Tuesday, October 22, 2019

A thought on infant baptism

Thomas Cranmer had a good day at the office when he said baptism is 'an outward sign of an inward grace'. Indeed it is.

I was birthed into my infant baptism and others, I know, were birthed and then baptised. It's the inward grace that truly matters whichever way around you land on the order. Giles Fraser has some interesting things for you to ponder on infant baptism, particularly as I know many of my readers are 'believer baptism' folk. I really enjoyed Giles on this one:
'On Friday, I baptised my six month old baby boy in the River Jordan. What greater joy than for a priest to christen his own child in the place where Jesus himself was baptised? 
Amongst many warm and witty responses on Twittter, there were also quite a few from those who obviously find infant baptism terribly offensive. For atheists of the Richard Dawkins variety, infant baptism is a form of child abuse, a way of imposing beliefs upon a defenceless child far too young to make up their own mind. Interestingly, there is also a Christian version that is the flip side of this very same objection: that it is only proper believers, those who have made the decision for themselves, who should be baptised.
Both objections share the same basic premise: that the essence of religious commitment is religious belief. The idea here is that faith is all about the intellectual assent to a series of basic propositions about the nature of reality. On this model, to be baptised is to be accepted within the community of the Church on the basis of one’s assent to these propositions. And if you can’t properly assent, you can’t properly join.
Theologically speaking, the problem with this model is that it pictures the choosing individual as being at the centre of the baptismal drama, that baptism happens at the initiative of the chooser. But in theological terms, the initiative isn’t ours. The initiative is God’s love, into which we all are invited to be immersed. Being loved and included within a human family is not something we wait for the child’s assent to — now that really would be child abuse. Likewise, with God’s family.
But there is also a decidedly modern, and highly problematic, notion of choosing that is behind both objections — that choice is the first move in our proper formation as human beings. We might call this the liberal objection, given how liberalism makes choice the founding move in human identity.
But this is philosophically bonkers when we come to think about it. We do not choose how to be brought up; rather, how we are brought up is how we learn to choose. We do not choose the language we have been taught — it would take a certain sort of crazy to decide not to teach a child a language until they are old enough to decide for themselves which language they preferred. If, heaven forbid, someone did that to a child, on what basis would a dumb wordless teenager possibly be able make such a decision? Choices make sense only against the background of a pre-existing horizon of significance. In other words, there are some things that necessarily precede choice and, on the basis of which, choosing is made possible.
My problem is much more with adult baptism. Because with adult baptism it is too easy to succumb to the fantasy that Christianity is all about me; my choice, my decision, my orthodoxy. But the whole point about faith is that the initiative isn’t ours to take. Faith is more basic, more fundamental, than a simple one-off act of choice. Which is why what you choose to believe, your doctrinal orthodoxy, isn’t anywhere near as important to faith as is so often assumed. God’s love is not triaged out on the basis of our score in some theology test.
Much better to think of faith as the appreciation that the world doesn’t revolve around me or you. And thank God for that.'

Monday, October 21, 2019

10 Tips on Prayer

Image result for prayer
I've seen afresh that a prayer-less life is a less fruitful one. This post gave my prayer life a gentle shot in the arm today and it might do the same for yours.

Church Wedding

'We love each other because he first loved us'
1 John 4:19

Yesterday, we had our first 'church wedding'. Now, of course, we have had weddings, but we've never done one on a Sunday morning as part of our service. Mrs C said that she thought it was the best day we've ever had at H T Barnes. We had fantastic worship, the gospel was preached, a lunch of Coronation Chicken and their was a sense of joy and family in the air.

A number of our folk said to me: 'Why on earth haven't we done this before?'

I don't know. To be fair, I had to ring up the Diocesan Registrar to check we were 'allowed' to do wedding on a Sunday and the answer came back yes.  We cooked food, someone drove a car, the bride got dressed in the Vicarage, someone from church did her hair, photos were taken on phones and someone did the flowers. Also , much to our sons joy and a great leap of faith on the part of the couple, they were asked to carry the rings up the aisle. Amazingly, the rings and the boys made it!

