Wednesday, June 30, 2010

We Can Do That

When I first took delivery of this book I read down the contents list and immediately put it to one side. I guess my first thought was that nothing in this book was going to connect with my church setting and more to the point I wasn't sure I shared any common ground with the authors about what church should be.

Then I came back to it and picked out a couple of chapters to read. Initially I found them irritating if I'm honest. Where are these guys coming form? What planet do they live on? And a few other thoughts crossed my mind.

I decided to read the introduction to see if that helped. It did. I began to see more clearly the heart and the perspective behind the book. I started reading it from the beginning and this time I found it more helpful.

There are still things that just don't connect at all, but that's not a problem. This isn't a prescription for fixing church. It's actually quite an interesting insight into how larger churches function. There's some useful stuff about keeping people informed, navigating change and leadership.

I'm still not comfortable with a number of things, but skipping over certain chapters that have no relevance to me at all, and picking up on some of the others has been very useful.

Walking the streets


For some time now I've had a map on the wall of my study at church showing the local area. I've outlined the perimeter with a yellow highlighter. My best guess is that it is about 8 miles or so around the edge. But my first task was always going to be to walk various sections as prayer walks. My goal is, eventually, to have walked every street, but that is going to take some time and an investment in a new pair or two of trainers!

So, I divided the area inside my yellow line into three sections and I've now walked all three. They take about 60-80 minutes each to complete, and need a little modifying. It may be better to make them four, especially because I've just realised I've missed out a bit!

It's certainly given me a slightly different perspective on the place.

Walking and praying isn't that easy. You tend to get rather repetitive. I usually listen to some worship as I go and allow that to shape my prayers, but I don't pray all the time.

I sometime wonder if just being out of the streets, encircling a place, is a bit like Joshua and Jericho. Hopefully spiritual walls will fall rather than garden walls! Perhaps I should invest in a vuvuzela before the football finishes and they're no longer available. Mind you, I'm more likely to get arrested for disturbing the peace if I start blowing one of those at 7:00am!

The Inner Conversation

Here is another helpful article by Gordon MacDonald about the need for time alone with God.

It is always helpful to be reminded of the necessity for such times of reflection and re-calibration of one's spiritual life, especially as a leader. We are often pulled in many directions at once and need to press the spiritual reset button.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Flowers

Just a flower in the garden of the place we stayed on holiday.

Was it only a week ago that we were staring at Stonehenge and wondering where to go next?

Sadly, because I don't particularly want to carry my camera around with when I'm walking, I don't take as many photographs as I could.

But then again, sometimes the best subjects are just outside your door! These plants were in the small garden outside the converted cart shed in which we stayed.

I quite like taking pictures of flowers and plants. This is just using the normal lens on the camera. The trick is narrowing the depth of field. But you knew that anyway!

Most new cameras have a flower setting that does it all for you. I remember the days when you had to change the shutter speed and balance the aperture to get the exposure right and the depth of field just where you wanted it. Then you waited for the film to be developed only to discover you hadn't got it quite right. Happy days!

I like the waxy texture on these buds.

Incremental Preaching

Here's an interesting article about preaching.

Incremental Preaching | LeadershipJournal.net

I actually read quite a lot about preaching and about how different churches approach building series and planning programmes. I still believe that there is a place for the sermon, but it has to be part of a wider, and maybe deeper, commitment to living transformed lives. I worry that we have we invested so much time and effort in teaching truth that we've lost our ability or even desire to implement that truth. We simply don't do application very well.

It isn't that we don't strive to find the application, it's just that we rate clever alliteration and sound doctrine above the actual life changing application of the message. We prefer intellectual stimulation over the uncomfortable challenge to live differently.

I know I don't always succeed to do this, but when I preach my intention is to inspire us to see the bigger picture, to grasp the amazing possibilities of what a life lived in the hands of God might look like, and then to pursue it with everything we have. I am, I will confess, less interested in teaching a group of people stuff they probably already know, and much more concerned with how we are being transformed into the image of Christ.

Anyway, I found this article interesting and helpful and challenging.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Standing Stones

These standing stones need no introduction, but in case you're not familiar with Britain's ancient past, this is Stonehenge.

