Monday, October 31, 2011

For the pod: The process of change

One of the things that is hard for us individually and corporately is seeing and achieving change. Change does not come naturally- least of all in our own hearts and lives- let alone in others. 'Smile or die: How positive thinking fooled America and the World' is an example of the million pound industry that has developed out of our yearning for personal change. Failure to see change and growth in ourselves and others can really get us down and sometimes defeats us altogether. I think it's why so many give up on church and following Jesus.

How then does change happen? One word from Scripture sums it all up and that word is repentance. Luther entitled the first of his 95 theses he nailed on the Wittenberg door 'All of life is repentance' and I recommend this paper on the subject.

A story is told (in one of these sermons) of Charles Spurgeon who week after week preached messages on repentance until eventually a lady approached him and complained about it. "When are you going to stop preaching on repentance?" The great man looked her in the eye and replied "When you repent"

Most people don't want to repent which is why most people are not Christians. Most Christians don't want to repent which is why so few are transformed. Most preachers don't preach about repentance because it doesn't make you very popular (John the Baptist and his head come to mind....) Witness the letter the Duchess of Buckingham wrote to Lady Huntingdon when Huntingdon, a new upper crust convert, tried to share the gospel with her by inviting the Duchess to hear George Whitfield:

'I thank your Ladyship for the information concerning the Methodist preachers. Their doctrines are most repulsive and strongly tinctured with impertinence and disrespect towards their superiors, in perpetually endeavouring to level all ranks and to do away with all distinctions. It is monstrous to be told you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches that crawl on the earth. This is highly offensive and insulting; and I cannot but wonder that your Ladyship should relish any sentiments so much at variance with high rank and good breeding.’(Pollock, P.103)

So many people who have been following Jesus for decades, attended hundreds of church services, been members of home groups, been on Christian holidays, tithed their money, been in a prayer group and shown up at countless conferences are still stuck in exactly the same place struggling, grumbling and battling with the same old gubbins (anxiety, anger, self-pity, pride, porn, over-eating, over-drinking, over-spending and over-doing)- the same issue year after year after year. Who among us has not thought, "Am I ever going to defeat this?" exhausted by our efforts to 'try harder' (which is a complete waste of time by the way) or 'resolve better' as our methodology for personal sanctification and change. We can have been to Toronto, Tacoma and Torbay (and I've been to all three) to little effect. So why is it that so many in the church are quite patently not living in the joy and freedom that the gospel speaks so clearly of? Well, perhaps it is because most of us have not really understood what repentance is and, until we do, we will more than likely stay stuck in the same unfruitful spiritual mud we are currently in. I was certainly stuck there for far far far far too long and revelation on repentance reading Romans was (and still is) crucial to me.

A final word on repentance should perhaps go to Eugene Peterson. He says repentance is:

...'.deciding that you have been wrong in supposing that you could manage your own life and be your own god; it is deciding that you were wrong in thinking that you had, or could get, the strength, education and training to make it on your own; it is deciding that you have been told a pack of lies about yourself and your neighbours and your world. And it is deciding that God, in Jesus Christ, is telling you the truth. Repentance is a realisation that what God wants from you and what you want from God are not going to be achieved by doing the same old things, thinking the same old thoughts. Repentance is a decision to follow Jesus Christ and become his pilgrim in the path of peace.'

These are not feel good talks and MacDonald is not a frightfully feel good guy (try and get over that if you can) but their content if you listen to them and apply this brilliant teaching is totally and utterly life changing. Once you've listened to them once- listen to them again. Pray them through. Make notes. Give them to friends. Talk to friends about them. Talk to your spouse about them. Teach and discuss these truths with others. These two hours may save you years of frustration, failure and pain

You can podcast it here (I generally find talks easier to listen to than to watch) and you can get it through itunes. But you can watch also:

Process of  change- Part One

Process of change- Part Two

Saturday Blog-sweep (on Monday)

Four disciplines of the heart

Keller on Scoffers, scorners and snark

Eugene Peterson on 'Measuring success'

10 steps on sharing your faith at work

Towards a discipleship framework

Perry Noble has seven things he thinks 'WE GOTTA TO READ' (he enjoys CAPITALS) and I commend reading them all.

Steve Jobs on Christianity

The Lausanne Covenant

Making disciples for dummies

A new liturgy that is causing a buzz ( or you can read the BCP for free:) (h/t B. Armett)

Sunday, October 23, 2011


All is grace

One of my 30 things was to buy someone a random present. I did this recently which was fun and the present I bought for a friend was All is grace because I know Brennan Manning is one of her favourite people. I also bought it for another friend for their birthday. My 'random present friend' chatted to me at church this morning with tears in her eyes and said that she read it in one sitting. His story deeply, deeply moved her.

You see there are tons of people who talk about the gospel, the Bible and the church and the 'this' and the 'that' and other peoples 'this's' and 'that's' but they forget to talk about grace or worse still experience it. Some people (you know 'some people') say Manning hasn't got it all worked out quite right (which is quite possibly true) but to be honest he is in good company there because nor have I and nor have you although we may be on the way :)

As it happens, someone else also came up to me yesterday to tell me they are reading 'What's so amazing about grace?' and exclaimed "It's amazing!" I know grace is completely amazing and Yancey's book is too and I would medicate everyone reading it at least once a year to keep their hearts soft and demeanour un-brittle.  My church complain to me on the odd occasion because I speak about grace really quite a bit-in fact boringly often. I do this because it took me so long to grasp it and I pray daily that I continue to grasp it. D L Moody once said, "A man can no more take in a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough for the next six months, or take sufficient air into his lungs at one time to sustain life for a week. We must draw upon God's boundless store of grace from day to day, as we need it." Brennan Manning is a man who has clearly encountered grace too and drawn on it often- so often perhaps that it offends some.  If you want a book you might read in one sitting this may be it.

You might also like to listen to this called 'A Counter-culture of Grace'.

Page 23

"A few months after my commitment to Christ, someone slipped me a book called Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by a pastor in Brooklyn named Jim Cymbala. It was the first Christian book I ever willfully read. And it read like a highlight reel of the miracles God had performed in Cymbala's church. Addictions broken. Families restored. Souls saved. A city illuminated. I was mesmerized.

As I sat at my parents kitchen table with the book open, hands still wet from washing the dishes, I stumbled across a line that set the trajectory of my life. It was on page 23:

'I despaired of the thought that my life might slip by without seeing God show himself mightily on our behalf'

It's hard to put into words how tightly that one sentence gripped my imagination. Somehow the Holy Spirit translated that line into a tangible impression in my teenage heart, and I knew: one day I'm going to start a church in a big city to reach people who are far from God"

Steve Furtick, Sun Stand Still

You can see how the story played out in 'This is how we change the world'

Saturday, October 22, 2011

For the pod: Passing the test has been an encouragement to me and Craig Groeschl's books and preaching continue to bless me. I can commend The Christian Atheist (which inspired a preaching series we are working through) and It and his new book Weird. This church brought the world You version (the most downloaded Bible App) among all sorts of other innovative vehicles for communicating the gospel in the 21C around the globe.

