Thursday, September 30, 2010

September walking stats

So, September has come to an end and it's time to add up the walking numbers for the month.

Total steps = 375, 295

Daily average = 12, 510

Approx. distance = 187 miles

From August 1st, when I began to record the data, I've walked approximately 357 miles and taken 715, 302 steps. I've also managed 47 consecutive days of 10, 000 steps or more.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I saw a great sign in the car park of a local hospital today. I meant to take a picture on my way out, but forgot to do so. The sign read as follows:

Parking for staff and visitors only

So who else might be going to a hospital? Patients perhaps, or more likely it's for all those people who might park there and then catch the bus to the station. So it undoubtedly has a meaning beyond the obvious, but I still thought it was one of those signs that required a second look and a bit of thought.

John's gospel is the gospel of signs, things, events that point beyond themselves to something greater, something more significant.

The miracles were not just clever tricks, they were indicators that the kingdom of God was among the people and things were different.

Many people saw the signs but missed their significance.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, September 27, 2010

Why? The natural question

I was reading Psalm 10 and thought about the most common questions we ask. Psalm 10 asks one of those questions?

Why doesn't God do something about all the bad stuff?

The psalmist doesn't try to come up with some neat theological answer. What they do is to point us towards a hope and understanding that God hears the cry of the victims and that one day everything will be sorted out.

The comfort comes not from knowing the outcome or avoiding the pain, but by knowing that ultimately God is in control whatever the circumstances. Personal pain is not easy to bear, but Psalm 10 reminds us that we need not be defined forever by the things we suffer.

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Saturday, September 25, 2010


Here's a useful idea for all those of us who find their workflow broken by interruptions in whatever guise they come. The basic concept is called "bookmarking". What you do is quite simple. When you get interrupted you create a bookmark by writing down on a post-it or a piece of paper three things:

  • What you were doing
  • What you were thinking
  • What you planned to do next

Put this bookmark with any papers etc that you were working on and then deal with the interruption. If that comes in the shape of a 'phone call or visitor, you will need to ask them for a moment to make your note, but I think this could be really helpful, not only to refocus on what you were doing, but also to be able to give the interruption your full attention without begrudging it.

I often have to set aside what I'm doing to go to a meeting or appointment to answer the 'phone or door. I think this simple technique might help my workflow.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Missional Map-Making

I've just finished reading Alan Roxburgh's book. To be honest I'm not sure what I make of it. Overall the book takes some reading. It is full of analysis about how the world has changed and how the church hasn't but needs to. It's typically missional in its outlook, as you'd expect. Some of the analysis is helpful but there were times when I got somewhat lost and desperately wanted to move on from the analysis to the opportunities. Maybe that's a product of a modern model!

By the time I reached the latter chapters I was ready for something practical and it comes in chapters 8 and 9 as we turn to the map-making process. This is where Roxburgh introduces us to the idea of developing a core identity, reinvesting in spiritual practices and creating parallel cultures. In fact, chapter 8 might just be the most helpful chapter in the whole book.

The book suffers from some poor proofreading in the edition I have. Too many syntax errors make it necessary to reread sentences.

Overall the book is worth reading but it isn't easy to read. It is dense, thoughtful, challenging, provocative and stimulating. You can't really skip part one in order to get to the more practical section, but you will need to persevere to get the best out of the book.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

On Discipleship

Another useful post from the Acts 29 blog, this time about discipleship as doing:

The accounts in the Gospels and the Book of Acts put a huge emphasis on doing when it comes to making disciples. The gospels are accounts of Jesus’ works, and they’re also the accounts of his disciples, young Christians, doing as their master did. Acts is the account of the young church, made up of young Christians, going out, preaching the gospel, and doing great works in Jesus name.

David, on a good day!

Psalm 9 open with these words:

I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart;
    I will tell of all your wonders.
I will be glad and rejoice in you;
    I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

It's quite an expression of exuberant praise, but it also speaks to a deeper reality. A phrase I often use is this: "Worship is always a valid response." As far as I am aware, worship is never an optional thing in the Bible. I haven't yet found the verse that says, "I will worship God when I feel up to it." And yet this is how many of us live our lives. We squeeze a little prayer and worship into our day if we can manage it. We build our devotional lives around our otherwise busy schedules.

