Friday, January 31, 2014

What's your worldview?

I am enjoying reading 'What's your worldview? by James Anderson. It's new to my armoury of 'why not read this?' options for people exploring the big questions. As you may know, in days when so few seem to read books it's hard to know what to recommend. Keller's 'Reason for God' is brilliant but few will actually read it. Other books are shorter or more simple but the trouble is often they don't go deep enough. Anderson has come up with a solution. 

Essentially, the book takes a very clever 'forks in the road' approach. So, each page explores a question. If you answer 'yes' you turn to page x, if 'no' you turn to page z. Hence, your worldview has consequence- which of course it does as some of you already know. 

Here is James Anderson on the main goals of the book:

'-To help you identify and clarify your worldview
-To encourage you to consider the big questions and to think through some of the implications of various answers
-To help you appreciate that there are important differences between worldviews- and that not all worldviews are created equal!'

Page 14

Well worth the read and it is less than 100 pages long. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Hoover the Pope and the People-pleasers

A couple of Vicar pals have really encouraged me about the blog. Thank you! I'll keep at it.

Simon's posts about his children's world look interesting.

Kester asks if we are seeing the tech endgame?

Twenty five years of Tim Keller in one will love this if you are Dutch:)

Church is not a what but a who.

I saw an Anglo-catholic friend today who recommended the new Pope Francis' book 'The joy of the gospel' 

An interesting quiz on Christian book first lines.

IDS and the Archbish

The Resurgence launches a weekly leadership podcast

If you are a people-pleasing pastor this book might be one for you (won't be on Driscoll's reading list :)

Finally I love this Piper quote about the Fatherhood of God

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


A Vicar pal has listened to this talk called Hard life Good God three times.

Someone at church has listened to J John's talk twice and as a result has invited a neighbour to our Alpha supper.

Another pal sent me this that asks whose in charge- the last ten minutes of which he said were truly stunning. 

Another pal was sent this in a welcome pack after he visited a church in the States and he has since been buying copies of it in packs of six to give away. It's his 'go to' book to give to people who say 'I'm not that bad...I'm a pretty good person'

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Friday, January 24, 2014

Time away

There is a song I listened to for a while called 'Come away with me'. I spent a couple of days this week 'away' just reading the words of Jesus in the four gospels and doing some praying and planning.

A lot of people were given or bought J John's book called Just 10 last weekend. It's an extremely good book to give to a seeking or new Christian or indeed for any of us who might think we know the Ten Commandments but may in fact not.

I watched this in one sitting and it made sense of much of my 25 years of following Jesus. It also has quite a few pointers for the next 25 too. Can you imagine this showing on mainstream TV today?

Two questions you might like to ask if you watch it.

1. Where on the road are you?

2. Which unhelpful voices have you been waylaid by or might you be tempted to listen to in the future?

'The power of full engagement' is all about managing energy (not in a 'new-age- knit- your- own --Newbury bypass' way but energy in terms of our capacities to be effective) . The case study of 'Roger' is the story of so many men in their middle years. Well worth a read.
I listened to this talk called 'Chosen' (scroll down to 1/8/12) which was timely for me. I loved the phrase 'unrelenting grace' that he uses. Listen if you need to be reminded that grace and blessing doesn't depend on your performance or worthiness.

Some wisdom if you struggle with singleness. This quote resonated with me having spent most of my life single..... 'coming to terms with your singleness will help you love when you marry'

I never tire of reading stories about George Whitfield.

Series 1 episode 3 of 'Call the midwife' deeply, deeply impacted me and I have been thinking about the consequences and realities of unconditional love ever since.

Seventeen of us did 'Romans in 3 hours' which was a marvellous time last Saturday. A shout out thank you to Allen for all his work. Every time he does this he reads a new commentary on Romans. This time he chose 'God is for us'. Some of our discussions centred on how to explain sin (Romans 1-3) to a culture that knows not what it is.

One day I would love to attend a TED event. There's one in Oxford.