There's much speculation about the origins and purpose of these stones, but at the very least they stand as a testimony to the ingenuity and perseverance on the folk that dragged them into position.

See the world!

The stone globe at Durlston Head, Swanage.

Reliving old holidays

When I was growing up, we spent several summer holidays with my Aunt and Uncle in Swanage, Dorset. Well, this last week we've been staying on a farm in the New Forest and not too far away from there.

So we decided, or at least I proposed and everyone else agreed, that we spent a day in and around Swanage and Corfe. we took the chain ferry from Sandbanks, another nostalgia moment, and drove into the old town. Nothing much had changed. Obviously some shops had come and gone, but many familiar things were still there. The British Legion Club across the street from where my Aunt and Uncle lived, the Mowlem restuarant where my Aunt once apologiesd to some people she didn't know because of the noise we were making. We were laughing about something or other and she simply turned around and said, "I'm every so sorry about the noise, it's my sister-in-law, she's omly visiting us." Needless to say, we laughed even louder.

Then we went up to see the Tilly Whim caves, a favourite place all those years ago! I remember getting to see around the lighthouse one day, and exploring the caves too. The caves were closed to the public in 1976.

Here's the lighthouse.

From there we drove over the Corfe Castle and looked around the model village and the ruined castle.

I can't remember what age I was, but I do remember spending the day at Corfe taking photographs on an old Kodak Instamatic. One of the pictures I took was of the model castle with the real one in the background. The trees have all grown now, so it's a little more difficult to take the same photograph, but you can still do it.

Perhaps if I search through all the old photo's I'll come across the original one I took over 40 years ago!

The model village is a wonderful work of art.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Good Church Meeting?

I realise for some that the idea of a good church meeting is as much like an oxymoron as military intelligence or well-organised chaos. But I actually think we had a good church meeting last night.

Firstly it wasn't too long. An hour and a half. I've had shorter meetings, but this wasn't bad, and it didn't drag. Secondly, there were lots of interesting ideas and discussion. Okay, so we didn't all get the point of some of the things about which we were talking, but we all got to have our say and we discovered a few interesting tangents to explore too.

Thirdly, we prayed together. We prayed a lot for a church meeting. It's something I'm very keen that we do. Without it becoming a stop start thing, I'm always looking at the agenda and the things we discuss to see where and when it's most appropriate for us to stop and pray.

I think the layout helped too. Instead of rows of chairs facing forward, we had seats on three sides so we could all see each other. It seemed to create a different atmosphere, or at least support one.

There were other factors I'm sure, but these were the things that I noticed that I think contributed to us having a good meeting.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

On the size of the pitch

I know this will be worrying all of you...

The pitch at West Ham's stadium is 100.5m by 64m given an area of 6,432 square metres. Twickenham is 105m by 68m, which doesn't sound much longer or wider, about 4 metres in either direction. But do the maths and the area is 7,140 square metres! That's over 700 square metres more playing area to cover!

Interestingly the Wembley pitch is 105m by 69m. In case you were wondering!

Well it's about time I actually got on with something useful.

Me and Three: Plan B

Just so you don't all worry, plan B worked!

Being a genius, (a machine at a service station on the M1 told me I was genius when I was about 10 as I recall and who am I to argue?) I swapped the SIM card from the Mi-Fi to the dongle I bought last year. The software associated with dongle allows text messaging and so I was able to set up a new online account.

Simple really, but still a bit of a nuisance.

By the way, if you have a Mac and are running Snow Leopard, don't use a dongle. Ally tried it and it broke her computer. did something to the kernel and she needed a new hard drive as well as fresh installation of the operating system. The newer dongles might have fixed that, but the Mi-Fi seems a safer option because it doesn't require any software or drivers.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Me and Three

I just love the wonderful logic of some organisations and companies. Take Three for example. I've just recently bought a Mi-Fi with a rolling contract at £5 for 1Gb of data. Not a bad deal as far as I could see and this way I get to connect any device to the internet rather than just a 'phone or portable computer or my favourite new gadget, the iPad!

