Wednesday, November 30, 2011

One thing matters

"There is only one relationship that matters, and that is your personal relationship to a personal Redeemer and Lord. Let everything else go, but maintain that at all costs, and God will fulfil His purpose through your life. One individual life may be of priceless value to God's purposes, and yours may be that life"

Oswald Chambers, My utmost for his highest

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Amazon: an astonishing business story

Thanks to Michael Hyatt for this extraordinary infographic about Amazon.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Four books on Marriage

1. The Marriage Book: This is the book of the Marriage Course which is a hugely fruitful ministry to married couples. A friend says that doing the Marriage Course was the best decision she has made for her marriage and she and her husband found it to be such a help and blessing. This is a book that is really good to give to anyone, be they Christian or not, and is packed with wisdom on cultivating a healthy relationship. Excellent also for those who are preparing for marriage as a primer on what they might be in for.

2. The Meaning of Marriage: I was first introduced to Keller through a beaten up old cassette tape about relationships a dear lady in my church gave me and it contained such vast amounts of wisdom that I tracked down his church and bought a set of sermons. I wanted to hear him teach the Bible and the rest is history. This book is one you might want to work through week by week as a 'date-night' read in 2012 and I can't imagine it will not be a massive blessing. One to perhaps to give friends for Christmas?

3. The Real Marriage: One of Mars Hill's most podcasted sermon series is the Peasant Princess. It contains some subjects you will not have heard discussed before in church and offers very candid views about sex and relationships. This is the book of the talks and will be nothing if not controversial but is worth checking out, least of all because of the massive popularity of the talks which seemed to strike a cord with so many. As with most matters Driscoll, it will land in the 'love it or hate it' category but few will probably remain indifferent.

4. The Sacred Marriage: Perry Noble described this as the best book he had ever read on marriage. I came across Gary Thomas reading the excellent Sacred Pathways and he certainly writes well and clearly. I have bigged this up in the past and it seems worthy of being on this list.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Charismatics have more fun?

When I say more fun I need to qualify that by saying theologically. Sally posted this quote and I have been mulling on it. I tend to agree but then as a charismatic I would say that wouldn't I. My thought is that there are dangers either way. It's easy to put things down to experience and neglect the mind as is a tendency for charismatics but also one can be all mind and no encounter which can produce brittle and harsh people who lack love. If you want a context for the quote you can listen to Godpod 64 which is where the statement comes from.

By the way, if you fancy starting to dip your toe into theology (particularly if you are minded to think this theology and apologetics stuff is for someone else who is clever) you should start podcasting 'The Godpod'.

"What impressed me about many Christians in the charismatic tradition is that for them the heart of their faith was not a doctrinal idea or a statement but a lived encounter with God through the Holy Spirit, and in that context theology becomes really quite fun and creative because you're not arguing over it because you have this deeper common experience of God in Christ through the Spirit, and theology is just trying to describe it. Many charismatics seemed more open to learn, open to think and explore rather than getting tied down over tight doctrinal statements over which they would argue with one another. The charismatic tradition has it's problems like any other but the thing I love about it that it says that the heart of faith is an encounter with God. It places God and our relationship with God at the heart of things rather than our ideas about God" 

Rev Dr Graham Tomlin Dean of St Mellitus theological seminary

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Engaging with the debate of our times: Lennox v Dawkins

A teenager in our church with a passion for apologetics sent me this fascinating debate (I did myself out of my Sunday afternoon nap to watch it after witnessing his enthusiasm!) You might want to point similarly-minded young people in your church with an interest in this area to Ask and the excellent work of the Zac Trust.

You could do a lot worse than gather a group together on both sides of the argument and watch this lively and informative discussion and then all go for a pint or a coffee and talk about it. If you want a 'one stop shop' on the question of our times this debate comes pretty close.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

For the pod: Rob Bell's 'New Calling New Venture'

If you have not heard of Rob Bell welcome-this is called the Internet.

He is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church, (not to be confused with the other Mars Hill), the creator of Nooma and writer of many books including the infamous 'Love Wins'. Michael Patton had an interesting recent reflection called "Why we love C S Lewis and hate Rob Bell?"

I can remember where I was when I watched the first Nooma film called Rain and being very moved by it. After that, for a season, I came across his films everywhere as people showed them to youth groups, at church events and even in services. While I was living in Canada for a summer some years ago I gave someone the film 'Matthew' when they told me of their suffering following the suicide of their brother. It helped them grieve. Some time later they became a Christian I happily heard.

I am not with him on everything by any means, but it is unquestionable that Bell has had one of the greatest impacts on the cultural landscape of contemporary Christianity as anyone around. You've got to have a bit of pluck to preach through Leviticus as your first sermon series. There are those who don't think he's frightfully sound and on some things he's not, but the fact this annoys some in certain tribes so much seems to be all part of his enormous appeal and it'll always get you a gig at Greenbelt.

