Friday, 18 December 2009

This year...

And so, Friday 18th December, so starts my christmas holiday!

Two full weeks, every day is a blessing! I know I will be busy on Sunday and at our christmas day service but even so, my holiday begins at 5pm today.

And so, approaching a holiday that marks the end of a year, I start by looking back. apologies if this seems like one of those episodes of the Simpsons or Friends where they just crib the best bits and cobble together a story. This is my journey, with my heart on my sleeve.

This year we have launched two Sunday meetings which has taken lots of time to plan and involved a tremendous Gift Day which allowed a major revamp of our main hall. We hosted a big community week which alongside running Alpha in January and in September and working with other Churches has made me really excited.

The year had exceptionally sad challenges, including the death of my grandfather, a lovely young man in the Church and a fabulous worship leader. And it all seemed to happen at once.

I have lost weight, and kept it off, and now stand at 11 stone 12 pounds this morning, and I learned more about myself than I have by doing almost anything else.

I have preached twelve times on Sundays, and lead the main meeting an astonishing 19 of our 52 mornings. I have preached on Freedom in Christ 3 times, Alpha 4 times, at our youth meeting 4 times and at another church's meeting for 18-25s once. In a Church this size, and with the teaching gifts of people like Martin Charlesworth and Terry Hotchkiss in this church, I find the level of trust they have placed in me, and willingness to allow me opportunities an absolute priviledge.

I turned 30, and considered the blessings and challenges of my first year in eldership. I greatly appreciated the Newfrontiers Younger Leaders Weekend, as well as the Evangelist's Summit and the Brighton Conference.

I considered what it means to "work together" in posts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 and have finished the year considering what I love about Anglicans, Methodists, Mike Pilavachi, Spring Harvest, Holy Trinity Brompton and the Para-church.

I want this blog to actually be my story. My journal. My hopes and dreams. My fears and failures. Open and honest. Gentle yet firm. Thanks for following, thanks for commenting, thanks for reading, and for being part of my journey.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

5 things I love about the para-church...

I have a fairly high view of Church. I come from essentially "restorationist" stock. I believe in the local Church. I want to see a beautiful bride. I give priority to the local Church in my time, effort and finances (even before my employment). I believe the Church is what God has instituted to be an agent of mission, justice, and a community for believers to belong. So I am 100% for the Church. I do also think there are some issues with para-church organisations. But equally there are issues with Churches, all Churches.

In some cases, I think criticisms of the "para-church" have been exaggerated, and I think a high view of the "Church" has been extrapolated to be a criticism of the para-church which ceases to be helpful.

Here are five things I love about the para-church.

1) INTERNATIONAL AID: Look at what Tearfund, World Vision, Christian Aid and Cafod have achieved on behalf of the Church. The DEC appeal happens and amongst the biggest hitters are the Christian relief agencies. The climate change march happens in London and the first two banners I see on the main 6 o'clock news? Tearfund and Christian Aid! Now there is a great place for Churches to make offerings to be administered by local Churches, like Newfrontiers have done with Zimbabwe and Kenya recently. That is great, but what about the Pakistan Earthquake or the Tsunami? Experienced, relevant, well organised and resourced agencies are well placed to give the poor and oppressed food, shelter, medical aid and the like. Those are all kingdom values, and if there is not the church there to do it (or the church is not able to do it efficiently) then sending an agency is the only option.

2) PUBLISHING AND THE BIBLE: The editing committees of the bibles we read are essentially para-church bodies. They have to be to avoid sectarian bias. The translation organisations like Wycliffe are essentially para-church not local church. The bible distribution agencies like The Bible Society and Gideons are essentially para-church. So if I am a good evangelical and love the word of God, I am reliant on a para-church bodies to translate, produce and distribute the Bible for me. Lots of christian publishing is effectively "para-church". My local Christian bookshop is "para-church" by some definitions. It suits me when I need a Christian book...

3) EQUIPPING LOCAL CHURCH MINISTRY: Organisations like Care for the Family, Zacharius Trust or Freedom in Christ Ministries etc produce resources and events which help to resource, network, encourage and equip Churches in their mission.

4) CAMPS AND FESTIVALS: Several of the major camps and festivals have become "para-church", or maybe "inter-church". The blessing these provide is evident. I believe in the Church and so I love things that build up the Church.

5) RESPONSIVENESS: Lots of the para-church organisations that have sprung up which do functions which could (or should!) be done by the local church tend to exist because the local church in that place or in that denomination or in that generation or in that nation did not do it. The church was failing due to lack of understanding, resistance to change, lack of resources, whatever, but there was a gap. Christians saw the gap and sought to fill it. Now I may well still hold the view that the Church is the priority, and that these things should be undertaken within a local church context, but I still have to admire and appreciate people who took huge risks, stepped out of the boat and filled a void because of the call of God.

Add it all up, and I want to hold a very high priority of the local church within a framework of a very high priority of the kingdom of God. I don't see that the two should ever compete, so if it feels like they are, I probably need to look in my own heart first.

More to the point, I don't want to become the person speaking at a para-church christian event, recommending a resource from a para-church organisation which is sold by another para-church organisation, who expresses a priority of the local Church that excludes all the people who have given me that opportunity in the first place. That would seem a little redundant.

I do believe in the local Church, which is why in some cases, I need the para-church.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

5 things I love about Holy Trinity Brompton...

In my recent post about Anglicans I found myself rather overwhelmed with warm and fuzzy feelings towards Holy Trinity Brompton. So much so it warranted its own post. Here are five things I really want to love and honour about HTB.

PROCESS EVANGELISM: UK evangelicalism got stuck in a Billy Graham crusade mindset of "hands up and follow Jesus" being what evangelism was. Making a one off call for salvation is still completely valid but Alpha put the gospel into bite sized chunks, and gave an increasingly postmodern culture time to engage with it. It also added in food and friendship and made it relational. It actually turned a mindset from a "get them in the door and hit them with it" kind of sales technique usually preserved for timeshares, and made it 10-15 weeks of friendship and discussion. Two weeks ago there were over 10 people at our Sunday morning meeting who came to faith via our September Alpha Course. Alpha is like the muscle helping to empower that side of Church life.

RESOURCES: The resources you need to run Alpha are available, good value, and well presented. Alpha is not just a good idea, it is an "of the shelf" suite of resources to help to actually make your vision a reality. Their national advertising, in the press and in cinemas, has been the largest scale Christian publicity I can remember. The excellent "Alpha Friends" website is full of ideas and resources. Recently, when churches in Shrewsbury decided to advertise our Alpha Courses together, the resources available to us, including print ready leaflets, were excellent.

TRAINING & RELATIONSHIPS: One of the greatest decisions HTB made was when they started running training courses, training weekends and then local training days. That meant two things. Firstly, people starting out heard what it was like from the coal face, not just the text book. Secondly, HTB engaged itself in a consistent review process of the Alpha materials because they had produced them, and now they were having constant contact with people actually using them. Alpha has since developed shorter sessions, the course has fewer sessions, new ways of approaching subjects and Churches have been given freedom to juggle the course a bit within parameters to make it "work" for them. HTB has entered into a relationship with those who run Alpha on a local level, and in doing so have improved the course greatly and have really kept their finger on the pulse.

BEING YOURSELVES: The HTB crowd are a definition of white middle class Britishness. They look, sound, and do things all the time that reinforce this. An Alpha "Supper" kicks things off. Supper for me is biscuits and hot chocolate before bed, not a meal! I have never been to a school, college, workplace, or even restaurant where it would be called "supper". They developed the course to reach people around them and they were just being themselves. Unashamedly themselves. That is why it works. I think it gives the whole thing much more credibility. They have not hammed it up to try and make it all hip and down with it. And you know what? We have seen ex-drug addicts and university lecturers, alcoholics and senior managers all come to faith through Alpha. With Nicky's story of a "Nicky party" away at University somehow reaching across all demographic indicators. I love them for being themselves. For not faking anything. For being faithful.

