Thursday, February 04, 2016

A word to myself: 'Don't screw it up'

“This very day, every man—whether a global leader or an unknown tradesman—has an opportunity to show the world that the gospel does not kill pleasure or aggressiveness. Rather, as [Jonathan] Edwards has shown, it frees Christians to experience true pleasure and to act in manly ways for a far greater cause than ourselves. We grieve the trajectory of modern men, and we feel special pain for the wives and children who are, through no fault of their own, deeply damaged by the sins of men. In a broken world, we pray to God to show the world a better way, a greater joy, and a magnificent Savior, who delights in taking sinful men and turning them into agents of his glory.” 

I remember reading a page in Steve Farrar's book that I have never forgotten. He talks of the capacity of Christians to sin, fail and fall- particularly with regard to sexual sin and adultery. He deals too in the book with abusive leaders and those who get seduced by money and power. He ends the page saying that if you have read it and you think that this could never happen to you, then you are exactly the person it is likely to happen to. It could happen to me- I have no doubt of that. I have just ordered a few copies of Farrar's book to give to friends and people at church and for myself as I have recently given my copy away. I have also got on the phone and email a pal or two and see how they are doing.


Someone I looked to (from afar) and have been taught the Bible by has felt compelled this week to resign his church, ministry and is under the 'Clergy Discipline Measure'.  I have no idea of the details and they don't really matter and my prayers are for him and his family. However, I do know that he was meant to 'Finish strong' and tragically, for whatever reason, hasn't.

This year, I have heard more accounts of struggles in leadership and with sin in the lives of church leaders than I have in all the years since I have been ordained. As a result, we have called an interim meet-up of 'Men on Mountains' to check how we are all doing. I know myself pretty well and know how easily I too could fall and disappoint and mess it all up. Indeed, that would be almost inevitable without the friends I have in my corner dusting me down and looking me in the eye and checking I'm OK.  Grace and humility is the Jesus way. I so need more grace and more humility if I am to have any chance of 'Finishing Strong'.

Pray for me. I need it. We all do.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

The missional ordeal

Thanks to Justin Buzzard for this excellent quote:
“We have a friend who says she believes churches should get Bible teaching ‘on a need-to-know basis.’ In other words, a church should open their Bibles together and learn from Scripture according to the contextual challenges and ordeals they are currently facing together. Sadly, many Christians don’t ‘need to know’ what they hear each Sunday, and so they retain very little of it.
Now, we recognize believers should have a clear, consistent biblical worldview, and we can’t offer Bible teaching based only on felt needs and areas of immediate interest. But frankly, we’d rather teach missionaries, disciples who are hungry for Bible teaching to sustain, enrich, and guide them in the missional ordeal, than churchgoers who have little motivation for hearing the truth. And remember, unused truth is lost truth. It doesn’t matter how true we believe the Bible to be, or how effective and gifted our teachers might be. If our congregations are not engaged missionally…they will have little need for our teaching.” -Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch

Monday, February 01, 2016

Monday musing

1. Carson's 'Picture two Jews' story hit my heart when I watched it. It will yours too.

2. I reflected afresh on the impact Simon Walker had on me as an ordinand as I reread his book and thought about my own leadership. I do aspire to be as 'undefended' as possible which I always found a helpful leadership descriptor.

'If you want to know who someone is, do not look at them- instead, as my first boss said, 'Look at the spaces between them and others'. It is in the space that we will come to see who they are. It is the relationships that a person's character is revealed and their identity shown.' 

Subversive Leadership, p. 52

3. I enjoyed watching this about the Cayman Islands.

4. Transexuality is seemingly the chattering classes and Hollywood's subject of the moment. Melanie Phillips has a view.

5. I'm being blessed and helped by 'To die is gain'

6. I am preaching on Phil 2 and this post suggests humility=transparency.

7. I am pondering the curious maths of a growing church.

8. The main reason people leave a church

9. I am speaking at a Watoto event at Greycourt school tomorrow night.

11. 'Spotlight' film review  (h/t Jonny Baker)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wednesday waffle

Early this morning as I walked out of 'Pastors prayers' a friend came up to me and said 'I love your blog- keep doing it'. Just when I thought it might just be time to knock it on the head. According to Ben Arment, apparently only middle aged men write blogs. Guilty as charged. As a point of note, this particular reader was a woman :)

Blogs are dead.
(Except for middle-aged-man blogs read by other middle-aged men.)
(Twitter killed the blogging star.)
(And Instagram killed the Twitter star.)