I do particularly love his recovery of the discipline of Sabbath that he shared in the edgy Velvet Elvis and each of us should probably have his quote on our fridge doors to remind us to take rest weekly and seriously (especially if you are a work-a-holic evangelical pastor as Bell is/was. Only you can decide if the 'was' refers to evangelical or pastor:)

"There are so many layers to the healing of the soul. One practice that has brought incredible healing is the taking of a Sabbath. Now when we read the word Sabbath, most of us think that the real issue behind the Sabbath isn’t which day of the week it is but how we live all the time.
I decided to start taking one day a week to cease from work. And what I discovered is that I couldn’t even do it at first.
I would go into depression.
By the afternoon I would be so . . . low.
I realized that my life was all about keeping the adrenaline buzz going and that I was only really happy when I was going all the time. When I stopped to spend a day to remember that I am loved just because I exist, I found out how much of my efforts were about earning something I already have.
Sabbath is taking a day a week to remind myself that I did not make the world and that it will continue to exist without my efforts.
Sabbath is a day when my work is done, even if it isn’t.
Sabbath is a day when my job is to enjoy. Period.
Sabbath is a day when I am fully available to myself and those I love most.
Sabbath is a day when I remember that when God made the world, he saw that it was good.
Sabbath is a day when I produce nothing.
Sabbath is a day when I remind myself that I am not a machine.
Sabbath is a day when at the end I say, “I didn’t do anything today,” and I don’t add, “And I feel so guilty.”
Sabbath is a day when my phone is turned off, I don’t check my email, and you can’t get ahold of me.
Jesus wants to heal our souls, wants to give us the shalom of God. And so we have to stop. We have to slow down. We have to sit still and stare out the window and let the engine come to an idle. We have to listen to what our inner voice is saying."

Bell then took his theology on the road and played rock stadiums for Emergents. But the truth is it all really kicked off when he decided to write his book on heaven and hell called 'Love Wins'. He went global. We've been there and tweeted that.

Recently though, a friend recommended a talk he gave to Mars Hill called New Venture New Calling which I listened to and really enjoyed on a car journey. There are surely few better communicators around whatever you make of the content of his sermons (many of which have blessed me over the last decade) and books. This tells you the whole story of Mars Hill and announces the story that is yet to begin for him in LA.

Grace and peace to you Rob for the next thing. I am quite sure this is not the last we will hear of you, despite Piper's famous tweet. You're probably not done yet.

Saturday blog-sweep

The Nativity Factor

Common grace and Amazing grace

Four books

When you aren't sure what to do next

Eight traits of effective Church leaders (via Dash House)

Can Heretics be saved?

25 books on a napkin

Ravi Zacharias responds to a Muslim ( via Challies)

I feel distant from God

Roland Allen

Gratitude is free (via Kingdom People)

How to get out of that funk

Friday, November 25, 2011


As you might know, I am planning to plant a church with a few people, some faith and lots of prayer. We met for the first time in my friends home on Wednesday. Twenty years ago two of the people in the room were not Christians but they became so within months of each other in the same Church. I was one of them.

We were both influenced by, prayed for and discipled by the same man. His name was Andy and we had both played rugby with him. Recently, Andy met another of our mutual friends at a party in Salisbury having never met him before and quite by chance and by piecing together some information Andy was told the news that we were both still following Jesus and I was a Vicar. He was absolutely stunned. I met with Andy as an infant believer, he gave me a copy of Every day with Jesus for new Christians, we read the Bible together and he encouraged me on the way. We only did this a few timesas I remember and then I moved to another city and we lost touch.

Please watch Strangers and then have a look around you, ask the Holy Spirit and see if there is any one person you might be able to meet up with (and it might only be for a hand full of times) to be a friend to, to encourage and to bless them in their walk with or questions about Jesus. You never know, in twenty years time they might end up having a crack at planting a church :)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Discipleship is all about Jesus

Discipleship is about loving Jesus.

I know I should make it more complicated than this but it seems to me that if you love Jesus with all your mind, heart and soul and give your best Spirit-filled shot at loving others too you will make a follower or two.

My discipleship lesson 1-0-1 of the day then is wait for Jesus

It has always struck me that I got all the way through the selection process to be ordained in the C of E and no one ever asked me that simple question, "Do you love Jesus?" (John 21). Oops.

Fortunately I did and do.

I happened on this film of Kayleigh this week which I had not seen and didn't know she had made. Kayleigh is part of our church family and has come to love Jesus and seeing this encouraged me and many others greatly. I baptised her in the summer. This is I guess why I get out of bed in the morning. I am going to watch it on those days that come every now and then when a smidgen of encouragement is needed.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Resources for making disciples

Downline resources look interesting as a means of making a few disciples upon the 'less is more' principle that I have been writing, praying and thinking about recently (h/t Provocations and pantings).

Monday, November 21, 2011

How to make disciples

This quote by Neil Cole has stuck with me over the past few months and I can't shake it.

"Ultimately, each church will be evaluated by only one thing - its disciples. Your church is only as good as her disciples. It does not matter how good your praise, preaching, programs, or property are; if your disciples are passive, needy, consumeristic, and not radically obedient, your church is not good."

