Thursday, 31 July 2008

10 reasons I hate prosperity teaching...

Yes "Hate" is a strong word.

to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; detest:

Yep - that covers it!

It focuses on earthly treasure - not treasure in heaven. (We have been warned about that)

It makes the goal of generosity the return we get - not selfless compassion and love.

It focuses on "outward things" like possessions, not fruits of the spirit, like grace, love, humility.

It makes our "stewardship" about our "accumulation", not our "distribution". Thus it replaces generosity with greed. It makes "ownership" and "receiving" the prize - not sharing, that does not sound like Acts 2.

It implies those with more "faith" get more "wealth". It therefore ignores:
- economic factors (such as industry declines etc)
- educational background & the opportunities provided
- family background & the expectations / opportunities given
- choice of career (Teacher vs Investment Banker)

AND it implies or accuses those with LESS that they somehow LACK faith that would have redeemed a blessing from the great cosmic bank account.

It makes us dissatisfied. God's provision does bring some level of contentment and joy for the believer and leads us to worship Him. But the idea that more stuff = more blessing leaves us never satisfied. It is the spirit of consumerism marketed in a christian sweet wrapper. I need to give more, to receive more, to have more, to give more, to receive more, to have more, to give more is a symbian circle of greed that chokes faith. Suddenly "more" is better, and once "more" is master you are never satisfied.

Mark Driscoll said... "How can any teaching say "If only you have more faith then you won't be like Jesus""

Add in any of the disciples to that quote. Do we suggest that the apostle Paul lacked faith. Read 2 Corinthians 11:23-33 and then tell me faith = blessing = provision.

If YOU give and if YOU have more faith then God will bless YOU. Nope - our Father in heaven gives good gifts to his children and provides for our needs. Our needs are internal and external, spiritual, emotional and practical, and the answer is in God not us.

It is from Him, it is for His purposes, it belongs to Him, and with Him we can use it to honour and bring glory to Him.

It ignores the following (a small example):

- international markets and trading (where we are told to seek justice for the poor)
- seasonal changes like drought (where we have an example to help the poor)
- wars, conflicts, the displacement of people (where we have an example to help those fleeing hardship, war or slavery)

This makes it an easy option for wealthy, educated "first world" Christians wanting success in their consumer culture. But it is a gospel of death to other believers around the world, who just happen to be our brothers and sisters in Christ, who we have a responsibility to help - both in terms of their humanity, and their place in God's kingdom.

In short, if you believe "faith = financial blessing" then go to a starving village in Ethiopia and tell the local pastor that.

It means we talk about generosity and helping the poor, even though we already have more than we need, and give less than we can, and are dissatisfied! We are dissatisfied even though we have more than we need, as we want even more than we need, even though with more we will still give even less than we are able to, in order to sustain a lifestyle beyond what we need, which we remain dissatisfied with, while the poor we wanted to help stay poor.

We then wonder why those outside the Church think we are hypocrites...

For balance, I do believe that,

a) God blesses people as he chooses and some times with overwhelming wealth and power - Abraham, Job, Solomon etc. It is not wrong to be rich, to do a well paid job.

b) We do need to work hard to seek a return, especially if we have responsibility to provide for people and we should invest wisely to seek a return

c) God does bless us with nice things and let's us have nice things. It is from Him, it is for His purposes, it belongs to Him, and with Him we can use it to honour and bring glory to Him.

There is no shame in being very very rich, and there is no shame in being very very poor, and we get both cases within the body of Christ and both have enough when we share.

So while I love the provision of God and believe that wealth is a wonderful blessing from God I believe that the idea that guaranteed financial prosperity is part of our inheritance in the gospel is a lie and I hate it.

What we need is a balanced view.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

"With Christ in the School of Prayer"

I have just started reading this book, and this morning came across this wonderful encouragement and provocation.

