Thursday, 30 April 2009

How close is close?

Phil Whittall, AKA the Simple Pastor, lives about 100 metres from my house.

Recently we had a brilliant weekend at the Newfrontiers younger leaders conference, catching up with him and Emma, and their son Noah. It was great.

It was then we realised just how long it was since we had last seen them properly: something like 5 months. 5 months = approx 150 days. That is about 67cm per day! I should be able to make it further than that!

He is in a different church (whatever that means!), and we are both very busy people in different ways, but even so? Those are excuses not reasons. I live just 100m away and I read his blog more than I see him, and I dare to call him a friend?

As I think about community, society, communications, social networking, it makes me wonder have I lost something? I will know what I have learned by how big Noah is the next time I see him. Hopefully it won't be long, and there won't be a Christmas Tree up either.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

A prayer that blessed me...

I was at a leaders meeting of Mission Shrewsbury recently which represents a cross section of evangelical Churches in the town.

One of our local Anglican vicars started a prayer with this statement.

"Lord, thank you for Barnabas, and for the way it is a shining light in our town."

Unity is not reflected in a doctrinal statement or a forced co-operation, but a state of heart based on relationship, trust, and mutual appreciation.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

An interesting picture

On Sunday morning in the prayer meeting before our Church service I saw the following picture.

I saw a blank canvas, stretching as far as the eye could see in either direction. It was almost infinite.

We had just been singing "One day every tongue will confess you are God, one day every knee will bow" from the song "Come, now is the time to worship".

I could see that scene way in the distance on the canvas ahead of us.

But the focus was on the here and now, and instead of painting with brush strokes it was almost as thought he painter (God) was not brushing paint but placing people.

It really felt as though as a painter mixes paints to make the shade he wants, and then spreads them to make the scene he wants, God was bringing together and mixing together people here to make something wonderful.

The canvas seemed to be God's plan through history for the salvation of mankind, with future glory mapped out ahead and this was a glimpse of the here and now, for us, that each individual person was being shaped and moulded into the scene together.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Quiz Night

I love Quiz Nights

They are just such a good way for people from the Church to get together and for people to bring their friends. We had about 80 people there in 14 teams. There must have been about 20 guests, including neighbours, parents and work colleagues. Lots of different cell groups brought a team, and our cell group did all the catering and preparations as our way of bringing a positive event into the mission of the Church.

It was "sowing" from Sowing, reaping, keeping, in a way that really works for us.

Here is the quiz: how would you get on?

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Exciting Job Opportunity

This was advertised on Sunday:

Barnabas Community Church, Shrewsbury, seeks a full time Church Manager to develop the practical requirements of the church, which has a growing congregation of around 300.

The successful candidate will lead teams, manage facilities and support the eldership in their vision to grow a large regional resource Church.

Two key roles will be to facilitate the move to two Sunday services, and to develop the ministry of the Barnabas Centre, which hosts many Church projects and community groups every week.

For details and an application pack, please contact Dave Matthias
I am really excited about the prospect of bringing in a new staff member to help us with the mammoth task of administering a thriving church centre and a growing Church.

I am also thrilled our trustees are so full of faith they have pulled out all the stops to make it an attractive full time management post which is well worth moving to Shrewsbury for.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Can you say this?

I came to work recently following a highway maintenance lorry with a road sign on the back which said in big letters

"SLOW men working in road"

I thought it was a bit harsh.

I realise that they may not be the sharpest tools in the box.

Nor may they be the quickest workers.

But either way it seemed a bit harsh to advertise the fact in an 8 foot high sign

Monday, 20 April 2009

The last "pre driscoll" outpost?

On holiday recently we went to Great Malvern.

It is a beautiful town in Worcestershire.

I went to the Christian bookshop, hoping to get my hands on one of the newish Driscoll books I have been meaning to read for ages.

"Have you got any Mark Driscoll books?" I asked.

"Sorry" the lady replied, "I have never heard of Him"

End of conversation.

I bought another couple of books (on Church growth and cell groups) and felt priviledged to have found one of the few pre-driscoll outposts left!

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Men's top ten fears about joining a small group?

I don't agree with all of it, but fair play, this video really did make me laugh, on so many levels.

Men's Top 10 Fears About Joining a Small Group from Ray Dangelo on Vimeo.

The thing is, I would also say each point applies to women as well as men.

I don't think cell groups need to look or feel like that, but I reckon most of us have an experience similar to one of the ten, if not more. I love the one about the splinter, just brilliant.