Search and Rescue: Becoming a disciple who makes a difference

Radical by David Platt

How many people in our churches are thinking small? Most churches want to be big and most church leaders if you hang out with them for long enough will tell you how big there church is. There's even a conference for such churches which I'm sure serves a good purpose. However, it's not a relevant fact in the least it seems to me when it comes to the effectiveness of actually making a disciple in our increasingly consumerist church culture. The question you must ask is 'How are you getting on at making genuine and growing disciples?' and "Tell me HOW you go about doing that?" (large churches may indeed be able to help here but in my experience they are often just large gatherings of Christians very few of whom are proactively discipling another person. The truth is most people don't know how and don't feel confident enough to lead another in 'The Jesus Way'). I have been asking people/Vicars (who are people too:) that question of 'How' and have yet to find anyone who can give me an adequate answer to the question of what their plan is for encouraging and equipping disciple-making.

Here are two more questions for you that narrow this in a bit.

Who am I discipling ?

How am I discipling them?

Who should be asking these questions? Everyone who calls themselves a follower of Jesus. Now here is how you might do it.

1. Identify ONE PERSON 

2. Start immediately to pray for them and go on doing so.

3. Ask them if they would like to meet to learn more about how to follow Jesus

4. "Therefore GO" (Matt 28). Agree to meet once every two or three weeks anywhere that mutually suits you both (a coffee shop, a station,  a park, a lunch spot, a bench). The principle is you are going to them. You are the sent one and your movement is to them out of a desire to love, serve and make a disciple of Jesus.

5. Agree what you are going to do in the hour you are going to meet (read through a gospel or a letter, read through 'The Kings Cross', work through Galatians 5:22-23, Matthew 5-7, listen to these talks on Proverbs and discuss them, do a Discovery Bible Study etc. The specifics are not the main thing as there is no shortage of resource. Your overarching intention is to love and encourage another in the way of following and loving Jesus and to resource their soul led by the Spirit as a result of having spent time with them. Matthew 28:19-20 suggests discipleship should have two elements a. Teach b. Obey. So discipleship in its simplest expression is about imparting something of the teaching of Jesus and then actively choosing to put it into practice and holding each other to account to do so (Teach and Obey). 

6. Agree ONE THING for each of you to do and pray together at the end of your time together.

7. Do this for two or three months. It is OK to set a time-frame to this.

If you do this and I do this and we teach others to do this too we might make one or two disciples don't you think? Do this one person at the time and be assured the fruitfulness of your life will be unfathomable.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


The man with the stick

The Anglican Church is debating something called the Covenant. Nobody who doesn't come to church could care less I know. Most in the church couldn't either it seems and of course the documentation explaining what it is is utterly impenetrable and confusing. The sea of incomprehension in the faces of our PCC was a sight to behold.  I have read it and, for what it's worth given the choice, I recommend going with our CEO Rowan and being in favour. Rebellion never works out that well as I read the story or did I miss something?

Basically, as I understand it which I may well not have, it is a call to remain orthodox (I know orthodox is sooooo last year) which the Windsor Report has already done. A bunch of people who don't want to remain orthodox (for cultural/theological reasons that they argue about with passion as Lesley does. I disagree with her but I do love her zeal) Those against Windsor decided to show the leadership of the Church where they could shove their report and did their own thing with seemingly very little consequence.

Instead of actually doing something about this act rebellion (or campaign for justice depending on how you view it) and heresy the C of E approach is, you guessed it, to produce another document. Now that was always going to be a belting idea. Your tracking with me here I can tell. The Covenant then is an attempt at calling the same bunch of people, some of whom are here and some the other side of the pond, to orthodoxy and, surely to no one's huge surprise, it's not going down that well (why would it when they have already told everyone what they believe albeit in my view that they are profoundly wrong). Though, let's be honest, simply as a stand alone document it is probably more interesting and informative reading the manual for my Bosch washing machine than the Covenant and this in itself isn't winning it many fans. You do always seem to produce an absolutely cracking read if you draft something by committee, particularly when it's a C of E one :)

Now on to more pressing matters. This is a conversation someone had with a girl this week in our local secondary school.

Q "Would you like to come to church with me some time?"

A "Come to church? Won't the man who holds the stick and walks up and down beat me for being bad. And anyway how much do you charge ?"

There are two worlds. Anglican Church world (weird looking men and women in dresses debating matters of Christendom such as the Covenant) and the real world that has long since checked out of any interest in such things, assuming they had any in the first place. The average age of a bum on a seat in the C of E is 61. I say that again 61.

We are now living in post-Christendom as 'The shaping of things to come' will tell you (arguably one of the most important books published in the last decade for those with an interest in mission)

"We're the minority and we have a message to change the world" says Mike Breen. Yes we are and indeed we do.

Wake up church. By the time we get this Covenant thingy agreed it may all be game over so why not debate being on mission and what it means to proclaim the gospel and then let's all get on with it shall we. This dear girl and one's like her living near you desperately need us to. Their souls depend on it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

For the pod: Present Sufferings Future Glory

Recently, I acquired a book that I have not yet read but will surely need to one day and until then it will sit on my bookshelf. It is called 'The Hardest Sermons you'll ever have to Preach'.