"Worship in spirit and in truth. In truth does not only mean in sincerity. Nor does it only signify accordance with the truth of God's word. The expression is one of deep and Divine meaning. Jesus is "the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth". "The law was given by Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ". Jesus says, "I am the truth and the life". The Old Testament was all shadow and promise. Jesus brought and gives reality, the substance of things hoped for. In Him the blessings and powers of the eternal life are our actual possession and experience."

I wonder how we can let this shape our day, our year, our future. There is always more to come than we have yet seen, and we only find it in Him.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

A Christian Sex Shop...

There are no links from this site as the site in question can cause a bit of confusion for internet logging programmes and blockers, so I wouldn't want people clicking through by accident. Find it on google.

I realise that this story has been doing the rounds for a while now but there really is a Christian online sex shop that has been started with the aim of helping christian couples engage in a full and happy sexual relationship with christian marriage.

Well, I got an email today from a TV company who want some members of my Church to be part of a documentary on this phenomenon, meet the founders and have what can only be described as what looks like a christian themed Ann Summers party.

One of the owners explained on the site, called Wholly Love (good pun there), "“Our sex life had fizzled out to once a month,” admits Stella. But what they found in the sex shop was a little too hardcore for their tastes. “We wanted some light-hearted toys, but all I could see was whips and chains,” Stella says. “We asked ourselves: ‘Where do people like us go for frivolous fun?”"

Where does a statement like "a little too hardcore" leave us? There looks to be a lot of positive statements on the site. The value of mutual respect and sharing of experiences. The fact sex should happen within the covenant of marriage etc.

But even so - where do you take something like this? How can I consider which people would be suitable to invite? Where do you start with valuable members of your Church?

"Hi Wilfred, I thought you and Justine might want to spice things up a bit, and be open about any potential issues you have in front of some of your close friends and millions of TV viewers."

How do you put that on the Church notice sheet? "WANTED: Married couples willing to go on TV to talk about their sex lives. Please call the church office if you can help."

It is just so "out there" that I don't even have a category to place it. I think a "Thanks, but no thanks" is the right way forward.

I have had adverts and marketing calls from all sorts, including christian web design, christian ink cartridges, christian cars, christian flyers, christian PA systems, christian legal services, christian banking and others, some of them have been really useful, others not so useful - but was never expecting the christian sex shop.

What next? The christian divorce lawyers "Helping you fulfill 1 Corinthians 7". The mind boggles.

Monday, 28 July 2008

What is biblical headship?

This is an interesting question posed on a few forums I read regarding headship in marriage.

Here are six pointers for blokes:

1. Be selfless and always loving to her: Eph 5:25
2. Love her as you love yourself: Eph 5:33
3. Do not be harsh to her: Col 3:19
4. Be considerate, treat her with respect : 1 Pe 3:7
5. Grant her honour as she is a fellow heir: 1 Pe 3:7
6. Know you will be judged by God for what you do: Col 3:25

That is not a comprehensive list of roles, but rather gives us a flavour of what husbands are to aim for as part of the outworking of their headship. If we are not hitting these targets, then whatever we are doing is not headship in a biblical sense.

I think sometimes the headship discussion becomes all a bit too technical and hierarchical and talks about the actions of the man without due regard to the benefit for the woman. Would your wife volunteer 1-5 as being true for you?

If we look at the example of Jesus, he is inclusive to women beyond what his culture was comfortable with. On top of that Jesus cooked: John 21:9-12 and did "menial" tasks: John 13:3-5 normally reserved for servants.

So does headship mean we always get to decide everything? Well God commanded Abraham to obey Sarah Gen 21:9-12 when Sarah was closer to God's heart than Abraham was, even when Sarah had already called Abraham "Lord" (1 Peter 3:5-6).

Who else gets to be called Lord? Well - Jesus for starters. Did Jesus rule with an iron fist or was he worth following (or even submitting to) because of his intense humility, compassion and godliness? Because of his selfless love that cost him everything?