Yesterday in the car I listened to some excellent teaching by James MacDonald called Passing the Test Part 1 on dealing with life's trials. You and I may not be facing difficulty or trauma but we surely will at some point in the future and we would each one of us do well to listen and learn from James 1 and then to pray and prepare our hearts and minds for the things that lie ahead.

The second message is on Passing the test Part 2 is on giving and is a very good and challenging talk on generosity. They are both examples of good, solid and practical Bible teaching.

Saturday blog-sweep

An outline of the Keller's new book on marriage

Like a bullet

Dealing with email overload ( h/t Dash house)

The King Jesus Gospel

A review of 'Rid of my disgrace'

The history of the iPhone

Is church too easy for men?

How to choose your worship leader

The Trinity in 4 minutes

How to pray for missionaries

Get drunk on grace

The permanent revolution

Friday, October 21, 2011

How do I study the Bible?

A thought for the day is that so many people who are not Vicar's or community/mission/home-group leaders in churches often feel ill-equipped, unqualified, not clever enough or just overly-daunted about studying the Bible for themselves that they never actually give it a try. Most pew-sitting Christians, certainly in the C of E, are not that different it seems from the pre-Reformation Church who had under law to let 'the Priest' alone distill truths for them (or as was more common hear the churches dogma and propaganda read out to them by often ill-educated medieval Priests in the form of pre-prepared sermons from the Bishop) . There was no [widely distributed] English language Bible available read by ordinary people until the KJV which is why the KJV 400 year anniversary celebrations are so important to take note of and follow. The common man could not read the Scriptures for themselves hence where we get the wonderfully chosen, life-giving and emancipating title of The Book of Common Prayer. Remember this, you were not permitted or able to read the Bible for yourself prior to the Reformation except if you were part of a monastic community or the establishment. It is stunning to me and ironic that never once as a child can I remember my Vicar (a dear and kind man) during one of the awe-numbingly boring journey's through the BCP liturgy suggest any of us actually read or study the Bible for ourselves which is exactly what it was supposed to birth a hunger for in us (as I am now Ordained in the C of E you could conversely argue that it did exactly that!). Boring though it seemed at the time, it did by God's providence and his grace get the stunning words of the Prayer Book into my DNA which have, as a consequence, been with me, blessed me and are within me to this day.

So it saddens me even more that still so few feel able or permitted to study the Bible for themselves and discover its treasure (particularly oddly sometimes in those that call themselves 'Bible-believing' churches) when there is such liberty and resource to do so. I will tell you what put me on to this realisation anew. A friend had to prepare something and to do this they needed to study the Bible. In order to facilitate this I gave them a few commentaries, told them to allocate some space and time, gave them a few pointers on how to do it and encouraged them that it wasn't that difficult. When I next saw them they were so enthused by their study and their revelations having been immersed in both the Bible and the commentaries. This really got me thinking.

I think most people, if they read the Bible's at all, do so as part of what has come to be known as 'a Quiet Time'. This is the time we allocate to be alone with God, read scripture and pray. All of these are good things. However, the next step on from this is what is called 'Study' whereby you decide to dig deeper into a book, a topic, a chapter or a word in order to find God's perspective on it. Our times of Facebook, 100 TV channels, the Net, Smartphones and innumerable leisure opportunities make personal study a less easy thing to embark upon. Few therefore seemingly may ever make this leap and this is such a sadness. I rightly or wrongly define study as simply 'reading the Bible with a pen in your hand'. Instead of your reading being just devotional it becomes participatory, interactive and life-transforming not just for you but for others.

I came across a book a few months ago that was such a truly helpful book when it comes to Bible study that I just wished I had found it years ago. Reading it made me immediately want to go out and buy everyone I knew a copy. It won't surprise you at all to know that Rick Warren author of The Purpose Driven Life is quite keen on equipping his people to study and it seems that doing so has proved incredibly fruitful for those in his church, thousands of whom have been sent out on mission. All I want to do is recommend this excellent book and believe just reading and applying the things it teaches will set you on a course that is unimaginably exciting for you. Do this for me. Allocate one hour, sit at a desk or table or in a coffee shop and read the first couple of chapters and prayerfully resolve to embark on ONE study. Even if you don't want to study the chapter called 'How to have a quiet time' is worth price of the book. It is my prayer though that some of my readers may even become preachers, teachers, pastors, missionaries and fully-equipped disciplers of others simply as a result of this post. I think it was J B Phillips who said that translating the Bible was like rewiring a house with the electricity plugged in. May this book help you I pray discover the power of the Scriptures for yourself.

So if you are someone who has never studied the Bible or if you are a seasoned Bible student and everyone in between I want you today to buy Rick Warren's Bible Study Method's and get started on some study.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

30 things to do for a soul MOT

Thanks to Steve Furtick for this idea.

We so easily get dry and disillusioned with God and weary with life. If you find yourself in that place today then why not resolve to do one or more of these:

1. Pray Psalm 27 out loud slowly

2. Do some exercise and eat something healthy

3. Write a list of things you are thankful for (1 Thes 5:18).

4. Watch, listen, sing along and dance around your kitchen to How Great

5. Having done Number 4 with all your family then explain to each other what it means to be a child of God (John 1:12-13)

6. Take your wife on a date (Eph 5:25)

7. Read a gospel through in one sitting

8. Take a nap

9. Encourage someone who encourages you (Hebrews 3:13)

10. Pray in tongues (if you have this gift) for 10 minutes (1 Cor 14:4)

11. Write someone an encouraging letter

12. Tidy up your office/ study

13. Find a place to serve in your church (Romans 7:6)

14. Go back to church

15. Give some cash away (2 Cor 8:7)

16. Listen to Running with the witnesses.

17. Confess a sin/ your sins/ a secret sin to someone you trust (James 5:6)

18. Call on the name of Jesus

19 Plan to spend a morning alone with God (Matt 6:6 -put it in your diary)

20. Allow your husband/ wife/ a friend to spend a morning with God and enable them (put it in their diary)

21. Go and look at something beautiful ( go around a gallery, visit a cathedral or wander around a museum)

22. Eat your favourite food

23. Watch a movie that makes you laugh

24, Lay hands on your kids as they sleep and pray for them

25. Make love to your spouse (1 Cor 7:5)

26. Call a friend you haven't spoken to for a while and catch up on their news

27. Buy a present for a friend for no reason other than to bless them and if you can't think of anything make it Fresh Wind Fresh Fire.