Having said that, without the blog I would be more annoying than I probably already am with all my recommendations. There is also something very liberating about not concerning oneself with whether or not anyone visits here. If you do - wonderful- and I continue to pray my posting and waffle is a blessing and encouragement in some way.

In the car, I was listening to Unbroken Praise and one line from it hit me. As we were praying together, a pal prayed exactly that line. Go figure. Here's the line:

'So let my deeds outrun my words and let my life outweigh my songs'

....we then discussed that as a bunch of pastors words come easily. Deeds, we agreed, less so.

Adam, who helps me steer the good ship HT Barnes, recommended 'My rock, my refuge' by Tim Keller on Sunday which I have now taken delivery of and am reading together with BiOY as a devotional. It contains much treasure.

Someone recommended a talk by a prophetic American chappy (Doug- the tattoo prophet, dream interpreter and life coach) who has a website which I checked out. The talk was about 'Purging'. His January podcast sounded to me a bit like the Holy Spirit giving a month by month annual shipping forecast. Trouble is coming from the West just past German Bight in mid -June etc. His word had been a great and timely encouragement to this person and I found his stuff on pruning from John 15 interesting. I think we need to be sending far more tattoo prophets to BAP's. :)

I've been pondering the Christian professional's who have websites but no church. Driscoll is now one of them. He's got his library back.

A couple of other American chappy's I am planning to hear speak over the next few months are Mark Batterson and Kevin de Young. Both men have, in their own ways, be helpful and resourcing for me.

I am loving preaching on Philippians and Matt Chandler's book 'Die to gain' was a good find.

Our Community Groups are using Nicky Gumbel's material 'A life worth living'  as they study Philippians which I read twenty-five years ago and have revisited. Terrific nuts and bolts discipleship stuff.

I am trying to memorize (again) Proverbs 3:1-11 which I read the other morning, prompted by this post. If you can commit it to memory in five minutes you are doing better than me. I've written it on a card which reminded me of learning French vocab for O-level which, as it happens, I failed twice. D at the first attempt and an E at the second. Proverbs 3:1-11, I have learnt unlocks the whole of the rest of the book. While I'm on Proverbs, I recommended the talk 'Your Plans God's Plans' to someone recently.

Yesterday, as my day turned out, following one unexpected phone call it rather mirrored the quote from The Imperfect Pastor and 'wasted' the whole afternoon. Far from it obviously....

'Spear' is an incredible ministry.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Job Descriptions

One of the things I hoped to do more of in 2016 is write more and since deciding this I have done precious little of it. Nonetheless, here we are and I am going to give it a go and write a tiny bit.

Yesterday, I had my annual review with my Archdeacon (Church of England for 'Head of HR') and it was a really good experience. To prepare for it, I wrote a long document that attempted to capture everything that has happened in my life (personal and spiritual), family, church and leadership. Once I had put it down on paper it turned out to be quite a lot. Not least, was the wonder and joy of becoming a father.

As part of this process, here are some questions I am asking myself at the moment:

1. How are you doing?

2. What are my priorities?

3. What is God saying to me?

4. What is God saying to our church?

5. What am I blind to/lying to myself about?

6. Who in my life will tell me/ is telling me what I need to hear?

7. Am I listening to them?

Over the last year, I have spent quite a bit of time reflecting on what it means to be a pastor. I have looked around at those who carry that name, including myself, and observed what a deeply flawed bunch we all are. However, the recent tonic and balm for my introspection has been Zack Eswine's book 'The Imperfect Pastor and this section about 'greatness' hit me recently and I have been mulling on its challenge since. You may find yourself doing the same:

Jesus's idea of doing great things for God meant a daily routine that accentuated a greatness of a different kind. His schedule among the least looked something like what follows. In particular:

Early morning and late evening: disappear often and pray

After breakfast till just before dinner: seek out unknown and scarily broken people and give them the bulk of your time. Set aside times to teach publicly and to debrief privately with those you are mentoring.

Early evening after dinner: spend time together and enjoy each other.

In general:

Eat and sleep

Help those other leaders who are for you to understand from God's word that this way of ministry is from God and is no waste. 

Bear with people whom you help but who distance themselves from you because your way of life and ministry scares them

Don't worry that your true glory is veiled to almost everyone around you.

Don't schedule too much time with those who believe themselves to be pillars in government or the church. Remember that they too are just people. They have their own sins to repent of and their own callings to fulfill. They are not more important than the broken and the lost for whom you are called'

The Imperfect Pastor, P.63