This TED talk is an interesting one and asks the question 'What is the most important component of health?' Interesting stuff as I read the 'full engagement' book and as one thinks of all those who are suffering from panic attacks, sleeplessness/insomnia, depression and anxiety. However, instead of searching for the 'inner pilot light' just read and meditate on Romans 12:1-2

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Avoiding the word 'ought'

Thanks to Tim Challies for these words written 480 years ago which encouraged me today:

'Here I must take counsel of the Gospel, I must hearken to the Gospel, which teacheth me, not what I ought to do (for that is the proper office of the Law), but what Jesus Christ the Son of God hath done for me: to wit, that he suffered and died to deliver me from sin and death. The Gospel willeth me to receive this, and to believe it. And this is the truth of the Gospel. It is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consisteth. Most necessary it is therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.'

(Martin Luther on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

For the pod: The Jesus I know

I have been thinking a lot about the Vicars who have encouraged me over the last 25 years either from a distance through their ministries, or more usually through their presence, friendship and encouragement at particular moments and seasons of my life. One of the distant ones is Mike Pilavachi, whose work with young people at Soul Survivor has had such an impact over the last quarter of a century in this land. If you have never come across Mike I think you will find his preaching and his vulnerability refreshing. I hope this moving talk about relationships called 'The Jesus I know'  (scroll down to 3.11.13 and keep scrolling for more) will be a blessing to you.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Monday musing

My pal read the first chapter of King's Cross and it blew him away.

J John spoke yesterday at church and you can check out his talk here.

I am off on retreat for a couple of days and a pal recommended 'Sustainable power' as my read. It reports of God powerfully at work in Bedford. Yes I did write 'Bedford'

Some church planting tips.

Civil Religion: Can we talk? looks interesting.

This is hailed as 'one of the best apologetics books in years'

The rise of young non-drinkers

A survey on growth in the C of E.

Is primitive sociology killing the C of E?

How Malcolm Gladwell re-discovered faith

This is one for the parents
H/T Tim Challies

Friday, January 17, 2014

In search of a Good Vicar?

I'm still musing on the A of C's good Vicar thing. I think that there are loads of good Vicars all over the place (who knows if their churches are growing) but this non-exhaustive list have grown, inspired, and impacted me, made me laugh, discipled, prayed for and taught me or simply just been friends and encouragers over the last 25 years in lots of different ways.......Thank you.

Simon Heathfield

Trevor Patterson

Gordon Crowther

Luke Ijaz

Matt Hogg

Jon March

Peter Harwood

Adam Atkinson

Rod Green

Barry Kissell

Libby Etherington

Andy Wadsworth

Graham Singh

David Larlee

David Walker

Nicky Gumbel

Andy Osmond

Charlie Newcombe

Matthew Street

Wayne Massey

Geoff Maughan

Toby Flint

Lis Goddard

Jem Hovil

Sean Doherty

Nick Jackson

John Collins

Paul Oxley

Marcus Gibbs

Simon Walker

John Peters

David Bull

Adam Rylett

Mike Pilavachi

Jon Kissell

David White

Ric Thorpe

Gary Jenkins

Will Kemp

Stuart Lees

Simon Larkin

Tim Saiet

Simon Downham

John Irvine

Jules Murphy

Charlie Cleverly

Andrew Dunlop

Nick Stott

Andrew Wingfield-Digby

Tim Humphrey

Mark Collinson

Simon Ponsonby

Peter Blundell

Paul Perkin

Tim Bustin

Pete Hughes

Will Pearson-Gee

David Garrett

What to sacrifice for

'Sacrifice almost everything to live where you can be near your friends'

C S Lewis

I've been pondering what makes a good Vicar. Gary's one of them.

Bill Hybels has a bit of advice that if you are a Vicar or are married to one or know one or want to look after and encourage one you would do well to take.

His advice doesn't only apply to Vicars.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Good Vicars

"Of course there are churches that are doing better and churches that are struggling more, depending on area and on leadership. But the reality is that where you have a good vicar you will find growing churches."

Justin Welby on Radio 4

I spent a very jolly day with the clergy of the Woolwich area and did a workshop on church planting that was stunningly well attended (My area is Kingston so it was what we used to call at school an away match). The Archdeacon had to double check that everyone realised that they were in the session about planting. They did and still no one moved. I told our story which people seemed to enjoy. It was fun being with a new crowd and I am much encouraged that planting and grafting is now firmly on the agenda of the C of E. Watch this space......

You always get a jolly good lunch and a glass of wine at clergy day in Southwark. One of the benefits of being in a liberal catholic Diocese.