But tough as it is, we know that this is not how it should be. We know that everything we do ought to flow out of our relationship with God. Sadly, as evangelicals, we've lost the art of communion with God. We ask the wrong questions. we wonder what is the shortest time we can spend seeking God in order to guarantee an answer to our prayers. Is ten minutes a day of bible reading, prayer and meditation enough to satisfy him and therefore prevent anything nasty cropping up in our lives.

How different might things be if we ordered our lives around time spent with God. This won't just happen. It will take a disciplined person choosing to make some disciplined choices and taking some disciplined action, to paraphrase Jim Collins.

Perhaps it's time to learn again the principles and practices of a daily routine of prayer and reflection that takes us through the day, stopping at set times to give thanks and to remember that God is with us, loves us and wants to work through us.

Yielded is a word that comes to mind.

Perhaps my next project should be some kind of one month guide with which I, and anyone else who fancies the idea, can experiment. A simple start the day, end the day and stop somewhere in between kind of thing.

A final thought from Psalm 9:

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
       a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name will trust in you,
       for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A thing of beauty

Have you seen the new ipod nano yet?

I popped into the Applestore recently and I have to say I think it looks wonderful. I know I'm a bit of a Mac freak, but I do think this little device is a wonderful piece of design.

If I didn't already own an iPhone, and iPod Touch, a MacBook, an iMac and of course an iPad, then I might be tempted to go shopping.

After all, my old Nano has bitten the dust, and this one does have a pedometer built in, just hat I need to keep track of all those steps I take while I listen some inspiring music!

Old Testament history reading plan

Over the years I've developed a range of reading plans to help me consistently read my bible, but also to help others to. This last couple of years I've been working on a three year plan which takes you through the New Testament in a year, then the Old Testament history in the second year and then the wisdom and prophetic books in the third year. Important as it is, I haven't included Leviticus in the plan!

I've just finished setting out the final quarter of the Old Testament history plan, and Anne and I have been going through it this year. Roughly speaking it takes in 33 verses a day and finishes with a day to spare, so I've not put a reading in for Christmas day!

To make it easier to plan, I worked out the date each book needed to finish in order to get through everything in the year. That was quite helpful because there were times when I needed to catch up a day, which meant going back through the readings and making some longer. The length of the readings actually vary quite a lot. There are very chapter that are exactly 33 verses long, and sometimes the division come at unhelpful moments on the narrative.

I'll see if I can post a link to a pdf version of the draft schedule in case anyone is interested in trying it out next year.

Losing weight

I haven't blogged much about losing weight, but today was one of the nice milestones and worth a mention. When I stepped on the scales this morning it read 15st 5lbs. Now that might still sound like a lot, and there is still some way to go before I get to a healthy weight for my height according to those infamous BMI tables, but it represents a big step along the way. It means I've lost 2st in imperial numbers, 13Kg on a metric scale.

People are beginning to notice, and asking what we've done. Well, back in July we began following a plan called The Dukan Diet. I liked the approach of a phased understanding of what we were doing. Let's be honest, losing weight is one thing, stabilising your new weight quite another. No way do either Anne of I want to go up and down.

The plan is very simple. The main part of the programme consists of alternating a day where you eat protein and vegetables with a day when you eat only protein. Add to that the non-negotiables of 1.5 litres of water a day,  a daily dose of oat bran and 30 minutes walking and you have the main weight loss phase sorted out.

We've found it very easy to follow and probably the only other variable is discipline. Yes, sad to say there are no magic solutions to making this work, you just have to be disciplined about your choices. But then if you can't do discipline then you probably can't succeed with any programme.

So we're happy with our progress and by encouraging each other we're finding the discipline part is okay. For me, I keep a record of my weight and of the exercise I do. I record my daily steps and accumulate the data to see how far I've gone each week and then each month. Along with the scales, it motivates me to keep going towards my goal.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Principles for the church

I came across these principles via another blog. I've picked out the ones that caught my attention.

Programmes don’t attract people; people attract people

As a whole, cluttered and complex churches are not alive.

Growing people grow people; consuming people consume programmes

Strategy as assimilation should not be confused with spiritual formation; one is about getting individuals into the body of Christ, the other is about getting the life of Christ into the individual.