My friend is living through one of these dreadful moments following a tragedy in his church when his friend and colleague on the staff Joanna was knocked off her bicycle in Oxford and died in the street. Please pray for Simon and the community of St Aldates and for Joanna's family and friends as they walk through the aftermath together and do listen to 'Present Sufferings Future Glory' that he preached through tears from a text in Romans 8. Simon has been preaching through Romans for fourteen months and I commend this as some of the finest Bible teaching you will find in the Church of England. Available on itunes here.

I watched this short film a while ago of people on bicycles which has the strap-line 'Life is short' and as I have watched it anew it has moved me deeply for obvious reasons. Pray for St Aldates, for Charlie and Anita as they lead this extraordinary church that was such a blessing to me for two years, for the city of Oxford full of students living life which is indeed short and who need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ so desperately in these days. Whilst the world says 'Life is short' we know that for Joanna, in the blinking of an eye, it wonderfully became an eternal reality. Pray for the proclamation of the Gospel in that great city and for his anointing on those tasked with preaching it. Personally, it has also prompted me to count my own days and use them as fruitfully and creatively as I can and to be thankful afresh for God's amazing mercy and goodness to me. May God use this heart-rending event and work it for good and for His glory.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bethlehem Booking Hotline

How good is this :)

Newton : My dead friend

My story involves at one point my giving up my job to go and work for my local church. I was wholly unqualified for the task and knew nothing of theology or church practices or the nuances of the thing that is the Church of England. I genuinely has no idea what on earth the people who 'worked for the church' were supposed to do and floundered wondering what I should do apart from pray and read the Bible.

In those early difficult days suspecting my utter lack of competence for the job would soon be discovered , I happened upon a dead mentor- a man by the name of John Newton. I discovered him quite by chance (not that we believe in that) through a couple of sermons called 'Principles of Christian Growth 1' and 'Principles of Christian Growth 2' and immediately went and bought a copy of his letters. I have been dipping into them on and off ever since, particularly when I hit a situations that perplex me, which is almost all the time. What I have learnt from Newton is the things that assail my own soul and other people's souls are in fact exactly the same for him as they are for you and me.

So, if you are currently struggling with a secret sin or character trait or habit that you think you will never defeat, reading Newton will encourage you that he faced the same. If you are wondering how on earth you will attain maturity in the faith (Eph 4:13) and need a few tools to help you achieve this, he will be your helper. If you want to know how the gospel transforms your inner being and the process by which that occurs then Newton is a man who can give you a tip or two. If you feel amidst a battle with all its difficulties and snares Newton will explain to you the rules and means of combat. Finally, if you are a pastor or are involved in pastoring others and are looking for a one-stop shop handbook of wisdom for the job (if ever such a thing exists) then these letters will come as close as any to that. For all our whizz bang techniques, courses, prayer ministry, musical shows and all the dry ice of some parts of the contemporary church, the truth is walking out the gospel hasn't changed at all, it has never been easy and is unlikely to become so any time soon.

Imagine my joy then at finding this post called 'John Newton's Preface to Pilgrim's Progress' which for a Newton fan like me was the very happiest of discoveries. You see none of us when we make the decision to follow Jesus have any idea how hard it is going to be. Very few of us, particularly if you are a first generation follower, are prepared for the long journey and the painful surgery the Spirit has planned for our characters and souls. On many days one may, as I have often, feel like giving up or turning back (as Bunyan captured so brilliantly) but by amazing grace we each one of us really can and will be able to persevere. So if you need a companion to walk with you in the Spirit then I doubt you will find a much finer friend than John Newton and reading this preface today may be just the encouragement your soul needs to keep putting one foot in front of another.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

Happy? A quote that got into my sermon

Vicky Beeching (here singing 'Yesterday, today and forever') is listing her favourite quotes which are well worth reading. This one struck me so hard it ended up in last nights sermon.

"Change while you have the chance"

Jack Welch

(h/t 22 Words)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

For the pod: Like or love?

It is no secret to readers of the blog that I have been working through the book of Luke as my day-off habit which amounts to nearly one hundred sermons (I have missed quite a few but have listened to a lot). I reflected at length on the content of one sermon and its preacher here (at the helpful prompting of a friend). I started on the journey because someone told me once to always be working through a gospel in some way or other and I happened upon this series of teaching which was just about to get going. Somehow or other I have stuck with it.

Yesterday, I spotted a quote by Adrian Plass that goes like this, "God is nice and he likes me" and I tweeted that I was pondering it. A Vicar pal wanted to know more about my thoughts. I will tell you why I was pondering it - it was because I had just watched a sermon and was still reeling. It is called Jesus' Crucifixion and Death.

