Thursday, 30 December 2010

Bonhoeffer- pastor,martyr ,prophet,spy

Bonhoeffer  by Eric Metaxas, is an excellent biography of an incredible and inspiring man. Here was someone  who, at huge personal risk stood up with cold and calculated courage against the Nazi state that  ruled  Germany in the 1930's and early 40's and in the end paid for his resistance with his life.

The great heroes of western evangelicals in the twentieth century were great preachers like Billy Graham and John Stott and Martyn Lloyd Jones.

Bonhoeffer was largely ignored by evangelicals, perhaps because they wrongly regarded him as unsound, perhaps because he was certainly involved in the plot to kill Adolph Hitler, perhaps because liberal Christians have claimed him as one of their own.
 However as Metaxas himself says Bonhoeffer “was as orthodox as Saint Paul or Isaiah, from his teen years all the way to his last day on earth."

I will not attempt a review of the book, but it does document chapter by chapter, both the  terrible evil which Hitler and the Nazis were capable of, and the courage, inspired by God, that Bonhoeffer demonstrated in the face of that evil and while being oppressed by it.

Things that struck me about Bonhoeffer were;
  • His deep devotional life based around prayer and meditating on God’s word, alone and with others.  That was where he got his strength from.
  • His courage to speak truth even if it was unpalatable.
  • His relationships with other Christians from many parts of the world, which undoubtedly informed his ministry, and gave him a much wider perspective on Christianity than many of his contemporaries.
  • His insistence that Christianity is not simply something to be conducted among consenting adults in private but something to be proclaimed in the public sphere, to everyone including the powers that be -Jesus is Lord!
  • His emphasis on discipleship.
  • His willingness to suffer for the sake of others.

Bonhoeffer was executed  in 1945,within weeks of the end of the war, but there are  lessons  the church  today can learn from him 

If you haven’t read it I commend the book to you it is well worth reading.Metaxas has done the church a service in reminding us of this great man.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

5 books that have inspired me in 2010

Its the time of year for lists Lists are actually quite a useful way of reflecting on what has happened in the last year so I am starting with my top 5 books that have inspired me this year

Missional Renaissance by Reggie McNeal.There is a lot of confusion between terms like emerging church and missional church. Reggie describes what he means by missional
 church..It is thoroughly orthodox,and radically evangelistic . I am convinced Reggie is on the right lines when he suggests the kind of changes that churches need to make if we are to be faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ in the 21st century and make an impact on our post modern world.

William Wilberforce by William Hague
It is striking that the best biographies of great evangelicals are often written by those who do not share their evangelical faith,(for example Roy Hattersley's biography of John Wesley.) Hague's work on Wilberforce falls into the same category.It is well researched; sympathetic without being sycophantic ,shows a great grasp of how Wilberforce's faith motivated his entire life and demonstrates the huge difference just one committed person can make

Surprised by Hope by NT Wright
One of Wrights gifts is to force readers to engage with the biblical texts .Often he demonstrates, to me at least ,that the Bible doesn't always say what we think it says, but something else! Keep a bible nearby to refer to when you read this book

In Surprised by Hope  Wright  articulates a gospel and hope for so much more than disembodied bliss.Wright thinks biblical hope is not for an escape from this earth, but to the glorious day when God will make all things new. Well worth reading to get what  one reviewer has called "a biblical perspective on life after life after death"

The Peoples Preacher CH Spurgeon   by Peter Morden
 . Peters book is not only a good read but also presents Charles Spurgeon as a more rounded human being who suffered from depression among other things
The book taught me  4 lessons from Spurgeon's life; a passion for prayer ,a passion for the Bible,a passion for evangelism and above all these a passion for Jesus and honouring him in word and in deed!

Untamed- -reactivating a missional form of discipleship by Alan and Debra Hirsch
This is a book on discipleship.It  is a challenge to, and a protest against, the tame discipleship that passes for christianity in much of the western world.
In my view it is not as good as "The Forgotten Ways" but is illustrated with wonderful asbojesus cartoons and in the last chapter contains the best retelling of the Kierkegaard parable of the geese I have ever read.One quote sums the book up quite well " As disciples we are called to an untamed existence.....we are meant to live wild and dangerous lives....instead \we have allowed ourselves to be dulled into a life of mediocrity where the only wild adventures we take are in our dreams"

If you have read any of the books mentioned, and have comments to make, please feel free to do so.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Carols by Candlelight

It may seem strange for someone who has been accused of being "addicted to change"but since I became a pastor more than quarter a century ago - I have always loved carols by candlelight ! Judging by the attendances over the years I am not alone.

Last night,despite temperatures well below freezing, a good number of people,many of whom I had not previously met ,came through snow and ice, to church to sing the traditional carols and listen to the familiar bible readings in a beautifully decorated and lit building. The whole occasion lifted my spirits considerably!

It is quite true that our current building does not lend itself to candlelight in the way that the church I used to pastor in Ross on Wye did;(It has a superb Victorian interior that was enhanced by being lit by candles in a way few buildings I have been in are), but our 1980's building still looked pretty good!
The music and audio visuals were great too and a huge effort had been put in to make it a very special occasion

I think there are various reasons the service attracts large numbers of people
  • There is no doubt people like singing the old carols and hearing the readings by candlelight,last night someone told me it reminded him of his childhood.  In a changing world the familiar can seem very comforting
  • We (and I suspect most churches) put an enormous amount of effort to publicise this and our other Christmas services,we handed out around 5000 invitations in the neighbourhood and no doubt some people came  in response to those invitations. We have discovered that if you do invite people a certain proportion will come!
  • Thirdly as I said above a lot of effort is always put into every part of this service from the music to the post service mince pies, This effort means that the service looks good and sounds good  and so year by year people come back and have increasing confidence to bring friends and family with them.
  • I think people are more spiritually open at Christmas and that they do want to hear something of the Christmas message before the feasting begins!
All this adds up to a wonderful evangelistic opportunity,  and so last night I was able to share something of the purpose of the incarnation, and to connect Christmas with the message of Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

I instinctively dislike the adage "if it ain't broke don't fix it " because it can lead to a lazy conservatism and "nothing changes here" attitude but I have always resisted attempts to  make radical change to Carols by Candlelight because by modernising it we may destroy what people love about it.