Have I ever mentioned that I wrote something called 'Why plant churches?' a while back.

The Archdeacon of Woolwich told us that nobody in the C of E can find an example of a Liberal/Anglo Catholic Church Plant (as opposed to a Fresh expression).  Does any one know of such a thing? The challenge was set before the Woolwich clergy to make one happen and that if anyone could it ought to be a church in Southwark.

David Keen has a good 'round-up' piece about Justin Welby's comments on 'Today' on NY Eve about 'Good Vicars'. It has caused much chatter in C of E circles and was mentioned by the Bishop. Apparently, if you are 'A Good Vicar' your church will grow which is splendid.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Not really

I've been watching 'Call the midwife' which a pal recommended. It's brilliant television. This was the quote from episode one, series one that stuck with me.

Nun to midwife: 'So, do you have a faith?'

Midwife: 'Not really, I'm Church of England'

Nun: 'We're Church of England'

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Does anybody want to come to the front?

25 years ago a short Greek man from Chorleywood shared the gospel with me in a church in Newcastle and I became a follower of Jesus. I was sitting on the top right hand balcony of Jesmond Parish Church.

When the call to decision came, I was far too chicken to go forward but I prayed anyway. As it turned out, I went again in the evening and did go forward then. I had absolutely no Christian friends at Uni and the best I could muster in my circle was one pal who had been to church once. My gang was not a terribly holy bunch :) I had stopped church-going (for that is what it was) shortly after being confirmed by the Bishop of Warwick in 1981. This was now 1989 and my sister had a short time before bemused me by telling me she had become 'a born-again Christian' on some course she called 'Alpha'.

I remember saying to my friend 'If I wanted to go to church (not that I do...) where might I go?' He suggested JPC and so I took myself along secretly without telling anyone. J. John came along a few weeks later to speak at a Sunday service and, as they say, the rest is history. I was, just like you dear reader, immediately sanctified and gave myself fully over to godly-living and life became perfect from that moment onwards......Of course it didn't- but that's another story for another day.

A few weeks ago John was doing a mission in Hammersmith and I bumped into him in a coffee shop. A few days later, he surprised me with an email saying he'd really love to come and speak at our little church plant. So he's coming on the 19th @ 10am which is all rather fun and exciting.

If you've never come across J. John you can check out the short film on the Philo Trust website. Do pray for him and for us as we reach out to our friends and neighbours and invite them to come and hear the gospel.

Saturday blog-sweep

Tim Challies is not so keen on praying (in circles) which was a 'Best read' of mine last year.

100,000 Hours: Eight aims for your career

Catholic numbers decline in England and Wales

Dating outside the faith?

Planning your week (for ESTJ's) via J D Greear and 7 apps to achieve your goals.

Frozen Niagara Falls

A funny take on Bible translations

Reading the Bible like Jesus

Can local religion revive local communities?

Reject the Entre-pastor

Al Mohler has a thought on Downton

An interview with Jim Belcher (who wrote my best read of last year)

Thursday, January 09, 2014


Today, I had a long and interesting conversation about what 'Baptists' are, about the C of E and 'Confirmation' and also some chat about 'infant baptism'. I then read this post a bit later so thought I would share it with any of you who don't know much about 'Baptists'.

It's really well worth reading the others in this series called 'A History of Christianity in 25 Objects'

Life on the Frontline

Our Community Groups are using this material between now and Easter.

Do check out the other resources of LICC (founded by John Stott) for lots of interesting things.

Pilgrim's Progress for KIds

I have heard that no other book outside the Bible has been more read than Pilgrim's Progress. This is a version of it done for kids (by Yorkshire TV as it turns out and it reminded me of the dreadful TV signal we all had in the 1970's but now I am showing my age!) I confess I have never read this John Bunyan classic so I am intending to watch this at some point.

H/t Justin Taylor

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Bits and bobs

I am slow on the uptake but isn't 'Sherlock' brilliant?

Lots of people are chatting to me about Benefit street

A Vicar pal is loving 'The Circle Maker' and says it's inspired him more than any book in a while.

One of my nuttiest heroes is C T Studd and watching this reminded me what an impact 7 Victorian cricketers had on mission.

We all want kids to follow Jesus but if they were to heed the call to mission it may be very costly as us if we are parents- see Jim Elliots letter.

