Monday, September 29, 2008

Back to Church Sunday

We didn't do "Back to Church Sunday" but I hope those who did had a good day. The truth is that the whole event passed me by, mainly because I let it pass me by. I always remember a colleague commenting on an initiative to invite folk back to church a number of years ago. The tag line then was "See how much we've changed". His comment was that it was because of the changes that they'd all left in the first place.

But there's something else that drew my attention to this year's event. A report on one website used the headline "Churches welcome back lapsed Christians". I find this a somewhat strange turn of phrase. Exactly how do you become a lapsed Christian? It makes the Christian life appear to be more like a gym membership or a library card. 

Did I become a lapsed Christian during my sabbatical because I didn't go to church very often? Is coming to church more important than reading my Bible, seeking to build my relationship with God, or sharing God's heart for the poor? How do we, why do we prioritise certain aspects of our understanding of living a life that pleases God over others? 

Maybe it's just me, but doesn't this kind of approach, the kind that assumes that not being in church is a sign of disconnection from God,  maybe the only sign, just pushing things a little too far.

Maybe it's just the realisation that a truly missional church, the kind of church I want so much to be part of, is less focused on getting people into the building than it is on getting the good news incarnated into the community. Don't get me wrong, I pray for growth in attendance at our worship celebration. A healthy celebration is a good thing, but only a good thing if it is a sign of a healthy engagement with the local community.

In the end, I don't want to attract people to church, I want to attract them to Jesus.

What kind of Sunday?

I'm not sure if yesterday was an example of incarnational, attractional, or invitational church, but it was a day of interesting contrasts.

In the morning we did church, and we did it reasonably well. It was Harvest and we had all ages together. We tried to do something different, having a creative area for people to use during the worship. In the end only children used it, but that's okay. My big worry was that it might have been seen as something to keep the children occupied, which it was never meant to be.

In the afternoon I did something a little different. Just over a week ago the local landlord at the Pub took his own life. He was 31. The truth is that the Pub is more probably the focul point of village life than the church is. And if it's not the focus, it's closer to the focus that the church which in reality is on the margin. I'd been asked if I would go down and "say a few words". No one could really tell me what they wanted me to say, but they wanted me to do something, something I suspect to help them process the events and their grief.

So I went. And I was pleased to go. There were probably more people gathered in the garden in the afternoon than gathered in church in the morning. Does that validate one over the other? I don't think so.

What it does say to me is that it remains of utmost importance that we learn to hang out with the people we're trying to reach. That we learn how to live our Christian lives in the context of our communities not just in the context of our churches. It is so sad when Christians are so busy with church that they have no time for anything or anyone else. 

I guess this provides the paradox of my life. As a minister I find myself caught between the busyness of serving the church and the deep call of God to connect with, as Jim Henderson calls them, the people Jesus misses most. 

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Being pursued by God's word

These three texts have been the focus of my thoughts for the past few weeks. It isn't that I've not read anything else, I just keep being drawn back to them.

As I plan for next year I have been considering a series on 1Cor.13. I have a plan, but what I really want to do is immerse the church in Paul's description of this "most excellent way". I just keep coming back to the question in my mind: What would the church look like if we lived out Paul's description of love?

Anyway, here are the three texts that have been following me around.

May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.


I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.


Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.


I'm not sure what the connection is, if any, with 1Cor.13 but it's just the place where I find myself at the moment.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

No greener grass

It's very easy to fall into the trap of believing that one's ministry would succeed if only you could find the right situation. If only you could find the church or organisation that best suited your gifts and skills. The problem is that you can waste an awful lot of time thinking about how much better it could be somewhere else.

The problem is that you can't stop it happening, but you can choose your response when it does. You can choose how you deal with the frustrations of failure and log-jams of inertia that regularly arise in the life-cycle of the church. 

Jon Ortberg wrote a piece recently that reflects on two agricultural metaphors that Jesus used and their application to ministry. The first metaphor he considers is: "Put your hand to the plough and don't look back". He says this about it:

I have been doing that in my ministry. I have had an extremely strong conviction that I am to follow my calling in the place where I am and not waste energy thinking about other possibilities. I'm convinced I will grow in ways I would not otherwise if I put my hand to the plow and don't look back.