On a personal note last week is  nearly always one of  the busiest of the year and  (because my colleague Steve is leading the Christmas day service) I can now stop and reflect a little bit at least before I rush to the shops and then start preparation for the service on 26th December!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Town centre building!

Not all the details are 100% right but this gives a rough idea of what we are going to do in the town centre

Community Christmas Brunch

  Our new church has made a very deliberate decision to put down deep roots into our local community.Over the past couple of years we have begun building strong relationships with local primary schools, we have done this  through taking assemblies and by people going into help with reading . My colleague Steve has become a governor at our nearest primary school and we have also reached out by  running  various events for senior citizens.We really want to bless the community in which God has placed us!
Over the past year or two we have also  run Italian evenings,curry evenings ,afternoon teas ,and a Christmas brunch.These have attracted decent numbers of people
The idea has been to get to know the people around our buildings and to bless them

 So today we  had over 150 people  at our Community Christmas Brunch . They came from all around the local area and from as far afield as Romania and South Korea! Ages ranged from a few months to those  well into their nineties.We  represented a very wide cross section of society and it was great fun! There was a sense to togetherness as we enjoyed good food and sang  traditional Christmas carols. We also   thought together about the real meaning of Christmas.The morning was rounded of with a rousing rendition of the 12 days of Christmas-with actions!
The comments as people left made it clear everyone had had an amazing time.
Reflecting on the morning I was delighted 
  • We had attracted so many people who don't normally come into our building and got to know some of them much better
  • People felt they had really enjoyed themselves
  • We had shared a bit about the real meaning of Christmas
  • As a church we had been willing to try something a bit different
  • Our church people had been enthusiastic about getting to know our neighbours and inviting them along

I have no doubt we have a long, long way to go to become the church God wants us to be, but I also have no doubt that we have already travelled a considerable distance along that road .
These are exciting times and I believe even more exciting time lie ahead

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Church Meetings - How to Fight Nicely?

Nah Then: Church Meetings - How to Fight Nicely?:

Not sure that I am as optimistic about church meetings as Glen Marshall is, but an interesting read all the same.
I have been at a few amazing ones where the Spirit of God was present powerfully. I have been  at many fairly tedious ones and some that were deeply distressing.
There is merit in Glen's ideas ,however the great challenge is how to get more people involved and how we all get there focussed on discerning the mind of Christ
It is not easy but we can keep trying!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

HOPE - for the future!

We had one of our monthly Mission Shrewsbury meetings today.

I generally enjoy these times with other church leaders from the town, and today was no exception.

There is a genuine relationship which has developed more as we have spent time together and  got to know each other better.

There are some really interesting people, doing some amazing things in their own churches, and above all their is a genuine desire to live up to the name of our group Mission Shrewsbury and do mission together.

We are planning some exciting initiatives in 2011 and beyond.

In denominational terms we are fairly diverse but there is a common passion to share Jesus in our words and actions.

What excited me as much as anything though was the place we met.
The label on the building said
The Grange
though that will shortly change to
Hope Church

Hope Church is the name for a new church formed from The Grange and North Shrewsbury Community Church.. I suppose I take a particular interest in churches formed by mergers because that was how Shrewsbury Baptist Church came into being.
Mergers are time consuming ,they can be controversial(it was for us), but if done with the right motives and for the right reasons ,they are tremendously rewarding and I expect will become more common in future.

Like Shrewsbury Baptist, Hope Church has come together ,not to huddle together against the storm of secularism and materialism but to proclaim Jesus to our generation!

Already they have turned the former Grange building into very smart new offices ,storage and meeting rooms and I am told the local community around the church is intrigued,sensing something new and interesting  going on..

Looking round their building today it was impossible not to feel a strong sense of anticipation about what God is doing

I am sure the new church has a wonderful future and I certainly intend to be there on 23rd January when Hope church is officially launched

It will be well worth celebrating!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Time to pray and a time to plan

I managed a rare night away the other day

With the other church leaders we went to Shallowford House, a diocesan retreat centre,not far from Stafford, which I had first visited on the Fresh Expressions course. It makes an excellent venue because it is in a beautiful location,serves excellent food,has comfortable meeting rooms,and even its own bar.It must be said though that the main railway line is rather close to the house.

The purpose of the 24 hours we spent together can be summed up in 2 words Praying and Planning

It was good therefore , away from the demands of busy lives, to have the opportunity to talk about the joys and the challenges we face,and to be prayed for individually.It was good too, to share communion together and to experience Gods presence .There appeared, to me at least, to be an authentic hunger to know God better alongside an acknowledgment of our own weakness.

I wont go into great detail here about decisions we made, but we certainly recognised that 2011 is a vital year for our church.

The new town centre building is being built, and meanwhile we have the chance to lay solid spiritual foundations for our new church.

Among other things this means

We need to deepen our prayer life

We need to be prepared to be not just believers but disciples.

We want to put down deep roots in to the two communities we feel God has given us a particular responsibility for.

We are all totally determined to put mission at the centre of all that we do as a church

There is no doubt these will be big challenges but we feel they are not so much our priorities but Gods

We can so easily be distracted from keeping the main thing the main thing but we have not merged two churches and founded a new church in order to empire build, and we are not building a new church building to make ourselves more comfortable

This must be about building the Kingdom of God

We were very tired when we left Shallowford on Saturday afternoon but we sensed Gods leading,and aware aware of just how much work there is to be done, but also very hopeful for the future and determined to lay strong foundations.

These are challenging days for churches but also days of great opportunity

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Radio Shropshire Pause for thought Remembrance Sunday

Picture painted by Harriet Davis with a little help -from Trust website

I turned the key in the lock and opened the large wooden door which led into a bright and spacious hallway

Stepping inside my eyes were drawn to a photo, hanging on the wall, in an ornate gold coloured frame, in the the photo a happy young girl smiling; not just with her mouth or her eyes but with her whole face.

