Monday, December 29, 2014

Best Reads of 2014

1. Captive in Iran by Rostampour and Amirizamdeh: Mrs C and I saw the authors being interviewed at HTB and then took their book on holiday with us. Our copy is dog-eared and underlined and we discussed whole segments with each other as we sat in the sun. These women displayed such love for God and obedience to his ways as they suffered that it is truly astounding. Iran now has a special place in our prayer lives.

2. Proof: Finding freedom through the intoxicating joy of irresistible grace by Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones: I discovered this book mid-year and it sat on my unread pile for a while. 'Proof' impacted me in all sorts of ways but it was the story about adoption (p.81-84) that Jones tells about his own family that moved me most deeply. I walked away from the pages of this book changed.

3. Prayer: Experiencing awe and intimacy with God by Timothy Keller: This is a very thorough work on prayer and ends up with Keller commending the BCP and the daily office which made me smile. The chapter on repentance is the one that really did me in and this is a book that will benefit from serial rereads down the years.

4. Fail by J R Briggs: I happened on J R Briggs through his blog which was a real blessing to me as I was planting our church. He has gone on to write a book about what happens when things go wrong in ministry and life and when they don't turn out like you planned. How do you cope personally and as a church when it all goes pear-shaped? No one is immune to failure and acknowledging this fact will help keep you humble- especially when you experience any measure of God's blessing on your ministry and life.

5. When love is not enough by Lois Wilson: My sister put me onto this read. If you are involved not just in church but in life you will soon enough come into contact with those who have battled addiction. AA is the most extraordinary movement and I have always wondered about its origins and history and this is a pretty good primer if you too are interested. It is told from the perspective of Wilson's wife Lois who describes so vividly the agony of living with an alcoholic.

6. Miracles by Eric Metaxas: Eric Metaxas takes on the subject of miracles and divides his book into two sections. The first is allotted to telling you what miracles are and making the case for their very real and tangible existence. The second half has about twenty case studies of miracles that Metaxas has personally researched and come into contact with and therefore he can attest to the authenticity of their sources. I can recall a few of these very vividly (especially one of a marriage being rescued and the other about Larry Crabb's son). This is a very good book to give away to others who perhaps are sceptical about the supernatural intervention of God in human circumstances.

7. Facing Leviathan by Mark Sayers:  I am always interested in books about leadership and this is a far from run of the mill one. It's starting point is failure and breakdown and unusually it doesn't try to offer neat solutions and take away principles and tips. Instead, Sayers uses story and history (a backdrop of Paris in the 19C) to work out what it means to lead and create in a culture that is not naturally disposed to God.

8. Shrink by Tim Suttle: Many of us who are involved in leading churches struggle to know if we are doing it right or doing it well. The primary measure used by many is whether or not the church is growing and this, suggests Shuttle, is not always the best indicator of health. As someone who spent years in the corporate world, I worry when I see churches that seem to be run like biscuit companies instead of communities of broken disciples. Of course there is much to be learnt from the marketplace but the great swathe of church history holds a much richer and more demanding treasure trove than simply setting a few SMART objectives. This was a helpful read for me.

9. The Dark Inside by Rupert Wallis: This is a book written by my sister's partner and is aimed at teenage boys (which I was once). I read it on holiday and particular scenes have stuck with me since reading it. A twist and turn saga about a young lad evading his adversaries and coping with/processing a complex family history. Dark, vivid, quirky and interesting.

10. The Walk, Steps for New and Renewed Followers of Jesus: I have been reading this book slowly with a new follower of Jesus in our church and we have been really blessed by it. If you are looking for a book to unpack the basics of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus with someone else then do check this out. Simple but deep and rich stuff which is accessible to all. Find someone to read it with in 2015.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas musings

Apologies for the lack of blogging recently.

I enjoyed 'if politicians scripted nativity'

The Green Report is causing a stir in the C of E and apparently we are looking for talent. Ian Paul has some good thoughts but I recommend reading the report for yourself. I do also commend reading Shrink for a perspective on both sides of this discussion and always a take in a good dose of Eugene Peterson.

Hyatt has some apps that made a difference to his team.