Fancy that, the opportunity to grow in ways I would not otherwise grow if I moved. So often we sense the restrictions to growth that our present circumstances generate rather than the possibilities they offer.  

The second comment concerns the way we deal with the multiple demands that never seem to stay in the study or church office. Of this he says:
I can do this. I can set aside the weight of unfinished tasks and unsolved problems when I come home. I can be fully present and alive even though everything around me is not settled down. Each moment I can choose this; I can ask God's help with it.

I guess the simple message here is that to fulfil my call I need to fully invest myself in following through my call in the place where I find myself not the place I dream of being and secondly, when the day is done, I come home (or in my case cross the hallway) and enter fully into life outside of the church I serve. Knowing that this is a tough choice to make, burdens don't evaporate when I cross the threshold from my study to the rest of the house, but church was never meant to consume my family it ought rather to be a blessing to my family. 

I need to remember this when Ally comes home from University and I want to "just finish this little job I need to do."

Monday, September 22, 2008

Star Wars, from a different perspective!

Ages ago it seems I made some one minute programmes with a friend of mine, and earlier this year he posted them on YouTube. Yesterday I got a comment from my friend about the number of views the videos had got and wondering what impact they had made on the people who had watched them.

So I wandered over to YouTube to see if the stats for myself. While I was there I came across this video and thought the world should know about it!

Enjoy it.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tool Chest Project

I spent a little time on my new project today and yesterday.

It's difficult to see what it will look like when it's finished, but the main carcass has now taken shape. 

If you remember, I cut all the pieces from a large piece of leftover 12mm hardwood ply. Eventually there will be a parts well and five drawers.

Yesterday and today I cut the dovetails to join the back to the sides and the upper and lower front rails.

Cutting dovetail joints in plywood is fairly straightforward, although the finished joint is far less forgiving than softwood. Unless it's quite precise it just refuses to go together. You also need to be careful not to split the ply. 

The next job will be to route the rebates for the bottom panel and the base of the top well. This needs a rear rail set in from the back to make room for the carry tote. 

All will become clear as the project progresses! Hopefully, with a few good Saturdays, I'll make some progress quite quickly.

Friday, September 19, 2008

More than a friend

I've found this song particularly moving these last few days. I find the vocal quite haunting and the lyrics simply cause a deep sense of worship to well up inside of me.


So, Ally got me using Twitter, mainly I think so that she can keep an eye on me while away at University. And I always thought it was me as her father that would want to keep tabs on my daughter!

Anyway, it's been fun tweeting and it made me think about how interactive can, and ultimately should, we be via the internet. I've resisted the urge to sign up for Facebook or Myspace or the over fifties version run by Saga. However that's a debate for another day.

The thing with Twitter is that it isn't really a route to use for quick thoughts and quotes etc. Jeff put me onto Swurl and I've set up a homepage there to collate various streams (blogs, music, Twitter, wish lists). 

And because Swurl does the job of putting everything you want to put in one place in... well one place actually, there's no need to spend all day updating a whole range of social sites with duplicate information. It also means that if, like me, you write more than one blog, then you can pull all of them into one place for anyone interested to read all your musing but who doesn't use RSS or similar to aggregate blogs. But that still doesn't solve the problem of posting a quick thought without logging in and creating new posts.

So, to complete the picture so far, I've added Tumblr to my streams. It's a simple, quick thoughts kind of approach to blogging. Using my Blog title "the view from here" I now have a Tumblr homepage, but all the things I post there will automatically appear on the Swurl page. I'm also working on how to add my Tumblr blog to the sidebar of my main blog but I'm having a few problems getting the size right.

Being a Mac user I've also found a dashboard widget, or rather two dashboard widgets for Tumblr. 

The first is available from the Tumblr site, the second from the Apple downloads site. I prefer the second one because it has some automatic formatting built in for posting regular text or pictures or quotes. 

Both are free, so you just choose your preferred style I guess.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I've just begun reading this book and I'm finding it truly fascinating and challenging and liberating. 

The call to find a third place, a space to connect with others has long been a desire of my heart. As a church leader it is so easy to spend all my time either in the study or among believers. But that's always been an uncomfortable place for me to be. I'm convinced that the church exists not for its own ends but for the sake of the not-yet-believing community.