I had never seen a picture of her before, and there was no writing to identify the smiling girl but I knew her name was Harriet.

Turning away from the from the photo I saw firstly, a large lift with a glass door straight ahead, and then looking left down a long corridor with white walls I could see another wide doorway and through the glass in the door I could see a swimming pool

Exploring the house revealed not just wonderful views of the Pembrokeshire coastline and the autumn sun shining on the rough sea, but other more prosaic things, special baths and toilet seats and hoists and adapted beds -all things that are too familiar to those who inhabit or indeed knows someone who inhabits a world full of disability aids
And the smiling girl in the photograph is Harriet Davis. The trust we rented the property from bears her name

A leaflet lifted from a small wooden table tells us that Harriet had a rare degenerative disease , which meant she lost most of her motor abilities but that seaside holidays were a source of great joy to her until her death in 1992 at the age of just 11.

Inspired by Harriet’s memory her mum and dad founded the trust so that other disabled children could enjoy holidays too in this wonderfully adapted house

Memory can be totally inspirational!

Today is Remembrance Sunday a day when in small chapels and large churches and at war memorials throughout Shropshire and the United Kingdom these familiar words from Laurence Binyons poem for the fallen will be said as they are every year

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
we will remember them."
The British Legion do a phenomenal job They certainly remember and keep alive the memory of brave men and women who in conflicts as far apart as Belgium and the Falkland’s ,Burma and Afghanistan died in the service of their country
But they don’t just remember the memory spurs them to act to raise money to care for the survivors in a whole host of different ways from pensions advice to building centres where wounded service personnel can be rehabilitated to live lives to the full.

Like Harriet’s parents -the painful memory of the past inspires a future dream
What do you do with your painful memories?- do they fester deep inside or do you allow them to motivate you to build a better world- to inspire future dreams

At the heart of the Christian faith is a painful memory of a crucified man on a cross
Christians think about the cross often
Christians believe in the words of the old hymn that Jesus died "that we might be forgiven" and the memory of that death and the resurrection that follows should energise & inspire us to live for him- to love as He loved and serve as He served

Thursday, 11 November 2010

John Ortberg- The Life you have always wanted

Over the past 27 years I have been in loads of small groups.It would not be true to say I have enjoyed all of them ,(though I am sure I have learned something in all of them) but it is true that I have enjoyed most of them
There is something about being together to study and to pray and to learn.

Our current group has been together two years or so now and I think we have built a really good community, united by our common faith in Christ and our desire to be disciples.

At the moment we are working our way through John Ortberg's The life you have always wanted which has provoked some good ,honest discussion
Last night we thought about the need for solitude and talked about how hard( but how necessary) it is for busy people who rush from one thing to another, to make the time to pray and to read, reflect and learn from Gods word. Though this is essential if we are to grow spiritually

I cant speak for anyone else because (ironically!)I had to rush to another meeting at the end but despite that, I at least got a lot from the evening, though the challenge remains to live it out!

I do think there is another step we need to make as church (and as a small group) however and that is for our small groups to become more missional.

Discipleship is more than Christian relationships and knowing our bibles better, though ,of course, those 2 things are essential . A third ingredient is also needed action. We need to learn to live on mission.

This is the first shift that Reggie McNeal talks about in his book Missional Renaissance .We have to learn to shift from an internal to an external focus and small groups must be part of that shift,if The Kingdom is to grow and people are to come to faith.

I am not yet completely sure how to get there from here but its a journey I believe we must make.

Global Connections | Home | What is an Intentionally Missional Church?

Global Connections | Home | What is an Intentionally Missional Church?

Found this a useful article for those asking the question What is a missional church?

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

X Factor,secret millionaire

I am not keen on X Factor though I will admit to having watched Strictly Come Dancing, strictly in the interests of research, and mainly to enjoy Anne Widecombes effort -Though I am unsure that effort is the right word to use.

One piece of weekend TV, I do look forward to seeing is The Secret Millionaire on C4 on Sunday nights
It is certainly true its pretty formulaic.

A rich person turns up, secretly observes community initiatives, hands over thousand of pounds of his or her own money to worthy causes, loads of tears, and goodbye.

As a programme it has its faults, for example, it stretches credulity that sometimes the recipients of the cash have not clocked what is going on long before the cheque is handed out at the end.

The Secret Millionaire has also been criticised for being patronising and even demeaning to the recipients, who are filmed receiving charity . In truth though none of them ever seem to mind.In fact judging by the hugs and tears they are usually overwhelmed with joy.

To my mind it makes for gripping television, but there are 2 things in particular I love about this programme.

One is the chance to see the work of some completely unsung community heroes who seem to devote their whole lives to loving and serving others; whether it be a woman pouring her time,money, energy into helping parents of disabled children, or a guy in Nottingham who has single handedly -until the millionaire turned up- set up a large project to discourage children from carrying knives on the street,or the people who have set up a home near the sea so that terminally ill children can have a holiday.

Some of these people are Christians, some are not, but they are doing some amazing work.They also provide loads of great examples that churches who want to bless their local communities could follow, if they wanted.

The other wonderful thing the programme does is to prove the truth of Jesus words
It is more blessed to give than to receive

The people that are really changed by the experience are not the recipients but the donor millionaires- they appear to learn something of the value of community and the importance of deep relationships.In some cases they appear to have been completely changed

I am yet to be persuaded that X factor ever did that for anybody

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Blessing people

Our regular admin meeting was coming to an end and the conversation drifted from dates and publicity to people.We began to chat about some of the people we knew and the seemingly impossible situations they face. The single mum with a child with special needs who gets no respite care ,the parent getting beaten up by their own child, the man deeply grieving the loss of a wife and left to bring up children on his own.In one short conversation we identified so much pain in people we had met just in the previous 24 hours
Later that day I came across this video put together by Christian Associates

Every Life Has a Story from Christian Associates on Vimeo.