28. Start a journal with the help of this

29. Sit in a nice pub in a nice place and have a drink and eat a bag of S & V crisps

30. Oh and last but not least- eat curry.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Augustine: "God loves all he has made"

Stott: "God does not love us because Christ died for us - Christ died for us because God loved us" 

Kierkegaard: "God loved us first"

St John: "We love him because he first loved us"

Medieval mystic Margery Kempe: “Daughter I have suffered many pains for thy love – therefore thou hast great cause to love me right well, for I have bought thy love full dear”


1. Meet nice man who is friend of friend in pub
2. Man wants to talk to me about theology, science and church
3. Man very clever musician who studied maths at Cambridge
4. Can't answer many of man's questions
5. Invite man to listen to William Lane Craig @ Methodist Central Hall debate on 'Does God exist?" with 3000 people.
6. Arrive late. Realise have invited the only man who shouts out very loudly at William Lane Craig and Stephen Laws my friend having told me it's what he thinks Jesus would do.
7. Feel rather embarrassed
8. Then start enjoying being with possibly the most interesting and passionate man in Methodist Central Hall
9. As I think God already exists and am tired conclude debate is a bit pointless
10. Think would rather have a pint with the atheist (who seems fun) than William Lane Craig (who maybe is a teeny weeny bit dull and is slightly too polished)
9. Another man shouts out (feel relief that it's not just us)
10. Debate ends and relieved not been thrown out (we were on our last warning)
11. See friend from church who I had randomly told about the debate and works around corner
12. Friend has invited her friend to come to debate too
13. At end of debate all the people around us confront my man
14. My man loves it and they realise they have bitten off more they can chew
15. End up in pub with my man, the two girls and random atheist we have collected along way (nice chappy from NZ)
16. My man turns discussion in pub to Maths
17. Know nothing at all about Maths so utterly stumped
18. Friend from church announces she read Maths at university. So did her friend which is how they know each other.
19. I'm silent
19. Long discussion about Maths things and God and Jesus
20. After a while chip in and ask everyone if three random people at a debate about God ending up in pub all having read Maths yet talking about him might prove he exists.
21. By expression on faces realise everyone thinks that was an interesting point
21. Feel rather pleased with myself (having failed so badly on the maths)
22. Friend of friend leaves and tells two men Jesus loves them
23. Get train home wave off man who thanks me profusely and has clearly had a simply dandy time.
24. Go to sleep thinking this may be yet another good story for book if I ever write it:)

A bit of a summary of the debate here. The podcast of the debate will be available here

Monday, October 17, 2011

Destinations not airports

“On a fairly routine basis, airports get confused about what they are there for – and for whom. They think that if a bunch of planes are on the ground, close to the hub, and the concourse is full of people, they are winning. They apparently think they are the destination. Of course, when this happens, it means a bunch of people aren’t getting where they want to go… “The airport is a place of connection, not a destination. Its job is to help people get somewhere else. An airport-centric world of travel would be dull and frustrating, no matter how nice the airport is. When the church thinks it’s the destination [i.e. just get people to come to church] it also confuses the scorecard. It thinks that if people are hovering around and in the church, the church is winning. The truth is, when that’s the case, the church is really keeping people from where they want to go, from their real destination… The church is the connector, linking people to the kingdom life that God has for them. Substituting church activity as the preferred life expression is as weird as believing that airports are more interesting than the destinations they serve” (45).

Reggie McNeil, Missional Renaissance.

(h/t J R Briggs)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, October 15, 2011

For the pod

My day-off habit is to go for a walk or if I'm driving somewhere to listen in the car to the next instalment in the Gospel of Luke. This is I think the 93rd in the series.  Some of the most memorable being:

The Cost of Discipleship

Jesus vs Satan

Mary and Martha

Jesus calls the Twelve

Jesus and the Holy Spirit

The Bible is about Jesus

Jesus and Religion

Heaven and Hell

The latest is called Jesus sweats blood and just the title should tell you this is not a sermon for the faint-hearted- the second half is shocking and disturbing stuff if you are unfamiliar with the idea of the wrath of God. You have now been warned and as one or two in this series have done it made me think, pray and question very deeply about the lost, the mission of the church and the nature of God. Thousands are seemingly coming to listen to this sort of sermon (10k last weekend attended Mars Hill), particularly men, and are being saved and my question having listened to it is I suppose, "Why?" The message is so very hard for most of us to stomach. It is patently and intentionally un-user friendly and offers any listener stark truth (in fact is this not just the basic facts of the gospel that any evangelical knows but brutally articulated in a very direct and very un-English way. Mark Driscoll has a brash and aggressive manner which is quite horrifying to some. Differentiating the style from the content is important and working out which it is that offends us is part of this reflection)

People are coming though to hear this by the thousand nonetheless and downloading these sermons in their droves, many of them onto the iPods of the UK. People I respect and value are greatly blessed by the teaching from Mars Hill, yet others find it overly macho, aggressive and lacking some of the fruits of the Spirit you might hope to see when someone is speaking about Jesus. One Vicar pal who listened to this sermon thought it was one of the most powerful he has ever heard and another thought the things he heard were truly dreadful and disgusting. The sermon Tough and Tender speaks to this and in many ways I have found my passion for Jesus stirred and helped but for others the reverse is clearly true. Books such as Rid of my Disgrace (an overview of the ministry to abused and raped women of whom they have about 2500 @ Mars Hill) and Redemption attest to some of the fruit of the ministry at Mars Hill. I want to spend a little time reflecting on these things.

Lloyd-Jones said:
We shall never have an adequate conception of the greatness of this salvation unless we realize something at any rate of what we were before this mighty power took hold of us, unless we realize what we would still be if God had not intervened in our lives and had rescued us.
In other words, we must realize the depth of sin, what sin really means, and what it has done to the human race.

(H/T What's best next)

Here are my thoughts on this sermon. First, have we perhaps become so Marcion as a church that we find it hard to hear about the different sides of the character of God? A wrathful God (read about the Passover or Joshua if you need reminding) does not play easily to our western, secular and increasingly liberal sensibilities. What we want is a 'laissez-faire do what you like on your terms God' but what if that is not actually what God is like? Perhaps it also explains why there is so little mission to the lost going on. It's why in the C of E our most pressing issue is The Covenant and not how to engage in mission for the salvation of souls in our land. If God is 'nice' and 'relaxed' rather than holy there is likely to be far less urgency to share the gospel and far less recognition that making such an effort to share it is truly a matter of consequence. Mission if you take scripture seriously is literally a matter of life and death and with that backdrop Jesus commands 'Therefore go.....' Are we not going because we don't actually believe Him? Is this why Christians like me who sing what people call 'happy-clappy songs' on a Sunday often rarely speak of Jesus to their friends and colleagues and families on Monday? Are sermons like this one a form of modern-day Jonathan Edwards preaching that shake the bride with uncomfortable truths , as Sinners in the hands of an angry God shook people but at the same time ushered in the first Great Awakening? (but you might not think these are doctrinal truths or that they are a distortion of them which is of course your prerogative).