Anyway, I thought it might be rather simple to add the new SIM to my existing Three account for the dongle I bought a year ago. Not so. I called customer services, got passed around a few times and eventually I lost the will to listen to more music and hung up. A job for another day I decided.
Then the letter arrived. It welcomed me to the network and introduced "My3" as "the best way to keep track of what you're spending."

You can access this facility over the internet, but you need a three 'phone to receive the text message that gives you the link to set up the account. I've been down this road before, last year in fact, but I hoped things had changed. But wait, something new, here's a "what to do if you don't have a Three 'phone". Wonderful I thought, just what I need. Things have changed!

Visit the webpage, enter your mobile number and we'll send you a link. Great. So I do just that. Wait a minute, it doesn't like my number, it's not a Three number. Well of course not, I don't have a Three 'phone! Okay, so I try the number from the new Mi-Fi. Works a treat. Number accepted, link being sent. Wait a minute, where exactly are you sending the link.

The penny drops.

The link will have been sent to the number I've just entered. The one for which I don't have a 'phone and can't receive text messages through because.... I don't have a Three 'phone. Arrgh!

The last section of the letter asks, "Any Question?" Yes, I've got questions!

I think it will have to be plan B, but that is a job for another day!

A Question of Treasure

Yesterday at church we explored what Jesus had to say about storing up treasure in heaven. We really didn't have the time to explore every angle and every thought. On reflection there are some things I wish I'd talked about and a few I wish I hadn't!

Part of the problem with such a passage is how do avoid the extremes of either over spiritualising it, or indeed under spiritualising it. In other words, how do you avoid separating what Jesus had to say about money from our real world experience of wealth and poverty, and turning it into just three or four spiritual lessons?

Well you certainly can't avoid his main point that you can't serve money, or wealth, and God. And secondly, that your heart will follow your treasure, what you value most. Now the first is surely not saying that wealth is incompatible with Christianity, but it does serve as a warning about being enslaved to wealth. The rich young ruler faced this problem and couldn't deal with it.

Perhaps the 21st century issue is more about our economic model than pure wealth, although I'm sure wealth remains an issue. Is it too simplistic an observation to suggest that the current economic crisis was fuelled by wealth driven ideals and that having broken down it will be the poor and lower paid members of society that will pay the price to fix it. Governments borrow money to bail out the banks and then cut benefits and public services to pay for it. The wealthy remain relatively untouched by the crisis but the disadvantaged and marginalised becoming more disadvantaged and more marginalised.

But back to the economic model. What does Jesus have to say about that?  Well, in the passage in Matthew 6 I think he has something to say. I think he would say, "Don't be a slave to the economic model that says you will always need more." Now I don't think that he is calling us to sell up and move into communes where we grow our own vegetables and live like a new Amish community of some sorts. But we all know that our current model is simply unsustainable. If we export that model to the developing world we know we face disaster. But what are we to do? We are driven by the need to consume more and more in order to sustain the economy that is built upon providing stuff for us to consume.

I don't think it is wise to generalise about what we all should do, but it would do us no harm to sit down and think about how we can shift our priorities away from storing up treasure on earth and what a new economic model would like in that context. Maybe then we would find the liberation Jesus offers us to serve him wholeheartedly without worrying about what it might cost us.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Global Day of Prayer

Sitting in West Ham's stadium my first thought was how small the pitch seemed compared to somewhere like Twickenham! However, we weren't there for a football game, we were there for a prayer meeting.

How exactly do you organise a prayer meeting on this kind of scale? How do you work out the programme, the scope of it. Well first of all you make it a three hour event, four if you count the warm up, which I thought was going to be rather too long, but in the end the time went quite quickly. Oddly, although I assume we got all our tickets at the same time, we were not sitting together. That didn't really matter.

The prayer topics were well planned and well led. It was particularly moving to hear the prayers for the persecuted church. Okay, so some times the people praying appeared to assume God was somewhat hard of hearing. But that's not really a problem. Just because I'm not wired up to be loud doesn't mean other people can't be. It would be a sad world and a somewhat boring church if we were all the same!