Maybe humble, compassionate and godly men are the answer, as they are worth "following".

Jesus was not some big softie though - he challenged hypocrisy, he hated sin, he lashed out at mammon, he was jealous for His Father's house, but he was also the fullness of God, gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.

I don't see headship as something we "are" by rights, by some rudimentary biological difference, but rather a responsibility and calling we can choose to live in the fullness of, by the grace of God.

The flip side is that it is also something we can fail in, horribly, as Adam did. It is a duty we can only uphold on our knees before God, without a hint of pride or self seeking.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

A face for Radio

I was up early this morning before Church to talk to Radio Shropshire about the gift days at Barnabas.

This is the link here.

You have to fast forward to 1 hour and 10 minutes in - listen out for Genesis singing - I am up next.

It seemed interesting that I was about to speak on the feeding of the 5000 at our Sunday service, and there I was talking about the provision of God to our Church and hearing the response of the interviewer who just could not get his head around the remarkable generosity of God's people.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Preaching or Powerpoint?

Preparing to speak two sundays in a row it struck me how I now approach preparing a sermon - using powerpoint slides and the notes pages to write the bullet points I will then preach from.

That is a long way from writing everything out in full like I used to do.

People say that I sound more natural and relaxed these days, and I think that can be traced partly to less reading from the script and more talking from a reminder point. Then it is words how I say them not how I write them.

But what of powerpoint? Some love it, some hate it, both in the pew and in the pulpit (not that my church has either, but you get the drift), we really can't decide.

This is where I have got to:

In the "yay - Powerpoint was given by Jesus for the empowerment of his people" camp I can think of the following:

1) Powerpoint is excellent for displaying bible passages and quotes, which allows people to focus and really helps new people who can't find their way around a bible too quickly. Never underestimate how utterly daunting it is for Mrs Smith from across the road, at her first time in Church, to hear the words "Please turn with me to 1 John 2 from verse 6".

2) Different slides lead to different points being made and having a set of slides helps to show if you have gone on about one subject for too long!

3) Pictures that help to illustrate a talk can be used easily

4) Moving from slide to slide gives a talk a "flow" that is clear for the preacher to follow and clear for the hearers to follow. They can see when they have moved on onto something new.

5) It also helps for note-takers, to see references and ideas

In the "boo, Powerpoint should be banished from our churches along with wearing sandals with white socks" camp I can suggest:

1) Powerpoint can suck the life out of the oratory required for really great preaching. It can become too systemised, too presented, too a,b,c,d,e and not grasp the attention of one's mind and move the direction of one's heart

2) Powerpoint graphics and animations are rubbish. Words winging around a page or coming in line by line detract from the presentation. So does the preacher having to ask for the next point all the time or run across the stage to click another button

3) Powerpoint slides cannot be changed instantly following further illumination or inspiration of the Holy Spirit

4) People seem obsessed with every point starting with the same letter or word. No-one cares - just preach the word. You know what I mean? Jesus has "Compassion", Jesus had a "Commission", Jesus looked for "Conversion" and Jesus is "Coming Back again". "Coming back again" does not count! It is three words, it is cheating! If you want to see some great examples of this read the Alpha course manual.

So overall - I find it a tool that helps me, but it is just that, an aid. When it becomes the focus we all lose out, but as long as its my servant I think it's a positive thing.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Should Todd Bentley speak at Newfrontiers Brighton 09?

There was an excellent post, followed by some good comments on wordandspirit asking who should be invited to speak at the Brighton Conference in 09.

A suggestion was made regarding Todd Bentley being invited. These are a few reasons why I would be nervous of doing that.

1) If we look at most of the great speakers of recent years, Mahaney, Kriansak, Driscoll, Rufus, each was different, each was annointed in a different way, but all were totally focussed on putting whatever their gifting was into play by planting local churches engaged in local mission. I would want to keep that rule of thumb as I feel that serves us best. People who only think it, but people who do it, and have a track record of doing what they think in local churches.