The two biggest reasons people don’t get more involved are 1) they don’t know how and 2) nobody invited them.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Called or driven?

Yesterday we looked at the lessons to learn from John the Baptist as we continued our journey through the gospel of John and the people Jesus met.

As I prepared for Sunday I remembered that Gordon MacDonald had written about John in his book Ordering your Private World. I remembered the distinction he made between a called life and a driven life. Rereading that part of the book was very helpful as I looked to structure what I wanted to say on Sunday.

We talked about how called people understand their true identity, their purpose, and the nature of commitment. A quote from MacDonald's book that I didn't use seems to sum things up nicely.

To order my life according the expectations of myself and others; and to value myself according to the opinions of others; these can play havoc with my inner world. But to operate on the basis of God's call is to enjoy a great deal of order within.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Too cool to be church?

Here's a good question as we navigate our way in this new space, making new maps by which to plot new courses.

"Is Christianity ever meant to be cool?"

I'm not going to discuss it now, but this blog post raised the question and if this isn't the right question, then somewhere there is a question about how we seek to be relevant but sometimes only end up aping the culture around us without ever engaging it.

Fortunately I've a strong feeling that I'm way beyond ever being described as hip, unless the sentence in question has something to do with joint replacement surgery!

Losing track of time

As I walked back through the town on my afternoon walk I met someone standing outside a solicitors office trying to get in with some papers in their hand.

"Excuse me," she said, "can you read that?" pointing at the sign on the door. "It says, 'Monday to Thursday 9:00am to 6:00pm, Friday 9:00 to 5:00', but it's not 5:00 o'clock yet is it?"

"No, it's not 5:00 yet," I said, "but it is Saturday!"

"Oh, dear," she said, "How embarrassing."

Puts me in mind of the story a friend used to tell about her mother. Apparently she went to the opticians with her new prescription and asked, "Can you make me a pair of glasses to this prescription?

"No, I'm sorry madam we can't do that."

"Call yourselves an optician," she said.

"No madam, we're the dry cleaners, the optician is next door."

Friday, September 17, 2010

Prayers for the church

Here are ten great prayers for the church, reproduced from a blog post by James Emery White:

Ten Missional Prayers for the Church Today

1. That pastors would see other churches in their immediate vicinity as a co-laborer, not as the competition.

2. That members of churches would see themselves as ministers and missionaries, dying to themselves for the sake of the cause, as opposed to consumers who care most about whether they are fed, ministered to, or served themselves.

3. That parachurch organizations would be church organizations - meaning serving alongside the church while giving the local church the pre-eminence it deserves - and allowing the partnership to reach its full redemptive potential in light of the biblical mandate.

4. That church planters would commit to being a) sent by a church; b) called by a community; and c) eager to go where no one has gone. Instead of a) sending themselves; b) going to where they simply desire to live; and c) remaining blind to the reality that they'll be the 11th McDonalds in a row of ten existing ones.

5. That all seminaries would remember that they exist to serve the church, and that they would serve the church to such a degree that their students would be more on fire to serve and build the local church after they have graduated than before they entered.

6. That those committed to discipleship, and rightly so, would quit pitting it against evangelism as if any emphasis on "reaching out" somehow takes away from "building up", creating a false dichotomy that doesn't exist biblically.

7. That older generations would quit worrying about whether they are being catered to sufficiently, and would become more interested in whether they are passing the baton on to the next generation that is so desperate and hungry for mentoring.

8. That the false dichotomy between a concern for personal or sexual morality, and social justice, would evaporate. Instead, that we would see that being salt and light applies to both concerns: being as concerned for a culture of divorce as much as we are for the AIDS pandemic in Africa.

9. That the pendulum between whether to share the gospel or engage in social ministry would also disappear. That we would see them not as an either-or, but a both-and; we are to give a cup of water and the bread of life, feeding both stomach and soul.

10. That we would understand that lost people are the enemy, but instead the objects of the Father's heart - and thus, they should be the objects of ours. That we would join the Father as He sets out to find His lost sheep, search for His lost coin, and look desperately down the road for His prodigal son.

James Emery White

I have prayers I pray for the church every day, I might have to add some of these ideas into my list!

