Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Best reads of 2019

I am not sure I have done a Best Book list these last couple of years despite having read a few books. A two and four year old have restricted my Christmas blogging and, if I'm honest, the last couple of years are a bit of a haze. So this is by no means an exhaustive pile of the things I've read, but it's a taste of what's been shaping me.

'In the Days of Rain: a father, a daughter and a cult' is a wonderful and disturbing book about growing up in an English brethren household in the 50's.

'Before the days draw in: my ordinary journey towards an extraordinary God' is a beautifully written adventure telling of life as a clergy family written by one of our saints here in Barnes. If you are a Pastor, or definitely if you are married to one, you should read this book. Barry and Mary Kissell's faithful life story should be read, absorbed and spread far and wide.

'David Cameron: On the Record' explains the story behind the pickle he got us all into.

'Sacred Fire: A Vision for a Deeper Human and Christian Maturity' is a book about the stages and seasons of life and meaning.

'Translating God: Hearing God's Voice for Yourself and the World around you
' is a book by a prophet and contains lots of holy ghost stories, some of which left me slightly scratching my head. Why? I think the specificity of the way he hears God's voice was a challenge to my own experience of the prophetic.

'The Art of Neighbouring' is contextually American but has some good insights to offer

'The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to stay emotionally healthy and spiritually alive in the chaos of the modern world' is a reworking of Ortberg's classic but contains lots of good stuff on the spiritual disciplines

'The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for people who can't get their act together' is a book that every imperfect follower (of which I am certainly one) should read.

'Even in our darkness: A story of beauty in a broken life' which I read in 2018 but its message still haunts and disturbs me, I hope in a good way.

'Holy Fire: A balanced Biblical look at the Holy Spirit's work in our lives' is possibly the best accessible one stop shop book on the Holy Spirit to come out in recent years. Kendall is a 'Calvinist Charismatic' which aren't two words that often go together. R T is one of the people I couldn't have run the race without.

'Love church: Join the adventure of Hope' is a book by my pal Tim about planting the HTB way. It's a good story.

'God has a name' is another book by John Mark Comer that is worth some time.

'The Burden is Light: Liberating your life from the Tyranny of  Performance and Success' is the book that gave me the most stories and little 'aha' moments this year.

'The gospel comes with a house key: Practicing radically ordinary hospitality in our post-Christian world' by the excellently named Rosaria Champagne Butterfield and is a book about hospitality as one of the marks of the gospel. She is a deep gospel-soaked woman who writes movingly.

'The Gospel Driven Church:  Uniting church growth dreams with the metrics of grace' was read by most of my Wednesday morning pastors prayer group and we all were blessed by it.

'The Fight: A practical handbook of Christian Living' is a classic discipleship book and one that any new or growing disciple would do well to get under their belt.

'Uncover Mark' we read in our home with a crowd. Food, sharing, the word, prayer, tears and laughter. Use it for wonderful stroll along the path of discipleship for a short season with a gang of saints. Good to read with a crowd or one to one.

'Judges for you' is a belter. I preached through Judges this year and it was extraordinary. A note if you are thinking about doing the same maybe don't plan 'The Levite and the Concubine' to land on Mother's day. Actually do- someone became a follower! However, you've been warned.

'The War of Loves' is the best and most compelling addition to the canon of books about sexuality and the gospel. A very real, honest, theologically rich and challenging read for all of us who will be grappling with these questions in the years to come.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Monday musing

1. I hope you are deciding how to vote and are speaking constructively to others. Our church hall turns into a polling station which seems to have happened rather a lot recently. My sermon yesterday was my last in a series we've been in all year on 1 Cor.  I shared that I have been praying Mich 6:8 during this season and you have to decide who you feel (however inadequately) can best deliver justice in this land.  Politicians show a widespread inability to be honest with facts and crazy with finances. McDonnell questioned by Marr about the WASPI women and how he proposed to pay for this, given it's not in his 'fully-costed grey book', replied '....with headroom'. Marr responded while frowning saying 'It's the equivalent to 3/4 of the current education budget'. Oh said McDonnell when told it would cost 59bn and we only have 6bn in reserves. 'We'll borrow it then.'  Similarly, Johnson asked about HS2 costs this morning said they were north of 100bn when currently they are forecast at 82bn.  If any of us ran our personal finances like this we'd be in penury.