Once upon a time a person was drowning

Libby Lane

Justin was on Desert Island Discs

The Everything Book

I've been mulling on the prosperity gospel and the level of my own generosity as I read 'The Blessed Life' 

We are going to be singing Hallelujah for Christmas at our late service on Christmas eve as we share communion. Do join us.

I watched this and felt encouraged and amazing. Not even a kiss.

Leadership Journal on the lessons of Mars Hill and Bob Hyatt on 5 lessons from Driscoll.

Book of the year lists: Tim Challies,  Michiko Kakutani, Justin BuzzardTrevin Wax, Kevin de Young.  I will try and get my own out before the end of the year for anyone who is faintly interested.

This was fascinating on the mysterious disappearance of a celebrity preacher in 1926 (h/t Mark Meynell)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

“We must realize that the Reformation world view leads in the direction of government freedom. But the humanist world view with inevitable certainty leads in the direction of statism. This is so because humanists, having no god, must put something at the center, and it is inevitably society, government, or the state.” 
― Francis A. Schaeffer

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Monday, December 08, 2014

Monday musing

1. I have been reading the sermon collections 'Come thou long expected Jesus' and 'Proclaiming Christmas' as fuel for Advent.

2. It's hard to put into words the moment I had reading Chapter 13 'Intimacy: Finding His Grace in Keller's 'Prayer'. Finding his grace indeed. It is interesting that he concludes that the most complete method of prayer is to be found in Cranmer's daily office in the BCP and in his monthly rotation of the Psalms confirming what some of us have suspected for a while- that Keller really wishes he was a clergyman in the C of E :)

3. J John told the story of O Little town of Bethlehem at our Carol Service and used this verse as his salvation receiving prayer.

'O holy Child of Bethlehem!
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in,
Be born in us to-day.'

4. I love the question 'If God could do a miracle in your life what would it be?'

5. I read 'Mountains of the Mind' while having a few days off last week. 

6. I am 90 pages into Boettner on Predestination as a result of Joni Earickson Tada's recommendation of it in Indelible Ink. Article 17 for those of you who are Anglican.....

7. If you want a 'new year is coming sort yourself out and get organised in your soul' type book packed with common sense and basic biblical wisdom then 'Simplify' might be for you.

8. We will finish up Galatians before Christmas and of all the commentaries I read I really appreciated 'Exalting Jesus in Galatians'

9. Maybe you should start a journal? Put this on your list for Santa (a bargain @ £0.01).

10. Ian Paul's piece on the autumn statement is worth a read.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Ten things for a Friday

1. J John's coming for Christmas Carols on Dec 7th @ 10am. Invite friends. 'Found people Find people.'

2. We are going to start 2015 with a sermon series called 'Simplify' inspired by Bill Hybels newest book.

3. We are then diving into the Psalms with a bit of help from Eugene.

4. I gave a friend a book and she texted me 'I just want to says thanks for Lysa's book 'The best yes'- it blessed me and my home group hugely!!!!!'

5. I can't stop listening to the song 'Love'

6. I have been working through James MacDonald's 'Weekend features' on repentance and strongholds. A much needed listen for my, at times, hard heart and mind. This sentence lingered with me 'God sometimes lets us feel the full weight of our choices'

7. As you know, I love a books of the year list and the new biographies of Hannah More and Whitfield look interesting.

8. Mrs C tells me her Ma is being mightily blessed by the book Prayer.

9. I do enjoy a leadership book and this one looks interesting which also contains this TK quote from this set of sermons.

'My dear friends, most churches make the mistake of selecting as leaders the confident, the competent, and the successful. But what you most need in a leader is someone who has been broken by the knowledge of his or her sin, and even greater knowledge of Jesus' costly grace. The number one leaders in every church ought to be the people who repent the most fully without excuses, because you don't need any now; the most easily without bitterness; the most publicly and the most joyfully. They know their standing isn't based on their performance.'

10. Did you know Amazon prime allows you to lend and borrow books? I haven't quite yet worked out how it all works.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Some friends have written an album of worship songs called 'Lavish' that I heartily commend to you.