Win Arn surveyed over a thousand churches and he asked this question:

"What is the mission of the church?'

In answer to this question, 89% of people said "The church exists to meet the needs of me and my family" whereas only a staggering 11% said, "The church exists to make Christ known to the world".

(Source: Rethinking the church Emery White)

The workers are indeed few.

Here I reflect on my own tribe for a moment:

1. It's not about us it's about others: The charismatic church has focussed almost exclusively in recent years on the love of God but far less often preached clearly on the atonement and many conferences in recent years have had as their centre piece physical healing (he does indeed truly love us by mercy and grace so don't misunderstand me please and a context for that statement is contained in the sermon) However, it is  rare to hear a talk on the justice of God or the wrath of God and have we perhaps taken it for granted that people understand this dimension of the gospel when perhaps the reality is that they do not. We have tended to assume that because God loves ME (which he certainly does), wants to heal ME and because he speaks to ME, my main preoccupation should be to hear from him about ME and expect him to do things for ME. Middle-class types like me take any opportunity to lap up a word about ME and I for one am too easily preoccupied with myself and my agenda forgetting that mission is all about others and reaching them with the gospel as a matter of urgency in word and deed. It's so easy for us/ me to get stuck at the God speaks part and be much slower at getting ourselves on mission in response to the things God says and the freedom God births in us through his Spirit. We are birthed and freed for the mission. Ask us to sell our valuable homes and give up life's comforts and 'go' to share the gospel with a lost people group or take a lower paying job to free up time for mission or allow ourselves to hear a call involving some hardship and everybody (including me I might add) quickly goes rather quiet. The danger is that we have missed the truth that God has already called, has already spoken and is now longing to send people out on his mission but we first must hear it and say 'Here I am send me' (Is 6 v 8). In order to respond to this, the truth is what we in fact need to do is present the ME and get obedient to the SEND. As a friend says, we too easily lean to what feels good rather than what challenges. When John Wimber was asked about the Toronto blessing he was reputed to have said that it's not whether you fall down that matters it's what you're like when you get back up that counts. The call to mission challenges us and so it should do given the nature and urgency of the gospel as Oswald Chambers states so graphically here.

2. It's all about who you are trying to reach: There are very few men in the church. Whilst women might respond to long sermons on love and worship songs full of intimacy men do not react in the same way. Is this style of sermon awakening men in a powerful way where our best intentions at preaching a 'warm' and 'family-friendly' feminine-oriented message (as Why men hate going to church contends) have apparently failed to? Is Driscoll on to something here? (which I think he may be). This seems to be the crucial point- he is very clear that he is trying to reach young men in Seattle and his messages are tailored with them in mind. If you are not a young blue-collar man in Seattle his preaching may very well not be your cup of tea and there should be no great surprise about that. It is young unchurched men in their twenties and late teens who he feels specifically called to preach to and he says God spoke audibly to him about this. In watching a podcast it's as though we are listening in and clearly no one has to do this and so we are in some ways a by-product audience. Now, do you have this profile of person in your church and if not why not might be very a good question to ask? They are clearly being saved in number listening to such preaching and perhaps we can learn something from this?  We should wrestle with this at some length given our rioting cities and fatherless young men who as yet remain largely unreached. Even if you disagree with this theologically, and one may choose to reject this as totally barbaric, it takes quite a bit of mettle to get up and preach a message like this and I should know because I am a preacher. Are we preachers more concerned about being liked (such a temptation) than being truthful and therefore not doing our job which is to tell people the gospel even when it means teaching stunningly hard things that appear before us in the text? If the content of this sermon is really true no one will thank me for being 'nice' or 'funny' as they face their maker on that final day. Now, if Driscoll is just a fundamentalist nutbag (as some may think he sounds at times) then surely no one would be coming- but as it is he is the most down-loaded preacher in America and his website The Resurgence is the most trafficked Christian blog on the web. Also, his Leadership Coaching is now spreading his message far and wide. More than a few people are resonating with this 'tough-love gospel' and I think it is healthy to force ourselves, which is what I have done, to ask the question "Why is this?"

In conclusion, it seems the world hears a message like this and its call to repentance while those currently in the church hear (or in fact maybe never hear which is exactly my point) such things preached and are in danger of not. That really interests me and is why I am facing up to some hard questions and their implications (if this sermons content really be true). Personally, this message turns me into more of an evangelist but it is quite definitely what one might call 21C ''fire and brimstone" so do proceed with some caution and be prepared to think and be very deeply challenged.

Saturday blog-sweep

1. Leaders are encouragers

2. Thinking forward (h/t Dash House)

3. I wonder what tale we've fallen into

4. Surfing the internet at work makes you more effective

5. Numbers matter

6. The importance of community and the book Community about how to build it.

7. Two new books on  G K Chesterton

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Forgotten God

Two of our groups at church are being so blessed by the series of teaching by Francis Chan called the Forgotten God. Both our ladies group Oasis and encouragingly our teenagers are captivated by the things that they are learning about and experiencing through the Holy Spirit.

There is a book and an interactive workbook and a DVD Study Resource. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

If you wanted to recommend one book a planter should read it would be...

Here is a list of some of the books that have got (and are getting) me to today and beyond on my planting adventure. If you wanted to add one book onto my list what would it be? Feel free to post me a comment....

1. Urban Church Planting Manual by Keller

2. The Missionary Movement in Christian History by Walls

3. Visioneering by Stanley

4. Spurgeon: Lectures to my students

5. Now to Him by Ponsonby and Bennetts

6. Life Together by Bonnhoeffer

7. The Pastor by Peterson

8. Confessions of a Reformission Rev by Driscoll

9. Early Christian Mission by Schnabel

10. Jonathan Edwards by Marsden

11. Courageous Leadership by Hybels

12. Excellence in Leadership by White

13. On prayer by Barth

14. The Shaping of Thing to Come

15. Evangelistic Sermons by Lloyd- Jones

and the Book of Acts and Nehemiah and..............

Monday, October 10, 2011

Some Monday thoughts and links

1. Train your memory: David Platt's stunning talk did many things in me and I was left in awe by his scripture memorisation and the tremendous power of it when it's part of preaching. He quotes line after line of the Psalms by rote at the start and I have to confess I have times when I can't even remember my telephone number. This will put fire in you to share the gospel with someone who does not yet know Jesus and reveal too, if you don't already know it, why this really, really matters.