If you have bothered, as I have, to listen to so much Bible teaching then this must surely be the one it all centres in on, that it revolves around and is the one that might explain the passion and at times offensiveness, in some people's eyes, of its preacher. The Cross is offensive and always will be (1 Corinthians 1:18). Facing that and coming to terms with that and owning your part in that and choosing to believe that the cross happened for you is what the Bible calls salvation. No one deserves it and so often it is those who truly realise how little they deserve who embrace the gospel. This is the sermon that it has really all been about (documented as Death by love). It made me think about my own life, my priorities in the time I have left, my preaching, it made me think about why the church you will see is full and yet so many others are empty and rarely see a converted soul from one year to the next. It made me wonder if I have made the Cross 'Of first importance....', it forced me to face my own sin and receive God's burning love anew. It shocked me and reminded of Gods extraordinary and indescribable goodness and it made Jesus's love profoundly real to me once again. It may well not do that for you but this sermon landed deeply on my heart.

When as a child my Vicar (a dear man as I always say) dressed up in that funny outfit, when he sung that liturgy rather off key, when he went through the same communion words week after week, when he shook my hand at the door and said 'See you next Sunday' and when I then watched the old ladies in hats on Songs of Praise later in the day this is the event that we had been reenacting and been thankful for. This is the event that means St Bottock's and Rev Bob-a-job's like me are here in the first place. We have come so far in some quarters since that day at Golgotha that we have even now managed to turn the gospel and the task of proclaiming it into a comedy called Rev that we are all chuckling along to. The Church to many in these days is not much more than a joke, when it should instead be a source of resurrection power. This is, I have to tell you, an incredibly important way to spend an hour of your life or 'the most important hour of your life' to quote the preacher. Alternatively you could watch the omnibus edition of Eastenders. Is "God is nice and he likes me" a reasonable descriptor? Love to me- amazing grace love -truly seems a better fit. Watch this and then only you can decide.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Epic Jesus

This talk is still ringing in my soul weeks after hearing it. Here is a taster and one reviewer said he read 'Epic Jesus' in one sitting and it stirred in him a wonderfully renewed vision of Jesus and the gospel. He writes:

'The book is brief and should be read in a single sitting.  It's powerful.  It's really a summation of the gospel in all its glory, and a nice answer to those who think the gospel is simply the news that Jesus died for our sins.  It is that, of course, but that fact is embedded in a greater story, and that story is good news from start to finish.'

This can all be done for just £2.88  which seems a bargain to me.

(h/t Wilderness Fandango)

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Missional church: their needs not yours

"You don't realize Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have."
Tim Keller

Three of us at our early prayer gathering @ 6.30 all woke at 3.30am and then couldn't go back to sleep which is a funny old thing. We prayed Psalm 40 together then went for breakfast. Recommended if you feel in a fix today -the Psalm not the breakfast :)

Sometimes people ask me how it is possible to find time to write a blog and why I bother? I tend to write a post first thing in the morning and I am generally up early with the lark. Other bloggers may be nocturnal types which I am not.

1. A blog can be a place that is easy to create. Actually, it doesn't take very much time to get a blog going and one like this could be up and running in 15 minutes and then it's a case of starting to write and share a few things. Google reader is the secret to my quick information collection.

2. A blog can be a place where you can pastor and influence for good. Many in the city are not 'in church' (whatever you think that means) except for an hour or two on a Sunday. A blog enables disciple-making Monday to Saturday as people do life which Jesus died and rose to give them in all it's fullness didn't he? Is it a profitable use of one's time you may ask? Who knows? I do wonder sometimes but it seems to bear quite a bit of fruit every now and then as people read some books, download talks and find ideas which does I suppose pass the John 15 test. I have a few Vicar pals who use Facebook in a similar pastoral way to promote theological debate but there is a lot of competing noise that there isn't with a blog. Facebook it seems can suck time away and leave you with little to show for it other than the 'I've just had a cup of tea' notifications. Mike Breen former Vicar of St Thomas Crooks in Sheffield (who sadly left these shores for the US) is a good example of someone using his blog as his main vehicle for communication and is fruitfully bringing influence and change through it to the wider church.

We do sometimes talk of being 'at church', organising people to 'do church' and turning up 'to serve the church' and do more 'for church'. Here's a brain-stewing thing. The church is a people who are sent out on mission and very many now live rightly or wrongly on social media. (1 Peter 2). Sally, who I was at Vicar Factory with, has turned her social media status into a thing of growing influence and celebrity, C of E style, and even appeared on You and Yours recently as well as often on Sky. Fame indeed:) Don't get me wrong 'I believe in preaching' and 'doing church' is important- some say on a good day I'm not half bad at it. I am currently immersed in a message on 2 Timothy 4:1-8. But there's more to the kingdom than just preaching and being very busy doing church there is connecting and understanding too.......

3. A blog can be a place where you can share some of yourself - thoughts, humour, reading, listening, concerns and experiences with any passers by. Some people have loads of bookmarks on their computer- I have a blog so you can see them too and share in them. It is also part diary and all-access spiritual journal.

4. A blog is a place where you can write. I enjoy writing and more recently people have encouraged me to do more of it. I reflect and work out questions on my mind about culture, theology, contextualisation (posh word for doing God stuff in a place), mission and church issues in this fine land and beyond. Sometimes I just write a bit and bob that strikes me.