It struck many of us that this is a fantastic way to do mission and bring blessing. So many couples are not married because either they are 'saving up' or don't think church is for them. And the un-churched are no longer (at least to us) bringing their children for baptism.
Image result for million dollar wedding iplayer
As it happens,  Mrs C and I watched the most compelling and awful documentary called 'The Million Dollar Wedding Planner'. You'll be mesmerized and disturbed by it in equal measure.The truth is a kingdom wedding is way better than a million dollar one and it costs rather less! Let's do some more of these church.....

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Take care of yourself

I found the words of the Bishop of Peterborough in this post on clergy work and rest interesting:

In a number of dioceses, bishops have started instructing clergy to take two consecutive days off once a month, as well as a full day off in the other weeks. This is in addition to the normal annual leave allowance. I have been asked if I intend to do the same. My answer may seem a strange one, and I’m very happy to discuss or explain it, but it represents a firmly held position.
I have no intention of telling clergy how many days off to take, or how to configure their days off or their annual leave. To do so would make me a manager, and would make the clergy employees. (I am referring to parish clergy; chaplains and some diocesan staff are employees and come under different arrangements.) During my 26 years in parish ministry, and now 17 as archdeacon or bishop, I have rejoiced in the freedom we have to organise our own lives: to have lunch at home sometimes, to share in children’s bedtime or the school run or see children in a school play during the daytime, to go out for a walk or to the cinema or read a novel on a “working” day when I feel the need to do that. I have never counted my working hours in a week, or even my days of leave per year, and I have never felt the need to do so. I know that I work hard at my ministerial calling. I am a priest and bishop 24/7, and I am also a husband, father, brother, friend – and a person with my own needs – in the same way. (I tried to be a 24/7 son too, when my parents were still alive). I rejoice in holding these duties, joys, responsibilities and privileges together. I delight in our strange and somewhat unusual status, as neither employed nor self-employed, but “office holders”. I am perplexed and a little saddened when parish clergy want to be employed and line managed, or see their calling as in some way analogous to a job. To the parish clergy I would say, Give yourself wholly and joyfully to the various callings, responsibilities and privileges the Lord has laid on you; Look after yourself as well as others, taking the time you need for refreshment, recreation, and rest; Work hard, pray hard, love well, care for those in your charge including yourself.

Years ago, I met a Bishop whilst exploring a Curacy opportunity and he told me half his clergy 'had issues with stress, addiction, depression' etc. I am not sure if it's any different today?

A Vicar pal who was signed off a while ago recommended a book called 'Take care of yourself'. Indeed we must.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Almost invisible

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

I found this post an encouragement in the midst of the challenge of what it means to makes disciples in a post-Christian culture. If you are the pastor of a small local church embedded in a community and seeking to be a prayerful presence you do periodically ask:

'Lord, how will they be saved?'

I do this as I walk behind a mum pushing her pram past the local school on the estate or as I see the young couple hurrying their way to work in an office in the West end. Now, I know it's God's job to turn the heart but I'm often mulling on what's God's part in that and what's down to my/our activity (spiritual or otherwise).
A life passage for me is Romans 10 where Paul pours out his heart for the lost. It's the passage that both called me and planted me. Is God, in my frustration and I admit feeling a little overwhelmed by the seeming size of the task, telling me to revisit 'my feet' once again and get them moving. I have also been dipping into Fresh wind Fresh Fire which was such a seminal book for me.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Thursdays thoughts

1. Mrs C's talk is now up and I think it's brilliant but I am biased. It's her first at HT Barnes.

2. Mrs C was blown away by Keller's talk on Esther and the Silent Sovereignty of God.

3. We are reading through Mark's gospel on Monday evenings with a gathering of saints using this resource. Some food, some study, some stories and prayer.

4. I have picked up Mary's book and it's moved me again. What a life of following the Spirit. A good one to recommend to anyone married to a Vicar as Mrs C now finds herself to be.

5. Our evening service started well. John Mumford of the Vineyard Movement came to visit us weeks after I planted here and I asked him for some advice and he said:

 'Don't count the numbers and have fun'. 