2) Each of those invited gave us "access" to a relatively new person to most of us, a new ministry, a new way of looking at things. God TV has so saturated the mainstream christian media and the blogosphere with the Lakeland stuff that most people want a break more than anything. All that we need to know or see is available at the touch of a button every day.

3) I think the messenger would get more focus than the message. Bentley fans may come for the man rather than the vision. In the same way I think we would take a lot of flak from other evangelicals if we invited Todd Bentley. We should never bottle a decision like that just to appease some criticism, but you have got to know 100% for it to be worthwhile. Put "Todd Bentley" into google and you see a christian culture at war with itself. I don't want us to take sides because it is not our fight.

4) I think many people in many churches are struggling to find a correct response to the whole Lakeland thing anyway. It has a platform way beyond what any other minstry / minister has had in years, considering the recent nature of the whole thing and the difficulty finding verification of healings etc. I don't want to just write off any ministry or minister, but I am concerned. I feel it has been raised up in profile way, way beyond what God is doing in other parts of the world, in other church movements, through other annointed people. If people are already feeling a sense of unease, then raising the profile is not going to help find the right response.

5) There are some great things happening and God is touching lives - but that doesn't mean all the messages coming out of Lakeland sit right with me. I believe God works in healing power out of a deep sense of compassion, and to draw people to himself and to glorify his son Jesus, that people may be saved and join the missional church in reaching others, bringing further glory to Jesus. Let's not lose that focus amongst the "third heaven", angelic visitations and teaching which sounds depressingly like the prosperity gospel.

So all in all it would be "thanks but no thanks" from me. I do want to bless what is good. I don't want to criticise fellow brothers in Christ. Nor do I want to get distracted from preaching the gospel, building community, ministering to the poor, seeing God work in signs and wonders and planting new churches which express these things and engage in relevant local mission. I think other people can help us do that in a more relevant and balanced way, so they would be my priority.

2 years...

It seems odd that all the harsh criticisms of people who err on the side of male headship when discussing gender roles I read often involve a portrayal of nasty power hungry chauvinists keeping overpowered and undervalued women in some sort of religious and emotional slavery.

Yesterday marked Esther's 24th Birthday and our 2 year wedding anniversary.

So having done a bit of research and a bit of saving off we went to Saracen's in Hadnall followed by a lovely stay at the Albrighton Hall Hotel.

What struck me was just how happy my wife was.

I find it difficult to reconcile the growing trend to harshly criticise the complimentarian position with my own experience. I don't see it as a massive issue and wonder why newfrontiers gets bashed on that issue alone?

It seems to me that we live in a world where there is still such a clear and unmitigated subversion and abuse of womanhood and women within society. From average salaries through to pornography through to absent fathers - it is there for all to see.

How can it help any woman to give up on a form of masculinity that demands being willing to lay down everything for the sake of the woman? Surely they are the net beneficiaries from a masculinity that deems its very role, its very nature to be the loving and honouring of the woman and providing an environment for her security, protection, betterment and fulfillment?

If headship is a God given service responsibility then why should it lead to any inequality? Do we assume governance involves power or service? If biblical authority is a voluntary decision for both parties, based in relationship with each other and God, and on trust, looking to scripture, looking for godliness and demanding a selfless desire for service from those holding it then what is to fear for anyone other than being selflessly served?

Oh well, enough of such matters, I think I will just continue to do everything I can to love my wife.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Tears of strength

3 weeks in and I don't ever remember being so utterly humbled and emotional for such a sustained period of time. So utterly amazed and bemused at the rich depth of love God has for me, for us, for them.

Last night we had some training for people who lead a different section of a cell group. As I looked around I saw such a range of people, such a range of ages and backgrounds, people who have endured such hardship and people who have enjoyed such blessing, all gathered and learning that they have a role to play in church life. 4 of the 11 came to faith within the Church, which again is such a tremendously humbling thing. They have a role to play.