2. Always have a few books on pre-order: When you are a grown-up and earn your own pocket money it allows you to create the odd random surprise moment for yourself. One way to do this is to pre-order books on Amazon and then forget you have done so and then when they arrive it's like an autumnal Christmas. You should check out these:

a. Brennan Manning 'All of Grace: A ragamuffin memoir': Brennan Manning has taught me more about grace than just about anyone and he has just written the story of his crazy life. A Catholic priest, a drunk, a divorcee (not often on a Catholic priest's CV!) and a prolific writer about grace. You are going to want to hear his story I think.

b. Kenneth Bailey 'Paul Through Meditarrenean Eyes': Some of you may have read 'Jesus Through Middle-Eastern Eyes' and this is his follow-up. Bailey is a scholar who gets under the skin of biblical culture and is worth the time and effort to read.

c. Gordon MacDonald 'Going Deep': MacDonald is one of my key men and I have read just about everything of his. 'Rebuilding your broken world' did just that for me when it needed rebuilding very badly. I can't wait and have it on kindle pre-order so it will just download on the day of publication. How cool is that.

d. Maxwell 'Five levels of leadership': John Maxwell wrote the '21 Irrefutable laws of leadership' but it has always rather put me off that there are so many! 21 seems like an awful lot to work through and is destined surely to make me feel inadequate about how few I am actually currently practicing. So now comes the book that will save you all the bother of so many laws and cuts to the chase with '5 Levels'. Now that seems much more manageable:)

3. Pray for your M.P: I had an excellent meeting with my M.P the other day who is very encouraging of some of the work our church is doing. He is impressively engaged in our local area and its community, has keen a political mind and is concerned about the state of the church in this land. I gave him Amazing Grace and if you can't think of a book to give to your M.P you couldn't do much better than that. Who knows he might one day even end up as P.M?

4. The Riverbank Trust :  One of the things I spoke about to Zac was our charity 'The Riverbank Trust' formed this year. For all concerned about the issue of abuse, single mothers and the needs of their kids this film is worth watching and is the follow up to this video on singleness. It's called 'Can anyone see that I'm hurting'. It is shocking and moving in equal measure.

5. The Song of the Weekend: We all have two options. Run to God or run away from him and this song encouraged us all to do the former. If you, like me, have a song of the season as you pray, read scripture, walk about and worship this might be one for you too. It's called Forever Reign .

6. Sandals of peace: Imagine if I in the Church of England had as much passion about my message (the gospel) as Nike seem to about their shoes. Check out their amazing new website called Better world (H/T Ben Arment).

It's not about me

I quote the first line of 'A purpose driven-life' a lot to myself and to others. It's a simple sentence but a life-changing one

"It's not about you."

Last week I felt a little check in my Spirit to take stock of the blog and planned to stop. What I hadn't bargained for was that anyone actually read the blog or were that bothered if I kept doing it or not. As I say on my sidebar this blog is really just a filing cabinet for my on-going adventure following Jesus. Then I got a couple of emails that encouraged me to keep going and moved me and here is one of them that Hannah (in South Africa) gave me permission to share. It was through Hannah's encouragement and some wonderful bible teaching on our church weekend away at Ashburham that I have recaptured, to use Hannah's words 'new ways the grace and love of the Father has for me' and so I will I guess keep on writing and posting:

"I just wanted to email you personally in response to your last post on Cookie's Days blog. I have to say reading your post brings a tear to my eye. I really shall miss reading your words, but at the same time I have complete respect for your decision and your honesty. I will pray for your new venture in leading the church plant at Holy Trinity Barnes and may you have fresh anointing and encounter with Jesus to fully know and recapture in new ways the grace and love of our Father has for you. 
As I may have commented on one of your posts, this year has seen the arrival of our daughter, Rachel (she turns one in 3 weeks!!) and my friend recommended your blog when Rachel was newly born. As Rachel has grown so rapidly in this year, I too have grown in faith and some of that has honestly been a result of your posts challenging, equipping me with resource, the Holy Spirit convicting me through talks you have recommended and your writing echoing the Father's voice. (I know the same is true for my husband who often asks "has Cookie posted today?!" and as I have gone on walks with Rachel and my good friend, Hannah, we've discussed video clips/posts you have uploaded) So... really I want to say is Thank You and may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you evermore. Amen! ......."

Thursday, October 06, 2011


I will be back in a few days I promise

Growing a Mission-Minded Church

I laughed more yesterday than I have in as long as I can remember. Just thought I would share that.

Cookie's days started on a wet winters day some years ago. My recent post about church planting, for reasons I can't quite fathom, has generated hundreds of hits and has also prompted a number of people to get in touch with me. Lucy Peppiat is one of them- a Church-planter from Bristol with her husband Nick. She has sent me a moving, beautifully written and profound piece she wrote called 'Growing a Mission-Minded Church'. It's long but do take some time to read it. It is the story of God working in unlikely, counter-cultural (at least to our 'church-success' evangelical world) and at times seemingly painful ways. It is a story about discipleship and it is about parenthood. It is also something of a commentary on the fear of failure that most of us, be us Christian or not, carry around most of the time.

"There are many issues related to the question of the ‘failure’ of missionary endeavours – too many to deal with here – but I just want to touch on a few. The first question is ‘How do we measure success?’ How do we actually know for sure whether something has been an unmitigated failure? This is a topic for a paper in its own right, but I have often felt that we have a wholly inadequate set of criteria for measuring the success or otherwise of church work.[4] The other principle which we should adopt in our churches is the idea that, unless we have a number of ‘failed’ initiatives behind us, we are certainly not trying hard enough! Failure is a concomitant part of creativity, of experiment, of pushing the boat out, etc. It is also a part of risk, so, if we are stepping out in faith all the time, sometimes we will fall flat on our faces. Peter was the one who was brave enough to walk on water – to walk on water! I sometimes think we lose sight of what an astonishing thing he actually did, because we have grown accustomed to the story. He would never have started to sink if he had not been in the middle of the lake walking on water in the first place. We must applaud courage and risk-taking. The parental aspect to it, however, is that we aim not to allow or to undertake foolish risks, in ourselves or in others.

"Mission is about obedience to the call to spread the gospel, not about waiting until we are sure we have a foolproof plan to build a mega-church; but we are to be as gentle as doves and as wise as serpents......If we become people who genuinely believe in the control of the Spirit, then successes and failures are not only ours, but are ultimately in God’s hands. If God really is in control by the power of the Spirit, and really able to redeem even our foolish mistakes, we are able to take a long-term view, and to allow failure in the interest of trying."