Not just for Pastors

Bitterness gets into everyone's life at some point. I've known people whose lives have been shaped and ruined by bitterness. Dustin Neeley has written a helpful post about how to deal with bitterness. His outline is just as valid for any person and doesn't just apply to those of us who find ourselves in the position of pastoral leadership.

He offers the following suggestions:

1. Take it all to Jesus.

2. Forgive the offending party even when they don't ask to be forgiven.

3. Turn off the movie in your mind.

4. Filter the experience through the lens of Scripture.

5. Pray for the person who hurt you.

It's not rocket science, just plain and simple discipleship stuff. You will need to read the whole thing to get the fuller picture. Here's the link.

Shut up and Listen Evangelism!

Leonard Sweet has written a new book Nudge and this video interview explores the ideas in and behind the book. If you are familiar with ideas like partnership with God in his mission and doable evangelism, then this will sound reassuring!

During the interview you will hear the contrast between the traditional "Go and tell" strategy for outreach and the "Shut up and listen" strategy that Sweet talks about. I think the book might be worth a read!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Welcome Fairs and meeting nuns

I've had an interesting couple of days. Yesterday and today I've been at the local College's Welcome Fair for students. We are hoping that a Christian group will form for the students, so I was there to represent the church in a broader faith context.

We had a few conversations, but most of the students were more interested in the free popcorn someone was making!

Then today I spent half an hour talking to one of the nuns at the local convent. She's speaking at an interfaith event and we talked about the topic she has to address. I'm not the only local church leader with whom she has spoken.

It made me think about my late aunt and her sister, I think is was her sister, who was a nun. Full of life and joy as I recall. As it should be.

There are only six nuns living in community at the convent in Upminster. And it's a big old house for six! I quite fancy the idea sometimes of living in a small faith community, but not with the nuns.

I wonder what Sister Annie would have made of the nephew of the family becoming a baptist minister.

So, two busy days. In fact Wednesday was so busy I had my breakfast and lunch at the same time. Four in the afternoon!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The amazing promise

Along with the great invitation, we talked on Sunday about the amazing promise Jesus made to Nathanael.

I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.

What I didn't mention on Sunday was that the 'you' is plural, and so it does not refer to NAthanael alone, but to all those who were listening at the time. Probably Philip, possibly Andrew and the others too.

But the point is this: heaven opened. Imagine that for a moment. Heaven opened right over your community. Heaven and earth connected. The kingdom real and present among the people. Powerfully at work transforming lives.

I guess Nathanael and the others might have thought about Jacob and his vision of heaven open and the angels ascending and descending. Heaven touching earth. In the arrival of Jesus, heaven certainly touches the earth. But there is another Old Testament passage that comes to mind too.

 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

Malachi 3:10

Perhaps there is more to seeing heaven opened that we might have first thought.

If only we could make this

When I listen to stories like these, I wonder just what it would take to see this kind of fruit in our community.

Every day I pray that God would add to the church those who are being saved. And I ask too for the boldness and awareness we need to engage our community with God's great invitation.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Asking questions about prodigals

It was actually the reference to cats that caught my attention. Being the home help to Pip and Jade, two extremely comfortable cats, I immediately recognised some of the trauma of a cat that wanders off. But there's a more serious point to Jeff Christian's reflections.

So much of what has come to represent "the church" in America either looks like a stadium concert on one end of the continuum, or a rhetoric of out-of-touch-book-burning lunatics on the other. And while there are churches here and there who just want to be a simple community of faith who loves God and one another, they seem to be getting harder to find. Sorry if that sounds nihilistic. But it's the truth as I see it.

What is the church going to do in this generation to welcome home those prodigal Christians who still love God and the faithful ministry of Christ, but who view the church as nothing more than an irrational talking head that has almost nothing to do with the concerns of those who lost faith that God's people could ever gather together without fighting over the color of the carpet? It is probably a safe bet that if we could ever get them to come home, God would be waiting on the porch for them with a robe and a ring with a steak already on the grill.

And what is true of "the church in America" is just as true of the church in the UK.

This is why Alan Roxburgh's call for a new imagination is so apposite. Our "modern" mindset produces new variations of old patterns. We might call it cell church, seeker-sensitive church, emergent church, house-church, but it remains the same old church.