UNITY: Alpha for Catholics is a seminal point in the development of the course. HTB have gone further than many evangelicals would fear to tread, and received some serious criticism for it. Yet this is part of their calling. Alpha is not just an evangelism tool, it is a renewal movement with Anglicanism and to a smaller extent, now within Catholicism. Now that really pushes back the boundaries of where and how evangelicals function and how an essentially evangelical gospel presentation fits into the wider body of Christ. Rather than retreat into their own enclave HTB have built bridges and burst through preconceptions, without changing the message. And I think God honours that kind of borderless love of the body of Christ that has taken them into rarely chartered waters.

And now HTB is moving into Church planting outside London, developing stronger international links and massively empowering the UK worship scene, within five years this juggernaut of a move of God will have probably earned another five points!

Friday, 11 December 2009

5 things I love about Spring Harvest...

Here are 5 things I want to love and honour about the Spring Harvest movement.

1) THE GOSPEL: I gave my life to Jesus at Spring Harvest. Well, growing up in a Christian home I "responded" a few times to be fair, but this is the time it changed everything. I was asked, aged 11 or so, to come forward, if I wanted to turn away from my old life, follow Jesus, and receive forgiveness from Him through his finished work on the cross. I went forward. That was my moment. Nothing could ever be the same. Jesus HAD actually conquered my sin, had redeemed me, I was adopted, into relationship with God, a ransom had been paid, my punishment settled, I was free, my chains were broken, I moved from slavery into sonship. And I knew all these things because they had done a very good job at explaining exactly what Jesus had done and exactly what I was responding too and exactly what I would need to do about it in the future. This was not an over-hyped, over-emotional youth meeting, this was the scales falling from my eyes and being beckoned by Jesus.
2) THE WORSHIP: Over the last twenty years or so Spring Harvest has essentially been a melting pot out of which the best of British worship music rises to the surface. Spring Harvest worship albums and resources have helped shape the worship across a wide spectrum of the Church. They really, really, love Jesus. And in the moment, with thousands gathered, that is probably where I started to really unearth my own heart and desire to worship God. Worse still, they even got away with songs I don't even like, and God still moved!

3) THE UNITY: Spring Harvest is a really mixed bunch. If British evangelicalism has a spectrum then Spring Harvest is a rainbow! Broadly Charismatic although not crazy, staunchly evangelical although not narrow, somehow Spring Harvest manages to break down denominational barriers and not be some box ticking exercise of unity but actually be people together. It is a source of immense sadness that Word Alive did not stay within the wider Spring Harvest movement, but even so, Spring Harvest will remain a key component of the calendar of many British evangelicals, and a continued blessing from God to His Church

4) YOUTH: Spring Harvest youth was the first "youth" I saw being done really, really well. When I think of the influence of stuff like Soul Survivor and other ministries since then I remember Spring Harvest, the "Big Toaster" youth meetings, the noise, the lights, the energy and see where much of it was birthed. Spring Harvest did "youth" well, and was part of what made the Church in the UK wake up and start to do "youth" well.

5) THE ORGANISATION: Spring Harvest was big, resourced, well planned and accessible. The scale of meetings, scale of sites used and reputation of platform speakers really set a trend for what has followed. Suddenly Christian festivals are now a genuine marketing opportunity for showgrounds and holiday camps, and Spring Harvest was part of that growth. The success of other camps and movements since then is partly building on the fact stuff like Spring Harvest made it "normal" to go away with a few families from your Church and meet with Jesus.

Time for another bold statement: Spring Harvest has been, and will continue to be, a major blessing to UK evangelicalism. Turning the "gathering" into hands on "activism" and "mission" is the trajectory they are on, which is incredibly exciting to watch, and perhaps even, be part of.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Further discussion on Methodism

Dave Warnock commented to my first post in this series:
I do have a small concern though. I recently heard a mostly excellent talk by someone from New Frontiers who talked about the Methodist tradition, it was good except that it attempted to claim the heritage while totally ignoring the present. To a conference with a lot of Methodists it was not exactly helpful to look at current Methodism as just a source of heritage and buildings for New Frontiers.

I obviously cannot comment fully on that talk or that event as I was not there.

Areas of social justice, social activism and the environment would be where I see modern Methodism as being strong and having a track record with which they can influence and encourage the wider body of Christ. For example our local Methodist Church was the second in the town to gain the eco-congregation status. I think this is a good thing, and a provocation. If we go down that route in the future the Methodists (and the URC) paved the way.

This Christmas our local area the Churches, including us and the Methodists are giving out 4,000 Christmas cards and inviting our community to our various Christmas events, together.

Last year I served on the Hope 08 planning group which included a local methodist minister and we did large scale bit of publicity to 54,000 homes, together.

But Dave poses a very interesting question. I think many people don't know much about modern Methodism, or what they do know about feels confused. It does for me.

You would be left with big questions if you spoke to one of the thousands in the membership of many evangelical churches in the UK, in the newer churches or in the older denominations, a whole generation of Methodist evangelicals, including former Church leaders, who feel they have been "driven out" of Methodism over the last 40 years. "Methodism" does not present itself as being an evangelical movement now, but it was. And that is where I, as an evangelical, feel my strongest connection with Methodism lies, at the point we were closest. Or with the parts of Methodism that still hold that ethos.

I would also suggest it depends mostly on people's experiences on a local level, and the methodists they know, those whose blogs they read etc. In the same way people's view of newfrontiers is shaped by which bits they have or have not seen or who they think speaks for all. The local experience often changed every five years with the minister, who for other Church leaders is their primary contact with the Church. The spectrum is so wide, and changes so regularly, that commenting on "Methodism" becomes a bit difficult.

Evangelical representation within the "Churches Together" movement is sketchy in places, so the connections are limited. I would imagine local Methodists consider our church (and others in the town) to be distant because we are not fully engaged with Churches Together locally.

I also think Methodism nationally has had something of a self-depricating public face which means as an evangelical growing up and going to university from the 1980s onwards it has not been on the radar, at all.

I knew about New Wine, Fusion, UCCF, Soul Survivor, Alpha, YWAM, OM, Youth for Christ etc. they were well marketed to me. I had friends from Elim, AOG, Vineyard, the C of E etc. My walk with God as an evangelical Christian meant I barely ever rubbed shoulders with Methodism except when we had refreshments after a Fairtrade march in Birmingham city centre once.

I would not deliberately "ignore" modern Methodism as such but rather would not know enough about it to comment, and frankly, am a bit weary of hearing how bad things are from Methodists themselves. I don't know what to say, or even sometimes where to look. I remember a Methodist preacher speaking at a united service here about ten years ago who was so disparaging about his Church it made me really uncomfortable. If newfrontiers is accused of arrogance then Methodism must be accused of and unhelpful level of self-deprecation.

With all that said, if I lived in Market Drayton in Shropshire, and wanted a local Church, this is the Church I would go to, without question. Some of their people have visited us to share ideas and learn from each other, and none of them fit into the critical category I have outlined above. As I read their "about us" section it ticks many of the boxes I would look for in a Church. There are hundreds of Methodist Churches like it all over the country, and they remain true to the heart of Methodism that I see as my heritage too.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Have a fairtrade break...

Well, well, well, Nestle have got in on the act.

Soon Kit Kat will be fairtrade.