So this book is a real challenge to put into practice many of the things I've longed to do for so many years.

Here are my "favourite" quotes from the first part of the book Dangerous Memories:

We have preferred the adorable alabaster Jesus to the flesh-and-blood radical Messiah. We have imprisoned him in a stained-glass cell and want only to worship him, never to follow him. (52)

...if exiles today are to model their lives and ministries on that of the exile Jesus, they must take a stance that promotes proximity between themselves and those among whom they live.

Christians must be prepared to go where Christ would go: to the poor, the marginalised, to the places of suffering. They must be prepared to die to self in order to follow Jesus' radical lifestyle of self-giving and sacrifice. (54)

...our lives need to become increasingly aligned with the example of Jesus... It means, though, increasingly becoming people of justice, kindness, mercy, strength, hope, grace, generosity, and hospitality. (64)

Bart: What religion are we?
Homer: You know, the religion with all the well-meaning rules that don't really work in real life. (70)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Reflecting on the economic crisis

Can I point you towards the blog of an old college friend of mine, Simon Jones. In a previous life he was a financial journalist and has written a really good piece about the present crisis and some of the questions it raises.

Like Simon I wonder where the wise heads have gone. Perhaps they were laid-off in the last crisis. 

You can read Simon's piece here.

Perhaps, after all, I'll sign up to the Blog Action Day on Poverty.

More Apologies

After getting so worked up over the email I received about Christian Voice Apologises to Richard Dawkins, I wrote to the author to express my concerns. Rather unexpectedly I got a very gracious reply and, although I still don't think the original piece was in good taste or particularly gracious, I do have to commend the author for his response to my concerns.

He could simply have dismissed me as failing to understand the intended parody and satire of his piece (actually I readily recognised those aspects, but it still didn't sit comfortably with me.) He could have dismissed me as a deviant evangelical who doesn't understand the role of the prophetic voice.

But he didn't. 

And for that I'm grateful. If Christians can't disagree and yet share a sense of blessing towards each other, no mater how different they might see things, then how are we to express the grace of God to a world than runs so contrary to his purposes and desires?

There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing, He'll meet you wherever you are. as Third Day are singing as I write this post (Cry out to Jesus from Wherever you are)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Christians don't apologise like this

I'm angry.

I'm angry because I got an email today that outraged me. It did so because of the complete lack of grace and the schoolboy-like tactics of the content.

What got me so angry you might ask? It was an email from Christian Voice. 

At first I thought it was a joke, a bad joke. I'm not aware of being on their mailing list, so I thought this was someone else farming emails and sending out a spoof message. I was wrong, apparently, because I took a look at their website and discovered it was real.

The email concerned a so-called apology to Richard Dawkins the well-known scientist who is venomously anti-Christian. But no matter how much he reviles the church and Christian faith, that is no excuse for the appalling diatribe that is the Christian voice website and it's response to him. The ridicule and cheap point scoring has no place in a faith built upon grace.

If this is the Christian voice then it's a voice with which I do not wish to be associated. It certainly is not this Christian's voice.

How exactly does this kind of presentation of a Christian position, I use the term lightly, help the cause of Christ? Personally I don't how it can or ever could, and I just wonder what sadness it causes in heaven that those who claim the name of Christ would behave in such a distasteful manner.

If this is a Christian voice then it's the voice of an adolescent who has much to learn about about the true heart of God.

If you want to see what's got me so hot under the collar this is the link: CV to apologise

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Changing lives

A friend sent me this story by email.

The great evangelist H.A. Ironside was interrupted one time by the shouts of an atheist. The atheist yelled, "There is no God! Jesus is a myth!" and finally, "I challenge you to a debate!"

Ironside responded, "I accept your challenge, sir! But on one condition. When you come, bring with you ten men and women whose lives have been changed for the better by the message of atheism. Bring former prostitutes and criminals whose lives have been changed, who are now moral and responsible individuals. Bring outcasts who had no hope and have them tell us how becoming atheists has lifted them out of the pit!

"And sir," he concluded, "if you can find ten such men and woman, I will be happy to debate you. And when I come, I will gladly bring with me two hundred men and women from this very city whose lives have been transformed in just those ways by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ."