Welcoming prodigals demands a different imagination of church indeed.

The Great Invitation

We began a new series on Sunday. Based in John's gospel, we're exploring the impact Jesus had on people's lives. We began with Philip and Nathanael. As part of our study we looked at the great invitation, here are my notes:

“Come and see”, and “Follow me” form one of the greatest invitations you will ever receive. As followers of Jesus Christ, we can offer this great invitation to others by simply inviting them to “come and see”. That’s our part. It’s not up to us to convince them to follow. As Ally reminded me yesterday, one of my tutors at college says in his book about Jesus that Jesus was not in the business of persuading but in the business of presenting opportunities. We can present the opportunity to come and see, Jesus will present the opportunity to come and follow.

But we also need to remember what it is to which we are inviting people. We may invite them to church, but church is not the thing to which we are inviting them. It’s not about Sunday. It never should have been, it was never meant to be. We are not inviting people to join a social club of like-minded individuals who enjoy the same things. We are inviting them to meet Jesus. To encounter the Son of God. Sunday is not all that we are. We are so much more, the invitation is to so much more. Jesus talked about abundant life. I think that sounds like an awful lot more than 90 minutes in church once a week.

For me it’s summed up in a poster that’s been on the notice board for some time now. Matthew designed it, and I gave him the text. It says this:
Don’t go to church, come to life.
The invitation Jesus offers you is an invitation to a transformed life and a restored relationship with the God who loves you passionately and misses you immensely. He crossed space and time to reach you, and he reaches out to you and says: Come and see, come and follow me.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Leading a church or developing a missional community

I often wonder about my role. I'm sure my concept of my role is altogether different from the concept many members of the congregation have of it. Indeed I suspect it's quite different to the way many fellow ministers see it too! So I'm always interested in reading stuff about leadership and church and community.

David Fitch has written an interesting post about Senior Pastor versus Community Organiser. He proposes three goals for the first one or two years of a new church plant. These goals got me thinking about the challenge of leading an established church into a new expression of church as a missional community. His three goals are:
  • Establish a small community of fellowship in the neighbourhood who can pray together for the Kingdom
  • Get to know the neighbourhood. 
  • Facilitate hospitality. 

Now, I'm not too worried about the actual details that he uses to define these three goals (although they are very valuable and interesting), but I am interested in how they might shape what it means to become a missional community from an established background. For example, reshaping the prayer focus of the church so that we spend more time praying for the local community, or rather for the kingdom to find expression in the community.

In other words these three goals seems to run counter to everything an established church might understand to be high on the agenda. So, instead of fretting about why people don't come to church anymore, we concern ourselves with connecting the church, ie the people, to the wider community, ie more people. They move us away from being programme bound and into relationships.

So much more to think about, but I have to get ready for a meeting, a deacons' meeting no less! How established church is that!!

Why Making New Maps is Hard

This is an extract from Alan Roxburgh's book Missional Map-Making. I'm quoting it in full because I think it expresses well what it says and doesn't need me to rewrite or precis it. That makes it quite a long post, but worth reading I believe.

Why Making New Maps is Hard

Have you ever made a resolution to lose weight? Have you stood on the treadmill determined to work hard to change your eating habits only to discover, weeks later, how hard it is to change habits? If journeying in a new space were as easy as knowing that things have changed and that we have to act differently, change would be easy. But change is not easy–not for you personally, not for your local church, and not for a denominational system. Most of us are wired to resist change–just ask the Israelites as they headed out into the desert. Our inborn resistance to change partly explains why we see intelligent, skilled people reading information about a changed world and still living as if nothing had really changed. The North American auto companies aren't unique in this. When we marvel at how a company as big and filled with bright people as General Motors could be pushed to bankruptcy because of its inability to respond differently in the face of a new reality, we scratch our heads in disbelief. In actuality, GM behaved the same way most of us behave most of the time. When confronted with new information, when convinced that the world has changed and we are in new space (take, for example, the information and data we have about the environment and the melting ice caps), we agree that there is a need to change, but we keep acting in ways that got us to where we are. Why? Because habits, skills, and experiences have served us well in the past (or at least haven't seemed to hurt us), we're comfortable with them, and we want to hang onto them because we really don't want to go through the pain of learning how to behave differently, That is why good, well-meaning  leaders can provide endless information on how the world has changed and still come up with programs and answers that are just more of the same.