My pal Ellie guests singing her own song 'Joy comes in the morning' and it's a real joy to listen to her amazing voice. Connor Patterson and his brother Johnny's song 'Love' is also wonderful. It has a moving voice-over of some words from Augustine that made me cry when I listened to them 2 minutes into the song.

I spent five Soul Survivor's in the rain with Johnny and Connor and this worship album is worth all the mud and leaky tents as I listen to the fire for Jesus that now burns in their heart. Here is a request. Please give them some support by downloading it and spreading the word across Social Media. It's time for a new song writer on the British worship scene and at 17 years old Connor is quite possibly just what it needs.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thank you for the blood

'It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery'

Galatians 5 v 1

The four views…on the subject of the sacrament: 1. The Romish doctrine, or transubstantiation. This maintains the absolute change of the elements into the actual body and blood of Christ; so that though the elements of bread and wine remain present to the senses, they are no longer what they seem, being changed into the body, blood and divinity of Christ. 2. The Lutheran view, called consubstantiation. This maintains that after consecration the body and blood of Christ are substantially present, but nevertheless that the bread and wine are present, unchanged. 3. The Anglican view – that Christ is present in the sacrament only after the spiritual manner, and that His body and blood are eaten by the faithful after a spiritual, and not after a carnal manner, to the maintenance of their spiritual life and their growth in grace. 4. The Zwinglian, which declares the sacrament to be no channel of grace, but only a commemorative feast, admitting only a figurative presence of Christ’s body and blood.

John Foxe

The title of the song written by Matt Redman 'Thank you for the blood ' is a matter of crucial significance for the Christian, not least when it comes to our understanding of communion. We are immersed as a church in the letter to Galatians and yesterday, in our staff bible study, we had a lengthy and very interesting discussion about law and grace, legalism and what happens at communion.

This is how this issue came up. Galatians is about freedom from the law and Paul's assertion that we are not bound by the worship regulations of the old covenant. Hence, there is no need for men to be circumcised and former Jewish Christians kids in Galatia can now have pork pies in their school lunch boxes. The 'priesthood' of the temple has been replaced by the 'priesthood of all believers' and freedom abounds and should abound in the church. The religious traditions and ceremonial law of Judaism have been swept aside and grace set in its place. From this grace flows obedience [which comes from the Spirit -Gal 5- do listen to 'How to change'] and with this obedience joy follows.

Why then, says someone, do we still have so many religious hoopla's and do and don'ts in most churches with a special person in a funny costume to do the 'holy stuff' at communion? Surely all that went out at Calvary and wouldn't Paul be as incensed by the 'religiosity' and law-keeping of most churches as he was by the Judaisers of AD 50? We then embarked on a long discussion about what it is I do as a priest and had a debate about transubstantiation. As I was about to embark on a thorough overview of Reformation history which would have been fascinating, together with a potted history of the C of E, sadly time was up (much to the team's relief) but the thoughts have lingered.

"Imagine early Christians talking to their neighbours in the Roman Empire. 'Ah', the neighbour says, 'I hear you are religious! Great! Religion is a good thing. Where is your temple or holy place?' 'We don't have a temple,' replies the Christian. 'Jesus is our temple,' replies the Christian, 'No temple?' But where do your priests work and do their rituals?' 'We don't have priests to mediate the presence of God,' replies the Christian. 'Jesus is our priest.' 'No priests?' But where do you offer your sacrifices to acquire the favour of your God?' 'We don't need a sacrifice', replies the Christian. 'Jesus is our sacrifice.' 'What kind of religion IS this?' sputters the pagan neighbour. And the answer is, the Christian faith is so utterly different than how every other religion works that it doesn't really deserve to be called a 'religion"

Dick Lucas quoted in 'The Gospel in Life' 

As providence would have it, I read later in the day '5 Reasons I reject the Doctrine of Transubstantiation' the contents of which fed into my already churning mind.