Interesting that "even" Nestle, with all its faults, now sees Fairtrade as a necessity for the UK market.

The big names keep piling in, and the farmers will benefit. Just 20 years ago this was a pipe dream. 10 years ago it was a ridiculous assertion. 5 years ago it was a vague hope. Now the floodgates are opening!

5 things I love about Methodists...

These are some things I want to honour Methodism in the UK for. These are more to do with legacy rather than my personal experiences of Methodism (which are limited) and so is much further from the current coal face than my previous post on Anglicanism.

1) HERITAGE: I am a British non-conformist. Therefore Wesley & Whitefield are in some sense my "Church Fathers" and everything else follows that. OK, maybe that is slightly over-egged, but even so. I can't get away from the fact I am heavily influenced by this heritage. Neither can the Church in the UK. If there was just one time we could go back to. If there was one movement we could choose. If their was one evangelist. If there was one revival. John Wesley, the birth of Methodism, is almost always in our minds when we start praying for revival now.

2) SMALL GROUP: Methodism helped pioneer laity involvement, smaller group structures, discipleship groups, small groups. Much of what you read in a 1990s American "Cell group" textbook was happening in 1820s Bristol with a few updates for the charismatic renewal and a postmodern culture. The priesthood of all believers, an engaged and active laity, Methodism broke down barriers and we live in the good of it.

3) MISSION: The Wesleys were about Mission. Self-sacrificing-travelling- miles-to-explain-the-gospel-to-people-who-did-not-follow-Christ kind of mission. Nation changing mission. Local mission, national mission, international mission. Building missional communities on the back of public preaching of the gospel: sound familiar? The way some within methodism have grasped the "fresh expressions" concept recently shows a desire for mission still burns strong.

4) JUSTICE: Methodism has always had a big heart for the poor, the outcast, the oppressed. Modern day Methodism has in some ways helped lead the way on issues such as the environment, fairtrade, social justice. While newer Churches have been getting excited about lighting rigs and decibels the Methodists have been engaging with the marginalised and oppressed both in the UK and overseas. They are a provocation to the rest of the body of Christ in this area and are to be commended for it.

5) HYMNS!: Charles Wesley is the greatest hymn writer of all time. That is it really. Methodism helped give UK protestantism boldness to use contemporary (for then) music to engage the culture with robust biblical truth through worship songs. The ripples are still being felt today. More of our Church worship culture is shaped by this than almost anything else. Throw in a Charismatic renewal and here we are. If anything, I desire a return to some of the robustness of the old hymns, in terms of biblical truth and not just "Jesus is my cuddle buddy" sort of stuff.

Some of the Methodists I know say freely and openly "Methodism in the UK is dying." Denominationally speaking that may or may not be the case. It is not my place to judge. But I do see that missional, worshipful, gospel declaring, justice seeking activism are in the DNA of much of UK evangelicalism.

Because of this DNA "Methodism" will never "die" because there is a little bit of "Methodist" in all of us.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

5 things I love about Anglicans...

Ready for a bold statement? I believe evangelicalism in the UK in the last century would be a pale shadow of what it is without the Anglican Church. Or rather, without the evangelical wing of the Anglican Church.

Here is why:

1) SCHOLARSHIP: Many of the heavyweights of British evangelicalism, McGrath, Stott, Wenham, Wright, and on and on and on come from and work(ed) within the Anglican communion. Remove them from the scholarly record of the last 50 years and life would be so different. Evangelicalism cannot stand firm in 21st century Britain without the scholarship of the Anglicans. Period.

2) THE ALPHA COURSE: Far and away the greatest evangelistic breakthrough in the last twenty years is the Alpha Course. Not just the Alpha Course, the resources, the training, the encouragement, the national initiatives, the local initiatives. I think HTB just earned their own post in this series!

3) NEW WINE NETWORK: Another bold claim. If revival falls upon the UK I believe the movement currently best placed to resource, administer and share it will be some of the movers and shakers within New Wine. People like Mark Bailey in Cheltenham are on the absolute cusp of something which could change a generation.

4) DETERMINATION: Evangelical Anglicans are a determined bunch. They have to be. Their willingness to not reject, but to renew, an institution like the Church of England, with all its history, merits, quirks and frustrations, is to be applauded, supported, and honoured. I actually think it is a harder calling than just starting from scratch like so many "new Churches" have.

5) ESTABLISHMENT: The continued establishment of the Church of England gives them opportunities within our nation almost unrivalled across the globe. "Hatch, Match and Dispatch" is used as a derogatory term, and yet what if by a great move of the Spirit Churches were empowered to use these connections to bring people to Christ? The constitutional postion of the Anglicans gives them opportunities we can only dream of, and challenges we can only pray we never have. We must stand with our brothers and sisters and pray God empowers them to use these opportunities for the growth of the kingdom.

Just five, I could go on. This list is personal, speculative, and may just contain enough truth to mean people think twice when being derogatory about the Anglican Church.

Thursday, 3 December 2009


I am part of the body of Christ. That is much bigger than me, my family, my church, my town, my church family, my nation, in fact, it is bigger than my mind can comprehend as only God truly understands the magnitude, variety and importance of it.

One thing I see/hear newfrontiers being accused of is being too focussed on its "distinctives". In the wikipedia entry for newfrontiers there is a seperate section on the accusation of "exclusiveness".

I think being clear about who you are or where you are headed is certainly a strength, but not at the cost of a perceived undervaluing of our links, our connections, our unions, our heart joined, value shared "part of the body of christ"ness.

So I am going to blog about what I value about other traditions / groups / movements that I have experienced. What I love, honour and aspire to from other parts of this wonderful body we are priviledged to be part of.

My experiences are limited, my knowledge incomplete and my history sketchy in places, but here are a few thoughts for your perusal.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009


Stop the Traffik is an excellent organisation.

Oasis Trust do a great work in this area.

Steve Chalke has written an excellent book on this subject.

A young lady from our Church recently spent 4 months working with Oasis in India.

On Saturday night we had an Indian evening. I was in charge of the kitchen. We fed over 100 people, raised over £1000 for the Stop the Traffik campaign, and the presentation about her time in India was simply outstanding.

Two local curry houses helped sponsor the event, and the Church provided the rest of the food.

It was a great social event: people sat by new people and met people they did not know from Church

It was a great community event: There were lots of guests there. Work friends, college friends.

It was a great "kingdom" event: Promoting a real issue which matters to God.

A fun, informal, evening with a stark, serious, informative and challenging message. By 10.30pm I was pretty tired but thrilled with what it means to be part of this Church community.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Great minds...

Martin, our lead elder could not make the Mike Pilavachi meeting as he was speaking at a national conference for debt advice centres on Friday.

That meant he missed the talk by Mike Pilavachi.

But Martin did speak, on Sunday, at our church in Shrewsbury on "Jesus the outsider".

It was an excellent talk, well worth half an hour of your time.

Talking about the cleansing of the temple, talking about the "zeal" of the Lord, and what zeal accomplishes.

Zeal brings us to worship.

Zeal causes us to focus on those outside of Christ

Zeal demands justice.

Hmm: Worship, Mission, Justice. Where have I heard that before?!!!

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Making a grown man cry...

Well technically he did not actually cry, but I reckon he was close.

I went up to Mike Pilavachi after the meeting on Friday, and I told him this.

Here is a meeting of different Churches around North Shropshire and surrounding region including several newfrontiers churches.

We discussed the meeting at our regional meeting on Thursday.

Something interesting came to light.

Phil Whittall, who planted North Shrewsbury Community Church 6 years ago, would point to Soul Survivor in 1995 as a clear point where God spoke to Him put his life on track.