A while back, I went to a gathering of church-planters and at one point in the day they all lined up and told us their stories. One by one they reported on the souls won, ministries birthed, miracles witnessed and resources supplied. It was focussed very much on tales of success. They were and are all smashing and gifted men and women. But I'll be honest, I found it a wee bit daunting, even though it was well-intended and supposed to encourage me. Apart from one chappy, no one stood up and said "Do you know what, I am having a go but to be honest every day I wonder what the next thing in the queue is that I am going to make a complete pig's ear of." It's what Hybels Axioms (great book) calls 'Take a Flyer'.  I think it is easy to confuse the call to be 'fruitful' (John 15) with the call to be successful. Don't misunderstand me, I think we all need to be people who have a go, get on mission with faith and have an expectancy that lives will be transformed and the lost won through us. It just seems not to be that straight-forward. You can get a jazzy website, a sound system and a few Christians to gather but that's no certainty that you will be prolific at disciple-making.

The trouble is that there is no kit you can buy that makes that happen. It's very annoying when we pray earnestly for anointing and revival and God chooses to use the person in the church next door. I think that is why Lucy's preparedness to share her disappointments and learnings is so refreshing and hope-inducing in me. It's also a caution to me not to set myself up for a fall and to know even if I do fail and make a mess of things that's OK. Jesus died for me, rose for me and I am destined for heaven and that must surely be enough. Driscoll's talk about 'Who should lead a church plant' (well worth a listen-you may need to search for it) was a tremendous help to me on this issue. None of us need perform for Jesus but oh how very hard it is for us to truly believe this. I confess to being an infant at preaching the Gospel to myself. It was nice also to discover that Lucy, like me, thinks Christianity rediscovered is one of the most helpful books that any mission-minded person could ever happen upon.

One other thing. It's time to lay down the blog for a while and I'm doing this just when it's had its big break and is on a peak. It might have been up for winning one of those "Top 100 Blogs read by people from Kidderminster" awards and get a little badge in the top corner.  I write this blog to, I hope, encourage and resource others. However, any blog that quotes Tim Keller as much as I do needs to watch its idolatry-o-meter as it tries to apply a lesson or two from Counterfeit Gods. You see, I have to be so careful not to like the sound of my own voice more than I long for the sound of the Father's. I want to long for the Spirit more than the attention of others and I have noticed the two conflicting with each other slightly too much recently. To use Simon Walker's terminology in 'Leading out of who you are' -a bit too much front stage.

I am going to take some time out to read the book Eugene Peterson says is one of the most important he has ever encountered. It's called the 'Descent of the Dove' by Charles Williams (one of Lewis's pals who he supped warm ale with in the Eagle and Child). For all my, at times, strong opinions about the church that I love and the gospel I haplessly preach as best I can, I must remind myself anew that it is not about me and that the Holy Spirit is at work whatever I do or write. Maybe sometimes not always as I would like in the C of E, but to be honest what I think is of no consequence. What matters is what God thinks. The plan is that we each one of us love Jesus, try to stay humble (always a tricky one as our most humble moments can in fact be pride in disguise) and we need to remember afresh that we don't have to prove anything. Grace really is sufficient. The trouble is, recently, I have been talking a good game but I think I have forgotten that. Vincent Donovan's words from Lucy's story seem like a good place to end. 

I'll be back in a while.

"They too can learn to take steps necessary to becoming a missionary people, with their own heralds of the gospel, a people overcome with the consuming conviction of Paul that it will be “woe to them if they do not preach the gospel.” Step by painful step. And the last step the most painful of all, the step leading to the conclusion that the whole process is really out of one’s control after all; that there is a Spirit moving through the world and through Africa, and what control there is lies with that Spirit.[3]"  

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

It's a crisis: we're just too polite to mention it

"If you want to build a ship, don't summon people to buy wood, prepare tools, distribute jobs, and organize the work, rather teach people the yearning for the wide, boundless ocean'
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, [The Forgotten Ways, Page 27]

"A great deal more failure is the result of an excess of caution than of bold experimentation with new ideas. The frontiers of the kingdom of God were never advanced by men and women of caution"
J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership

One of my tutors at Vicar factory used to say the key factor that marks out what it means to be in the Church of England is 'politeness'. The trouble with being polite is this very quality makes it hard for us to face up to some stark realities and talk some tough truth. Now is surely a time for decisions, leadership, repentance, prayer and the formulation of an urgent plan. It's time most importantly to pray for the nations church leaders, for Rowan and his Bishops and for all who are empowered and entrusted by God with the oversight of his bride.

"Some senior clergy believe the entire parish system could be at risk. They have warned that, with as many as four out of ten clergy due to retire within the next decade, the next ten years are crucial in determining whether the Church of England survives as a visible entity or turns into "little more than a sect" run by unpaid volunteers."

Ruth Gledhill, The Times
30th September 2011

I have a pal who is one of the most thoughtful and experienced Vicar-types I know (Someone really should get on with it and make him a Bishop). He read the Ruth Gledhill/ 'Why plant churches?' piece I wrote and emailed me this in response about the Parish system and it's really worth sharing:

"I no longer believe the Parish system can hold. I don't think it effectively manages resources and I think it can often militate against mission - by its emphasis on maintenance. There are not the resources to effectively... serve the parish system. Too little spread too thin. It was a pragmatic systematic way of pastorally "covering" and ministering to the whole nation when the CofE was in a very real sense the Nation's church, respected by the majority, at the heart of the community, with few if any other ecclesiastical alternatives. Times change, but the CofE structurally hasn't. Tweaks to parish or deanery boundaries and clustering partnerships is too little too late. But with ever diminishing clergy numbers, many who end up tied up with 10+ parish churches, with their ageing buildings, dwindling congregants, crumbling buildings, the role of many clergy becomes no longer what they were ordained for - living and proclaiming the gospel. Instead they rush around, swamped by 10 PCC's, spend their time putting together complex matrixes for services at their multiple churches attended by a handful who refuse to join together at "the other church" - they are always juggling whilst standing in quicksand. The idealistic principle that every person/place is spiritually covered by an Anglican church/priest simply does not take account of the fact that the archaic parish system actually curtails creativity. It often militates against pioneering gospel mission where it may be needed- in "the next door parish" where the witness of the gospel may have become very weak due to unbelieving or uncreative clergy, who bide their time till retirement, with apparent little care about the eternal destiny of their parishoners to whom they are licensed to care and minister with gospel and sacrament. The Parish system does not take account of the resources of the wider body of Christ, partnering with other Christians and churches in that defined parish, but it has the underpinning arrogance to think that the Anglican priest is God's man or woman in that place. It's time for some radical, creative, faith-filled, prophetic thinking about structures, and also some re-thinking of who we ordain and how we train them to do church in C21st culture. I'm not sure I have an answer, but it begins by facing up to the crisis."