The longer I do this the more I learn that numbers don's tell you very much about the effectiveness of your discipleship. Thank goodness for that.
Image result for kissell before dawn sets in  mary book

6.  'Raising a child is like building a house' an Old Albanian Proverb quoted in 'Raising passionate Jesus Followers'

Image result for all i want millar

7. I am spending the afternoon sitting at the feet of Sandy Millar. Over 30 years ago, my sister turned to me in her car as we parked in Chiswick and said:  'I've become a born again Christian' and I thought she'd lost the plot. She invited me to HTB and Sandy spoke for 40 minutes on 'Revival'. I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. I left that night wondering what on earth all those people were on and the only thing I knew was I wasn't on it. By grace, I now am.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Thursday thoughts

1.  A few members of one of our day time groups wanted a recommendation of a book on Biblical meditation.  'The lost art of mediation' was the one that came to mind.

2. Listening to 'Getting to the bottom of your joy' greatly impacted my heart when I listened to it a few years ago. I am quoting some of it on Sunday.

3.  Danielle Strickland's description of leading someone to Jesus has stayed with me (starts 10.09).

4. I watched a promotional clip of a pal's church and they had someone dressed up as bear to welcome people. Perhaps that's where my church growth strategy has been going wrong?

5. Mrs C gave a great talk at our monthly prayer meeting last night.

6. A growing number of churches in the C of E are failing to cover the costs of their Vicar. Should nothing change, this is not destined to end well.

7.  I am someone's 'Spiritual director', at least that's what they call m,e and I've been pondering what this means. I am reading Soul friend to find out more which been sitting on my shelf unread for some years.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Wednesday wandering

1. A pal Chris has started a podcast called Making disciples. In one of them he spends 20 minutes with John Mark Comer and that 20 minutes has made me think more about critically about my own and our churches discipleship than anything I have listened to in ages.

2. Chris ends his first podcast with a challenging question:

'Do you believe the truth enough to live it?

3. I have bought and started reading Comer's book and his parents book on parenting called 'Raising Passionate Jesus Follower

4.  We have a dear man called Michael Emmett coming to speak at the launch of our new evening service (6pm at Holy Trinity Barnes on Oct 6th). We were playing near our house today feeding the ducks and two young lads were smoking a joint watching us. Mrs C marched up to them and invited them and they immediately googled Michael and said 'We'll be there'

5. I have been pondering a line in R T Kendall's book about anointing.

'The transfer of anointing to others lightens the load of the one with whom the buck stops' p.37

6. I preached about giving on Sunday and giving outward. Earlier in the year, our PCC decided to give 15% of our income out to our partners rather than having a separate gift day. Paul at one point said 'imitate me' and I told church that logically we should therefore all expect to raise our giving by 15% to stand still. and that's what Mrs C and I have done. If we're not doing it why should anyone else in our church.

7. I preached on 1 Cor 9 and Paul's passion for the lost hit my soul anew. Alpha started yesterday and no one I invited came which left me feeling slightly gloomy. I was sharing my pessimism with a Vicar pal today and he told me how they set 'invitation goals' for his church. I told him I don't set evangelism goals for our church on Alpha. Should I?  I don't want to have to twist peoples arm to tell other people about Jesus. Surely, that's the HS's job?  Just musing.

8. My Brexit thought for the day is that if Brexit was about reclaiming to Sovereignty of parliament and the power of British Courts both seem to be in pretty good fettle given we haven't left yet. I enjoy Ian Dales weekly podcast 'For the many' 

9. Did I mention Mrs C is loving 'The lineage of grace'

10. What are people saying to you when they 'unfriend you' on Facebook?

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Tall poppy's

Image result for tall poppies

Today is the last day of John Humphrys presenting Today. I listened to his interview with David Cameron and one phrase stuck with me (it's not up yet but you should listen).

Cameron was asked by Humphreys what his legacy was (Blair has 'Blairism' and Thatcher had her 'ism' and you....?). He paused, and said that he never wanted his leadership to be about him. He then went on the talk of Gove's education reforms and the welfare reforms of Duncan-Smith. Aside from any view on these specific policies, he then said this:

'I wanted to cultivate tall poppy's'

I like that little phrase. I am now pondering it and wondering how many leaders share that philosophy? Do I?

Isn't the very nature of discipleship the sacrificial cultivation of 'tall poppy's' or is the danger of ministry that it's can drift to being more about us than about others.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019


I know the blog has been quiet.

Time to crank up my writing and sharing once again.

If you've never heard a sermon on 1 Cor 7 then I preached on it the other day and it seemed to hit a cord. I don't think there are enough sermons with the word 'masturbation' in them. It was relevant to the text ( v 9)....