5. A blog is a place that can resource others and accessibly store things. It fits the way God has shaped me as a resource investigator i.e a recommender (my BCofE employers spent £000's sending me on countless courses one of which was a day on Belbin). I have a lot of things I am enthused about, reading, thinking and you should be glad I bung it all here or I would be driving you mad with my badgering recommendations and enthusiasm.

6. A blog is a place that you can encourage others. I try to encourage friends (some of whom live in foreign parts), people in our church, pastors and leaders with a few things that quite frankly I pray might keep each of us all running the race and following Jesus. The race is a hard one if your experience of following Jesus has been at all like mine and many who are in leadership so often get burnt out or bereft of hope and ideas.  My prayer is that this is a blessing to a few saints which is I think the grand plan of the Covenant.

7. A blog is a place where people who don't yet 'come to church' can hear about Jesus: I am amazed that 441 people have read 'What's it all about?' ('clicked on' is not the same thing as read I realise) which started life as an email I sent to my work colleagues nearly a decade ago whenever they asked why I was leaving to become a Vicar. It sits tucked away on the sidebar which is why I am so surprised. Were this a booklet among the thousands in a naff Christian bookstore no one would have read it. Do print it off, use it, send it, turn into into a leaflet, email it and share it if it's at all helpful to you in communicating the gospel to your not-quite-yet-follower friends. Is the blog not possibly a teeny-weeny bit of the church coming to the people?

8. A blog is a place to put follow up resources from sermons and events. I post material I come across as I prepare sermons and following them share things. A quote here, a thought there, and idea written out or a book referred to. Hence my post on Prayer-walking which I spoke about on Sunday.

9. A blog can be a place that connects you with social media. I don't spend a lot of time on Facebook but I do have the blog available there via a link. The same in true of Twitter. You might think 'twitter witter woo' as some pastors do but if you want to be heard where the world is making a noise then it's there I'm afraid. It's what the Resurgence call 'the air war' on the internet putting good news in the midst of much that's not good at all.

By some miracle I do now seem to have quite a few readers (a few thousand hits a month) which astounds me considering I have no proactive means of acquiring them other than word of mouth. Thank you for being a reader if you are one and haven't just clicked here while surfing for American biscuits :)

Here is my thought for today. If you get involved in church things the danger is that you spend a great deal of time thinking about what you want 'our' church to be or do for us. What music do we like? What are the children's groups like? Does the coffee taste nice? What time suits us best to meet? Now all these things might be dandy but your non-attending community couldn't care less about such things. It's why Reggie McNeal's thoughts (a really really really good way to spend 45 mins) together with Keller's thinking are so very profound and contain some of the most important paradigm-shifting stuff I have listened to in recent years.

"Your job is to bless people- period. Don't have an evangelism strategy have a blessing strategy"

Reggie McNeal

His book Missional Renaissance is very helpful for mission in post-Christendom (but it is set in the US which does not have a parish system and is full of Americans :)

The starting point for your church should be the Kingdom of God. The King is at work if we only took the trouble to look. As Peterson says God is particular. I know about all the other stuff and you need to do that too but don't do it to the exclusion of loving those who aren't yet coming and don't do it unless you're also working out what the father is doing. Tim Chester's book Total Church really captures this.

You might also be helped on this by watching  Go, See, Feel, Do

A dear pal rang me up and was so excited about Redeeming our communities and its possibilities for their church. He was doubly excited he knew about something I didn't and also said to read Debra Green's books. However, I did send him Scott Hodge who has some thinking on this and his team loved it.

"We have to get really good at sending people out"

Scott Hodge

Where's the need of your community? Ask the police is one option seemingly. We have discovered this to be true as we have launched Street Pastors this year. This might be a way in for your church to meet its communities needs and love your neighbours.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Praying with your feet

On Sunday, I preached on the subject of 'Teach us to pray' and referred to a super book I highly recommend called Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas. If you don't have it you can find a summary of its ideas in a chapter of Courageous leadership. One form of prayer I spoke of was 'Prayer Walking' and it got lots of response from people. As it happens, yesterday I met a Clerk in Holy Orders who greatly enjoys this practice as he walks around this fine city of ours.

Here are some ideas J R Briggs put together to get you walking and praying. Why not give it a go alone, with your dog, with your family, with a prayer partner, with a new believer or with your community/home group. We have used this method frequently during our whole nights of prayer. Jesus said 'When you pray.....' and maybe this can be a new 'when' for you or is perhaps not something you have not even thought of? One person said to me on Sunday 'Is praying as you walk really allowed? I feel so liberated now I know I can pray as I walk around the park?'' Trust me- it's allowed!

1. The important practice of praying with your feet

2. Nine reasons to pray with your feet

3. The frequency of praying with your feet

4. Creative ways to pray with your feet.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Send me my scrolls

'When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.' 

2 Tim 4 v 13

A friend I work with has started to study theology at St Mellitus and if you wonder who on earth St Mellitus is this is the story. St Mellitus was birthed out of HTB and is one of the many extraordinary ministries and initiatives that are having a global impact that have had their start there. Among these are Alpha, The Marriage Course (which is now being run in China authorised by the Government), the Wilberforce Trust with its work in social transformation and the excellent God at work course which we took some of our church through last year (written by Ken Costa).
The things God is doing through St Mellitus and the St Paul's Theological Centre excite me because it is making theology accessible to huge numbers of people who may not ever have considered it. Maybe that's you?