J I Packer's saying 'that's not good enough' in this short film hit my heart. He must surely be nearly 100.....Incredible (he's actually 87 and has a new book called 'Taking God Seriously'. His 'Knowing God' is a classic if you have not come across it.

A new blog for pastors has been launched by Lifeway.

An interesting thought on poverty.

It struck me watching this ad on TV last night that so many Christians are looking for 'Slendertone discipleship'. It doesn't exist (nor indeed does a flat stomach when you eat mince pies sitting on the sofa watching Sherlock- with or without a silly electric abs belt on).

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Saturday blog-sweep

A couple of good posts about grace. You can't have too much of grace.

The first is a ditty about Newton and the second is a reflection by Justin Buzzard entitled 'The one thing to do this New Year'.

A fascinating piece in the Guardian: 'The people who challenged my atheism most were the prostitutes and the drug addicts' which contain this quote: 'Soon I saw my atheism for what it is: an intellectual belief most accessible to those who have done well.”

If you've got a goal to read a bit more in 2014 Al Mohler has some advice.

Milestones in ministry by Jared Wilson that seminary (Vicar factory) can't prepare you for.

Matt Perman on 'How to be more productive in 2014' and perhaps include a discipleship plan.

Here are Batterson's 10 Steps again for my type A readers.

A punchy thought on '3 things Christians should do this year' and one more might be for 'Dad's to write in their Bibles'. (in my experience many of you Mum's are already doing this)

Interesting short piece about women and advertising

James has offered us his favourite albums of 2013 in the Spectator

An interesting conclusion on stardom from Alex James of Blur.

Cranmer has some predictions for 2014.

Try to avoid mission drift this year.

An interesting book if you feel your call is a 'kingly' one (gifts that gather around organisation, process, finance, stewardship, management and giving).

Evidence of knowing God.

One rolex short of contentment is a good post-Christmas/January sale frenzy reflection via Mark Meynell.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Best reads of 2013

1. In Search of Deep Faith by Jim Belcher: I discovered Jim Belcher through his 2009 book Deep Church which argued for 'a third way' between the emergent church and traditional evangelicalism. That all sounds incredibly boring but do read on. His latest book was a late 2013 discovery and tells the story of his family's pilgrimage across Europe to discover the heroes of his life and faith. It's brilliant. There is a dual narrative to this tale. The first are the accounts of amazing people like Corrie Ten Boom, Van Gogh, Bonnhoeffer, Lewis and Maria von Trapp which are told cleverly both through history and his own family's visits to the places these people inhabited and worked. The second route is the story of a father (Belcher) trying to raise three children in the grace of God and seeking how one goes about doing that. What Christian father doesn't ask and angst about how this is done? For Jim and his wife Michelle the way they chose to do this was to enter upon a journey to significant places through which they hoped and prayed their kids would catch hold of what grace is all about. I particularly loved the accounts of their time in Oxford and Belcher's studies at Wycliffe which was where I spent my season of theological study. This is a wonderful read and was one of those books that you are sad when the book comes to an end. All you can do is wait until he writes his next one!

2. Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller: Everyone, be they Christian or not, eventually faces suffering and trouble. It's not a case of 'if' but 'when'. Who doesn't ask why their friend is facing cancer (as mine is) and why another's child was born with Downs and another's parents were both run over by a car and died. This book is a very thorough examination of the issue of suffering and pain. It is one to read to prepare yourself for when you walk through it yourself or, if you are in the midst of trouble and pain, this book should definitely be your companion. As with all Keller's books it places Jesus at the heart of things, whilst also reasoning gracefully with all the other perspectives- be they secular or religious. As an evangelist, the question I face more than any other is the one surrounding suffering and the issues that engulf it. Keller combines rational argument and dialogue with thinkers from the past and present, and combines this with real life stories that end each chapter. This is one to read slowly, prayerfully, to tell others about and to give away.