Me, an elder at our Church in Shrewsbury for 18 months, would point to Soul Survivor in 1995 as a clear point where God spoke to me, and put my life back on track.

So when Mike Pilavachi comes up to preach at a Church in a small town in a relatively unknown county, what you find is two church elders, in their early 30s, who can point specifically to your camp and your ministry as clear points where God shaped our calling. Here, on the ground, on our turf, we are "doing the stuff", and so keep going, keep blessing these young people, keep making them ruined for the sake of the name of Jesus, because now the first generation of Soul Survivors blessing has reached the Church leadership stage and is bearing fruit.

He looked at me, took a deep breath and said "that thrills my soul". You and me both Mike, you and me both.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Mike Pilavachi

I can unashamedly say Mike Pilavachi is the Christian leader whose ministry has had the greatest impact on my life.

From my own walk with Christ being energised and developed at Soul Survivor camps in my teens, through to him preaching one of the most powerful sermons I have ever heard. Chuck in a "Words, works and wonders" conference while at university and the influence of various worship leaders whose gift he has helped fan into flame (Redman & Hughes spring to mind) and he really is the real deal. Not just with his words, but with his action, and with the impartation of the Holy Spirit that follows his ministry.

This is a fairly bold statement, but I am pretty sure if I could not be in my Church, his would be my next choice. That is not necessarily a doctrinal decision, but the fact is, I would like to watch and learn from him for a while. For a long while.

No-one who went to Newday last year failed to notice the Holy Spirit works through him! Many of our teenagers came back having been baptised in the holy spirit, speaking in tongues, some have since been baptised, and they point to the night the humorous Greek bloke from Watford started preaching.

On friday evening Mike came to speak at a meeting arranged by Beacon Church Whitchurch. Our Church planted Beacon just over 18 months ago.

I wrestled with whether I should go or not. I was tired. It was Friday evening. I had been busy every evening that week with a mixture of church stuff and a rare outing to an away football match. Part of me felt I "should" go, the kind of "should" that says it was important to go to support Beacon and be seen to be there. What a pompous fool I can be.

Why should I go? Well, suffice to say, that would be about Jesus. About encountering the glorious presence of Jesus. About seeing Jesus equip a new generation of young people. About hearing from someone the Lord has used to greatly shape my life. And about going back there. Going back to the place where the Lord had touched my life in my teens.

So I went.

He was, simply, superb. Worship, Evangelism, Justice. I'm with you Mike. I want to be a WEJ Christian.

We worship because we want to declare our love for God.

We witness because we want to declare our love for God, and the reason for it, with those who don't know him.

We seek justice because if we love God, then we do His commands, and a major thing He commands us to do, almost without equal, is to express His love within our society in a way that brings justice to the oppressed and marginalised.

Worship, Evangelism, Justice.

When I consider the sheer redundancy of some of the things people argue about within the body of Christ I wish sometimes we would just shut up and get on with it. I want us to be a WEJ Church.

And then the ministry time. Lots of silence. No hype. A gentle invitation for the Holy Spirit to move. Several absolutely bang on prophetic words for people. Still no hype. No noise. A gentleness of spirit. A humble desire to see God move.

Not all of what Mike Pilavachi is can be taught, some of it is just caught, so I would certainly encourage anyone to go and hear him if you have the opportunity.

Not to be seen to be there, but because you want to meet Jesus.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Concerns about the "New Apostles"

Having expressed some of the benefits I see I also want to have a ponder about the potential pitfalls with this approach.

All the leaders thus far seem to be white and American and have big Churches. Big Church sells, big Church is worth a book contract, American often means good use of media, so big Church = big exposure = we hear about it and as we hear about it that makes them bigger.

Nothing wrong with that, until you get the media engines chasing the dollar driving the truck off a cliff like they did with Todd Bentley and Lakeland...

Another concern is if I am letting people speak into my life through their preaching and resources but they do not have any level of relationship with me then who helps me put it into practice? Who shows the weaknesses in me, personally, that I need to iron out? Who keeps me on track? Have I actually understood what they are saying?

If I can watch Driscoll on a Monday, see Bill Johnson on TV on Tuesday etc then what time / level of relationship do I have with people who are actually engaged in functional, pastoral, apostolic oversight and encouragement of me or my Church? Do I need that less because I am so pumped up with other teaching? Have I actually farmed out, contracted out, that role to a vodcast rather than a person?

Is it really full of integrity if I don't see them off the platform? If I don't know their personal lives well. If I don't have any reality beyond what you see on the stage? Again take Lakeland, or Michael Guglielmucci and we know that what you see is sadly not always what you get.

I have no similar concerns with the people I have mentioned, but then, how would I know? Are we adopting an attitude to international speakers etc which actually sets ourselves up for a future fall if it all turns sour?

Or is God using new media to bring a new wave of blessing upon his body? And if so where does that leave our current apostolic structures / ideas within newfrontiers? If I can get a Driscoll vodcast every Monday morning but I only see my Church overseer every few months then who am I closest to? That is why I read Steve Tibbert's blog for example but how else can we make things closer? I see this as an opportunity rather than a challenge. I think we could be much more creative.

Finally, what if the various new apostles start to diverge in their thinking? What if a newfrontiers church heavily influenced by one of these people takes on a theology or practice others are really uncomfortable with? Who helps iron that out? Where would the ultimate loyalty lie?

I really do not mean to be throwing stones at anyone. I am just mulling over these things in my mind and am open to both comments and correction.

Friday, 20 November 2009

What is good about the "New Apostles"

I have been mulling over what I think about people who I see shaping and influencing Churches within Newfrontiers from more of a distance than within the movement.

I have posted some ideas here and here.

I think there are major benefits to what seems to be happening in the following ways:

  • ACCESS: Through the media channels, notably their websites including video sermons and blogs, people can get access to the latest teaching / resources / ideas in an instant, usually for free.
  • RECORD: Through publishing, books & resources etc there is a clear record of who advised what and who was thinking what over a period of time. I know what Keller was saying in 2006 and I can chart how that changes by listening to him in 2009. There is a publicness to the advice given, strategies suggested which means it can be discussed, mulled over in the public domain, accepted as wisdom or rejected as foolishness or anything in between.
  • BODY: People are tapping into resources from much wider afield within the body of Christ than just people they know in their movement of Churches. This opens up international possibilities too. Having said that it is interesting the within newfrontiers the directions of this seem to be going towards Church growth, reformed or charismatic in differing ways. Some seem to be going one way, others a mixture of all three.

  • RELATIONSHIPS FORMING: It seems that at times these new links are becoming clearer relationships, with people going off the Bethel for this conference, Willow Creek for that conference, and others visiting our Churches / conferences like Driscoll in 2008. The new media possibilities are actually forming a bridge upon which future relationships and understanding can flow.
So there are definitely some positives. But I also have some concerns, which I will outline next.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

A Father's prayer

Our Baptism Service on Sunday was really quite moving.

A guy in our church in his late teens nearly died earlier this year after suffering multiple organ failure following dehydration during a triathlon.

He was baptised.

His Dad was in the pool.

His Dad shared part of the story. he was in the relatives room of the ITU ward and prayed "Lord, let there not be another funeral in the Church this year, but let there be a baptism"

On Sunday his prayer came true.

What a gracious God we have.

Friday, 13 November 2009

God's timing

Normally I am not particularly excited by car parks.

In fact, I would venture to suggest i have never been excited by a car park.

Until now.

Car Parking can be a weekly problem for Church gatherings. Either because there is none, there is some but it is expensive, or because street parking annoys the people living around you who you are actually trying to reach.