Recently, I was discussing the story of Martin Luther with my friend who is now writing an essay on Justification by Faith. He is being tutored by Graham Tomlin who used to work at my old Vicar Factory and wrote a very helpful introduction to him called Luther and his world. By the way, if you want to know about Luther and wonder why he is such an important dude (which everyone should want to know:) you could always watch this talk called 'The role of Scripture and the Life of Luther' by Timothy George. If you watch this and then get the bit between your teeth for more reading this is a good starter kit on the Reformation. Everyone I think should explore the doctrine and man upon which the Reformation hung.

Too often, certainly in the C of E, theology is the preserve of those in a dog-collar and a dress with letters after their name and if the Reformation, with all its imperfections (as I am discovering), was about anything it was about a desire to make the gospel and scripture and, by extension of this, theology accessible to all. Isn't it great that in the heart of London and, wonderfully as part of the C of E, people from all walks of life ('the laity' as we ontologically changed folks like to refer to you.....:) can now commit to study theology and grow both in their love of God and knowledge of him (Romans 12:2) They can do this while also being rooted in the context of their local churches.

You can enrol as an independent student and study part time or do your ordination training through the college. They have accredited courses if you want letters after your name and are being Rev'd up or why not explore the School of Theology as an option for some first study. This is worth thinking about if you lead a church and have people in your churches who would like to study or are sensing a calling-point them here. A 'dip your toe in' for some of you might be to take a module or two? If you are a worship leader you might like to check out the Worship Academy or for youth leaders there is this great course.

In 'Why Plant Churches?' I suggested the need for a seismic shift in the way people are trained and equipped given these latest depressing vital statistics (Do read this). I agree with David Keen that at some point soon someone must have the courage to blow the whistle and call time on the old system in order to usher in the new. Amidst the gloom though there is much to be encouraged by in so many churches across the land and in the C of E in particular. There is so much new hopeful creative thinking around planting and grafting currently and lots of prayer going on. As it so happens, I will be starting a wee bit of study at St Mellitus from January-sharpen the saw and all that. 'Why plant churches?' might be a bit more than a blog post I pray. I do believe there's life in the old girl C of E yet.

As a final aside, I gave my pal Tony Reinke's new book called Lit!: The christian guide to reading books to aid him in his studies which is a good accessible introduction on how to read books so that you get the best out of them. You might want to get hold of it.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

For the pod: Epic Jesus

Frank Viola is a thinker, preacher, writer and clearly a reader looking at this reading list. He is not shy of a bit of controversy either. A few weeks back I listened to his talk that someone recommended from Colossians called Epic Jesus and it gave me a renewed understanding of the vastness of God. I don't know if you have a pressing decision, a drama you face, a person on your heart or you are just in need of a reminder of the gospel and God's love and grace. This one really should hit the spot- at least it did for me. It's about Jesus. Jesus is Lord over your life and over all.

Saturday blog-sweep

Steve Jobs and Kingdom Work?

The unfamiliar sound of the C of E getting it's act together.

The ultimate napping infographic

Piper on Halloween and What Christians should know about Halloween

A God-centred theology has to be a missionary theology

Five factors that brought life to a dying church

A new way of training church planters

Friday, November 04, 2011

Never walk alone

At one point yesterday the subject of resources for Church planting came up and my pal Wayne shouted out 'Just read Cookies days' as he's a fan- he even recommended it in his parish notice sheet :) So as a response of gratitude here are ten things quickly off the top of my head that I hope will bless our newly forming cohort of people exploring opportunities for growth and planting.

"I planted the seed, Apollos watered it but God has been making it grow
1 Corinthians 3 v 6 

1.They might like to read If I wanted to recommend one book a church planter should read....

2. They keep an eye to the blogs of Mike Breen, J R Briggs, Ben Sternke, Doug Paul, and Justin Buzzard (all linked on the side bar among many others that I hope will encourage and birth new thoughts)

3. They could subscribe to the leadership coaching podcasts at both the Resurgence and Perry Noble.

4. They may be blessed if they do one of these 30 things.

5. They should follow and be inspired by the story of Steve Furtick (you should perhaps show his planting story to your team?) and let him teach you how to preach for decision.

6. They might want to ponder on the brilliant content of 'Ten reasons not to join a church plant' and 'Ten reasons to join one'. Every planter should do their first baptisms as he did in a hot tub on a trailer in the middle of the street  - but must say surprised myself in thinking Cranmer could add a few more words to proceedings:). Perhaps that is because I am reading his biography.....

7. They may save a bit of time if they find a planter who has done a bit of thinking on a framework for discipleship

8. Watching this may break them anew with a burden for the lost as it does in me every time I listen.

9. Listening to Missional Communities and their role in Church planting may be a blessing and watching What do missional communities look like? Also reading Launching missional communities might be stimulating.