The conversation and the video are a powerful reminder that many people have very tough lives indeed. God loves these people every bit as much as He loves us and I long for our church to be a blessing to the communities which we are called to serve
Reggie McNeal in his book Missional Renaissance says
The missional church is an expression of God’s heart. God is a sending God. His mission began with Israel, which was to be a blessing to the nations. It reached its climax in Jesus, who came to die for the world. The Spirit is sent to empower the Church to be God’s witness to the world....The Bible is narrative, a guide for living and a call to action. People of God are charged with the responsibility to bless everyone

The church is of huge importance to God but looking back over many years of ministry I sometimes think I have spent too much time doing church and not enough encouraging the church to bless the world and show Jesus love to hurting people like the ones we chatted about this morning. In the words of an old song I sung in youth groups long ago ,which itself quotes Mathews gospel. Freely freely you have recieved freely freely give

Monday, 1 November 2010

A time to tear down and a time to build up.

Christians have been praying and thinking about the redevelopment of the former Claremont Baptist Church site for around 50 years.For various reasons it has not happened though huge energy has been expended,plans have been carefully made,a lot of money faithfully raised but despite all this redevelopment has remained a hope,an aspiration and a dream .......until now!
Demolition has begun at last ,rebuilding will follow that and hopefully within 14 or 15 months there will be a new building on the site. A building to suit Gods purposes.

Timing is everything and I strongly believe this is Gods time for this development to happen

Over the last few years Claremont and Crowmoor Baptist churches have merged to form a new church Shrewsbury Baptist Church .A new church,with a new culture but whose purpose is mission

At the time of the merger Tim ,one of our leaders, produced this video which tells you something of what the new church is all about

So this morning we met at the town centre site to pray and commit ourselves, the builders, our mission,and the new building that will emerge to God.

We reminded ourselves that God does not live in buildings made by human hands ,that we are not building a church ( God does that!) but a building- but it is a building that we believe will help us, and hopefully other Christians, minister to the town centre ,the people who visit it, and live in it, for many years to come.

Though some of those who gathered felt a tinge of sadness that a building that held some great memories ,was being demolished the overwhelming feelings were ones of Thankfulness, Joy and Hope!
Thankfulness that the prayers of generations were being answered.
Joy at seeing God work.
Hope that the future with God can be even more exciting than the past.
No doubt there will be struggles and frustrations ahead but it was good to be together today to stop, to reflect, to give thanks, and to recommit ourselves and our new church to a great God

May we truly be a people for His Glory and who love God and our neighbours as Jesus commands us to do

Friday, 22 October 2010

Advent poster

Having been brought up in an Anglican environment(not that I went to church much !), I am turning my thoughts to Advent,(which is not far away now) a season of hope and preparation for the coming of the Messiah.
I was very struck by the churches advertising network campaign poster this year of a baby in their mothers womb
The thinking behind the idea is explained here organisers hope that the poster will capture people's attention and spark conversations about the birth of this very special baby, with as much relevance today as 2000 years ago.

Commenting on the new poster, the Bishop of Reading, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, said: "For many parents pregnancy gets real when you see the image from the ultrasound scan. It tells you something is actually kicking off. We've got so used to the tinsel-wrapped cosiness of the carefully packaged 21st century consumer-fest Christmas, that its astonishing reality - an actual pregnancy, a God come down to earth - is easily missed. But this image demands attention. So does this child. He's on his way.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Mission Shaped Ministry reflections on the course

I said at the end of my previous post that I would blog some of my impressions of the local course.I should add that as I blog there is still 1 Saturday session left.

First of all we met in the excellent Trinity Centre,Meole Brace which was opened in the last couple of years and is a fantastic resource both for Meole Brace Parish Church and the local community. The fact that the centre is comfortable ,warm, light, with an excellent kitchen, and lots of parking nearby, made it a wonderful venue for the course.

The course makeup consisted of a, mostly monthly, 2 hour session on a Monday night augmented by some all day Saturday sessions, and 1 weekend away.

The length ,of the sessions was about right, though I confess I did leave early on 1 Saturday session to see Shrewsbury Town play- if that's the right expression!

The sessions were led by a whole variety of different people including the course organisers, though nearly all came from a Methodist or Anglican background ,which is reasonable, given the provenance of the course, and for a few Baptists like us ,it made the course quite refreshingly different.

The notes we were given were comprehensive and,( if you had the time,) well worth reading.
I am sure I shall refer to them many times in the future.
The delivery of the course, in all honesty, was very mixed. Some of the sessions were outstanding and were easy to give top marks on the ever present feedback forms.Others were much less inspiring and the odd one even, dare I say ,a little boring. I suppose this is to be expected on such a long course spread out over almost a year,delivered by so many diferent people.

Technology was also quite a struggle at times and I felt sorry for Mark, one of the course leaders, who was always trying to get something to work.He usually, but not always, found an answer.

The highlight of the course for me was the weekend away .I had gone with apprehension, rather than apathy, as I so much wanted it to be good, but feared it wouldn't be.
I need not have worried ,it was wonderful.
We went to Shallowford house a diocesan retreat centre with its own bar! It was great to get to know many others on the course,including the leaders Anne and Mark, much better , to share experiences and fellowship ,it was a weekend full of top teaching,,inspiring ideas,great food and a wonderful communion service on the Sunday morning.
The weekend alone for me would have made made the course worthwhile. The only change I would make would be to put it earlier in the course so that relationships could be built quicker.

In summary then my favourite bits;
The weekend away
The relationships built
Some of the sessions
The excellent course notes
Great food
Great venue
Some inspired ideas

I struggled with
One or two of the sessions ( One I simply didn't get at all -but others did -so it was probably me!)
Understanding the theology that underpinned the course

In conclusion a very helpful course with great opportunities to network with a load of different and interesting people who were working out what it means to be missional, some good content and some inspiring ideas.
it was very helpful to us as we plan new town centre ministries relevant to the 21st century

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Fresh Expressions

Last night we attended the penultimate meeting on the Mission Shaped Ministry course run by Fresh Expressions. This is a movement largely sponsored by the church of England and The Methodists. Fresh Expressions is inspired by both the gospel and by the dramatic decline in church attendance, to attempt to make the Christian message relevant to people who are not already part of a church. In doing that task, the course encourages Christians to seek to redefine what it is to be church in the 21st century and aims to create new ways of connecting with the communities in which they live.
There is a heavy ,and I would say biblical, emphasis on listening,service,incarnational mission and making disciples.