It surprises me that more people weren't there. There was quite a good crowd. I think we were in the west stand, but I've no idea how many people that would have been. It would certainly have been good to see more of the stadium filled.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Volunteers needed?

I was invited to attend a meeting of "third sector" organisations which happened today. The Third Sector refers to voluntary, community and faith organisations, in case you didn't know! We had a really helpful presentation of the new government's flagship policies and some discussion about how they might affect the VCFS organisations.

Of course the major factor will be in funding. Much of which will simply disappear as the collective belt of local government is tightened by central government. But that was going to happen whoever controlled the purse strings. What was interesting was the idea of a Big Society. Two principles should get us thinking.

First the idea of a return to philanthropy. If by that we mean people giving in order to care and support the disadvantaged, maybe all well and good. However, do we really want to turn the clock back to a time when the rich cared for the poor and society didn't? Perhaps I'm being unkind to the idea of a new philanthropy. I'm just not keen on leaving the poor and disadvantaged of our communities in the hands of the wealthy.

The second idea concerns volunteering. If people are going to get involved in their communities we will need to crack the issues and challenges surrounding volunteering. Do people readily volunteer in today's society? In church we rely heavily on volunteers to get everything done. But even in church we never seem to have enough of them. Mostly it seems to be a function of time. Not enough of it to do the things everyone wants to do. People are too tired or too stressed or working too many hours to be able to give much time to volunteer.

If we want to release people in order to be able to volunteer in the community, churches will have to look at what they expect of members and we will need a new imagination of volunteering as a society. I certainly don't believe compulsory volunteering is an answer. I'm not sure how we do this, but I'm also not convinced that the community at large is ready to take on the tasks and responsibilities required in the big new society envisioned by government. We have a lot of work to do.

Maybe churches can lead the way as we release our people to volunteer beyond the church. Instead of pressing more people into action to run more programmes in the church, maybe we should be reducing our programmes in order to free up time to serve our community where it needs it.

I don't know. But it's something we are all, church or non-church, are going to have to come terms with in this brave new world of smaller government.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Life with an iPad

I purposefully haven't gone on and on about having an iPad, partly because not everyone is interested and partly because I don't want to sound like a Mac-junkie drooling over the latest offering from Apple Corp. But I've had it two weeks and I'm settling down to using it.

The wow factor hasn't really worn off, and most of the people that have shown interest in it are equally wowed by how it does some things. In terms of mobile computing, I don't think it will be long before we see more of these kinds of devices. They are lighter than traditional portable computers, the screen is easier to read than most portable computers I've seen and functionally they do what you need them to do. Okay so currently the iPad doesn't multitask, but I sometimes wonder what we mean by multitask. Usually it's about having more than one document open at a time and flipping between them. Rarely does it mean having two programmes running at the same time doing two different tasks. Having said that, I know it's important and for some a let down that iPad doesn't.

So how have I been using my iPad? So far it's been about notes. I used to carry an A5 version of a Filofax system around with me. The iPad probably compares quite well on weight, but it wins hands down when it comes to carrying it. The Filofax was quite thick and therefore awkward to carry in your hand. The iPad is quick and easy to use to make all sorts of notes, and better still, organise those notes. I use Evernote for this and it works well. I can review my notes by tags or date.

Secondly, if I want to write I can do that with Pages, the Mac word processor that has an iPad version. It's neat, easy to use and you can share your documents via iWork.com. I'm awaiting delivery of iWorks '09 which is designed to work with the iWork cloud. I recently did a a sort discussion paper for the local minister's group. I did it on the iPad and used the iPad at the meeting. No paper! Could it be that the long promised days of reducing paper use have actually arrived? The text is so clear and so readable I didn't feel the need to print out my two sheets of A4, one of which would have had about three lines on it.

Which brings me to book reading on the iPad. Clear text, bright colours, easy navigation. Finally I feel able to read e-books without ruining my eyesight or needing to carry another single function device around with me. Okay so I'm not about to stop buying printed books any time soon, but I'm very impressed with the iPad's reader interface.