We learn to function at high levels of performance using our preexisting maps; we know the rules and have become good at being successful within those rules. Our ingrained habits give us not just success but identity because they have provided us with a place in an organization or community. Continuing to do what has worked for us in the past is what makes for stability, and as humans, we value stability. But when the world has really shifted, doing the same old things won't preserve the steady, predictable environment we are used to. As the Procter & Gamble executive said to me, we keep coming up to the plate and swinging but nothing alters the fact that we keep declining. An executive I met recently expressed it well. About three years ago, he was brought into a denominational system that was in serious decline and embroiled in conflict, with the mandate to turn around the decline and overcome the conflict that had caused previous executives to resign in frustration. Everyone in the denomination agreed that something had to change or there would be no future for the churches of that denomination in that city. Three years in, the executive is bruised and beaten by all the resistance to almost everything he has proposed.

It is one thing to agree that some kind of change is needed in churches and denominations, but if we don't see the complex forces that have propelled us into a new place of uncertainty, we will try to navigate our way forward on the basis of existing maps. Without understanding these forces of change, it will be difficult to see why we need new maps for navigating in this new place.

Missional Map-Making, Alan Roxburgh, p88-89

A greater imagination

Ally and I are watching an episode of Voyager. It's the one where they encounter species 8472 for those who know these things. In the search for a solution to a problem, Captain Janeway visits her holographic mentor, Leonardo Da Vinci. This is what he says to her:

When one's imagination cannot provide and answer, one must seek out a greater imagination.

I continue to believe that the challenge we face in the church today is not in the designing of new programmes but in the search for a new imagination. Maybe Janeway's imaginary friend has some wisdom for us in the search!

Burning books

Jealousy and strife are ruining Welsh non-conformist Christianity reports one headline, bishop expresses sorrow after vicar jailed for sham marriages says another and in Florida a local church pastor plans to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of September 11th.

It doesn't look good for the church.

The first two stories sadden me, the third frankly appalls me. That a pastor can actually believe that burning books is an appropriate act of remembrance beggars belief. Where is the grace in that? I saw a brief interview with him where he talked about not backing down in the face of radical Islam. "When do we stop backing down," was his argument. When we run out of grace apparently would seem to be the answer.

This is the kind of defiance that caused the American and UK governments to "declare war on terror". They concluded that the only way to deal with the perceived threat was to enter the same world and use bigger, more sophisticated weapons. No desire to ask why, just a drivenness towards retaliation.

It won't do.

This pastor seems to be working from a theology of retaliation. To do something that is guaranteed to incite a violent response.

What happened on September 11th was terrible. There are no other words to describe it. But burning the Koran is not an appropriate response. When people burn our flags, our pictures, even our Bibles, let's not become like them in retaliation, but let's show them a different way. Forgiveness and grace are not signs of weakness but signs of a deeper strength, a conviction that violence (and burning books is an act of violence) is not the answer.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Disciples, followers and onlookers

How many conversations have you had about church that have found their way into the arena of disciple-making. You know the kind of thing I mean, the conversations where we talk about focusing on disciples not just conversions, about how we need programmes and strategies to get "our people" into the Scriptures and into a deeper prayer life.

Setting aside the simple truth that programmes are okay, but in truth they don't actually achieve a great deal. Okay that may be an overstatement, but the whole Reveal study that the WCA has done seemed to demonstrate something I've always suspected: people don't grow through programmes, they growth through a deepening personal relationship with God.

This brings me to my question, a question that I wish I had an answer to and one that if I had an answer, and a book, DVD and small group programme available, might make me shining star in the universe of fix-it leaders. Oh yes, the question.

Why is is it that one person will persevere and grow in their faith, despite a whole array of false starts, life challenges, health pressures and other things, whereas another person gives up at the smallest set back or simply drifts away.

I can't fathom it. Even with all the collective know-how of a thousand highly skilled leaders, I still don't think we'd ever fully comprehend why this happens. And it bothers us. Some people think that because we don't bang on about it all the time, we are somehow immune or uncaring about the people that slip out of fellowship and off the discipleship path. Well we do care and we sit broken hearted all too often as we watch the once deeply committed and active fall by the wayside.