2. The BBC has an interesting post about unity.

3. Lots of vicar pals had their Carol Services yesterday. I think it's a bit early but there you go.....

4. This song might be one we sing a bit over Christmas

5. Interesting C of E thought for this election

6. I will be preaching on 1 John 1:1-4 at our Carol Service.

7. Someone who our church is putting through St Mellitus wanted something to help her with Church History. I gave her the six DVD set called 'The History of Christianity'.  You'll do well to find a better overview than this so put it on your Christmas list.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Ten thoughts for a Tuesday

1.  Recently, I shared the not very profound insight about the C of E that if you keep doing what you are doing you will keep getting what you're getting. Mark Sayers book 'Reappearing church' shares this sentiment and captures lots of the material from his podcast This Cultural Moment. It's an important book. We are planning to use it as a read for our early morning pastors prayer group. Buy this book, read the first chapter, follow the suggestion that you select some people to gather with who want renewal and then commit to actually gathering. I have discovered over thirty years that the kingdom comes to those who turn up. Church- we need to raise our game, get accountable, start to pray earnestly and trust in God to move his hand. BBC news website today tells me child poverty is on track to reach 34% by 2023. Blue, Red or Yellow are not going to sort this fractured land- the gospel is. Awake o sleeper.....


We will not experience renewal by following the same patterns of life and ministry that are not delivering renewal

(Reappearing church: The Hope of Renewal in the Rise of Our Post Christian Culture, Page 11)

2. David Keen hits a political observational nail on the head with this post about 'Families'  and a post on marriage discrimination.

3.  Someone in our church family told me that this book might very well be changing their life. They have only read half of it so we laughed together and we agreed we'd reserve judgement until she's actually finished it.

4. If you know a better story to illustrate the reality that we belong to God then do let me know. I read it to church on Sunday and made myself and everyone else cry.  It's on pages 81-84 of 'Proof'. Read out in the context of the gospel and I would beg to suggest it's hard for someone not to get  saved - it might even be you  :)
Image result for proof montgomery"

5. A kid at school has been giving our son an occasional hard time. We've all been praying for them. Today, by the providence of God, the mum of the child asked me to drop the them at their class as she was rushing to work. As we waited outside the classroom, Christmas came on the agenda which is apparently about elves and Santa.  I said simply 'Christmas is all about Jesus and it's amazing that God is alive, he's come to us and his name is Jesus'. She pondered this thought and said, beaming, 'Christmas is Jesus' birthday'. In that brief moment, I felt I'd got one over on the elves...

6. My daily devotional is 'Seeking God's Face'. It has a prologue written by Eugene Peterson that I happened to read for the first time. It moved me and if you read it might move you too.


Yesterday, someone arrived at the Vicarage door who has been around the edges of our church since I planted it. They said 'I am sorry I don't come very often but your a good Vicar and the Vicarette is fantastic. I'm not sure how you describe her [Vicarette will do].....Anyway, I took this photo and have been meaning to frame it and give it to you for ages. Your church is doing a good thing'. That was quite encouraging.

8.  Someone else arrive on the doorstep who was homeless. We invited her in, made her a cup of tea, heard the story, shared the gospel, prayed for her, booked the hostel, gave her the Vicarette's favourite coat, and then, as she was leaving, I sensed the half read book by my bedside was for her not me. At very least, the subtitle resonated with her.

Image result for manna farrar"

9. I am planning to read a very thin book called 'Creative Minority' today.

10.  I heard Bishop Nazir Ali speak on Saturday who had many reflections on the state of the C of E. His big idea was hospitality and I felt prompted to buy a book that's been on my radar for ages. Why not invite someone into your home for a meal and see what happens.....
The Gospel Comes with a House Key: A Book Review

Luke 24.....'did not the word of God burn within us while we were with Him'

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Wednesday musing

1.  I have been listening to the sermon series 'A missional life' by Jon Tyson. The teaching of Suzy Silk is also worth checking out and I was blessed by her message on Micah 6:8. I have also been listening to one of the worship songs they have in their canon.