The movement has a great deal to commend it,not least this great desire to reconnect the gospel and culture, as although the truth doesnt change, the ways in which we share that truth with people must change. This is partly why Luther suffered and Wycliffe died. If we accept that we live in a largely unevangelised country ,then we must engage in cross cultural mission and this will almost certainly involve "doing things differently" We should not be afrid of that.

I did have some concerns ,the theology that underpins the course wasnt always obvious,to me at least. There were in my view questions "How Fresh Expressions of church relate to other churches?" and indeed "What constitutes a true church?"

These questions however do not affect my admiration for the movement and to coin a phrase; I certainly prefer the way Fresh Expressions are doing it ,to the way so many of us Christians are not doing it!
I will blog in my next post some of the stuff about the local course

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Celebration of New Ministry

In the old days we would have called it an induction service but the title on the front of the order of service was, The Celebration of New Ministry,which is a longer but preferable title in my opinion.
The church where the celebration took place was Christ Church Bayston Hill and we were not only celebrating the arrival of a new Vicar - Tim Lomax- who steps into the shoes of the much loved Ralph Goldenberg, who recently retired after many years of faithful ministry, but also celebrating the ministry of his wife Kate, who was Licensed as Associate Minister.
The service had a great deal to commend it, not least Bishops Marks sermon which was brief, and reminded me again that a sermon does not need to be eternal to be immortal. The Bishop spoke apropriately about the necessity for a leader to also be a servant.The hymns and prayers backed up this theme well and included a couple of my favourites Stuart Townend's Speak Oh Lord and Tim Hughes God of Justice.
In an interview with the Bishop; Tim came accross as full of faith and enthusiasm, with a passion to make a difference and a very strong sense of call

The singing was loud and enthusiastic,the amens were very affirming and taken together they signalled how excited the church are about the future under new leadership

These kind of services can drag on a bit ,but this one was over in about 65 minutes and it had everything necessary including an excellent Blessing at the end which included the words
May the boldness of the Spirit transform us,
the gentleness of the Spirit lead us,
the gifts of the Spirit equip us,
to serve and worship The Lord

I look forward to serving and indeed worshipping with Tim as I have with Ralph in previous years to build God's Kingdom in Shrewsbury

YouTube - Passion 2010 DO SOMETHING NOW!

YouTube - Passion 2010 DO SOMETHING NOW!

A moving Montage from Passion 2010 Conference organised by Louie Giglio
I worked briefly with Louie many many years ago on a mission in Ross on Wye and Gorsley and got to know him and his wife Shelley a bit ,though I havent seen him for many years
I admire the way his passion has never dimmed and was excited to hear about the church he is planting in Atlanta and his gospel priorities
A very genuine guy indeed

Monday, 11 October 2010


Powerful and challenging words on discipleship from Alan Hirsch authour of The Forgotten Ways Handbook - Sorry the screen is so big I will work it out one day

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Merger questions

Merger questions

We are not the only church in Shrewsbury to be formed by a merger of 2 other churches. Phil Whittal ,I think, asks most of the right questions on his excellent blog

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

In praise of Administration and especially administrators

The body is a unit,though it is made up of many parts,and though all of its parts are many ,they form one body.So it is with Christ 1 Cor 12 v12

It is no great secret that I am a poor administrator. Through the years, countless people have been kind enough to remind me of the fact.
Through the years, I am sure I have frustrated many of the people I have worked with by my lack of expertise in this area.
It's not that I don't think good administration is important ,it is just that I am not very good at it. There are some things I do okay, but administration is just not one of them.
I love people and preaching I am fascinated by concepts, ideas and vision, but I am poor on detail; and yet I recognise that administration is one of the most important ministries given to the church. Without it few of the other ministries would be able to function, and if they functioned they would not be very fruitful.
Without administration ideas would rarely be translated into action and vision into reality
Our church is going through a time of change which is possibly unprecedented in its history. The change is not just about names or about buildings,we are working through a complete change of church culture in order to, even more faithfully, love God, serve our neighbours and preach the gospel. Perhaps good administration is even more critical at such times, for the process is long and sometimes seems hard ,but without the gifts of administrators it would seem impossible.
God knows my weaknesses in this area and has always provided gifted ,patient and above all spiritual people to help me in this task. We sit down week by week and plan the steps we need to take, to achieve the goals we believe God is calling us to reach for. By using their considerable God given gifts ,they make it easier for me to use mine
When I started leading churches some 27 years ago I never thought I would say this but I truly do thank God for administrators who have also become friends and fellow workers
Now you are the body of Christ and each one of you has a part in it ..and in the church God has appointed...those with gifts of administration

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Harvest Breakfast

Alan Hirsch
The way to the universal is through the particular. The best way to love the world is to love your neighbor ~


We did another in a series of events for the local community today.
In the past year or so we have had curry evenings ,afternoon teas,Italian evenings, community days and a Christmas brunch.
In my view all have been very worthwhile.There is that moment every time , when you worry if anyone will turn up, but,in fact ,people seem to be coming in ever increasing numbers, and speaking to many of them today ,they seem delighted to come.
Today we served up Harvest Breakfast.

Great coffee, toast and croissants ,a wonderful Harvest display, a great all age talk and a powerful challenge given by Tim ,one of our church leaders, added up to make this not only a good event for local people but also a thought provoking way to celebrate Harvest.