Ironside knew that atheism doesn't change lives. Jesus changes lives.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Follow this link to some really funny videos. Some painful, some really well done.

Living with migraine

I'm always amazed when someone announces they have a migraine headache and yet they can walk around unaided, cope with loud noises and bright light. I can do none of these things. I can barely sit upright and lying down isn't much better.

My first migraine headache hit me when I was about 6 years old. I'm really fortunate that I don't have them very often and I get enough warning that I can usually get control of them early. This means I don't usually need anything more substantial than a good painkiller or the occasional Ibuprofen migraine tablet, a lie down in a reasonably dark room and peace and quiet. So far, a migraine has never coincided with  a sudden desire on Anne's part to rearrange all the metal pans and cooking trays as they fall out the cupboard at the same time!

I can have quiet detailed conversations with people as long as they don't mind the fact that I don't open my eyes. If I do, I feel as though my head will explode which is somewhat unnerving to say the least, and likely to cause a particularly difficult to remove stain to appear in the furnishings. I'm sure there are one or two people with whom I've spoken on the 'phone who are blissfully unaware that I am sitting or lying down with my eyes closed thinking calm thoughts.

Why am I blogging about it today? Well I got hit this afternoon with a humdinger of a migraine that came out of nowhere and without any of the usual symptoms. When I was younger I used to get these really weird shifts in perspective. Things would start to drift off into the distance and I couldn't bear striped things or anything with a repeating pattern of circles or squares on it. I remember even now having bad dreams about the kitchen wallpaper!

I couldn't sleep facing a wall or any object, which made it a challenge when Anne (please don't tell her I compared her to a wall and an object) and I got married because I would always have to turn my back on her in order to get to sleep and not set off a headache! She's got used to it now by the way.

Anyway, over the years my symptoms changed and I would get blank spots in my field of vision. I'd be reading a book and suddenly realise that bits of the page were disappearing. To this I seem to have added flashing lights that only appear when I close my eyes. Which in turn is rather unfortunate because closing my eyes is the one thing I need to do when the headache strikes. A somewhat unfair development in the circumstances!

Today however I just became nauseous and felt quite sick, and then came the thumping headache and we were stuck 30 minutes from home in a noisy shopping centre. So we got home, and for about two hours I lay quietly, waiting for the medication to kick in and now some eight hours on I feel fine.

Odd things migraines, at least for me. I'm just glad they don't strike as often as they used to when I was younger. Maybe I've just got better control of things, maybe I don't do or eat the things that trigger them, maybe I'm just more disciplined about staying hydrated.

But if you're a fellow sufferer, then my heart goes out to you and I pray that your headaches will be rare and short-lived. 

In case you're wondering my worst one lasted five days.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Shock in the post

Got the gas bill today. Hopefully, with the improvements we made recently to the control system, the amount of gas we use to heat the house and the produce hot water will fall but that doesn't soften the immediate impact of the latest price rises.

British Gas has just put our monthly Direct Debit up by 67%. 67%! Unbelievable. What's worse is that a recent report said that gas prices were the highest in our region for the whole of the UK.

I know world prices have gone up and I've heard all the well rehearsed arguments on the radio, but I can't help but wonder how we've got ourselves in this position.

Has the constant pressure of years of deregulation and competition meant that energy prices have been forced artificially lower? Have we simply not been paying the right price for our energy? When you watch all the advertising for energy, it appears everyone can save you money. If that were true, then by now someone would be paying me to take gas and electricity off their hands. And then there's the "Buy both from us and it will be cheaper than using two companies approach." That doesn't sound much like competition to me.

In the end I think we've got ourselves in a real mess over energy and I remember the questions we asked when privatisation was first mooted: "In the end, who will really benefit from taking utilities out of public ownership?" Because we can't run the clock back and watch price changes over the same period with a nationalised energy market, we will never know the answer, but the question remains.

And finally, I don't keep up with all the changing technology and the advancements in R&D, but when I worked for British Gas 30 years ago we knew then that the resources were finite. We knew then that we needed to work on what comes after natural gas. There were projects looking at SNG (Substitute Natural Gas), where has that research gone in 30 years? Perhaps R&D was deemed non-profit making, too costly for the company in a shareholder economy and as a result the ideas shelved. I do know that the laboratories where I worked closed shortly after privatisation and, coincidentally my departure too. Although it must be said that I take no responsibility for the said closure!