2.  I said I'd let you know on news of the thing that I've been working on that might have happened. It hasn't, which is a shame and feels like nine months of prayer, ideas, potential and effort down the swanny. However, I've been doing this long enough to know nothing is wasted in the kingdom. Did I mention this post and that I wrote 'Why plant churches?' 8 years ago? In it, I quoted Ruth Gledhill who wrote this in the Times:

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

The Times, 2011

As I look from time to time at Thinking Anglican's (where I discover who's been appointed to the see of this or that) I can't help being reminded that if you keep doing what you're are doing you will keep getting what you getting. Keeping on with a 'more of the same' process is fine if you are looking to curate a museum, but not if you are seeking to usher in the things of the kingdom of God. Or in Cranmer speak 'to declare the gospel afresh to this generation' which is as I understood it is the call upon the church of this land. I heard someone in the upper echelons of oversight of the good old C of E say recently that '....we're about to go over the edge of the cliff'. On Ruth Gledhill's 'a decade to go' timetable we have a year or so left to run so maybe, just maybe, it's time we cracked on.

3.  I have started writing more in my journal. I used to journal all the time but someone this discipline got lost in everything else. I've pulled Ron Klug's 'How to keep a spiritual journal' off the shelf again to inspire me.

4. John Mark Comer's book on hurry is all the rage at the moment and it's a reworking of Ortberg's 'The life you always wanted'. I'm enjoying it and it's helpful on the spiritual disciplines. The older I get I see the bright young things of the day simply discover the basics of the faith and repackage them for their generation. It was ever thus.

5.  'The Marriage Story' looks like an interesting but painful watch.

6. Charlie Mackesy is number one in the Times bestsellers with this book. A gift idea for Christmas?

And here he is speaking about Christmas....

7. A couple of blog posts from J John as we approach the election.

a. What wrong with the country?
b. .....And what can we do about it?

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Hidden Christmas

‘Because of the commercial indispensability of Christmas, it will remain with us as a secular festival. My fear is, however, that its true roots will become more and more hidden to most of the population. The emphasis on light in darkness comes from the Christian belief that the worlds hope comes from outside of it  The giving of gifts is a natural response to Jesus stupendous act of self-giving, when he laid aside his glory and was born  into the human race. The concern for the needy recalls the Son of God was born not into an aristocratic family but into a poor one. The Lord of the universe identified with the least and the most excluded of the human race.

These are powerful themes, but every one of them is a two-edged sword. Jesus comes as the Light because we are too spiritually blind to find our own way. Jesus become mortal and died because we are too morally ruined to be pardoned any other way. Jesus gave himself to us, and do we must give ourselves wholly to him. We are, therefore, “not [our] own (1 Cor 6:19). Christmas, like god himself, is both more wondrous and more threatening than we imagine.

Every year our increasingly secular Western society becomes more unaware of its own historical roots, many of which are the fundamentals of the Christian faith.  Yet once a year at Christmas basic truths become a bit more accessible to an enormous audience. At countless gatherings, concerts, parties and other events, even when most participants are non-religious, the essentials of the faith can sometimes become visible  As an example, let’s ask some questions of the famous Christmas carol “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” heard in shopping centres, stores, and on street corners. Who is Jesus? He is the ‘everlasting Lord’ who from ‘highest heaven’ comes down to be the ‘offspring of a virgins womb’ What did he come  do? His mission is to sin ‘’God and sinners reconciled’ How did he accomplish it? He lays his glory by that we ‘no more may die’. How ca this life be ours? Through an inward, spiritual regeneration so radical that, as we have seen, it can be called ‘the second birth.

 With brilliant economy of style, the carol gives us a summary of the entire Christian teaching.
While few of the most familiar Christmas songs and Bible readings and that comprehensive, it remains that one season a year hundreds of millions of people, if they would take the trouble to ask these kinds of questions, would have this same knowledge available to them. To understand Christmas is to understand basic Christianity, the Gospel.’