My personal let down? Well that would have to Keynote. Looks very easy to use, but it is let down when you use a projector. For some reason, I'm sure someone will say a good reason, once you begin a presentation on an external monitor, the images disappear from the iPad. Why? I don't know,but it seems obvious to me that anyone doing a presentation needs to see what they are presenting! Maybe there's a setting I've missed, but given that most Mac software and hardware seems to do exactly what you expect it to do without fiddling about with settings and control panels, I think this is a major flaw in Keynote.

I think that by the time we reach the third or fourth generation of iPad and iPad derivatives, we may well see the end of the either the desktop computer or the traditional portable laptop. But while we wait for that day I'm really pleased I've invested in the iPad, especially when i walk out the door without a briefcase weighed down with a MacBook, a diary and a good book to read. Lightweight and paperless. Do you think there's at least an advertising jingle in that?

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Are we Building on the wrong foundation?

It was my turn, well actually I volunteered, to share something at the minister's fellowship. Not wanting to be controversial, I thought I'd raise a question about the church. Here's what I talked about.

To get us thinking I want to make a suggestion about the church. First I ought to let you know that I believe that it's time for the church to change. I'm not altogether sure what that change will ultimately look like but I know that somehow we need to find a way to realign the church with the mission of God. It probably requires fresh vision and a new imagination.

It will require us to move from programmes as the solution to things and towards lifestyle choices and patterns as the alternatives. It is, at its heart the debate about what it means to be missional.

One quote that constantly comes to mind is something Rowan Williams said: It is not that the Church of God has a mission, it is that the God of mission has a church.

Within that discussion, the discussion about programmes, core values, and priorities that spring from a changing perspective of the nature and purpose of the church, I'd like to introduce a question.

My proposition today focuses on something Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord

Eph. 2:19-21

One simple question. Have we built the church on the wrong foundation?

What is not at issue here is the cornerstone role of Jesus. This remains the bedrock on which we build. The issue is the first layer of bricks! Paul speaks of the apostles and prophets. Our model tends towards the pastors and teachers. Where does that lead us? Maintenance and isolation. Apostles and prophets push at the boundaries, pastors and teachers preserve and purify. This isn't about devaluing the role of pastors and teachers, or indeed to ignore the contribution that evangelists make. The question is simply one of the basis on which we build church.

My proposition is that the progress of the early church came through the apostolic ministry and not the pastoral ministry. We could, and should discuss the nature of apostolic ministry in today's church. But if we do, let's not modify it to fit our theology or more importantly perhaps our lack of experience of some aspects of a New Testament perspective of an apostle. In other words, let's not turn and apostle of the first century into a CEO of the twenty first century!

I guess my fundamental question has more to do with how we recapture the pioneering, church planting, life transforming, gospel culture that seems to have been lost to the church as a result of focussing upon our teaching and internal care as the foundations for our fellowship and not the grand mission of God.

And that's where I stopped and we talked. I'm not sure we came up with any answers, but there is an underlying sense amongst all of us that there is something fundamentally broken about the way we do church. It simply isn't working as it should for the glory of God and the purposes of the kingdom.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, June 07, 2010

Artwork for Sunday

This is our latest piece of artwork for church. I like having things like this around. It's original and useful and interactive.

The white space has now been written on and some room left for more comments. During Sunday morning's celebration we asked the congregation what they thought was counter-cultural today. Hopefully we might get a few more added as we work our way through the Sermon on the Mount between now and the summer.

The artwork in the picture is 1200mm tall (4ft) and 1800mm wide (6ft). Next time we might go for a 20ft by 8ft piece! This one is hanging on the front of the pulpit.

Thanks to Matthew and Ally for all their hard work putting this together.

The Beatitudes


The Beatitudes from richardpool on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

When celebrity is good

If I'm really honest I don't generally give much thought to celebrities. Being famous for being famous or being famous for knowing someone famous never seems to be much of a career. True there are those who achieve celebrity stays because of gifts and skills they've developed and used to their advantage.

But I'm watching a bit of Soccer Aid, and I must say that here is a good use of celebrity status.

Perhaps a social scientist would be able to tell us if Band Aid was a turning point. Was this when celebrities came of age and realised they could do something that would make a difference in the world?