As a new church we are deeply committed to serving people,and sharing something of God's love with them. In order to do that ,we have to build real relationships with our neighbours. We want to disciple people but we cant do that until they know the gospel and we know them.Today was another enjoyable step on that exciting journey

Friday, 1 October 2010

I quit - From ministry Toolbox website

Some thoughts on leadership. Thanks to Steve for pointing this out

Is it time for you to quit?
By Pete Scazzero with Geri Scazzero
The journey into a profound transformation in my pastoral leadership began when my wife, Geri, said, “I quit.” Refusing to continue pretending everything was “fine,” she quit the church –and I was the pastor!

The powerful journey we took together – to “quit” the things that really don’t belong to Jesus’ kingdom and embrace the things that do – changed our personal lives, our marriage and our church.

Quitting goes hand in hand with choosing God’s will and ways. Taking up these “quits” is imperative if we are to raise up healthy, biblical churches that effectively engage the world with the gospel.

Here are the eight things we had to quit in order to truly minister to our congregation –

Quit being afraid of what others think (Choose freedom) -- I am willing to cut through the disapproval of others and do what is good, true and right. I no longer ignore the values I hold dearly out of fear.

Quit lying (Choose truth) -- The degree to which I live in the truth -- with myself, God and others -- is the degree to which I am free. By God’s grace, I will seek to speak the truth respectfully, honestly and clearly.

Quit dying to the wrong things (Choose delighting in God’s gifts) -- I will no longer set aside or devalue activities or relationships that cause my soul to be fully alive (e.g. music, dance, art, the outdoors, travel). I will lead from the joy that flows from the love of Jesus.

Quit denying anger, sadness, and fear (Choose embracing your humanity) -- I will avoid extremes -- neither neglecting my emotions nor allowing them to run my life. I will allow myself to experience them in the presence of God, calmly think them through, and then lead appropriately as the Holy Spirit directs.

Quit blaming (Choose to take responsibility) -- As a human being made in God’s image, I recognize that no one is responsible for my life but me. Unlike Adam (Genesis 3) I refuse to blame others and fall into helplessness. By His grace, I choose to lead.

Quit overfunctioning (Choose letting go) -- I will no longer do for others what they can and should do for themselves. I will push through my fears in the face of resistance, asking God for courage and wisdom. Like Jesus, I will only complete the work the Father has given me to do (John 17:4).

Quit faulty thinking (Choose to live in reality) -- I will refuse to make things bigger than they are. And I will not believe the falsehood that things will never change. I will position myself so that the Holy Spirit, and others, can correct my wrong assumptions and align me with truth (John 8:32).

Quit living someone else’s life (Choose to be yourself) -- By God’s grace I will embrace the unique life He has given me. I will listen to my God-given rhythms and let go of other people’s agenda for my leadership.

(This article is based upon the book, I Quit, by Pete Scazzero with Geri Scazzero.)

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Great video

Thought this was inspirational

Sunday, 26 September 2010


It is true that the church is not the building, the church is people. The building is simply the place where the church meets.
Nevertheless buildings are still important.
It was Winston Churchill who said in 1943
we shape our buildings and forever after they shape us
This is certainly true of church buildings. A small church near us has built a brand new building without a single window,that building will certainly shape the way in which they view the world outside their doors. Similarly,church buildings that are built behind big railings with fixed pews and forbidding entrances are whether consciously or not sending out a message to the world
Stay away
nothing changes here.
Churches that are allowed over decades to become unsafe with plaster falling off the walls,say something about how important,or otherwise, our faith is to us.Church buildings which fail to cater to the needs of children or the disabled are making a powerful statement about how the people in that church view those groups
All these thoughts and many more are in my mind because we have this week signed a contract to build a new church building in the centre of town.Its taken a very long time but we all feel pretty excited.
I hope the new building won't be protected by railings ,I hope it will make people feel welcome,I hope it will be light and bright, flexible and attractive.I hope it will be disabled friendly and child friendly. I hope it will have windows so people outside can see in and those inside can see out.
I believe God is on a mission and our task is to join Him on that mission
I believe the good news of Jesus is for everyone. Any building we build should reflect that
On a walk around town I saw several church buildings that have been converted to flats
Change can be very difficult and changing a building ,let alone rebuilding one from scratch, can be threatening for many people but if we persist in inhabiting church buildings that don't encourage us to see people as Jesus saw them and serve the world as Jesus did we are in trouble.
God is God of the whole world,if we are to have buildings they must reflect that great truth

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Thursday, 23 September 2010

contract signed after many years

Well its taken a while but, by the grace of God, today we did it.
We have signed a contract for a new town centre building.
As Shrewsbury Baptist church we will serve the communities around both buildings and seek to build Gods Kingdom
It is an enormous privledge to be involved in this work
The next step is to discern Gods vision for the future ministry in both areas. .It is an exciting time. A very exciting time indeed.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Mission Shrewsbury

We had a very good discussion about Mission Shrewsbury on Tuesday morning.
This group has been a great help and blessing to me and many others over the years.
We met in a beautiful spot about 15 minutes north of Shrewsbury and 9 of us shared fellowship ,discussion,coffee and lunch together. The purpose was to discern the way ahead for us and we certainly made progress.
The group comes from a number of different churches in the town and it is so encouraging to feel the warmth of fellowship and the genuine desire for each others churhes to thrive and flourish and for The Kingdom to be built

Monday, 20 September 2010

Time for a change... (by Paul Whittle)


Time for a change... (by Paul Whittle)
- 20 September 2010

Lesslie Newbigin once said: 'The nature of the church is never to be finally defined in static terms, but only in terms of that to which it is going.' Part of church is to be changing – and fresh expressions of church are currently offering exciting examples of how that is happening.
This is nothing new. The mid seventeenth century early independents (or congregationalists) were developing relevant ways of being church. In the first half of the eighteenth century, John Wesley responded to the need to find new ways (not instead of the old ones, but to go alongside them) and so began Methodism. Just two examples.

Through most of the 1980s I was minister at a former Central Mission of Congregationalism which, in the first half of the twentieth century, had offered such services as the poor man's (sic) lawyer, public baths (preferred to the municipal version as the plug didn't pop up after a given period), and limited medical services.