I think true church leadership is about ordaining the priest in every believer, not just securing it for ourselves. The reformation gave us the lovely phrase "priesthood of all believers" but did we reform the systems, teaching, practice and model of church life to actually make that a reality?

In 1520 Luther said this: "That the pope or bishop anoints, makes tonsures, ordains, consecrates, or dresses differently from the laity, may make a hypocrite or an idolatrous oil-painted icon, but it in no way makes a Christian or spiritual human being. In fact, we are all consecrated priests through Baptism, as St. Peter in 1 Peter 2[:9] says, "You are a royal priesthood and a priestly kingdom," and Revelation [5:10], "Through your blood you have made us into priests and kings.""

Martin Luther, Weimar Ausgabe, vol. 6, p. 407, lines 19-25

That's why I believe in a "small groups" model and find the cell stuff so refreshing, as it takes the emphasis of worship, bible study and witness out of the role of the professionals and into the hands of every believer. The role of the "professionals" is to equip all, not do it for them, and the body gets stronger for it.

To top off an excellent evening - one lady told me that her friend had responded to the talk in the morning and had come back to the real living faith she had experienced in the past. It's moments like that when you know God has achieved it, because there is nothing in me that could except Him.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Running on empty...

I am tired.

Yesterday I was up in Manchester with a squad for the National Christian Football Festival - where we finished 9th out of 20 teams at our level.

Rather than stay overnight and play the games today I had to head back because I was preaching this morning on "The Parable of the Sower" as we continue a series through Mark.

One thing I am really going to need to learn is structuring my time properly. This week I had a Cell Leader's meeting on monday evening, Church Together (where all cells meet for an evening of worship and prayer) on Tuesday evening, spoke at Alpha on wednesday evening, went to visit my Grandad in hospital on Thursday evening then off to Manchester on Saturday. I have some time off next week to chill out which is great, but this morning was pretty tough. I have a cell section workshop tonight too - but have had a good sleep this afternoon!

This morning my legs hurt from physical exersion, my face hurt from sunburn, and my head hurt from a general tiredness. I put the finishing touches to my talk this morning and just went for it. Most of my material had been prepared last week while away at Brighton and the parable speaks for itself.

It was a humbling experience - really having to "let go" of the reins of the presentation and just allow God to speak through His word. The response was positive indeed - lots of challenge and provocation to both sow the word of God with our lives and not allow our own fruitfulness to be choked. Many people commented positively. The file will be up here sometime soon. If anyone wants to listen to it and give me feedback I would really appreciate it.

Friday, 18 July 2008

In a nutshell

The "Mark Driscoll effect" seems to be rippling away through the bloggosphere - but what did he actually say?

John Lanferman successfully sumarises the key points:

Here, here and here

As with all things the fruit of it will be the key judge of how important Driscoll's challenges were, but even so, reading this like this, and this give much hope.

I wouldn't have said everything the way he did and I don't agree with everything he said to the last word - but he said enough that was 100% spot on and was bold enough to stand up in front of 4,500 people and say some of the things they didn't have the courage to say about the future of the movement. For that alone he deserves credit beyond any speaker I have ever heard. He didn't speak to us for his own fame or for his own popularity with us - he came to speak the word of God how he sees it and shake us out of any apathy or feeling we have "made it". Oh for more conference preachers like that!

In human terms you could think Terry Virgo had the most to "lose" from his message for the future, so it is interesting to read this endorsement.

It also seems that some criticism from people not at the conference has started as well, primarily about the issue of the complimentarian view of church leadership put forward by Mark Driscoll. The irony is that is exactly what he said would happen, so in criticising him, those who oppose his view are actually proving one of his points true.

The DVDs are still sitting idly in a bag in my office, I don't dare open them for fear of distraction. I am speaking twice on Sunday and playing at the National Christian Football Festival on Saturday so have a full weekend. I found the Mars Hill Church, Seattle website and see they do complete sermon files for download. Their doctrine series looks interesting... Anyone got a spare couple of days they could lend me?!! 200MB downloads - glad the church network is unlimited!