Who knows, but the 70,000 in the crowd are having a good time, the two teams are having fun and money is being raised. All power to the collective elbow of the celebrities who are taking part and to the footballers involved.

Or should that be collective foot!


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, June 04, 2010

Oil, but at what cost?

There are many reasons why I've been following the story of the oil disaster impacting the Gulf Coast in America. As someone who has a background in environmental science I'm interested in the processes involved in stopping the leak, and sorting out the damage. It amazes me that it has taken so long. I understand it's a complex business at the kind of depths that are involved, but where was the contingency plan? Why do the oil companies between them appear not to have a strategy for this kind of thing?

Then there is the clean-up. We don't seem to have made much progress at all in dealing with oil spills. The technology looks little different to the things that were in use in the 70's. Different chemicals I guess, but I haven't seen much that suggests innovation.

But there is also the need to ask questions about our continually increasing dependence upon oil, a dependence that drives us to more risky attempts to extract the oil form the earth. It seems to me that we must ask questions about a development model that puts our environment as so much risk.

Which do you think is the greater eyesore, offshore wind farms or large areas of coastline covered in crude oil and uninhabitable to wildlife?

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The secret power of time

Animated talks

Came across some really interesting animated talks about motivation, use of time etc. Here's the one on motivation.

Praying for Cumbria

It's always a time of questioning things when you wake up to the news of events like those that occurred yesterday in Cumbria. For me it's made all the more vivid by knowing the area. I love the Lake District, and I know the places mentioned in the news reports. Many times I driven a similar route from Whitehaven to Boot through the peaceful countryside of West Cumbria.

I find it hard to imagine this part of the Lakes becoming the scene of such a terrible day's event. But then I guess that was also true for anyone who knew Hungerford all those years ago.

So I'll pray for the families and the people of Cumbria today. I'll pray for the survivors and the grieving, I'll pray for the people with questions that I suspect will never be properly answered. I'll pray too for those who somewhere will carry a sense of responsibility as they wonder if they were the one who applied the final straw.

May they all know God's grace, experience his tenderness and find a place of comfort in his mercy. If Jesus wept over Jerusalem, I believe he still weeps over tragedies like this.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Reflecting on funerals

I had the privilege of leading a funeral today. Not an unusual thing for a Baptist minister to do. It certainly doesn't get any easier with the passing of time. Maybe it's something to with not wanting to get things wrong, maybe it's to do with a sense of one's own inadequacies, I don't know.

Today was an interesting mix of many things. We had Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and another piece of music drawn from the 50's. We sang There is a Green Hill, and Make me a channel of your peace. We read and prayed and as usual I looked out across the faces and wondered just how much sense we were actually making of death and grief and loss. not a lot I suspect.

Everyone is always so appreciative of what you do at a funeral, at least to your face! But do they ever get what you're trying to say. I wonder. I don't blame them. If I blame anyone, I blame myself for failing to make it clear.

But it must be hard when you've lost a friend or a family member and you have no faith context in which to try to make sense of it all. The words that are so familiar to churched people must sound very strange to the unchurched ear.

I guess in the end, doing funerals reminds me of the significance and importance of the mission into which we have been commissioned. For if we don't help, someone else will, and they might hear a different story. A story that doesn't carry the hope that our story carries.

It reminds me too that sometimes we get so caught up in the petty things of church life that we forget what's really important.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Letting go of personal agendas

Mark 8:43ff finds Jesus challenging his hearers to deny self, take up a cross and follow. We can all generalise about what this means, but what about at a personal level? What does it mean to you,what does it mean to me to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Jesus?

I know there are many things for which I've been praying over the years. Things that I think will improve my ability to serve God. But they are my ideas not God's. Perhaps the journey to discovering how to deny oneself and carry a cross comes through the things God does not give us as much as it might through the things he does give us.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Songs of Fellowship index

I've tidied up the Excel version of the Song of Fellowship index that I made for myself. I've corrected a numbering error, removed a few anomalies and added book numbers for those who use the individual music copies.

If it's of help you can find it here.

I suppose I should point out that I've done this to make my life easier when producing the song list for Sundays. Any errors are my fault!!