I do believe in the cell concept, but not if it looks or sounds like this!

Saturday, 18 April 2009



The second DVD in the series introduces us to a new speaker and his style is quite different to Michael Ramsden. The concepts are so philosophical that it takes a bit of effort to follow the various definitions of reality and truth. It is less applied than the first one, as it seeks to set a foundation stone in place rather than give something instantly usable. I had to to really concentrate as it was less engaging.

The basic assumption is drawn from Col 1:3-6, & 15-22

The Christian message itself is a claim to reality and to truth, It does not allow for subjectivity at its core.

CS Lewis gets pride of place in the introduction to set up some context: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

There then comes a useful discussion and unpicking of various overriding postmodern claims regarding truth and reality, including Foucault, Feuerbach and Dawkins.

He deals quite graciously with the opposition to the Christian faith that comes from the various strands of postmodernism.

The discussion then unfolds with a really useful defence of the existence of truth and reality.

  • The answer is fairly straightforward from creation!
  • The propositional statements of the Christian faith are based on a sense of reality
  • What do we mean when we use the word truth?
  • Both accuracy and authenticity makes something true, or real. Belief does not make it true, truth exists in reality, not in people’s imagination
  • Truth is non-contradictory, absolute, discovered, descriptive, inescapable and unchanging
  • Your worldview is not what you see, but rather what you see with, or what you see through
  • The nature of what reality we accept or what truth we hold is linked to our worldview
  • Worldviews can often contain logical flaws and inconsistencies
  • Worldviews involve a human condition and the solution to that condition
  • Romans 1:18-20
  • Without excuse, without defence, apologia in Greek!
  • General awareness of God out there
  • Humans suppress that truth
  • Humans replace that truth
  • John 8:31-32
  • We must not allow a division between secular and sacred in their reality
  • A worldview should be logical (does not contradict itself), factual (fitting the supporting facts) and viable (able to be lived)
  • Colossians 4:5-6
  • Show wisdom
  • Speak with grace
  • Respond to each person
This is however just short of an hour of spoken lecture with little visual variety and is very wordy so by 30-40 minutes my mind did start to wander a bit. Not because it was lacking anything, but maybe because the content is so conceptual is was quite difficult to pin it down.


“Are we a product of time, slime and chance?”
We say “Jesus is the answer” but they have not yet asked the question

I am thinking about how these DVDs could be used as a resource for apologetics training within the Church and I think they could have a lot of mileage: it is just trying to maintain a balance between the applied and the theoretical to make it accessible to the widest amount of people. This is very theoretical, which some people will love, and others may not engage with.

Friday, 17 April 2009


MICHAEL RAMSDEN: Asking Questions

These have come from the DVD which I reviewed yesterday, and is one of the best parts of the DVD.

7 reasons why asking questions is important:

  • Luke 18:18-19
  • Take the bit of what they do say, and turn it to Jesus
  • Matthew 22:15
  • The right answer to the wrong question is still wrong
  • Jesus redefines the question to unravel the cultural assumptions behind it
  • Matthew 22 again
  • Any answer would have been “wrong” in some way, hence it was a trap
  • Forces them to question their own question
  • Matthew 21:23-27 after clearing the temple
  • Exposing motives changes the whole course of the conversation
  • Matthew 22:41-46
  • Show in inconstency in the questions themselves
  • Makes people feel “heard” because they are being engaged with beyond set answers
  • People don’t want to be talked at, they want to be talked to
  • The difference between an argument and a discussion
  • Knowing people and making Christ known to them
Overall the point is fairly clear. Next time a non-Christian asks about faith, the real question is not just “what did I say” but “what did I ask”.

Thursday, 16 April 2009



This is a good DVD and a hearty start to what promises to be a very useful resource.

The premise is fairly simple: ask questions of their questions.

1 Peter 3:15-16 is the set text and somehow an hour disappears without ever slowing. These are my notes based on his key points. The whole lecture, which was given at Wycliffe Hall in Oxford is laced with personal stories, anecdotes and humour.

  • Teaching of the whole passage is holiness
  • Apologetics is not an academic exercise as much as it is a spiritual discipline
  • A defence is not just with words but with life

  • Preparation is much like getting fit
  • Not just a one off process like getting a degree, but actually “being” fit, being prepared for the moment they ask, at that time, and having a life that reflects the truth you defend, at that time

  • Such as when Paul made his defence to Agrippa. Agrippa knew Paul wanted him to believe (Acts 26:28)
  • A defence is actually an invitation: not just to say what is not true but to say what is true and call people to believe it
  • We need to ask questions of their questions! Seven points of this will be given in a following post.