Our walk through Galatians continues on Sunday and please do feel free to join us and bring friends. We endeavour to not be too religious so come and see how we're doing.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The best book on parenting ever written

I have been working on a rather tricky passage in Galatians 4 (one of the most difficult in the NT apparently according to Tom Schreiner's commentary) and as part of my prep was listening to this sermon on Romans 7 to yet again try to get my head around the distinction between law and gospel. That's actually not the point of this post which is simply to share a quote that hit me (19 mins 18 sec in) that I have transposed for you if you are a parent:

' .....if you are a parent and you want to know how the gospel should shape the way you raise your kids- seriously buy Elise Fitzpatrick's book 'Give them grace: dazzling your kids with the love of Jesus'- it is mind-blowing, unbelievable and it's the best parenting book that has ever been written...that's no exaggeration, in my humble opinion.'

Feel free to listen to the whole talk on Romans 7-8 or probably better still spend the time reading the book. As ever, feel free to disagree and if you have found your 'best parenting book' already then do share it.

Persevering in prayer

'I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers'
Ephesians 1: 16

I have been reading 'Prayer ' by Keller and there is a section on Ephesians 1 that I have been mulling at the same time as coming across 'Prayermate'.  Tonight on 'The Prayer Course', in rather timely fashion, we are looking at the subject of 'Persevering in prayer'.

Here is a primer on how to set up Prayermate and do feel free to include me on one of your lists!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

For the pod: Louie Giglio @ Worship Central

Our worship team went to listen to Louie Giglio speaking at the Worship Central Conference and returned preaching his sermon to us. When a message gets 'preached forwards' I often think it's worth sitting up for. I included the 'what to do if you think you've got a bad conversion story' in my last sermon.

Praying and other things

I enjoyed this post about Prayer Mate as I am always trying to be more intentional about how I pray for others.

An BBC post entitled 'What the Bible says about women'

The latest C of E attendance figures by Diocese.

I have always tried to cultivate being a lifelong learner .

I am grateful to Darryl Dash for linking to this post and have been pondering how I am doing on the four things.

We enjoyed watching 'Argo.'

Tim Keller has some new preaching lectures and a book on preaching called 'How to preach' is coming out in 2015.

These five things are worth including when preparing a talk for youth.

I've been reading Mike Breen's 'Covenant and Kingdom' in preparation for a sermon on Galatians 4.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The unimaginable things

'Prayer is the only entryway into genuine self-knowledge. It is also the main way we experience deep change-the reordering of our loves. Prayer is how God gives us so many of the unimaginable things he has for us. Indeed, prayer makes it safe for God to give us many of the things we most desire. It is the way we know God, the way we finally treat God as God. Prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life. 

We must learn to pray. We have to.'

Tim Keller in 'Prayer: experiencing awe and intimacy with God', p.18. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

For the pod: Why we all need the gospel

This sermon by Francis Chan is one I return to periodically to shake myself from spiritual slumber. A challenging, awakening and vital word to the lukewarm.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Commentary deals

Thanks to this link I discovered lots of cheap NIV Application commentaries.

I also enjoyed Tim Challies post called 'Taming the email beast' in the excellent 'How to get things' done series.

Who doesn't need some help and wisdom on dealing with email?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Monday musing

Here is Billy Graham's new film on heaven which is worth half an hour. One for Facebook.

A friend sent me a great song and it led me to this one which has now got stuck in my head.

Anne Lamott on the true gift of friendship

I am mulling on this ditty on holiness from my BiOY this morning and loved the CS Lewis quote.

I love a list and leadership and productivity guru Michael Hyatt has shared his top ten books of all time.

I have revisited his post on Evernote which I am now using more and is fast becoming where I store everything. Don't buy a scanner (as Hyatt suggests and will cost you £350) just download scan drop and you can scan from a standard HP scanner.

I have taken delivery of Prayer by TK and I am just finishing Miracles which I have really enjoyed.

My friend's life verse is Acts 9:17

David Keen has the latest C of E stats.

The Natural Evangelism Course looks like good stuff and might help C of E numbers a tad. I am going on this in January to 'sharpen my saw' as Covey would say.

We are running the Prayer Course with a group. I sent them a couple of talks on prayer last week called Pray First by Chris Hodges and everyone listened to them. I was much encouraged. They are good stuff.

A pal is using Precept Ministry study material in her home group which were new to me. She says it's brilliant.