But things move on. The Church Related Community Work programme is a small but important and innovative element in United Reformed Church life. Church Related Community Workers offer a parallel ministry to that of more conventional Ministers of Word and Sacrament, seeking to enable churches to engage in and with their communities and so creating change and bringing possibility.

This, for me, is one form of pioneer ministry. Not all the programme does would be identifiable as 'fresh expressions' – but much would be. In Nechells, Birmingham we developed a breakfast club, under fives work, girls' club, credit union, nearly new shop, internet cafĂ©, etc, alongside alternative worship and Bible study. That particular project now takes a different form, and may close, but for twenty years made a significant difference in a vulnerable community. Fresh expressions are probably not for ever!

Much mission falters because we jump straight from encounter to discipling - we have missed out the need to build relationshipReading Steve Hollinghurst's book Mission Shaped Evangelism, I was struck by his suggestion that effective projects tend to operate on three levels.

First: 'build relationships in the wider community on their territory'. Second: 'create or find places where Christians and non-Christians build relationships and explore issues'. Third: 'establish discipleship groups explicitly aimed at those who want to explore and deepen Christian faith'.

Hollinghurst suggests that much mission falters because we jump straight from stage one to three. We move from encounter to discipling - and it doesn't work because we have missed out the need to build relationship. Perhaps another problem for some of us is getting stuck at stage two. Good fresh expressions of church don't make either mistake.

Sunday, 19 September 2010


The church leaders organised a wonderful meal ,with a lot of help from some very gifted people,on Saturday night.
The purpose was to thank those who serve the commmunity and church, by leading and helping, in many different ministries; from Toddlers groups to lunches for older people.
It was a good night and gave us a chance to share our thoughts about the future and to chat about them together.
What encouraged me on our table, was that without much prompting, they were seeing things in terms of mission, in general and unknowingly echoing the thoughts of people like Reggie McNeal and Alan Hirsch in particular.
A very good evening made even better by the news that the contract for our new town centre building will be signed this week- Exciting times

Radio Shropshire- Pause for thought

Radio Shropshire Pause for Thought I did on Mike Georges breakfast show this morning.


I peered into the large card box my mum had given me. It had obviously been in her garage for years
I began to pull out a few big brown envelopes.
Opening the envelopes I also opened a window to my past
There were myriad things from decades ago

There were old school reports containing remarks like a disappointing terms works then finishing rather ominously I give this warning now before it is too late
Other contained letters I had written to my parents .In fact I think my mum kept every letter I ever wrote.Decipering the rather scrawly handwriting , awoke memories deep within me of spending tedious Sunday afternoons at my boarding school, being supervised as we wrote letters home. I suspect any letter that was critical of school food would have been censored but we had to write something I solved the problem of filling a page by addressing the letter not just to Dear Mum and dad but also to the cats rabbits]s and dogs naming them all personally- we had a lot so problem solved
In another envelope there photographs of me in some I was in a pram, in some I was on the beach or in the garden one has me sitting proudly behind the wheel of my first ever car an old Austin A40 which was a bit of a rust bucket and if you looked towards the floor you got a great view of the road beneath you

What fascinated me even more were the even older photographs some of my mum as a young girl, others of her mum on the beech at St Andrews, yet others of a group of nurses on a hospital picnic in the Scottish countryside and others taken by professional photographers in New York, Carnoustie and Dundee; of people who died long before I was born

I have always loved history and really enjoy the series who do you think you are, but the old black and white family photos awoke in me an urge to find out more about my ancestors, and I have begun a journey of exploration and discovery which has brought home to me the truth of Leslie Poles Hartley's words “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

Now I haven’t yet got back very far at all -about 200 years- and I know very little about the Alfred Crosland living in Huddersfield in the early part of the 19th century but I have thanks to census records and then the magic of Google’s street view been able to see where they lived.

My journey to the past has taught me a few things but I want to mention just one this morning and that is the brevity of life
Here they are generations of my relatives they come they live and are no more as the old funeral service puts it
Man that is born of woman hath but a short time to live ... He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay.

A little bleak perhaps, but a stark reminder of not only the fragility of life but its transience also Frail as summers flower we flourish blows the wind and it is gone

This thought of how short and indeed uncertain life is should not lead us to despair but it should lead us to action
I was once associated with a school whose motto is Carpe Diem Seize the day

Are there things that you are putting off? Perhaps volunteering to help a charity or a book you want to write? Relationships you want to improve with children or parents or friends or even with God Himself?

Seize the day! Act now! Make a difference!

I have recently been reading biographies One of William Wilberforce who did so much to abolish slavery
The other is of Shropshire’s own Eglantyne Jebb the founder of The Save the children Fund

Both seemed to understand life was brief and both therefore had an urgency to get on with the work they believed God had given them to do

God give us knowledge not just of how short life is but how precious time is
May we act- right here right now, and seize the opportunities we have to do well and to serve God

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


Quote from Francis Chan’s The Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, David C. Cook, 2009.

St. Augustine: “What the soul is in our body, the Holy Spirit is in the body of Christ, which is the church.” (141)

“A while back a former gang member came to our church. He was heavily tattooed and rough around the edges, but he was curious to see what church was like. He had a relationship with Jesus and seemed to get fairly involved with the church. After a few months, I found out the guy was no longer coming to the church. When asked why he didn’t come anymore, he gave the following explanation: ‘I had the wrong idea of what church was going to be like. When I joined the church, I thought it was going to be like joining a gang. You see, in the gangs we weren’t just nice to each other once a week – we were family.’ That killed me because I knew that what he expected is what the church is intended to be. It saddened me to think that a gang could paint a better picture of commitment, loyalty, and family than the local church body


Didnt stay for the quiz but I did enjoy the meal and indeed the company at INFG last night a very good turn out with some new faces,good food in a nice non churchy venue
Pictured are Tim who organises the group and Drew

Monday, 6 September 2010

Bishop Alan’s Blog

Bishop Alan’s Blog

Thought this was a great post from Bishop Alan

Thursday, 2 September 2010

a sideways glance: Lessons from the workshops of Corinth

a sideways glance: Lessons from the workshops of Corinth: "So, I'm pondering the second half of my chapter on the social location of the Pauline communities (while listening to Chacago Transit Author..."