10. And finally this film will get any church planter praying

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Followers not leaders

I am in the place I did my Alpha retreat twenty years ago led by my dear friend Peter. He says of me that I am one of the people who most disappointed him on any course:) (and he has led hundreds) as I seemed to make no progress whatsoever. I am gathered here with others who are all planning to plant churches or exploring opportunities for church growth in their contexts across this land. How weird and wonderful is that?

I was unable to sleep for all the emotion of coming back here so I read Simon Walkers book 'The Undefended Life' late into the night. He gets the title from a quote attributed to Melanie Klein

'Maturity is the freedom to live an undefended life'

Simon led the most interesting and frankly challenging course I did at Vicar factory and anyone faintly interested in better understanding oneself and God should read this book. If you 'lead' anything, this book will help get perspective on what on earth that actually means.

You know sometimes you read a paragraph of a book and it stops you dead and makes your heart beat with an insight. I did that reading this:

"If there is one thing I would have the reader take away from this book, it is the significance of these lines [John 5:19]. It is upon this that everything I have written hangs......(p.123)

....Some have rightly noticed that we should talk less of leadership and more of followership- in other words, the things that make people follow the leader. I would want to go further and suggest that leadership itself is an act of followership. There is no such thing as leadership in the sense of executive agency and decision-making that we often take it to mean. The leader is not in the business of taking decisions about the things that happen. Rather she should be in the business of responding to the leading of God's Spirit.

The only kind of leadership possible is described in John 5:19, where the Son describes his following of the movements of the divine Father. The chief quality of a leader, then, should not be the capacity to make decisions or be visionary, but rather to listen and be attentive. It is startling that we often seek to train our leaders to be better communicators (by which we mean 'speakers') believing that leadership is some act of persuasion. In fact, we should be looking for individuals who have cultivated a stillness of spirit such that they can attend to the movements of God.....

....I am not the slightest bit interested in following men and women who can depict a grand vision, or who have confidence about 'the way we need to do things'. I want to follow and learn from the men and women who struggle with the pain of the world and who are generous, kind, self-effacing, seeking to learn, fragile, patient, still and free, those who have known failure and been crushed. I want to follow the one who can laugh at him or herself and who does not try to achieve mighty things. As someone once said, 'The immature man seeks to die heroically for a cause; the mature seeks to live maturely for one' (p.160)

I will be pondering these words for some time to come.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, November 02, 2011


If you watch a more moving film this week or indeed month I will be amazed. Thanks to Mark Meynell for finding this story of a woman hearing for the first time. This moved me deeply.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

One life

A ton of people no doubt will have watched the Steve Jobs address to Stanford University since his recent death. It is a great and inspiring talk and in it he speaks of not settling for a lesser dream with your one life and a lesser dream in your work. What is hard for those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus is what does it mean for us to 'live the dream'?

I have long been impressed and encouraged by Scott McKnight who is a theologian, teacher, preacher and writer of the blog Jesus Creed. He seems to be a man of thoughtfulness, challenge, generosity and love. Actually, in truth he also just seems like a kind nice man and we all need a few kind people in our lives. I have read a couple of his books recently and particularly enjoyed One Life.

This is his book on discipleship and what I really liked about it is it is not a book of things to do. So many discipleship books are ten chapters of things we should all be doing more busily to be more efficient and effective for Jesus- we evangelicals love a bit of extra activity. Instead though, this is about the kingdom, about love, about eternity, about justice, about wisdom, about sex and about peace. The last chapter, which I finished this morning, speaks about repentance (which was timely) as the key to things and then McKnight goes on to share that his favourite theologian is Bonnhoeffer. His hope is that 'One life' would be his version of 'The Cost of Discipleship'. This makes me like him even more than I already do.

Here is a question for you. Have you noticed how many people give up on faith and following Jesus? So many young people in church today won't be there by the time they are twenty-five. So many I know 'used to' go to church but they got hurt or got enlightened or got clever or moved on or grew up or ducked out. They always have a good reason. I was chatting about this to a friend who is a Chaplain to students and he asked me for a recommendation on what he should read with them to encourage them to be disciples and explain what it means to be a disciple. Without hesitation (because I was reading it at the time:) I suggested 'One life' and so he is going to buy ten copies and read it with them. This is just such a good book about the principles of discipleship. In other words, it helps you understand what the Jesus-follower life is supposed to look like if you actually bother to listen to the things Jesus taught and gracefully integrate them into your way of living as you follow him. 

Why not buy this for a young person you want to disciple and read it with them as you mentor and encourage them?

Why not buy this for some students and meet in a coffee shop to talk about it?

Why not buy it for your teenage son or daughter who is complaining about church and asking a thousand questions about why it is we should bother following Jesus anyway?

Why not read this with some friends from your church?

Why not gently offer this to someone as a book to read if they are ticked off with church but still love Jesus?

Why not buy this for someone who way back when was in the CU with you or sat next to you in church but now isn't there any more?

Why not read this a chapter a day as part of your devotions as I did and was blessed?

This is a super book and has left me feeling hopeful and thankful that I am a follower of Jesus and importantly it encouraged me to keep following. You can't get a much better sort of book than that.

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