We've finished watching 'Suits' which is a box set worth asking Santa for.

So far on our lists for Christmas Mrs C and I have a cling film cutter which my Ma is going to give us. We'll be made up and it's £5.99. Christmas is cheap in our house :)

Sunday, November 09, 2014

The Meaning of Marriage

Without the help of the Spirit, without a continual refilling of your soul’s tank with the glory and love of the Lord, such submission to the interests of the other is virtually impossible to accomplish for any length of time without becoming resentful. I call this “love economics.” You can only afford to be generous if you actually have some money in the bank to give. In the same way, if your only source of love and meaning is your spouse, then anytime he or she fails you, it will not just cause grief but a psychological cataclysm.

If, however, you know something of the work of the Spirit in your life, you have enough love “in the bank” to be generous to your spouse even when you are not getting much affection or kindness at the moment.

To have a marriage that sings requires a Spirit-created ability to serve, to take yourself out of the center, to put the needs of others ahead of your own. The Spirit’s work of making the gospel real to the heart weakens the self-centeredness in the soul. It is impossible for us to make major headway against self-centeredness and move into a stance of service without some kind of supernatural help.

The deep happiness that marriage can bring, then, lies on the far side of sacrificial service in the power of the Spirit. That is, you only discover your own happiness after each of you has put the happiness of your spouse ahead of your own, in a sustained way, in response to what Jesus has done for you.

– from The Meaning of Marriage

Tim and Kathy Keller

H/T Trevin Wax

Saturday, November 01, 2014

What's a miracle?

‘The Greek word for miracles is “simaios” which means sign. Miracles are signs, and like all signs, they are never about themselves; they’re about whatever they are pointing towards. Miracles point beyond themselves. But to what? To God himself. That’s the point of miracles- to point us beyond our world to another world. They are clues that the other world is not in our imaginations but is actually out there, wherever “out there” actually is.  Peggy Noonan once wrote that she thought miracles existed “in part as gifts and in part as clues that there is something beyond the flat world we see” If miracles exist at all, they exist not for their own sake but for us, to point us toward something beyond. To someone beyond’

Miracles, Eric Metaxas, Page 16

I am really enjoying reading this and it's a book sceptical friends and interested seekers might find compelling. 

Saturday blog-sweep

What books do for the human soul

The tragic tie between abortion and down syndrome and UK Abortion Chief 'Abortion should be as easily available as contraception'

What is my purpose

Mars Hill dissolving into local churches

One more reason to get a good nights sleep


Extraverts and Introverts

Brittany Maynard and God

Tim Cook speaks up

An easy or Awesome life. Choose wisely via Dash House

Why are so many middle-aged men falling into sexual sin? via David Murray

Confessions of a rich pastor

Christianity is getting hard to control in China

6 Nuggets of wisdom for leaders

10 questions on prayer with Tim Keller

The metric of a prophet

7 marks of a deeply deadly sin

The both/ands and 175 Free Theological and Puritan ebooks via Mark Meynell

Luther's 95 Theses

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Krish Kandiah: "Why I have changed my mind on Halloween"

This post by Krish is an interesting one. Krish taught me mission and evangelism at Vicar Factory.

For the pod: Praying in the Spirit

'Time spent in prayer will yield more than that given to work. Prayer alone gives work its worth and its success. Prayer opens the way for God Himself to do His work in us and through us. Let our chief work as God's messengers be intercession; in it we secure the presence and power of God to go with us.' 

Andrew Murray

Tonight Mrs C and I are teaching the Prayer Course to a few folk. We have been through this material a few times now and every time there has been something new to learn. It is always an adventure to once again ask Jesus to 'teach us to pray.

This morning I listened to a talk called 'Praying in the power of the Spirit' which expounds that odd verse that tells us the Spirit intercedes for us 'with groans'.