"Hi, we want to be good news to you, but you can't park outside your own home for 4 hours every Sunday because of us" is not a good introduction.

This week we launched two Sunday services and are really asking God to help us reach more people.

Last week a car park opened. A new car park. It is less than 150m from the front gate of our facility, and has 75 spaces. Having spoken to the manager this week, I have negotiated Church parking all day on Sundays for £1 per car per week through a token system, and we can use it on evenings when we have our Church Together meetings as well.

It opened last week. 6 days before we started two services. There it is. 75 bright shiny spaces, a 2 minute walk away from us, and a manager who has just given us priority on Sundays.

I just got excited about a car park. It may be the last time too. But it does show we have our plans, and God has His plans, and when we make God's plans our plans, we see the fullness of His plans to help our plans succeed. And we just saw that in a car park.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Mission Shrewsbury

This organisation has been commented on before here and here.

Yesterday I attended a meeting and lunch hosted by "Mission Shrewsbury"

We represented 4 Anglican Churches, 1 Baptist, 1 Newfrontiers (and apologies from others).

There were 5 Church leaders, a couple of team elders and 4 curates, and lots of Church staff.

We heard Martin Charlesworth, who leads our Church in Shrewsbury talk about building missional Churches. We had lunch together. We then shared prayer needs in our various Churches and prayed for one another.

It was a great meeting with a lovely atmosphere. Staff teams had been invited so administrators got to chat together and share ideas too.

I do believe unity is relational as much as anything else, which is why meetings like this are just so positive.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Launching Two Services

This Sunday we launched two Sunday meetings.

Instead of 10am we had 9.10 & 11.20

Instead of 300 we had two lots of 150

Instead of being cramped we had empty seats

I have to say, I cannot think it could have gone smoother on the day. A large new refreshments area has been created for people to have drinks after the first and before the second service, so everyone still gets to meet up.

Preaching twice within two hours was tough though, and definitely something I will need to get used to. The worship was good, with several contributions in both services.

Change is never easy, but the vision is to make space for people who don't yet know Jesus to come and be part of our Church family. On Saturday every guest on our Alpha away day made a commitment to Jesus, and I counted 5 at the launch of two meetings who had made that step the day before and were there for the start of a new chapter in our Church life.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Who are the "New Apostles"?

Following up on my last post on this subject, who are the people I am referring to?

Here are some of the key people I can see steadily influencing me, others I know, and other churches I see within Newfrontiers. The more a leader / Church leans to one of these, the more it becomes apparent in everything from the style of Sunday meeting to the methodology of mission.

This list is not exhaustive. This comment is not critical. It is an observation. It is my observation, and could be wrong.


Leadership training, seeker sensitive services, personal evangelism, personal prayer life, the list of things Bill Hybels is strong on goes on and on. Through the Willow Creek Association there is training, resources, strategies and resources for almost every aspect of Church life.

You can tell when a Church is fan of Hybels. Personal witness and social events take a priority, the atmosphere is relaxed and the vision is clear, reach people and grow the Church.


Driscoll looks a bit like a cage fighter and sometimes even sounds like one. A bull-dog preacher with a gutsy style, and a church service very clearly focussed around the word, which is normally an hour or more long. Not afraid to confront tough issues, and being provocative seem to go hand in hand. A massive investment in media and focus on engaging with culture means Driscoll now reaches millions a week with his messages. The flip side is that whenever I hear a message from him he always makes a comment of some sort I am certain aged 50 he will regret.

His style is a bit edgier than Hybels, a bit grungier, maybe even a bit younger.

You can tell when a Church is fan of Driscoll. The music is louder, the room darker, the preaching longer and they have spent thousands on the website. There also seems to be a rougher edged, bolder form of complimentarianism upheld.


Keller seems to hold many of the same heart desires as Driscoll (or may vice versa), but expresses them in a much less provocative and (in my view) more mature way. Reaching the culture, mission, shaping society, reaching the cities, it all sounds familiar but feels a bit more mature and the form of complimentarianism practiced seems much more respectful and a lot less macho.

You can tell when a Church is fan of Keller. There seems to be a really wide view of what mission is, and it involves the arts, politics, industry and more. It values the unbeliever and it values the world the unbeliever inhabits and seeks to reach them there and bring the values of the Kingdom of God on public display.


Bill Johnson is a capital C charismatic. Arguably even more controversial than Driscoll within evangelicalism although less on the radar within the wider Church, his stock continues to rise in certain circles despite his very strong public allegiance to Todd Bentley, which must have brought him deeper support and opposition than any other issue he has had to make a call on.

He seems to share the platform at various events with an eclectic mix of people I would be very, very nervous of and people I really, really respect. My friend had medical condition in her ankle that was healed when Bill prayed for her at a New Wine meeting. Several people I know have had their lives radically transformed by visiting his Church.

I can see his influence in different people, different churches, and more recently in evangelistic methodology

You can tell when a Church is fan of Johnson. They love the presence of God and go "treasure hunting" but it does not involve a metal detector, and they are praying for and expectant for revival.


Who have I missed out? There are bound to be more. These are people who I can see definitely shaping church life and thought in different ways and through new media channels reaching a much wider audience more quickly than ever possible before.

Is this a good thing? I think the answer is a bit of both.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The "New" Apostles

Many blogs have commented an the idea of the "New Calvinists", which has even entered mainstream culture as a concept.

These energetic, culturally relevant pastors seem to be taking aspects of the evangelical world by storm, and also winding up a few people along the way.

I have been thinking.

Are we reaching a stage, through the new media channels, of actually having a new form of "apostolic" input into believers and churches, even groups of churches, through the ministry of people much more distant than before? Do we have the development of "new apostles"?

Whose teaching do we look to for doctrine? Where do we go for training? Whose advice would we seek out about everything from Church strategy to discipline? Whose definition would we use to define an up and coming leader? Who are we hoping will impart spiritual truth and supernatural insight into our lives? Who helps set the temperature we operate at? Who encourages us to mission and planting Churches? Who defines what unity is and who we should work with? That is not an exhaustive list, but it is a useful set of questions.

Is it healthy, that my life can be more influenced by a preacher in a city thousands of miles away than someone I actually know, who knows me, who can speak into my life personally?

Is it a great blessing that thousands can benefit from great ministries in ways never seen before? Or does it mean we are contracting out, maybe even franchising part of the apostolic gift to people we may never meet?

Are the Ephesians 4 gifts limited to people we "know" and have meaningful relationship with or have media channels opened up a bright new world of podcasts and MP4 sermons so we can get our apostolic gifts "off the shelf"?

Has it always been this way through letters, printed pamphlets, books etc it is just now with new media channels there is a saturation of availability?

Do we have more loyalty to our favourite online preacher than someone who has spiritual responsibility for us and our Church?

To be continued...

Monday, 2 November 2009

Fair Trade Open Day

Our Fairtrade Open Day on Saturday was a resounding success.

There was a big stall from Shrewsbury Fair Trade, as well as stands from Tearfund, The Body Shop, Stop the Traffik, The Fairtrade Foundation, Longden School G8 Group, the Bridges Charity and others.

The stall raised £1086, which for an event like this is really good.

Starbucks gave us free coffee and Co-op gave us free orange juice. Over 150 people redeemed their voucher for a free drink, many of them completely new faces responding to our publicity.

We did Fairtrade chocolate tasting too, which went down a storm. We did demonstrations of Fairtrade recipes, and also showed videos from Stop the Traffik.

The mayor was there, as was one of the local parliamentary candidates for the next election. It was an event that hit so many targets and definitely something we will consider doing again.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Delivering Leaflets

Using leaflets as a way of promoting a Church, or the activities of a Church has a number of benefits and challenges.