We would all do well to listen to this called 'Why plant churches?' and to read this.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

For the pod

A few in my church are hugely admiring of Kenny Borthwick (some are what one might call fans:) and recommend these talks called 'The Father and his Sons' (If you don't yet know that Jesus loves YOU then you should make time to listen to this teaching). He is a wonderful and v funny Scottish preacher and a joy to listen to. A friend listened to How to Change three times in a week and was still hearing new things. True Greatness is a belter from the Luke series. Michael Ramsden is on great form 'Courage, Christ and Finishing the Mission' and this Q&A is well worth catching on how to discern a call to mission. Driscoll vs Wilson on Spiritual Gifts (Wilson of Collision fame) interesting on the never ceasing charismatic v cessationist debate. A dear man I chatted to in the pub is now listening to ALL these talks on the Prodigal God and sending me long interesting text messages. I am taking him to listen to Lane Craig if he wants to come.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Why plant churches?

I am happy to be able to tell you that I am to become the Vicar of Holy Trinity Barnes at some point in the middle of next year and I will be planting out from our church. There is much to do and the post is 'non-stipendary' (that's C of E for no salary) so I will be busy gathering a core team, training leaders, doing some vision and value work and raising resources. Thought I would exercise a jot of faith which Jesus seems to be rather keen on:)

Most importantly, we are calling the people of our church to pray and seek the Lord as to whether they should stay or come with me and the plant. We are no mega-church so this is a scarily costly, uncomfortable and faith-inducing adventure for all of us. There are currently a very small and faithful bunch of saints worshipping in Barnes and during the last year I have been in discussions with them about the idea of planting which was happily finally agreed a few weeks ago. The current Vicar has done much to bring important and at times challenging changes for which I am grateful so I have a good base from which to start this new work. The plan has also been been extremely well-received by my colleagues in the our Deanery Chapter.

Why plant churches? 

I care very deeply about the Church of England because I believe the local church is the hope of the world and there is no better organism to deliver this for this nation than through it. I love the free churches, house churches, NFI, the Vineyard and so many others doing great mission but I still think the old girl C of E has life in her- but only just if recent data is to be believed.

Ruth Gledhill wrote a startling column in Times on Friday that all interested in the bride of Christ should read and reflect on deeply and urgently- particularly those in leadership. It suggested that the Church of England is destined on current trends to become nothing more than, to use her words, 'a small sect'. The title of her article was "Shortage of vicars puts Church at risk of becoming 'little more than a sect'. This ordination and retirement data was corroborated by the Planting Centre @ HTB when I attended their planting day recently :

"Numbers of full-time clergy in the Church of England have slumped to their lowest levels for more than a century, according to the latest figures published yesterday.

The Church of England now has little more than half the number of stipendiary priests that it had fifty years ago and a third of that a century ago.

Some senior clergy believe the entire parish system could be at risk. They have warned that, with as many as four out of ten clergy due to retire within the next decade, the next ten years are crucial in determining whether the Church of England survives as a visible entity or turns into "little more than a sect" run by unpaid volunteers.

Although 515 candidates were accepted to train as future clergy in 2010, with a 45% rise in those aged 20-29, and 563 new clergy were ordained in 2010, only 284 of these were entering the full-time ministry.

The Venerable Gordon Kuhrt, the Churches former director of ministry, said that the figures were down to a "bulge" in ordinations in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, as well as the fact that those joining the clergy recently were middle-aged. "Ordinations have remained remarkably bouyant but do not fill the gap caused by these two factors"

If the Church was a commercial organisation (which by the way the C of E can't avoid being) you might at this point rightly be observing that the HR Director should be fired for not attending to the leadership pipeline leading their organisation into utter crisis. If C of E shares were available on the stock exchange and this article appeared in the business pages of the FT, the share price would now be in free fall and the Chief Executive would be calling Bain and Company (who I have worked with in the past and are very good by the way Rowan but they are a tad pricey) for emergency help. As it is, the Chief Executive is rumoured to have secured himself a new job as a Theology Professor however the corporate affairs department at Lambeth Palace if you contact them seems to be saying "We're very happy to tell you it's business as usual".

If I was interviewing the new man for A of C I might at this moment be glad to see three additional letters on his CV other than the obligatory Phd. These would be MBA. (Now I know Eugene Peterson and many others will faint at this suggestion but I am not talking here about pastoring the local church. I am talking about the need for some measure of radical commercial and leadership savvy to stay what is according to Gledhill a fatally wounded sinking ship).  When Rowan should have been attending to this he was otherwise occupied writing a book about Dostoyevsky. Now I am real fan, love things Russian having lived there but this might not have been the best time to be writing a book?

For those of us who have had a past life in commerce and management, the method of training in the C of E seems to be all about de-skilling and you spend most of your time writing essays (don't get me wrong here I love both theology and essays). There are now some contextual training options and you can also now be a pioneer.  There is also the progressive thinking being unleashed by St Mellitus and the St Paul's Theological Centre.  Despite this it still takes far too long to train and equip a leader and the methods we are using are not fit for purpose- namely producing missionaries to a post-Christian land.

As an example, let's look at one essay my friend did at Vicar Factory not that long ago: 'Compare prayers A to H in Common Worship and outline the reasons for the differences". If you are 'the laity' as many of my non-ontologically changed readers are you might in response reply, "What ??" Now I know for some this is a truly fascinating way to spend a few weeks and knowledge of such things is all well and good at some point, but not perhaps when the overreaching problem is (1) There are not enough nor the right sort of people to read out whichever liturgical letter you decide to land on on a Sunday morning (2) In order to have a Communion liturgy (A,B,C,D,E, F, G or  indeed H which just while we are on it is my preferred alphabetical preference) one would assume you have to actually have someone who believes in Jesus to actually minister this holy and glorious sacrament to.

Planting churches is the most effective way to reach non-attenders

Now I know I am teaching most of my readers to suck eggs but [wait for it this is profound]- no one new is coming to church (attendance figures according to The Times show a decline of 2% for the years 2008/9). My plan and your plan to rectify this is [wait for it this is also really profound] - preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

There are a few reasons for the C of E's inability to reach non-attenders aside from not preaching the gospel.

