Wednesday, 16 July 2008

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.

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