  • Delivering leaflets through doors is boring. It is the "plod of God" with every step. You really have to believe in it.
  • Delivering leaflets has almost zero obvious return benefit. The contacts made per hundred leaflets are minimal.
  • Delivering leaflets costs a huge amount of time, and can cost a lot of money too if you can't design your oon and don't have access to a cheap printing firm.
  • Leaflets through doors are a great way of raising the "profile" of the Church in the area you leaflet. They probably won't respond directly, but they will tell the person they know from your Church that they got your leaflet.
  • Leaflets are a way of reaching lots of people, personally, but not obtrusively.
  • A decent flyer makes a giving a personal invitation a much easier proposition for members of your Church. Inviting someone to an event with a faded photocopied bent leaflet just does not hit the spot in 21st Century Britain. People have confidence if it looks the part.
This week we are delivering leaflets. We printed 2500 with all the community week events on and delivered 1800 through doors in our local area and other through our Church ministries and members.

Next up was 1000 Kidz Fun Day Flyers which went out via our Kidz Klub, Barneytots and Sunday morning as well as through local schools.

7,500 fairtrade day flyers were produced. These are going out through doors and in the town centre all this week.

10,000 A5 leaflets about the Church, especially focusing on our two services starting on November 8th have been produced. These are going out everywhere. The 1800 homes near our building are a start. This week we have taken four large estates int he town which have no evangelical witness whatsoever and leafleted them, for the fairtrade day and the Church. A team in the town centre has given out thousands more. We are encouraging cell groups to deliver them near where they meet and for people to use them to invite their friends to Church.

All in all, it is the scatter gun approach. Sowing seeds of information and showing that God's people do exist and are active.

Environmentally, Shrewsbury has fortnightly paper and card recycling so i am very confident the majority of those flyers will be recycled.

Economically, we use Riverside Press in Market Drayton and when 5000 full colour double sided postcards costs £90 it really does start to become accessible as a means of communicating. You cannot even photocopy them cheaper than that. They do national delivery too, tell them Dave at Barnabas in Shrewsbury recommended them.

So in the afternoons this week I have been out pacing the pavements of the estates of our town putting leaflets through people's doors. It is a thankless task. There is no meaningful response. But I know, for someone, somewhere, that leaflet could be exactly what they were looking for, and the start of their journey of faith, which makes it a very worthwhile venture, alongside all the other methods we have of making Jesus famous.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Quiz Night

Quiz Nights are fun!

They are a great, all age social event.

We had 80 questions, and 4 teams tied on 64 correct answers to share various confectionery prizes!

At our last quiz we had just over ten teams. Tonight we had 26 teams, almost all of 6 people or more.

We had set up 15 tables, and had 5 spares, and they kept coming, and coming, and coming.

We did not have another small table left in our entire church centre. Every kids table, toddler table. coffee table, you name it, we used it.

It was such a joy to see many groups of friends come. Friends from work, friends from the neighbourhood and again people from other Churches.

Our cell group had a "baking party" last night to make fresh cakes for everyone and they just about stretched to the numbers. As a group we have done this before, deciding as a group to put on a Quiz night as a way of serving the mission of the Church. It is a great way for all those in the cell to be able to support mission.

Kidz Fun Day

Our Children's fun day was a resounding success.

108 little faces were painted, which means there must have been close to 150 children there plus associated adults.

It was a hive of activity, with loads of great games and inflatables.

What hit me most though was the two blokes I shared car parking duty with. Both in their 40s, both saved and added to the Church in the last two years, both baptised, both already joining us on our mission to bless the community and make Jesus famous.

Personal faith is also being saved into the mission of God.

That is exciting!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Barnabas Unplugged

Last night's event went really, really well.

The venue was a cool music bar in the town centre. The age range was mixed and there were loads of guests, maybe 30% of the hundred or so who were there at some point during the evening.

People came and went, it got very hot, standing room only, it was almost uncomfortably busy, which meant it felt like a really edgy, busy music evening.

Musically we had everything from Green Day to Garfunkel, Snow Patrol to the Lion King.

What really thrilled me was a couple of people from other churches bringing their friends to our event, as part of their personal witness. That makes me really, really happy.

I would love the Church to once again be on the forefront of the music scene, instead of a being a niche market. Hmm, I wonder about next time.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Choosing a life partner...

I personally don't believe in a "one size fits all approach" to this issue, and some of the resources I have seen have been far to prescriptive.

However I was delighted to hear my marriage has a statistically better chance of making it.

Esther is 5 years younger than me and significantly smarter, which ticks all the boxes of that study!

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Fairtrade matters

Fairtrade is a growing phenomenon, and rightly so.

Cadburys, Starbucks, the big names are queueing up to join the party.

Why is that?

Because we actually do care, as this article in the Guardian proves.

In a time when people refuse to pay a premium for organic, or even for better quality in some cases, we will pay it for fairtrade, because the message has been repeated and repeated and repeated and modelled until societal change is effected.

20 years ago this would be seen as impossible, now, in the midst of recession it is clear.

What else seems impossible? What next?

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Barnabas Community Week

October Half term is our "Community Week" with several events aimed at reaching out into the community and raising the profile of the Church.

First up is our "Unplugged" event which is really exciting and has got different people from the Shrewsbury music scene interested already, to see if they can use our acts in other pub gigs around the town.

Next up is the Kids fun day. these normally attract over 200 children and their parents. these are chaotic and exciting in equal measure. All Kidz Klub families, all Barneytots families, and every child in our local primary school have an invite card.

Our Quiz Nights have developed their own following of local people and church members with their friends. Over 80 were at the last one. Our cell group arrange these as part of our witness, and to bring a larger event into the corporate life of the church as a service to others and their witness.

Then there is our Fair Trade open day which sees Starbucks, Co-op, Shrewbury Fairtrade, Tearfund, Stop the Traffik, Body Shop and other groups come and show what is happening, what they offer and how people can access their producst and services. It is also just in time for a spot of christmas shopping!

Day by day we will be distributing 1000 balloons and about 10,000 flyers regarding our new Sunday format and inviting the town to come to our events.

We will also be offering prayer for anyone who wants, including prayer for healing, out in the town centre.

The t-shirts are ordered, the flyers are ready, all systems go!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Exciting Churches

Dave Warnock is excited about his Church, which is great to see.

It made me think. I am really excited about our Church. Here are some starters.
  1. We are teaching through "Just walk across the room" on Sunday, using the DVDs in small groups, and are in faith that God would inspire our witness.
  2. There are over 20 guests on our Alpha course, several of whom have found us through our website, from all sorts of backgrounds.
  3. We are working increasingly effectively and purposely with other Churches in Shrewsbury. Across denominational barriers we are pushing back the boundaries of what the "body of Christ" really means when it comes to mission. Let's do it.
  4. "Open door" is attracting 20-30 senior citizens every Monday
  5. Our Money Advice Centre is training 4-5 new people to help resource the tremendous demand for the service.
  6. We are hosting a "Community week" with several major events during October half term. Over 23,000 flyers will be distributed, with events at our centre and street / door to door evangelism / prayer for healing. More details to follow!
  7. 3 of our 18 cell groups are close to multiplying. By 2010 we could be 21 and counting... In estates around our town and villages surrounding our town we have Christians meeting to worship, witness, open the word the build community.
  8. Our finances are robust. Our gift day this summer blew away our target and allowed us to make huge improvements to our Church centre to prepare for a period of growth. We have no mortgage on a 400 capacity building. God's people are generous, God is good, Jehovah Jireh is not a distant hope but a daily reality.
  9. We have appointed a new full time "Church manager" to help us sustain the programme / weight of practical outworking our our mission here. Tony is a gift from God.
  10. On November 8th we are moving to two Sunday services. We have doubled all our serving teams and are ready to open the door and say to our community "Taste and see, that the Lord is good!" From 10am we will be 9.10am & 11.20am.
Every single one of these is the grace of God upon us. The unmerited favour of our Lord. We have not earned it. We have not strategised it, or deserve it, but we receive it, and we say "Lord, help us to use all of this to bring you glory, to encourage the body of Christ across this town and to reach people with the good news of Jesus"

That is what makes me excited! Praise God!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Dudley Outpouring on the BBC

The Revival Fires Church got slammed on the BBC this week for claiming healing.