My holiday reading was (and still is) 'How to read the Bible Supernaturally' 

I am enjoying Driscoll's series on Proverbs and Mrs C and I are reading through this wisdom book together.  The talk on marriage is a good one.

I am reading and being blessed by R T Kendall's '40 Days with the Holy Spirit.' which someone left on our church book shelf. It's refreshing my soul.

My sister recommended this to me and it was most enlightening on 'the backstop' and other matters Irish that English people, being English as I am, think are rather incidental.

We are having our first church wedding on a Sunday. I had to ring up head office and check that it's OK and it is. Our very own 'Wedding at Cana'.

Our son has started school. He said to me 'Daddy, it not fair. I have to go to school and you get to stay home all day and play'. Not a bad line to up Vocations in the C of E......

We watched the story of Adorijam Hudson on Amazon Prime.

I recommended a book called 'The Gospel-Driven Church' to our pastors prayer whatsapp group and a number of us read it on our holidays.  Fascinating unplanned reflection on it. It's got some real nuggets to chew on and is basically a critique of pragmatic church which many contemporary churches are embarked upon to gather a crowd.

I shared the gospel today with a man and in explaining it to him I had to unpack a misleading talk he had listened to in a prosperity preaching church. I know of the church and someone once told me the congregation bought the pastor a Porsche for his 50th birthday. I always assumed that that cannot possibly be true? I am over a decade into ministry and the C of E have yet to send me the company car form. It must have got lost in the post.

Every day is grace.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Tuesday Topics

1. These books were recommended to me recently. Reading good biographies has been grist to my spiritual mill down the years and it will be to yours too I pray:

Evidence not seen

We died before we came here

Hudson Taylor: A Man in Christ

2. I was single until the age of 45 and this book looks like a good one from a limited canon on the subject.

3.  I take an interest in teachers, books, preachers and para-church things. A recent thought is that if a particular speaker or guru plays a bigger part in your life and discipleship than the local church you've got something very out of wack. The problem with the big speaker or person with a ministry to ' ......' is that it too easily becomes about you and them and not about Jesus and his people (the church). By all means listen to a podcast of this or that person and try to consume a rich and varied diet of teaching but not at the expense of connecting with the people of God in a local church.

4. We're enjoying Chimerica and are watching it on C4 catch-up. We were surprised by this ad for a morning after pill. The lie is that 'you are your own master'. You're not because none of us are.

5. David Bennett's conversion and calling is fascinating.

6. I appreciate Jared Wilson's grasp of grace.

7. I have been pondering this A W Tozer quote:

'God waits to be wanted'

(A War of Loves, p.77)

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Thursday thoughts

1.  We have an H T Barnes hosted on July 11th to launch David Bennett's book 'A War of Loves' @ 8pm.  His testimony speaks powerfully into our contemporary debates about sexuality and identity and he will share some of his story on the night.  The book is a compelling and powerful read.

2.  On the subject of sexuality, a pal commended Jon Tyson's recent sermon in his series 'The Controversial Jesus' which they thought was the most helpful on the subject they had ever listened to.

3.  I am currently studying 1 Corinthians and recommend the short commentary by Leon Morris. He says more in one paragraph than others do with ten times the amount of words.

4.  It is Christian Aid week and I often ponder how long such a week can be sustained on a national level in a post-Christian culture. Christian Aid do amazing work but their brand is now an anathema to most of the culture who's doors are knocked on. 

5. I was recommended 'This cultural moment' as a good podcast. One for when you next walk the dog (if you have one)

6.  A couple of members of our team attended the National Foodbank Conference (we run ours here) and the quote that stuck with both of them was this:

 '...the opposite of poverty is community'

7.  An update on Lambeth 2020 which is shaping up to be a seminal moment for the C of E.

8. We are excited to be supporting (with a couple of other churches and initiated by 'The Riverbank Trust') the birth of one of these locally which I shared with our church family last Sunday.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Wednesday wanderings

1. Some wonderful folk emailed me to encourage me about how the blog had been a blessing to them down the years which has stirred me back here. The last few months have been busy, challenging and testing, at times totally wonderful and encouraging which has all led me to neglect my own ministry of encouragement here. Anyway, I am back to it if anyone is still interested.