1. Leaders are insecure (I include myself here): Church leaders like to be able to point at their big churches and their achievements. Go to any conference in the evangelical world certainly (it's true of ambitious liberal clerics too) and you will before very long be asked how big yours is. As long as yours is bigger than the person you are speaking to you can walk away with your head held high feeling mildly superior and effective. The evangelical mindset has a tendency towards church being 'my project' with many leaders being able to ignore both their local community and surrounding churches and their leaders as long as there are plenty of bums on seats. Missional Renaissance is a very salutary read on this score. Attendees of big churches are similarly disposed to like big things, safe things and consumable things. We would all rather sing about 'Offering up our life' than actually do it. HTB's secret has always been their courage to constantly give the best of their resources and people away and the Lord has blessed them mightily and this might be a secret for the rest of us. Planting churches is threatening because instead of collecting people into your thing and then being able to point at it, you are doing the reverse and sending people out and are inevitably left with less to point at. It forces us to live out Acts 20:35 and believe that it really is more blessed to give than to receive. The question I much prefer being asked and like to ask of others is, "Has anybody recently experienced the New Birth?" You see I think it is a contemporary myth that where you have large numbers of Christians gathering this is an indication that among them are many new believers. Strangely, without a clear strategy outlined so well in Managing Church Growth the opposite in fact seems to be the case .

2. Christians love Christian things: Christian just love Christian groups, Christian words, Christian songs, Christian courses, Christian programmes,  Christian clubs, Christian books and Christian lunches and we will consume them endlessly with ease. We love them more when they are efficiently provided with a bit a glitz and efficiency. The problem is non-attenders are rather different animals requiring a broader, more conversational and long-term strategy. I have recently been reading about the conversion of William Wilberforce and it's 'process' and it has given me much food for thought on this subject. All credit to Rowan as his Fresh Expressions is on to this but the mainstream church is contrast in spectacularly not

3. Small is beautiful:  Gary Jenkins in Multiplying Churches has been helpful to me in thinking about birthing new communities of faith. Church planting simply takes this principle and instead of sending people within parishes it hatches a plan to do the same thing between parishes. This comes with a whole host of hooplaa's but they can and they must be overcome. A pal sat on his sun-lounger in the summer reading Neil Cole's Organic church and has been working out what it means for his church plant and his leadership model ever since. I think it was Dallas Willard or perhaps someone else who said 'churches should be known for their sending capacity rather than their seating capacity'.

4. No one likes prunes: If we for a moment imagine that I have been made A of C (you can stop laughing now) and have brought Bain and Co in what might they recommend? Well, if they had read the manual and all the data on the client,  as any good consultant does, they would have read that the organisational founder said in John 15 that pruning is the way to fruitfulness. In that moment, any management consultant worth his salt (good word) would realise he was on to something. Pruning is to consultancy what communion is to the C of E. It's what we do. So pruning in Bain-land means cost-cutting, amalgamation and lots of redundancies. We have to get the right people on the bus. They also might ask why we seem in the C of E to duplicate so many things and if you were Jack Welch you'd have a knife to this issue quicker than you could say the words Thomas Cranmer. Every Diocese has to have lawyers, accountants, websites, property people, theological colleges and all the rest of the institutionally religious paraphanalia. Bottom line that anyone commercial knows is all that central cost is very expensive and doesn't sell much product.  Consultants also like axing ineffectual meetings and management layers in organisations- so the deanery synod's days may be numbered? Surely though, fewer clergy means inevitably fewer dioceses or am I missing something? (I do know General Synod is getting slowly onto this one)

5. Catch a vision for training as sending:   To enact the grand planting plan you need two more things. A mission statement. Something like 'Love Jesus and tell other people about him' (I just made that up but I will get Bain onto something more sophisticated). Also, we need to see Curacies as apostolic endeavours. You are not being trained to become the Vicar of St Bottocks instead you are being selected and trained in order to be sent to St Bottocks with people you have yourself seen gathered, converted and discipled. It's what missionaries are supposed to do- as Andrew Walls will tell you in The Missionary Movement in Christian History. How much better to arrive in your Curacy already knowing on day one that you will be planting a church, where you will plant it and have to gather people around the reality of that vision and challenge. If we pushed the faith and challenge envelope even further for 'New Curates' imagine if we had no guaranteed job for life unless you actually created the job, people and community you plan to pastor?  The job implicitly becomes missional which is what it should have been all along. We have plenty of nearly empty buildings usually in key locations and housing stock both of which are gold dust to the planter. If you are not capable of doing mission in your Curacy why do we think that when you become Rev Bob a Job at St Bottocks this is all suddenly going to start happening? A Curate instead of being an occasional office dog's body should be an apostolic wing man honing his skills under training and oversight for inevitable missional risk. Training simply isn't working and the Gledhill stats seem to bear that out. What we need to do is train planters for which you will need to start recruit evangelists or apostle's (Ephesians 4). Someone will need to phone HR and tell the BAP's to put a cap on pastors for about a decade. Even the picture on the C of E website says to me come and run the existing ship and we'll give you the funny costume for you up dress up in, not let's build, launch and equip new ships that people who aren't yet sailing might want to sail in. They are different things and the sooner we awaken to this the better. YWAM and their DTS's, NFI, The Vineyard, ACTS 29 and Deitrich Bonnhoeffer have much to teach us in this score.

Here's a final thought, maybe I could turn all these thoughts into a Phd and then they might make me Archbishop of Canterbury-

That's a joke by the way:)

So start to think radically and urgently about planting

Two quotes from Keller landed with me a few years ago and birthed a desire to see churches planted in the Church of England and to encourage leaders to start thinking "Maybe we could plant a church".  Here is what you might like to do:

1. Pray

2. Ask the question "Is it possible that our church community could raise some people and some resources and train up a leader to bring life to a church near us that would be blessed by us and therefore might not otherwise close?" Write a paper for your PCC or standing committee exploring planting and dream some dreams and 'what if's'.

3. Do you know which churches might be open to such a possibility?

4. Have you asked your Bishop or Archdeacon if they would be open to church planting and if they have any strategy for it?

5. Listen to this called Why plant churches?

In simple terms, I think that if we can pull this off as a church that is by no means large in the Diocese of Southwark, then I would urge any church community to think, dream, pray and ask if you might be able to do the same. All be it that I haven't actually done it yet. As Jesus says in the book- anything, in fact, immeasurably more is possible.

"The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for the 1) numerical growth of the Body of Christ in any city, and the 2) continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city. Nothing else - not crusades, outreach programs, para- church ministries, growing mega-churches, congregational consulting, nor church renewal processes - will have the consistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting. This is an eyebrow raising statement. But to those who have done any study at all, it is not even controversial."

“The average new church gains most of its new members (60-80%) from the ranks of people who are not attending any worshipping body, while churches over 10-15 years of age gain 80-90% of new members by transfer from other congregations. This means that the average new congregation will bring 6-8 times more new people into the life of the Body of Christ than an older congregation of the same size.”

Tim Keller

Saturday blog-sweep

 Some interesting books for pastors The State we're in Attack at dawn Joseph Scriven Joy comes with the morning When small is beautiful