This was BBC 1, prime time, in the west midlands. It is the first ten minutes.

I found it very hard viewing, for all manner of reasons.

On the one hand I believe in healing, that God heals, that some people are healed.

I also know Churches are under the spotlight regarding healing claims.

I think Trevor Baker is a genuine guy. I don't believe he is deceitful. He used to minister near here in Telford and was a real blessing to many people.

On the other hand, some of the things other bloggers commented on regarding the whole approach, such as the way the offering is administered, are ruthlessly exposed and highlighted by the programme.

I just wish there were some medical records available for the BBC. Without them, any healing claims are open to questioning, and add in the cynicism of the age and a bit of cash washing around and it is a perfect storm for a programme like that.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Prayer and Fasting

I think the newfrontiers Prayer and Fasting conferences are the real heartbeat of the movement.

I do not say that lightly.

Many other conferences I go to are great but this is the real hub.

I have not been able to go for what seems like ages because our other two elders always go and I tend to hold the fort. Now our new Church manager is in place it is much easier for me to go, so I did, for the first time in what feels like ages. What a blessing it was.

I think it benefits from the following:
  • TIME: to worship, to pray, to seek God. The agenda is "flexible".
  • RELATIONSHIPS: It is always good to hear what different people are up to, both nationally & internationally.
  • SPIRIT: I love the way the "agenda" moves with the spirit, and we follow where the prophetic / spontaneous contributions go. There were several major encouragements, and none of them were planned, all came by a word of scripture, or prophecy.
I know I will get a CD / written copy of all the prophetic stuff sometime within the next couple of months and it will help shape our movement. The encouragement is not about what people did but what God said. More than that, above human planning we are seriously serious about listening to what God says and acting upon it.

I have missed it.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009


The talk on spiritual gifts went well and certainly raised the issue!

We have had several excellent contributions since then, including spiritual songs, and new people contributing. Both are really exciting, as are reports of tongues and interpretations in cell groups.

It is amazing how "charismatic" so quickly becomes "contemporary" and the gifts of the spirit take a backseat.

It is all food for thought, and part of the journey our Church is on.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Following something through

On Sunday our service will be a little different.

I am preaching on "Spiritual gifts in worship"

We will have a couple of songs to start, then the kids go out and we do notices.

Then I preach.

Then we will worship, with a real call, and an encouragement to bring spiritual gifts in worship.

I guess this is part of my journey, to make the teaching I have heard a reality in both my life and the life of the Church.

So much so, we are changing the entire structure and flow of our meeting to seek God and to step out in a fresh way in this area.

Friday, 25 September 2009

A new office...

I have a new office.

Upstairs, out of the way, and it is very, very small.

I have had to "de-junk" my working life.

Boy, I had a lot of junk.

I pretty well only need a laptop, pen drive and a few reandom cables yet somehow I have managed to accumulate boxes and boxes of stuff!

Lots of shredding, refiling, and organising later and my office environment will be much leaner and fitter than people thought I was capable of. It is a bit like my body really, only it took 3 days not 9 months.

It is all change. Aged 30 I am finally coming of age...

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

and so Alpha starts...

Here we are.

After months of preparation. Lots of prayer. Large scale publicity and a lot of faith, The Alpha Course starts tonight.

There are now over 30 guests signed up.

These include:
  • several neighbours / friends / relatives who Church members have plucked up the courage to invite
  • Guests from our recent Harvest Service and Baptism Service who were invited when they came on a Sunday
  • several students from South East Asia and Africa
  • someone who responded to a card being put through their letter box
  • At least 3 people who have had absolutely no contact with our Church in Shrewsbury whatsoever in the past except through our website.
What a wonderful opportunity to explain who Jesus is to people who are interested.

Sunday, 20 September 2009


Just been away for a week to a little cottage in Worcestershire where we have been before. It was good for the soul, as the last few weeks have been really, really busy.

This summer we have had our main hall redeveloped to prepare ourselves for the move to Two Sunday meetings in November. This has meant all sorts of practicalities, decoration and building work being carried out.

Our new Church Manager starts a week on Monday. That has meant putting everything in place for their arrival, including me moving offices this week has needed to be sorted.

With other elders on holiday over August, as well as administrative staff, it really has been a case of "chief cook and bottle washer" alongside a couple of other staff to get through the summer.

Add in changes to the leadership in two cell groups that I have been heavily involved in and I was running out of steam a bit. Last Sunday was our Harvest Service in the morning, which was an excellent guest service, followed by a members meeting in the evening.

A week away has been a great opportunity to rest, recharge, and maybe even refocus.

We came back early from our holiday because Esther's little younger sister Naomi was being baptised. As I walked in I saw the LCD TV in the foyer with a welcome message had been installed. I walked past the new welcome banner and into the main hall. The new carpet looks great, as does the new decoration, as does the new stage, and the new lighting, new banner at the front, new projector, and especially for the baptisms the new remote control camera that allows the pictures to go up on the big screen. It does not look too flash, but it is a real notch up on what we had before, and it all takes so much less time to set up and use, so much less hassle for those who faithfully serve. The Lord stopped creating, saw that it was good, and rested. I felt the same way this week!

None of this stuff matters. It is, in many ways worthless chaff that will pass away. But it is also part of resourcing a growth in our Sunday congregation. That is why I was really excited today. Four candidates were baptised and publicly confirmed their faith, including three teenagers and one adult lady who is a former alcoholic who has had her life transformed by the saving power of Jesus. There must have been around 300 people there this morning, it felt really full, really energetic, really on the front foot. And then as I left I scanned the Alpha Course sign up sheet and found 21 guests and 5 students from a local international school.

4 baptisms and 26 coming to Alpha, wonderful. This is what we are living for. Forget the kit and the bells and whistles. We want to reach 21st century society with a 21st century expression of Church, and to see the gospel reach more and more people so that they can come to know the power of Jesus in their lives.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

12, is the magic number

I have been trying to lose a bit of weight since the start of the year.

And have been learning a few hard lessons along the way.

On Thursday my weekly weigh in threw up a very pleasing result. 11 stone, 13 pounds and 6 ounces!

This is the first time I have weighed under 12 stone for over 10 years. I have had to buy new jeans in 32" not 34", and last week when I bought a polo shirt I bought a "small" for the first time I can ever remember.

Could I be 11 stone 8 by the end of the year? Doubling the original challenge, and losing two stone not one? Shaving a further half a stone off my doctor's advice?

It has been a real learning curve. Once you start "winning" in an area, you build faith for further progress. I think God is doing this in me now, because in the future areas of spiritual growth and development are going to require a clear goal, determination, discipline, and step by step progress. I also realise they will throw up all sorts of character issues and new ways of understanding myself.

So how did I celebrate going under 12 stone? Fish and chips! For the first time in many months! I don't think it did much for my regime but even newer leaner Dave is never going to celebrate with a Caesar salad!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Working Together, an appendix

Too much talking, too little action from me recently on this subject.