I am looking forward to reading a couple of new books and am excited about Metaxas on miracles. You will remember me enthusing about Metaxas on Bonhoeffer which if you haven't read yet you should take on your next holiday. I am also awaiting delivery of the new book by Keller on prayer which will soon to drop on the doormat.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


I pal recommended to me reading 'Awakening' the fascinating story of Christophe Blumhardt and the Mottlingen revival of the 1840's in Germany. It's interesting and intense stuff. Karl Barth looked historically to Blumhardt as something of a mentor
(Free as an ebook -126 pages):
'Man, think on eternity,
And do not mock the time of grace, 
For judgment is not far off. '

Monday, October 27, 2014

For the pod: Pastors who pray

'Prayer is learned not in the classroom but in the closet'

E M Bounds

This talk 'Cultivating Private Prayer as a Pastor' gave (and is giving) my prayer life a kick.

So good and so much food to chew on.

Oh that we pastors would pray with more zeal and more expectation.

Oh that I would do so.

Do listen to it, pastor or not, and I do believe there will be some nuggets that will light the fire of prayer in you once again.

Monday musing

We had a very good and busy Sunday but if I ever tire of seeing someone declaring Jesus as their Lord and Saviour and submitting themselves to a pool full of water for baptism I am in the wrong job. There was much rejoicing in our church family yesterday. We had 18 to lunch to celebrate (it was 12 but somehow I can never stop myself adding a few more). Mrs C cooked 'Pacific Lime Chicken' from Cook Simple. It was stupendous.

Apparently, one in fifty of the C of E's clergy don't believe in God and we wonder why we are struggling a tad.

I am still chuckling about a phrase Geoff Surrat used about applying Willow leadership fads to the local church. He said too often pastors find themselves ''Up a creek without a Hybels"

I am so enjoying Shrink. I've had it now for a few days and it's dog-eared and heavily underlined. So much that Tim Shuttle writes is resonating with me and the way I am shaped. I used a story about Andre Agassi in my sermon on 'Justification by Faith' (do listen to this by Keller if you want a primer on what JbF is!)

This story that Ann Voskamp posted is one to read about Ebola.

I have been mulling on the testimony of Rev Richard Coles and the fact that Forward in Faith Bishop Jonathan , Episcopal overseer for traditionalists opposed to the ordination of women, has asked for permission to remarry which has been granted.

Since reading about Rev Richard Coles I have been singing 'Don't leave me this way' around the house which was something of a dance floor smash in the 80's. To my disbelief, Mrs C had never heard of it and was not even helped by my trying to dance to it in the style of Jimmy Sommerville. She was only 8 in 1986 so I've let her off the hook on her musical ignorance. Next things is she'll be telling me she's never heard of 'Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark' :)

The is a lot of darkness advertising locally. Halloween is Christmas for the other side. I always remember Danielle Strinkland's phrase in a talk at Soul Survivor that went something like- 'where the light is passive the darkness advances unopposed'. It has and will act as a wake up call for me and our people.

Boris Johnson has written a biography of Churchill called 'The Churchill Factor'.

We had a fantastic film sermon at our 16:30 service. It used the film 'The Guardian' which for some reason had passed me by. If you watch this film and it doesn't ignite the evangelist in you then I'll eat my sandals of peace. I watched it last week and, of course, it made me cry.

An unrelenting 'reach the lost man' is a American fellow called Perry Noble who has a church the size of Leamington Spa. Over the weekend, I spotted a post that he had written entitled 'Seven reasons I believe Jesus is going to save 500 people this weekend' and everything in my spirit said 'Give me a flipping break'  [Probably because I am mid-flow with reading 'Shrink' which is a critique of the mega-church]. I clicked on it anyway. Imagine my surprise to find myself won over as I read and by the end of the post I was left wondering how I could invite someone to his church. The little phrase that got me was this this one:

'Found people find people' which I quoted in my sermon.

I've nicked that phrase lock stock and barrel and am quoting it everywhere I go. Hope that's OK Perry :)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Two shots in my arm

A couple of posts at have really given me a shot in the arm today. It was very timely.

1. A leader must be a reader

2. How to reignite ministry passion

How to be useful to God

From BiOY today:

'He is one of my great heroes of faith. He was a model of godliness, faith and humility. God used him greatly. When he died in 1982, his executors were unable to trace a single member of his family still living. No one came forward claiming to be even a distant relation.