Tim Keller, Hidden Christmas, p.2-4

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Murray on the death of Europe

This is a thought-provoking interview and captures many of the issues that a bubbling under the surface on all sides of the arguments about Brexit and other matters during election season.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Towards the conversion of England

1. My pal Matt, a Vicar of a wonderful church in Fulham, organised an evening with Sandy Millar with a twofold purpose. Firstly, he wanted to encourage the use of social media. Secondly he wanted us to be encouraged by some teaching from Sandy on Ezekiel 37.  It was a terrific night. If Sandy's talk comes online I will post it here. Sandy recommended we all read 'Streets paved with gold: The Story of London City Mission' .

2. Another pal Wayne recommend a book that, as it happens, was just reviewed by Daryl Dash. If you find yourself in a hurry a lot then this might be one for you.

3. One of the people who spoke last night was Chris who I have known for a few years. It was my Canadian/English friend Peter's daughter who made me aware of his online persona. He is part of something called 'The Korean Englishman' and remarkably it's had over 300m hits.  He also runs something called 'Young Franciscans'

4. I am really enjoying Manna by Steve Farrar. He's a man whose writing has kept me running the race down the years. It's one to read if you feel you are in a tough spot.

5. Politics is too important to leave to politicians. 

6. I've been pondering the expression used by Emma Watson 'self-partnered'. As someone who was single until 45, I can't say that I ever sought an alternative descriptor.

7. If you want a good devotional on marriage and relationships then Keller has a new one called 'A seal upon my heart'.

8. Sandy used a Wimber quote (about church planting) that has stuck with me:

'It's easier to have babies than conduct resurrections'

9. This is great  and thanks to Tim Challies for posting.

10. John Mark Comer apparently reads the book Sacred Fire once a year. I've just started it.

Sunday, November 03, 2019

A week is a long time...

This was how James Forsyth started his article in the Spectator this week:

'This general election isn't the most important in a generation, it is the most significant in the lifetime of anyone since 1945. It will decide whether Brexit happens, whether Britain has the most left wing prime minister in its history, whether the Scottish Nationalists are able to secure a second referendum and whether the two-party system can survive'

I have also been reading Dominic Cummings blog and this quote stuck with me and chimed a similar chord:

‘Politics is a job that can really only be compared with navigation in uncharted waters. One has no idea how the weather or the currents will be or what storms one is in for. In politics, there is the added fact that one is largely dependent on the decisions of others, decisions on which one was counting and which then do not materialise; one’s actions are never completely one’s own. And if the friends on whose support one is relying change their minds, which is something that one cannot vouch for, the whole plan miscarries… One’s enemies one can count on – but one’s friends!’ Otto von Bismarck.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Thursday thoughts

1. This is a depressing piece entitled 'What state is the C of E in?'  Why is it that when free fall sets in the solution is often to appoint more people in senior management? Did I mention that I wrote a piece called 'Why plant churches?'. If I was seeking to turn a few of those graphs upwards I might look to appointing people to lead churches who were either a. Apostles b. Evangelists. Just a thought. (Acts 15:18-25)

2. I passed on to Senior management a question that a few on my PCC have asked me recently. What do we need to do to be considered worthy of any support or resourcing from head office? After seven years, after some growth and grace, a more than doubling of our parish share and sending out resources for mission outside our context we have much that's been so encouraging. We aren't a 'resource church' that received money from the Commissioners, we are simply a local church planted out of another local church to keep a closing one open, doing some mission and evangelism. seeking to love and support the poor, making a few disciples and having some fun. If I was looking at graphs like those above, I'd take more of an interest in what God's been up to here but honestly what do I know.....

3. I've been working on a small project for nearly a year that I hear news on today. It will either make me hopeful about the prospects for the C of E graphs or more depressed. I'll let you know.

4. I have returned to using 'Seeking God's Face' as my daily devotional.

5. I've been pondering why one might 'pray to Cardinal Newman'.

6. Christian Smith's phrase 'adultesence' is one I'm chewing on which I heard referred to in a sermon.

7. I've been getting Ryan Holidays reading email for ages and I've recently signed up for 'The Daily Dad'. It's jolly good.

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......

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