Until now.

7500 A5 flyers will be distributed within Shrewsbury by various Churches involved in running an Alpha Course this September, including about 2000 by us. This is a project I have chaired, with big hopes for future ways we can co-ordinate, publicise and grow our witness within the town.

I am really excited about what we can achieve for God by working together.

For those who like to stereotype newfrontiers Churches as not really working with others maybe this is food for thought? Of the six Churches represented one would not consider itself to be wholly evangelical, five would, three would be paedobaptist, three would be credobaptist, two have female curates who are currently leading the Church, three would lean to the complimentarian side at differing levels, there would be different levels of charismatic leaning, and one is led by someone who is a bit odd.

I think Alpha has a role to play as an agent for witness on the local church level, and agent of renewal within the Anglican communion and an agent of unity on an interchurch level, so i am really pleased we are doing this.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

In the news (again)

A couple of weeks ago we were front page news.

A photo linked to that story was used the next week, and in the main daily paper.

This week in the letters page of the same paper there was a letter by (presumably) a local Christian under the heading "Church is working for the good of society".

It was a response to a previous letter that had evidently been bashing Christians / the Church.

He asked this question:

"How different would Shrewsbury be without the activities of Christians today? Let me cite just a few examples: Isaiah 58 and the Ark working amongst rough sleepers and the disadvantaged, the impact of Barnabas Community Church and of the Convent on the marginalised poor of the town, work carried out by all the churches in the areas of youth work, work among older people and holiday clubs, work with prisoners and their families, fair trade work."

I am really pleased to be serving the kind of church a fellow Christian can cite, publically, as an example of caring for the marginalised poor of the town. As we continue to train money advisors to help those in debt, and plan a Harvest Service for September which will be in support of our Debt Relief project called Basics Bank.

I think what touched me most was that in some small way we had been an encouragement to others within the body of Christ.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Working Together (Part 5)

And here endeth my discussion...

The delay has been to do with holidays, decorators and a bit of procrastination!

I will use the headings in previous parts of the discussion to give a snapshot of where I am now.

Doctrinal Unity

The Evangelical Alliance basis of faith is a useful start point and is definitely a litmus test for me. I don't try to exclude on that basis but it helps to show where people are coming from. That is why "Mission Shrewsbury" is probably more my comfort zone because such a deep sense of "sharing" key points of faith builds trust and makes things tick a bit better.

In reality "Christian" and "Trinitarian" would be on the outer echelons of what "working together" means for me. Hope 08 meant using that definition and standing as a body of Christ across much wider doctrinal lines than I have done before and was a useful exercise in seeing how far we could go, which turned out to be quite far, raising thousands of pounds to deliver 54,000 leaflets with over 20 Churches standing together.

Within evangelicalism I personally hold the view that if they love the Lord and honour scripture then I want to work with them and their errors in the same way I want them to work with me and my errors. Charismatic / Non charismatic is not automatically an issue, or are issues of denomination, Church government, gender or atonement, which all seem to be fairly hot topics. I guess I want to take people at face value and I don't think those things have to be stumbling block to unity unless we make them so. So I work with baptists and paedo baptists, complimentarians and female ministers, charismatics and cessationalists, within an evangelical framework. If they held their definition tighter I would be excluded so why should I seek to do that to them?

I also think the Church / Para church discussion is almost completely redundant in practice and I will seek to work with both. In Shrewsbury that means especially the Shrewsbury Youth for Christ team, as well as Shrewsbury Fairtrade, and plenty of other national para church ministries such as Barnabas Fund. If Jesus was willing to talk about the kingdom of God being the priority then I need to too, and my ecclesiology needs to accomodate others who do things a bit different.


My spirituality is far more defined by being charismatic than it is about particular tenets of my evangelical faith. My worship is far closer to some people I have differing views to than it is to some I would share most viewpoints with.

I feel crushed in certain evangelical settings where we choose to worship together in unity, as long as no-one puts their hands up, speaks in tongues, or claims to hear from God through anything other than scripture. I am a square peg in a round hole and so for "unity" within a shared expression of spirituality I would look to the pentecostals and charismatics and feel at home with them far above some who may tick more theological boxes.

That is why I think I would still prefer to go to Spring Harvest above New Word Alive, and why when I look around my friendships they are basically all charismatics from all sorts of different streams and groups. They are not just people I share a knowledge of God with, but shared experiences of God and a wider spirituality.


The idea that some Christians or Churches won't support "Stop the Traffik" because of its "links with Steve Chalke" seem so utterly devoid of anything that remotely approaches the love of Christ that I am speechless.

If the focus is a kingdom value or a biblical value then I want to support it and love it.

So in Shrewsbury we support The Ark day centre for homeless and vulnerable people which is run by Church Together. Churches Together is a broad spectrum group, wider than many would be comfortable with, and up until recently the staff member of the project (who has now moved on) was a Buddhist. Was that a deal breaker?

No. We gave them money, held events to raise money for them and blessed the ministry expressing and upholding a kingdom value.

I have not pushed the boundaries about how that works across faith groups, not least because in Shrewsbury there is not the diversity to pose the question.

I think we have to see the mission, God's purpose, and the kingdom of God and then see where we are, rather than a check a theological passport, entrance exam and see what we have left. The bigger the focus, the wider the definition, in most cases. Fair Trade being a good example. I will work with anyone who is standing up against oppression of workers.


We are all on a journey. Some very close friends from years ago have moved ground theologically and now inhabit a very different place to me. Considering I am only 30 I can see the distance widening and relationally we all have to be big enough to cope with it.

The challenge that provokes in me is that can I start "new" friendships across a divide that big? I think that is a question for all of us. I think the idea that we can generate "unity" out of purely doctrinal, or spirituality led frameworks takes the essential role of people out of the equation. The fact is some people just plain annoy me and I think some people are totally amazing and it rarely correlates with a precise definition of what propitiation means.

As well as "who will I work with" or "How should I work with them" I need to be asking the question of "What am I like to work with" as a relational, personality focused question. The level of "unity" I achieve and model within the body of Christ will also be linked to how annoying I am, to my ignorance, my arrogance, my naivety and my ability to offend both accidentally and maybe even deliberately.


Some people may read this and think I am a sell out to the reformed faith. Other may read it and think I am confused. Some people may read it with a hint of relief. Who knows? I will let you decide.

But I am increasingly convinced that the more we pull up bridges within the body of Christ the less we focus on building bridges outside the body of Christ, and the moment I pull a bridge up on someone else for their theological viewpoint I risk myself being on the wrong side for mine.

Instead I want to see the body of Christ as a wonderful patchwork quilt of history, theology and practice and I am here, shaping my bit, in my place, within my understanding and challenging, provoking, encouragin and loving others and allowing myself to be challenged, provoked, loved and encouraged by them.

I do that largely within an evangelical framework because that is my foundation and an easy start point. I recognise this is already suitably narrow to make narrowing it further a damaging exercise.

I don't like groups or conferences or anything really that defines itself by what it is not, rather than what it is. I want to be a person who knows what I can work on, and who I can work with, and push the boundaries, not what I can't work on, and who I won't work with and live in an ever decreasing circle of unity that ends up with an isolationist agenda.

I am pretty sure if Jesus came back tonight He would judge me not just on what I believe but for my motives in believing it. I think we would all be pretty shocked by the consequences of that and who Jesus would seek out and honour for their faith. It almost certainly would not be the person with the finest theology or the most complete understanding, although it could be, we don't know, and that is the problem of drawing lines in this imperfect world.