3. The Circle Maker and All In by Mark Batterson: I am not sure why I like Mark Batterson's writing so much. I love that he tells stories and points me to bits of Scripture that quite often have passed me by. I love his passion for Jesus and his seemingly limitless sense of possibility as he comprehends the Kingdom of God. I like that he is a Type A (and I am not) and that something of his goal-oriented can-do faith-filled attitude rubs off on me as I read his books. Reading the Circle Maker leaves you wanting to pray more, risk more, lead better, and, see and believe for what has not yet come to be. Batterson, the dear man, has 113 'Life Goals' and just thinking up that many goals would exhaust me- let alone seeing even a tenth of them come to be in my own life. I am at least thinking of drawing up a few having read 'Ten steps to setting life goals' and it's the sort of thing one ought to read as a new year beckons. The Circle Maker and All In are to be read in tandem and indeed I read them back to back. There is one story about a missionary in 'All In' that I came across on the morning of our Alpha course. It so impacted me that I recounted it to a few folk the same evening- it blew them away, just as it had me (p. 123-125). These books won't be everyone's cup of tea but they are certainly worth checking out while your January sense of a new dawn rides high and hopeful.

4. What did you expect? by Paul Tripp: As readers may know, 2013 was the year I got married. We are currently four months in to this adventure making us the font of virtually no wisdom at all on the subject of marriage! With that in mind, Mrs C and I are reading Paul Tripp's book which was recommended to us by more than just one person. We are finding it incredibly helpful. We read a chapter out loud, underline bits that strike us, write some summary scribbles at the end of every chapter and then chat and pray. If Keller's book on suffering is one that warns that challenges are coming so prepare for them- Tripp does the same for marriage. This is an easy yet deep read, is rooted in Scripture and offers lots of pastoral case study material from Tripp's years of counselling couples.  Even if you don't choose this as your book, I do commend the exercise of a husband and wife reading out loud to each other and perhaps having a 'worthy' book on the go. You might choose one about marriage but if not, do choose another subject to read through together. What about reading the Chronicles of Narnia or C S Lewis's 'Mere Christianity' to each other? See how you go- it's fun.

5. Churchill by Paul Johnson: I read this on a Swiss skiing holiday whilst courting my wife in England through both text messaging and email, so my memory of its contents are rather entwined in all that! I was in a small chalet with dear friends for a week full of skiing, new love and oddly also Winston Churchill. Books on the great man tend to be very thick and I confess the Roy Jenkins tome is still on my shelf 2/3's unread. This is much more manageable and if you are involved in leading anything at all, then doffing your hat to Churchill at some point is a wise thing to do. In these days filled with books about leadership techniques, this one tells the story of arguably the greatest leader my nation has ever known. He was a man of great courage (he took himself to the front line in the Boar War) and of voracious wit. He seems to have drunk too much, been able to survive on little sleep (though enjoyed a cat-nap) and was also rather rude (probably the drink!), but when we needed it most, he stood up to evil without compromise and we are now all living out the benefits. Well worth putting on your 2014 reading list.

6. Sensing Jesus by Zack Eswine: These are the lessons of a pastor who bombed out. As I look around there seems to be so much capacity to get the wrong end of the stick about what pastoring really involves. It's all too easy to be driven, to compare yourself to others, to work too hard, to fear failure, to neglect your family and above all, to forget Jesus. It's also all too easy to live in a world that increasingly seeks Christian celebrity, recognition and 'success' (whatever that may be to you). Eswine writes beautifully and honestly and there is a rich seam for you to excavate if you take the time to read this. I read it because I often feel ill-equipped as a pastor. I know only too well, of my own capacity for failure and falling, but for the grace of God. This book contains some super quotes and helpful truths, that if we take them on board, would make our pastoring easier and our churches healthier. Who among us doesn't want a more healthy church and a more rounded, Christ-like and approachable pastor? Reading this I hope has given me a little more chance of being one.

7. A Simple Way to Pray by Martin Luther: I can't remember how I came across this gem of wisdom, but I seem to recall it was recommended in one of the books I read this year. The author said something akin to it being the most important and significant little book they had ever read. That sort of thing always peaks my interest and the book usually goes on my Amazon list. This is one of the most famous books ever written about prayer and is written by one of the most influential men who has ever lived. If you combine the two you have a mighty cocktail. I took this on one of my 'wilderness days' to read, journal and pray through, which is very possible as it is so short. The contents are nothing particularly startling, save them being a simple exposition of the Lord's prayer. This little book will, I believe, help you to pray more, enjoy doing it and ignite a passion for prayer anew, or perhaps for the first time. If you end up reading it and then find yourself nailing a few thoughts to the front door of your parish church, then I for one will be excited to see what happens next. By jingo we need it.

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