Drawbacks at Swurl

So, I've signed up for Swurl and I've been playing with it for a day and I've found out why some things work and some don't.

I added my blog,, Twitter, Amazon wish-list and Picasa but nothing shows up for these. The reason seems to be that it doesn't handle none ".com" locations for the likes of Amazon. only adds "loved" tracks, a feature I don't use.

So at the moment Swurl just brings my blog posts and Tweets together.

Hopefully, with time, the features will improve, but it's not as useful as it first looked. However, lots of encouragement is due to the guys that have developed this idea and I look forward to more features being added and supported.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Shared Items

I've just added a "Shared Items" widget to the sidebar. This shows things that I put in my shared folder on Google Reader.


Some time ago Jeff sent me an email about Swurl. At the time I didn't have the time to look at it and I put it to the back of my mind. anyway, now I Twitter, thanks to Ally, and use Picasa and Lastfm, Swurl looks like an interesting way to bring it all together in one place. So I've plunged in and created an account.

You can visit my Swurl homepage here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Defining the role of the minister

I'm reading The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch at the moment and I was struck by something he said about the role of apostolic ministry. It made me wonder about the role of the minister in the life of the local church.

So, here's an adaptation of something Hirsch says.

The role of the minister of the local church is to reawaken the people to the gospel and to embed it in the structures and framework of the life of the church in ways that are meaningful.

Any thoughts? It's got me pondering some things.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

I love my computer but...

Why are all the evening classes computer heavy these days? 

With a renewed sense of wanting to spend more time doing a little woodwork, I thought the ideal solution would be to join an evening class. The problem is that it appears that unless I want to learn how to use a Microsoft product, arrange flowers or foxtrot, there's not a lot of choice. 

I can't actually find a single woodworking evening class anywhere within 30 miles of where I live. 

Given that I don't particularly want to learn a foreign language or throw pots or do watercolours, I'll have to stick with the bench in the garden or maybe I'll just buy a big shed and start my own little group!!

Me and mission

On Sunday coming my preaching theme is "We believe in the mission". Now I don't know if I'm unusual or not, but throughout my Christian life I've been torn between figuring out what it means to be a follower of Jesus fully committed to fulfilling his missionary mandate, and yet not being an evangelist. Of course some are immediately wondering why I should actually feel compelled to link these two in this way, whilst others immediately identify with the sense of being torn over the question.

When your heart is to see people discover the deep and life-changing love and forgiveness that you have experienced, you can't help but see the evangelistic process as a large part, if not the larger part of a mission priority.

So, as I struggled to integrate and broaden my understanding of both the missionary mandate and the evangelistic challenge, it was inevitable that I would seek to understand what exactly mission meant to Jesus and the early church. I'm not sure I worked that one out yet, but I still keep trying!

You need also to understand that central to my call to ministry was my personal heartache over the church as I perceived it back in the late 1970's. At that time I saw contemporaries giving their hearts and lives in God's service in some of the toughest countries of the world. My heart was broken because I wondered how connected these people would be able to remain with the church that sent them out as missionaries in the first place. At that time I saw a church that was disengaged from what I've always believed was it's primary purpose for existence–fulfilling the missionary mandate of Jesus. I wasn't sure how much it cared about the mission let alone the missionaries.

So here I am 30 years later and I'm still wondering how connected to that core mission we are in the local church. What journey have we made? Despite all the innovative thinking and all the emerging theology and terminology, are we any closer to being a truly missional church?

Very interestingly, and it wasn't planned this way, we're going to pray for a group of folk who are planting a new church in Marston Vale in the coming weeks. They already been hard at work developing links and serving the community in one of the villages and now it's time to take the next step towards establishing a church.

Perhaps this will inspire the rest of us to look at the opportunities God is putting right in front of us. I hope it doesn't have the opposite effect of making people complacent, believing we are somehow involved in mission because these church planters are involved.

We cannot do mission vicariously through others.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Another project

I started a new woodworking project today. With the on/off rain, the visiting in-laws and the return to the fray of ministry life, I will have to plan my projects and use the time I have as wisely as I can. This means that it will take longer to make things, but maybe it will be more satisfying, especially if I do them well.