Thursday, 17 July 2008

After Alpha

I did the "What should I do with the rest of my life" talk at Alpha last night.

It seemed to go ok. It was one of those where you say more than ever intended and used your notes less than you ever imagined. Hopefully that's a result of God working.

On the way home (9pm) I was a bit tired but Esther was out with some female friends from Church so I took the chance to text a mate from the footie and meet him for a quiet drink.

The principle is simple: I never want to ask people to "bring their friends to Church" so I, and others can tell other people's friends about Jesus, unless I am out there making friends myself.

"Together on a Mission"

This week is the calm after the storm of the Together on a Mission conference in Brighton, England. The conference of newfrontiers, the family of churches my church belongs to. By "storm", I mean totally intense, refreshing, nowhere to hide kind of encounter with God and his people.

Loads of other peopler have blogged the details, so the best thing to do is point to the highlights.

John Lanferman somehow condenses Mark Driscoll's first talk into a very pithy post here

Adrian Warnock gives details and interviews here

Ant Hilder gives a good account of a personal experience of Brighton

Downloads of the talks can be found here

My personal experiences and observations would be the following:

1) Mark Driscoll is something of a prize fighter in the reformed charismatic movement. Listening to him preach is like standing in a ring with Holyfield or Lewis and taking a a barrage of punches - with no pause for recovery in between. I have never heard such an integrated ecclesiology linked to a purposeful missiology so rooted in a bullish reformed theology.

2) I love the worship, the worship leaders, and the contributions. But I wish they stopped recording an album of worship at the conference. I have these frustrations:

a) we have to stop and learn too many new songs, it breaks things up too much. One or two a day maybe, but no more.
b) the new songs we learn have not stood the test of time. We only sing the cream of what other movements produce - Strength will rise, Happy Day, Everyone needs compassion. Compared to those some of the new songs seemed a little mundane.
c) I think it makes the worship leaders a bit edgy. They're trying to nail a song for the CD. Evan Rogers couldn't care less about the recording and his sessions are always lively, fun, and free. I want more of that. Maybe we should do a "If you want to be on the CD come to this seminar" seminar where people can go, learn the songs and go for it, and leave the platform worship for open and free worship.
d) The selection of songs is not wide enough. There are so many schools of worship, gifted leaders, across different movements. If we benefit from those outside for speaking then why not worship leaders too? Godfrey Birtill is a good example who I heard recently at the Trumpet Call prayer day at the NEC.
e) I think Simon brading is fantastic and I think he did really well. However he didn't seem as "free" as he does at Newday. I'd love him to rock it up a bit at the leaders conference.
f) I know there is a sense of wanting to strengthen people's grasp of theology using worship like the good old hymn writers did, but even so, I think we may be bordering on being a bit wordy and a bit technical in describing what God has done. We need to express our heart's response to the doctrine alongside the doctrine itself. "You chose the cross" is a great example of a song which nails the doctrine and expresses the heart in one song.

3) My seminar stream was disappointing if I am honest, specifically the bit about how the Holy Spirit effects the way we lead. When more is left unsaid than is said I wonder if it was worth saying anything at all.

4) free downloads of everything is a magnificent opportunity and service - and I have 3 Mark Driscoll DVDs which i attempt to watch with a bible, a bottle of wine, the pause button and my wife (who has a degree in Theology). I want to see what sticks, what is true, what I don't agree with, what challenges my own practice, and make sure that I take what God was saying, rather than just appreciating being caught up in a special moment at a special conference.

What a special 4 days.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

40 years time.

Today while scanning my favourite web forum Blue and Amber I came across this post on a thread about the past and the future.

"What do you think will happen in the next 40 years?