And there is so little that we can do about it.

So we pray and we cry and we fast and we weep and we take the hits and the criticisms because we know others miss them too and are bothered and concerned, but they don't know what to do either. And deep inside we know that but for the grace of God we might just find ourselves drifting away from the discipled life we long to cultivate.

So I still don't have an answer to my question, perhaps it is just part of the bigger mystery of the narrative of redemption history.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Don't go, be

Loving stops leaving is a new post from Jeff Noble that's worth a read. Too often we say the church is the people and then we do church like it's an institution. Jeff's call to be the church is of course not new, but it is always timely to remember.

Perhaps the simplicity of "Don't go to church, be the church" surpasses all the clever mission statements that churches spend hours developing without ever changing the ethos of the church. If we could embed this simple principle in our churches, what might we become?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

No more planning?

Reading Missional Map-Making by Alan Roxburgh, I realised I needed to write down an idea before it gets lost again in the busyness of life and ministry.

Arguing that strategic planning is useful but not defining, he says:

The task for leaders is more about how we cultivate environments that call forth and release the mission-shaped imagination of the people of God in a specific place and time. If cultivation of environments and facilitating the work of God's people is the vocation of mission-shaped leaders, then strategic planning is not simply an I'll-fitting tool; it will never assist us in forming such people.(p77)

This is the same argument he made in Introducing the Missional Church. Hardly surprising, but I made a note of it then and I just felt the importance of it again as I read it here too.

Of course the question is how do you do that? How do you create environments, and what do those environments look like? What does it mean for churches that are still working with old models of strategic planning that treat the future as a predictable outcome of a well oiled plan?

Somehow the plan has to support the mission not define it, but all too often the plan defines the mission because we measure our success or failure against the plan. So, if we are going to change the church then we will have to change the measurement criteria. We need a different scorecard as Reggie McNeal would say.

And we will need to be brave. It won't be easy making these changes. We will wonder if we are measuring the wrong things, diluting the gospel imperative of the church or reducing evangelism to serving the community.

There are no easy answers to any of the questions that arise from these concepts. But the truth is that many of us in leadership and in congregations know that something is wrong, that business as usual doesn't work anymore and hasn't worked for some time, that people no longer share our story or are ready to conform to our preferred future.

Still much to consider and ponder about what comes next for the church in the 21st century.

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Location:Parkland Ave,Romford,United Kingdom

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Reading the Psalms

Having read through Mark's gospel and aware that I'm about to start a major series from John, I thought I'd spend some time reflecting on the psalms. When I first became a Christian reading the psalms usually involved picking a number between 1 and 10 and starting there, reading every tenth psalm. Needless to say not many people chose 9 as their number!

Well it's been over 30 years since those days and my appreciation for the psalms has grown and developed over those three decades. Today I read psalm 3, a poem written by David when he had to leave Jerusalem at the time of Absalom's coup. I don't suppose David knew whether he would ever return to the city, or rule as king again. To be honest he probably was more concerned that his life was under threat than either of those two things.

So it is that we read a prayer of hope and trust and submission to God's purposes. Leaving the city as he had, David looks to God rather than the military might or the army for support. It is God who lifts my head high. He also remembers the people as he seeks God blessing upon them as the psalm ends.

There are times when David seems to call on God to destroy his enemies and to shatter his opponents, but not this time. This time it's all about trust and assurance that God will do what God alone can do.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


The more time I spend around Docklands the more I actually find myself liking it!

This picture was taken as the sun was setting over the city. We were walking along the riverside to Limehouse, having had dinner near Canary Wharf.

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Strawberries and seaweed anyone?

While we were talking about our next All-Age Celebration this coming Sunday, Dave mentioned this bizarre story of a scientist in Japan who has developed n "electronic tongue". Apparently it recreates the small electrical differences that identify taste. The acid test (excuse the pun) is when he gets someone to do a blind taste test. Strawberries and seaweed produce the exact flavour of kiwi fruit. Which might explain why I'm not fond of kiwi fruit!

Read all about this amazing invention here!