Thought provoking stuff from Simon Jones which would resonate with the kind of thing Reggie McNeal is saying

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Visiting the Goodlands

Only 4 days to go until my sabbatical ends!
I am so grateful to the church for giving me this time.
I have tried to use it well and if you read over the pages of this blog you can see just some of the ways I have done that.
I am now ticking of my last few goals, and one of them was visiting my good friends and mentors; Pat Goodland and his wife Beryl
I had to go to Malvern today for other reasons so I called in on them without warning.
They were in! As a bonus I also met friends Bill and Joan Openshaw who were round having coffee with Pat and Beryl, while visiting the area from Sunderland (they had once been in Pat's church.)
We talked about the old days ,of course, but we also talked about today, and what the church needs to change to engage with the culture and share the Good News of Jesus.It was fantastic to speak with an 80 year old not stuck in the past but with a passion to share Jesus in the 21st century. From what Pat said he is not so much retired as recycled!
I am very biased but historians should not underestimate the highly significant part that Pat played in Baptist history in the second half of the 20th century. He was involved in the early days of TEAR FUND ,of Mainstream which did so much for BU churches,and in a host of other ways. He was also a huge encouragement to me and indeed still is

It was great to see them again!

Monday, 30 August 2010

Notes on Missional Renaissance

Missional Renaissance is one of the most important books that I have read.
I am convinced Reggie McNeal is on the right lines when he suggests the kind of changes that churches need to make if we are to be faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ in the 21st century and make an impact on our postmodern world

Below are my rough notes on the book with the key points as I see them.
The notes on chapter 1 are furthest away (sorry) and then you read upwards

Please let me know what you think!

Missional Renaissance CONCLUSIONS!


McNeal thinks interest in tradITIONAL church will decline rapidly.
Churches that are externally focused and develop people will grow
An explosion of missional communities will occur in homes, restaurants, bookshops, they will order life round communion caring and celebration Many movement leaders won't be clergy Many clergy will transition the churches into missional output
Denominations will matter less Those who shudder at these developments will miss the party!
You have been sent by GOD the world will be glad you came!

Missional Renaissance chapter 8

Chapter 8 Changing the scorecard from church based to kingdom based leadership

Leaders must live the change they seek!
This will be tough We need to shift paradigms from church culture to missional movement
Leaders scorecard How many growing relationships with those who are not Jesus followers?
Number of relationships with community leaders
Intentional study plan
Number of hours in personal service for the community
Are you debriefing your personal life?
Number of stories of external missional experiences used in preaching and writing Skill development Need to be coached in order to coach
Need to use more stories and learn how to tell them
Conflict management
Transition leadership
Listening skills Celebrate and affirm others and yourself
Learn to train people as missionaries
Prayer Resource management Prayer have a prayer agenda that is missionally informed Relationships Have good relationships
Time how you spend time tells the tale
Technology Don't work for technology make it work for you
Personal proerty this too must be managed on a missional strategy
Personal growth It's all about you the message is to be wrapped up in you !

Leaders have a responsibility to grow spiritually often we will need the help of others to do this! Self awareness Single most important thing for a leader to possess
Know yourself Your personality and challenges Cognitive style Your conflict style
How you come across to other people
Your talent Your passions Hidden addictions or compulsions Family relationships With spouse With children. Emotional and spiritual health What are your spiritual disciplines like? Your emotional health? Your physical health? exercise sleep Your financial health We must pay attention to health in these areas

Missional Renaissance chapter 7

Chapter 7 From church based to kingdom based leadership

This is scary it means redefining current leadership patterns!

AD 30 leadership Was deployed by God across All sectors of society Lydia the merchant, Stephen the deacon, Luke physician. Timothy pastor.
Not restricted to clergy roles -Leaders were viral agents of the gospel Key changes. We need to make
1 from church job to kingdom assignment Church leaders in AD 30 did not serve church members in a Customer service relationship Not consumed with building the church as an institution Leaders did what they did for the sake of the kingdom movement God gave leaders to church as a gift for it's mission. But over time the church became institutionalised.
Hierarchies grew up Ecclesiastical matters superceded kingdom business
We need to refocus our church leadership to reflect Gods vision for the mission of his people, We need as leaders to pastor the community and not just the church! We are to lead a movement not just a church! From institutional rep to viral agent People outside church see church leaders as institutional reps We are locked into project management We Market church mainly to members"don't miss that"

Leaders of a kingdom movement see themselves very differently. They talk about God not just church! Like viral agents they want to infect people with Gods love for them
The kingdom is both taught and caught We must prepare people for kingdom assignments
From director to producer A director on a film set directs a producer finds the stories ,recruit the talent,raise the money, New testament leaders released people for ministry acts 6-they were producers If your a producer ministry doesn't collapse it radiates out from around you. The producer feeds the movement The leader should empower people to pursue their ministry passions!
From reliving the past to rearranging the future A faith built on dead people doesn't thrive
We learn from the past and it helps us discern what GOD Is doing today -now! We need to discover what GOD is upto and join him in it
From train and deploy to deploy and debrief Jesus used the deploy and debrief method They watched what he did and tried it themselves at thesis of the day they debriefed him on it He. Created teaching moments he also took people away for quality learning and prayer and relaxation We should help people in the congregation develop their skills so they can lead inthe workplace or community The church should be a partner in peoples kingdom efforts not a competitor for their time
From positional to personal Today's leaders need to have great personal skills we need to model how to live see 1 Corinthians 4v 16 So are we living what we are talking about? Are we willing to be accountable and authentic? Do we say Yes to Jesus? our role is to deploy Christians into missional lives To teach To coach To be missional strategists To train What should leaders do? Clarify your life purpose Pay attention to your emotional and physical stamina Learn how to Cope with change Ask if we are giving the kind of leadership that turns people towards the mission of GOD Our reward is to hear him say well done!