2.  I read a story called 'The church on the porch' from a book called 'What Jesus started' in last Sunday's sermon,  It seemed to spark a cord and reading Addison's book has given me my August sermon series.

3.  I have spent the last couple of days at LC19 and was very blessed. Two things will certainly stick with me: the testimony a friend gave and Jon Tyson's talk on Hosea 10. A pal texted me to ask if I thought the conference was 'worth the money' and for those moments alone the answer is an unquestioning yes.

4.  A statement I have been pondering: 'Jesus never fulfilled his potential but he fulfilled his purpose' 

5. Here are three leadership questions to chew over on a wet Wednesday morning:

a.  What is no longer working and needs to be changed?
b.  What is no longer working and needs to be stopped?
c.  If someone replaced me what would be the first thing they would change?

6.  'Worship is a strategy where we interrupt the preoccupation with ourselves and attend to the presence of God' Eugene Peterson quoted by Matt Redman

7.  A pal is reading a book called 'Leadership pain' which I have just ordered.

8.  I listened to an interesting talk by Mark Sayers (author of this book which I read a while ago) on the five global trends impacting the church. It's worth checking out.

-Radical connectivity
-A world of competing visions
-Faltering secular revival
-A deep hunger for a better world
-The great disillusionment

9. Look out for Simon's new book 'Jesus is amazing'.

10.  What to do when you attend a Type A leadership conference and you're not Type A? The main speaker at the conference who is a remarkable man has a church of over 100K, six kids that he home schools, runs The Global Leadership Summit as a tiny sideline in his schedule, writes books by the dozen, reads the Bible for two hours a day and looks like Sylvester Stallone after all the time he spends in the gym. It's a major undertaking for me to get a pair of shoes on my two sons and get them out of the front door each morning. Mike Todd, who also spoke at LC19, had a lovely phrase 'the pace of grace'. Grace indeed......

Monday, January 14, 2019

Monday musing

1. I greatly enjoyed and was moved by 'Even through our darkness' by Jack Deere.  It's a book about struggles, sin, mixed motives and above all else how pride fights the grace of God. It is a ruthlessly honest and, at times, astounding read.

2.  We met for our first 'Pastor's prayers' this year and a pal recommended I watch Joan Bakewell's 1970 interview with Martyn Lloyd Jones. It is as good a diagnostic of our times now as it was then. We are preaching through Judges and someone after church said to me 'I had no idea there were so many parallel's with our day.' That's why I am preaching it.

3. When something big happens in the Anglican church as occurred in Oxford I go to Anglican unscripted for a briefing. Gavin Ashenden's metaphor of the ferry has lived on with me since I watched this episode. A pal said 'I'll be jumping into a life raft before we reach the other side.'

4. I read a fascinating interview with Jackie Pullinger and this quote stayed with me.

 'My message is always the same; it’s how to get us sure enough of God’s love, so we can go out and share it with the lost.'

5. I have been reading 'The Fight' by John White which is such a good little book on the Christian life for dummies. I am a dummy, pastoring a church of dummies,so I've suggested everyone read this book between now and Easter.

6. I listened to a talk on predestination and at one point Keller says: 'You find yourself laughing at the thought that God chose you'. Indeed I do- often.

7. Mrs C was captivated by 'Redeeming love' which someone gave her for her birthday. It tells the story of Hosea.

8. May we never lose our wonder....

9. This is an interesting piece about Andrew Murray if you long for your children to come to Christ and need help reflecting on how that happens.

10.  If you are a pastor worth his salt you visit with regularity the question of discipleship both of yourself and those you shepherd. This might be more the case as a new year starts.  When it comes to discipleship type A's love a program and an activity and I confess I quite like one too. But increasingly I think they are not that good at making disciples who run the race over the long haul. So what is a disciple is one of my fresh musings....

Disciples love....

Disciples are generous...

Disciples pray....

Disciples are joyful...

Disciple can let things go....

Disciple keep meeting together.....

Disciples encourage each other....

Disciples repent and break bread together......

Disciples read.....

Disciples take time to be alone with Jesus....

Disciples laugh.....

Disciples cry

Disciples eat together......

Disciples invite people in....

Disciples fail and mess things up....

Disciples often get the wrong end of the stick but with the HS help they get it in the end......