Yet, The Times obituary about him rightly noted that his influence within the Church of England during the previous fifty years was probably greater than any of his contemporaries. John Stott, who was one of the numerous influential Christian leaders whom he led to faith in Christ, said of him: ‘Those who knew him well and those who worked with him never expect to see his like again; for rarely can anyone have meant so much to so many as this quietly spoken, modest and deeply spiritual man.’

Why was this man, the Reverend E.J.H. Nash – better known as ‘Bash’ – so useful to God? How can we be useful to God? It is no secret, the Bible tells us how.

St Paul writes, ‘In a well-furnished kitchen there are not only crystal goblets and silver platters, but waste cans and compost buckets – some containers used to serve fine meals, others to take out the garbage. Become the kind of container God can use to present any and every kind of gift to his guests for their blessing’ (2 Timothy 2:20–21, MSG).

John Stott writes, ‘No higher honour could be imagined than to be an instrument in the hand of Jesus Christ, to be at his disposal for the furtherance of his purposes, to be available whenever wanted for his service.’ Being useful to God starts with dedicating your life to him and re-dedicating it regularly to his service.'

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Shrink: Fruitful or Faithful?

I have been chewing over the question of whether we are called to be faithful or fruitful. Chris Hodges suggested that God doesn't call us to be faithful but fruitful when I heard him speak and he echoes this in his book 'Four cups'. An alternate view, offered in a book I am currently reading called 'Shrink' suggests being faithful is what counts.

'I have become convinced that the Christian leader's first job is to become a good and virtuous human being and a good and virtuous leader, and then to leave questions of growth and perceived success in the hands of God. Sometimes all God requires is to do the small things faithfully for the rest of his or her life. How many of us have the tools to even imagine that, much less carry it off?'

Shrink, Tim Shuttle, Page 26

The size of any particular church is somewhat incidental if in order to grow it you have to forfeit your marriage, your kids walk with Jesus or your Sabbath. Does anyone care that Mars Hill now has less than half of the congregation that it had six weeks ago? What does matter is that for a variety of reasons their pastor failed to finish the race well with devastating consequences for him, his church and his family. He was at Gateway Church over the weekend and he tells the throng that he's healing up and taking some time out.

I am enjoying reading 'Shrink' which captures many of the tensions for those of us who both long to see the church grow, whilst also wanting to preserve our sanity, health and passion for Jesus along the way.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Jacob Moment

'Correct him, but not as a foe, nor as an adversary exacting a penalty, but as a physician providing medicines'


'Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy'

General Norman Schwartzkopf,1991

I was chatting with a friend today and he reminded me of a comment a mutual pal had shared a few years ago about Mark Driscoll.

Our pal said this:

'He's not yet had his Jacob moment'

He then went on to suggest that he would be a much better writer, preacher, pastor, husband, manager, father and friend once he'd had it. Observing his so obviously deeply flawed character, he suggested that it was only a matter of time.

And so arrives the Jacob moment.

A Jacob moment is the kairos event that humbles you. The event that levels your confidence, your pride and your reputation and sets God in his rightful place. It leaves you a deposit of pain in your hip and forever more you will walk with a limp.

The internet is awash with reflections and I too am quietly reflective.

The ministry of Mars Hills been a blessing and encouragement to me in more ways than words can express. It was never a perfect one and was led by a seemingly very imperfect chap and my experience of it, as for many others, was from afar. I discovered them via their church planting and The Resurgence and A29 networks were the source of much wisdom, books, talks and collected learning as I planned for our venture here. Driscoll's passion for Jesus, his fire to see churches planted, his supreme giftedness in many areas, his longing to see the lost reached (particularly men) and a desire to see marriages strengthened impacted tens of thousands of people across the world. Both the church and A29 planting network he started will now outlive his tenure as founding pastor.

I have no doubt the fall out will be, and has been, devastating for those in his church and those connected and associated personally with and to this ministry and its tribe. Unaddressed and unacknowledged brokenness so often does that to others. It is timely for all of us who pastor churches, however large or small, to search for the inevitable planks in our own eyes (and leadership). Of all our flaws, and in my case there are many, it is our unfettered and dealt with pride we must be most ruthless with.