So my new project is an adaptation of a tool chest I saw in Practical Woodworking earlier this year. The original was made from oak, but I thought I could probably make something similar using the 12mm hardwood ply I have left from other things.

It has a series of draws and parts trays that fold out and lift out. There is a carry tote that is used to lock the draws when it's down.

Today I used my sawboard to prepare the major components ready for some dovetailing next week. 

I'll post a few pictures as I go and when I take some. For now it's just about making sure I don't just stop doing anything at all.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Back at the desk

Just to prove I'm back at my desk... honestly this is really me sitting at my desk.

I actually took this picture using the built-in camera on the iMac, a nice little feature. Anne, Ally and I will use the iChat video conferencing feature to keep in touch when she's away at University.

Back to work. It was interesting that over the sabbatical I let all the paperwork just pile up, only paying attention to stuff that really needed it like bank statements and credit card accounts. But I did put everything, more or less, in my inbox. So, on Sunday evening I took out the box , which was overflowing with stuff by now, and within 30 minutes I had it down to an organised pile which then got filtered into files and the tickler file. 

I was most impressed that it took so little time to recapture everything. 

If you've fallen off the organisational wagon, then let this be an encouragement, with a little effort it's fairly painless to climb back on. The only proviso is that you don't spend your time blaming yourself and/or others for becoming disorganised again. Simply set your mind to recapturing things.

Personally I still have a long, long road to travel in the organisation world, but I'm going to persevere because, as L'Oreal might say, "I'm worth it!"

Mozilla Ubiquity

Came across a short review of Mozilla's new toy, Ubiquity today. It's very early days, and by the look of it will be of greatest interest to those folk who live their lives on the internet, organising, planning and the rest.

From what I can see it takes multiple step processes that one typically uses with the internet and makes then executable in plain language and within other applications. So, it's possible to put a map in an email simply by typing the command "Map it".

Of their new product, the developers say:

The overall goals of Ubiquity are to explore how best to:

Empower users to control the web browser with language-based instructions. (With search, users type what they want to find. With Ubiquity, they type what they want to do.)
Enable on-demand, user-generated mashups with existing open Web APIs. (In other words, allowing everyone–not just Web developers–to remix the Web so it fits their needs, no matter what page they are on, or what they are doing.)
Use Trust networks and social constructs to balance security with ease of extensibility.
Extend the browser functionality easily.

Looks very good. I'll probably wait a while before I leap in and try it, but there may be braver souls out there than I who are ready and willing to try the Alpha release.

Why do people boo?

I am very much exercised by the ease with which our culture falls into personal criticism. I don't watch any of the current crop of talent searching, celebrity dancing shows that fill our TV schedules, but I have occasionally caught the end of something prior to settling down to watch Doctor Who!

What bothers me about these programmes is not the so-called expert comments and feedback, or even the painful sight of some aspiring pop-star pleading for a second chance. No, what bothers me is the reaction of the audience. The way they boo the judges, who, to be fair, are simply giving their opinions as they have been asked to do. You may not agree with their assessment, but that doesn't give you the right to either tell them they don't know what they are talking about or to boo them into submission. 

How impolite have we become?

Maybe it was just the way I was brought up but I even had a hard time booing the villain at the pantomime because I was always told it was impolite to boo anyone!

Now, from a Christian perspective the challenge lies in the place grace and prayer occupies in all of this. Can we be gracious and boo at the same time? I'm not sure we can, and if, as Christians, we allow ourselves to get sucked into an attitude that reinforces criticism that is far from constructive, where is the grace in that? Our history probably tells the story.

At the moment the wider community of Bedford is much vexed about travellers. There is a lot of criticism and head-shaking about them. And if it were not the travellers it would be the hoodies, and if not the hoodies it would be the homeless and if not the homeless the restless children in supermarkets. In other words there is always something about which we could and do complain.

So why not pray instead, and if not instead then at least first. Instead of opening our mouths to criticise and complain, let's close our eyes and bow our heads (when practical!) and pray.

This is not about avoiding conflict or ignoring issues and concerns that demand solutions. It's about calling on the God who cares to fill any and every situation with grace. It's about involving the one who cares.