I think we will see futher decline of religion, christianity has been declining for generation, and the next generation of British muslims will become disinterested with there religion which has been assiociated with the extremists which make up a small percdentage of their faith.

The EU will get its constitution but its member states will still be inderpendent.

Computers and Televisions wil merge into one, and with the rise of On demand broadband services, T.V channels and schedualing as we know it wont exist.

More people will rent houses rather than buy

Shrewsbury will be a strong championship side."

There you go - Christianity is on its way out. Sadly, I don't think this is an isolated view.

Thankfully - I don't believe that this is God's view.

What will "stem the tide" as it were? Here are a few thoughts:

1) Clear, relevant presentation of the gospel. Repent and believe in Jesus. We don't need to alter our message for anyone - rather we need to prove its relevance by our lives.
Finding ways of taking our faith to people, not asking them to come to us
A return to clear new testament ecclesiology where nothing we have made for ourselves is sacred and everything bows to the pressure of scripture

Opening lines

To start a blog, at the start of an adventure like this is a bit intimidating.

So I will just copy and paste the interview I did for our church magazine.

Sorry it is a bit long, but hey, at least it covers the ground!

Can you give us a potted history of your life?

I was born in Birmingham in January 1979, and am 3 years younger than my brother Jon. My parents went to the Gambia in West Africa for two and a half years when I was still very young, returning to the UK before I started school. I think that is why I have so many freckles! We lived with my grandparents in Wrexham for 9 months or so then one of my Dad's old uni mates by the name of Andrew Pattison invited him to Shrewsbury to be a partner in a GP surgery here. We moved to Wenlock Road in 1984. We started attending a church called Barnabas Christian Fellowship, meeting in the Gateway centre near the station. Shrewsbury was home and Barnabas was church right through until the age of 18. In terms of my own faith it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint an exact moment when you have grown up in a christian family but I would say Spring Harvest in the early nineties, with a few of the lads my age from church, Dan Crack, Ben Pattison and others, taken by Jon and Karen Higgins - that was the moment where in my heart I knew Jesus had forgiven my sin on the cross. We sung the song "You have broken the chains, that held our captive souls" and I knew God had set me free. Even just writing that makes the tears well up.

Every summer we went to either Soul Survivor or later Stoneleigh bible week and that was also very influential, as was being part of a peer group in church. At 18 I went to Aston University to do a Management Studies degree, focussing mainly on marketing. I did a 14 month placement at Boots head office in Nottingham working on the Advantage Card Marketing team. After graduating I had a job with the Management Consultancy called Accenture to go to in Manchester but I wanted to come back to Shrewsbury to serve Barnabas for a year and do year project. So I rocked up in Shrewsbury again in 2001 after 4 years away, and never quite made it to Manchester!

Tell us about your wife?

I had known Esther since we were little. When I came back to Shrewsbury I could not help but notice this gorgeous young lady and saw that she was sold out for God. It was tough when she went to Cambridge for 3 years as that meant plenty of phone calls and driving the A14 more times than I care to remember. We got married when she returned to Shrewsbury, and it has been the best two years of my life.

When did you first feel God was calling you to Church leadership?

Good question. Wherever I went I found that people asked me to lead stuff. At Sixth form I was president of the Christian Union, and also was elected as College President. At university I was a christian union small group leader, and also on the Christian Union executive as evangelism secretary. Back in Shrewsbury I started leading a cell group, and gradually started overseeing other groups, as well as being involved leading the Destiny youth meetings with Phil Downward. I just always seem to have ended up leading stuff.

More specifically though when it came to the end of my project year God spoke incredibly powerfully to me through three seperate people on three seperate occasions about not going to Manchester and staying here.

I don't know if I can describe it as a calling to church leadership or a more like a deep burden to serve the Church here. My role seems to have developed further and I believe God spoke clearly to me about becoming an elder here. But I don't feel called to "the ministry" as such. I don't want to lead a Church anywhere else just in order to be a "Church leader". If God calls me I will obviously listen and obey, but I feel the call on my life right now is to serve the Church here and play my part in the future God has for Barnabas.