Here are some posts offering further reflection and reading:

The Mars Hill Postmortem

Seven better ways to respond to Mark Driscoll's Resignation

A tale of two Mars Hills

Unhealthy Christian Organisations

The True nature of Elder Authority


'In a grace-driven approach, we don't obey because we have to but because we want to. The Moral Law, which condemned us outside of Christ, has now become our worship list. Obedience is now just one of the fun ways we say thanks to Him while he drenches us with favour; it naturally flows from our lives. Christianity is not a process in which we earn love; its a process in which we reflect love. Or as it's often said, "We are not saved by good works. We're saved for good works!"

Pharisectomy, Peter Haas, Page 21

Mums: Be you bravely

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Still more

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still.”
“Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, ‘Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.’ Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.”
A W Tozer,  The Pursuit of God
(Quoted by J D Greear in his post 'Six ways to experience the presence of the Spirit')

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Right Thing

'Martin Luther King said, ‘On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, “Is it safe?” Expediency asks the question, “Is it politic?” And Vanity comes along and asks the question, “Is it popular?” But Conscience asks the question, “Is it right?”

‘The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of convenience, but where they stand in moments of challenge, moments of great crisis and controversy.’

Doing what is right in difficult situations in the workplace is a huge challenge. In his book, God at Work, Ken Costa writes, ‘There are right and wrong choices … all the invented terms such as “inappropriate” and “counterproductive” are efforts to avoid the simple ethical fact that there is a right and wrong course of action.’

When facing a difficult pastoral situation those of us in the leadership of the church need to remind ourselves that the first question we have to ask is, ‘What is the right thing to do?’ And only then move to the second question, ‘What is the most pastoral way to do it?’

Of course, none of us get it right all the time. We all make mistakes. As Ken Costa writes, ‘We only grow in wisdom if we learn from our mistakes. Siegmund Warburg [Ken’s first boss] said on this subject: “Some name it disappointment and become poorer, others name it experience and become richer.” ’

In today’s New Testament passage, Paul writes to the Thessalonians, ‘Never tire of doing what is right’ (2 Thessalonians 3:13). Jesus did not go for the easy or popular solution, but he always did the right thing. This is an important principle that runs throughout the entire Bible.'

From my BiOY notes today. As it happen Ken is coming to speak to the 350 today. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The 350

I am on the Southwark Clergy Conference (4 days)

In the last week, I will have listened to and been taught by as great a variety of people as anyone I know. 

Geoff Surrat of Seacoast Church, Peter Haas of Substance and Chris Rogers of Church of the Highlands are all part of a church planting movement called ARC. They taught me for a couple of days last week and were excellent. 

This week, among others, we have John Sentamu ++ of York, Sister Dominica founder of Helen House, Mike Lloyd-Principal lf Wycliffe Hall, Ken Costa CW of HTB and Sam Wellls- Vicar of St Martin in the Fields. We also have African theologian Esther Mambo with us who taught us wonderfully on the Woman at the well first thing.  

There is lots I could share but Mike Lloyd's phrase 'If you create your own meaning it's always smaller than you are.'   particularly struck me. However,  probably of all that has happened thus far Esther walking into a room of 350 Clergy with a clay jar on her head is the thing that will stick most with me. 

I will post some more as I find time. 

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Questions, a book and growing things

Someone asked me why anyone should come to our church. I told them the homemade lemon cake was the best in West London and felt that that isn't quite how Jonathan Edwards would have responded.

I've started Edwards on the Christian life which is why he came to mind.

This post got me wondering about being wooly and silent on ethical issues. I do like Andrew Wilson.

The Bishop of Buckingham has a new book out and Andrew Goddard has thoroughly reviewed it.

The Guardian advises that the C of E shared conversations are proving to be challenging.

A verse in Colossians 4 jumped out at me this morning and I have been turning over in my mind what it means to wrestle in prayer.

Any leader should I suppose learn to ask better questions.

Maxwell, the yoda of leadership, has a book to help you.

I watched this again having sent it to someone yesterday.

I am going to listen to a chappy called Greg Surrat teach tomorrow morning. 

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