to join in with polarising 'mission' and 'maintenance', until I realised, just like my car, computer, tools, maintenance, is not altogether a bad thing. 
NB - an additional stress and hassle, this week, comes from, the fact, my laptop has a corrupted, hard disk partition, or something like that. It sounds painful, but worse, the programme, extracting my data, has been running, since Monday and I'm still laptop-less, which is, frankly, totally disorientating.
I'm convinced one of the conversations, which demands, more intentional,  on-going dialogue, is that between the oft polarised pioneers and more established church based ministries. Two very good reasons, although there are more: 
- the pioneers are yet to find all the answers.
- the established ministries have not forgotten everything, concerning mission.

Not that I needed it (honestly), but my faith in what we often describe as bog-standard Baptist Ministry, was restored this week ( well, would have been, of I'd needed it).
Whilst up in London, I stayed with my good friend, Phil Robinson, Pastor at Lewin Road, Streatham. I watched the football (Phil with Sky Sports is proof God has not finished with us yet) whilst Phil went to a prayer meeting. Later, he shared how they'd been praying for forty baptisms this year ( that's the average size of a UK Baptist Church, to put it in perspective). They'd seen 19 and had 13, in the pipeline, so I've just added my prayers for them to see their forty. 

Talk to Phil and you'll realise gathered worship still plays a vital part in our life, larger churches still depend on the reality of being made up of many smaller ones ( groups) and prayer, together, and evangelism are still as relevant, as ever. So, bless you Lewin Road. BC. 

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Baptists Together

Congratulations - to the editorial group, of Baptists Together. The first edition arrived, yesterday, but I'd not had a chance to look at it, properly, until today. My instinctive, initial response, is great, well done. Already, the best publication we've come up with, certainly, in my memory and the potential, for it to become a helpful vehicle for our growing vision, together, is rich indeed. 
A big thank you and well done, from me.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Kingdom Culture

Surfacing, again, after time away, reading, odd things, August.

One thing, with all our talk about culture and context, which has struck me, over and over, again, during the summer, is how little we speak about our constant context, which needs to be a biblical/theological/kingdom one.
How good it's been, therefore, to see Woodlands (Bristol), preaching a series:  Kingdom Culture. I've dipped in, mainly because my children are all connected with Woodies and, also, we're exploring how we plant together, in an area of Bristol, but some of their titles:

A Culture of Spiritual Warfare.
A Culture of Servanthood.
A Culture of Spiritual Ambition.
A Culture of Non-Religious Christianity.

All available, to listen, via: https://www.woodlandschurch.net

Monday, 19 August 2013


We've wondered a few times, whether to change the name of our 'association'? It's always struck me we have a gift - being named 'West of England' spells 'we', which is such a powerful word and gets into the heart of Baptist ecclesiology. We say we are more about networks than organisation, but I'm wondering whether our very name (keeping 'Association' in the public face) is nowadays a barrier to communicating this fact? WE:networks?

So far, we have .....


It says on the tin what we claim to be.
It's a word, which makes sense in today's language.


We risk upsetting the traditional perceptions.
We risk stepping out on a limb (every other 'association' has kept the word).

Answers on a postcard, or e-mail if the stamps are too much.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Keep calm and deacon

Someone's sent me this and enjoyed, so much, thought I'd post it here:

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Institutional decline

Listening to Jim Collins' 'How the Mighty Fall', in the car (wow - new bluetooth, making my previous i-phone, via hands free, sound dreadful).
He says, something like:

I've come to see institutional decline like a gradual disease:
Harder to detect, but easier to cure, in the early stages.
Easier to detect, but harder to cure, in the latter stages.

He's talking about companies, but I'm thinking about Churches. The same's true.

Monday, 22 July 2013

The seventy-two, or seventy?

When Jesus sent out seventy two 'others', did he really?
Was it seventy two, or was it seventy?

Did he send then in two's?
Did he pair them off according to gifting?
Did he send mates together, just because they got on well?
Did he put opposites together, because it would be good for them?
Did he send same gender pairings?
Did he let them do the choosing?
Did he do the choosing?
Did he keep couples together?
Did he send similar personalities, to present a common identity?
Did send those in conflict, so they could sort things out, on the road?

'Yes', to all the above .... I think!