When I first started working here I was given a prophetic word about being the second row of the scrum. So many people in this world want to be top of the tree, but I felt God was asking me to look at Terry and Martin on the front row of the scrum, they are the ones stuck into the scrum and pushing forwards into what God has but it is tough work in there. I felt God ask me to come steaming in behind them like a player in the second row does and put my energy and ideas and commitment and gifts in behind where they were. 5 years on and it feels like God is asking me to join them on the front row.

How have you been prepared for leadership?

The deepest preparation has come from my own walk with God and going through the trials and challenges of life with him. Seeing him use me when I know my own faults and frailties has given me a good grasp of what grace means.

Being brought up in a Christian home and in a church family is such a priviledge. At university I was invited to various UCCF training such as a their biblical evangelism conference. During my year project I did a certficate in theology, and then did the word plus course. The different bible weeks and camps I have been to, as well as the Brighton Leader's conference have also been a real blessing.

Year project helped because you had to muck in and get involved with everything and I think that shapes character and gives you a balanced view of the life of the church and of serving. Since 2002 I have been involved in elders meetings as the adminstrator and watched what happens in the life of the Church and saw how Martin, Terry, and until recently Andrew responded to stuff. I think we learn so much from watching God working through others. I do hope to do further formalised study of the bible and am currently looking at options.

What role will you have in the Church?

It will be much the same for the time being. My role as adminsitrator is becoming much more "hands off" with Sharon taking on more and more things and Cathy and Calvin running the centre so effectively. My role is more the management of things and putting systems in place that others can maintain. I chair centre management team meetings and centre strategy team meetings, and try to co-ordinate the issues on the ground and ensuring the trustees are fully involved.

I oversee cell groups and this involves cell overseers meetings, cell leaders meetings and cell training. We recently trained three lots of cell group leaders from the Beacon church in Whitchurch within our training programme and they now have three fully fledged cell groups whcih is really exciting! I believe we need to develop our cells to make space for ministry, pastoral care and personal witness within the Church.

I will be leading meetings and speaking as I currently do. Three out of four sundays in July I am either speaking or leading, so that will keep me busy. I am also part of our pastoral team who meet weekly on a wednesday and regularly meet up with people in the Church, especially those in my peer group.

I am also involved in wider stuff such as the Hope 08 initiative for Shrewsbury in some exciting projects and will be explaining those in more detail in due course.

What is your vision for Barnabas?

I could fill a whole magazine on just this question!

A non christian friend of mine asked me what kind of church Barnabas was but before I could answer another non christian friend of mine said "Barnabas is the kind of church where it is more about the faith of the individual rather than just looking after the institution of the Church". That absolutely thrilled me. He does not have a faith himself but he knows that we have faith, and he knows that our faith is what matters.

I want Barnabas to be a prophetic statement to our town and community about what happens when we follow Jesus and are empowered by the holy spirit. That involves so many things - it makes us a family together caring for each other, it makes us a body of people working together, it means we have a passion to share the gospel with people and it means we are commited to show love and mercy to our community.

I think my vision would be that we are authentic in our faith. That all we do points people to Jesus and his work on the cross. That the grace in us and amongst us is so prevailent that everyone feels accepted and yet no-one can stay unchanged. And my heart is that everything we do can be seen by those who do not know Christ yet. That we live lives so shaped by the grace and power of God that we really can truly say to people "Taste and see that the Lord is good" and they will!

I love the idea of us being ambassadors for Christ and living letters that people can read and that Christians can permeate every level of society in the town and be good news to people. So I want Barnabas to be a Church that focusses on the 166 hours a week when we are not "in church" rather than the two that we are gathered, and that in the two that we gathered together we are empowered and equiped to fulfill all God has for us in the 166, when we are salt and light in the town and surrounding villages.