So, to quote the title of a book: Don't just stand there, pray something!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Woodworking photographs

And here's my slightly less impressive gallery of all things woodwork during the sabbatical


If you would like to see some photographs of our summer holiday in Madeira, then visit Ally's gallery for some creative pictures.

Twitter Gadgets

I mentioned a while ago that Ally had got me Twittering or rather tweeting as I believe it's called. In the early days it was a bit of a hassle to keep the thing updated and even now most of my tweets are about what I've just done rather than what I'm currently occupied doing. Still tweeting has been made easier by adding two gadgets to my library.

First there is Twidget a dashboard widget for Mac. You can download it here. It has a simple interface and sits quietly on your dashboard making tweeting simple and quick. 

The only comment I would make is that your status only changes when you tweet from Twidget or force it to update using the refresh button. Apart from that I've had no problems at all.

The second gadget is for my Google homepage. It's called Betwittered and you can add it to your personalised homepage in the usual way.

Like Twidget it enable you to tweet without having to connect to the Twitter site.

So now I can tweet from almost anywhere without having constantly to sign in to the website to do it. 

I'm not sure if this is life transforming in any way, but it's a little bit of fun.

A new resource

Through my RSS feeds I came across this "new" resource. the "About us" page offers the following description:
Too much of Church culture is about making Christianity easy. We believe Christianity should be something so substantial, so world-changing, so counter-cultural, that’s it’s worth giving your life for. Neue is giving voice to a direction that's different. It's counter-cultural ministry. Join us.

Now that intrigues me.

Check out the site for yourself at Neue.

10 ways to live missionally

From the same interview mentioned in the previous post, here are Philip Nation's ten ways to live missionally:
Understand the gospel
Take an external view of people
Be friendly
Watch for a chance to serve
Be truthful
Love like Jesus
Be on guard
Live missionally at home
Show patience
Do it for one reason-the glory of God

Back on the missional trail

I've been quiet about missional church for a while, more focussed on making things from wood than church. But now I'm back at the desk, it's time to get the brain in gear, and this morning I caught up on my RSS feeds. One that caught my eye was from Brad Brisco at the Missional Church Network.

The post was a short extract from an interview by Ed Stetzer about missional living. With our autumn series at church focusing on the things we believe, his comments about why we don't live missionally are interesting. Stetzer identifies two main reasons why we don't live missionally:

a) because they [the 20's to 30's age group, but surely this is true across the age-ranges] believe someone else is doing it,

b) they are selfish

These reasons are unpacked as follows:
Too many Christians assume or deceive themselves into believing that someone else has explained the Gospel to our neighbors, co-workers and friends. Beyond that, believers choose their traditions over the mission. Entire congregations have decided that “the way we do things” is superior to the mission to go, be and tell the Gospel in understandable ways to the culture surrounding them.
He then identifies the barriers we face which include waiting for the church to be renewed and the difference between today's culture beyond the church and the culture we expect to find. 

What I find most disturbing is his analysis of the two reasons we don't live out a missional life. It disturbs me because a part of me, a very large part of me, recognises it as true and I wonder what I, as a church leader, should be doing about it.

How do I set the tone? How do I live and lead by example?

Some big questions to ask and to answer. 

The one thing of which I am sure is that we can never expect to see a missional church without a missional congregation. And we won't get a missional congregation if the missional people leave the church or wait for it to change. 

The complete article is available here.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The boy doesn't feel well

When Pip, the one on the left of the picture, doesn't feel well, you can usually tell. He sits quietly and looks to his sister, Jade, for some sympathy and care. 

Usually the only reason he gets this close is to give her a wash prior to biting her because he wants her to move.

Today is different, he needs a little nursing and she's happy to oblige him.

Back to work

So, it's back to work today after three months away. It's a strange feeling, wondering what I'm going to find. I guess today will be fairly quiet, although I've already had a 'phone call and a couple of emails to deal with. 

Because of the way I structured my sabbatical, or rather didn't structure it, I'm not coming back with fresh vision or lots of new ideas. But I'm also aware that there are things that I'm probably more ready to reflect upon now that I've had some time away and a good rest to boot. 

So I'm back. Sermons to write, celebrations to plan, mission to envision and encourage. But first the dentist!