  • People are asking
  • We need our message to answer the questions people are asking
  • Our lifestyle should provoke the questions 2 Cor 3: Living letters: what are they reading and does it provoke questions?

  • The gospel CAN be explained
  • Not just HOW we were saved but WHY
  • Focus is entirely on the person and work of Christ: what convinced us?

  • Hope in Jesus
  • An apologetic that does not come from and end in the person and work of Christ is redundant
  • Our hope is different: Buddhism could have happened through someone other than Buddha. Islam could have happened through someone other than Muhamed. Jesus is our hope, on Him our hope rests

  • We are talking to people God loves
  • We should reflect His attitude to them
  • Our only confidence is in Him, not in our own skill or knowledge
  • Don’t fake answers
  • Don’t patronise
  • Don’t “win” discussion but lose the person


Some classic one liners from someone who evidently has hung out with J. John a bit!

“Sorry, your application to join the trinity has been refused”

“Take Christ out of Christian and all you are left with is three letters I A N. All you have left is Ian and he can’t save you!”


He really does speak incredibly fast, making even filling in blank spaces in the accompanying manual quite a task! The pause button on the DVD is a godsend when actually trying to take down some of the finer details! I find his style utterly gripping, but I would imagine it would be a bit intense for some people to follow for the full hour.


The key point that stuck with me was not making the defence of our faith “How” we became a Christian but rather “why”. What if in your testimony you had met a Buddhist not a Christian? You went on a Zen course not an Alpha course? Was it circumstances, almost fate, that made you “pick” Christianity, or a deep rooted discovery of the truth itself, of Jesus?

Telling our own story is important, but not at the expense of explaining the uniqueness of Christ and that we did not choose Christianity from amongst many but rather it consumed us by an overwhelming confirmation of truth found in Jesus.

Overall: an excellent start to a series that I think could be really, really useful in our Church.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Use of video in Church meetings

Does anyone have any ideas of good websites to get resources from to use videos within preaching / worship?

Sermon Spice seems a little pricey, while Youtube and Vimeo are difficult to find stuff on because of the huge volume.

I see some Churches are getting bespoke videos made. I am happy to have stuff which says just "our church" rather than actually name the Church and save the money.

Something like this for teaching on Jonah is an example

The Great Escape from Ray Dangelo on Vimeo.

Or even this one for Easter

Interesting idea, not sure about all of it

Any ideas?

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Money & the Church

I found this a really thought provoking video.

Choices from Ray Dangelo on Vimeo.

Especially as we think about how to raise money to redevelop our main hall.

Monday, 13 April 2009

The Marriage Course: a review

Esther and I have recently attended the Marriage Course. I started blogging it weekly here, here, here and here.

Well it has now finished and so this is my overall review:

  • The content is excellent. It is sound, Christian values packaged in a neat accessible way.
  • It is also suitable for those outside the Church, but in an overtly and gentle Christian way!
  • The themes covered, and the people sharing their own story in the videos are really, really open and frank about their issues. That gives others permission to talk about their issues.
  • The method of having a meal together and making it like a "date" night is really good for those who through being busy, laziness or other pressures have not done that for a while.Scoring each other regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the relationship really does put a spotlight on you, on your role, on your repsonsibilities. If people use that exercise honestly, then some really deep stuff can be brought to light.
  • Looking at how the two different personalities within a marriage interact is a really useful exercise.
  • The DVD element means you don't need a speaker every week, which changes the requirements of running a course considerably.

  • It is very HTB. Anyone who has seen an Alpha video will know what that means. They are being themselves, and are genuine people. But some people who are not like them, may struggle to relate to them. The venue for the talks that have been recorded, the dress of the people in the audience and indeed the speakers are thoroughly english, middle class and white. As long as people have permission to not be like them then that is fine. It depends on who with/where you plan to run it.
  • The gaps for discussion (half an hour is the main one) are too short for some and too long for others! That is always going to be a difficult balance but beause they are within the evening it is difficult for those who have finished early.
  • The opportunity to use the resources is almost entirely linked to the couple's willingness to do so. The "we are ok" heads in the sand couple are likely to hate it and not feel they have benefited in any way.
  • It is probably more suited to those married within that last few years, but that just depends on the couple and where they have got to in their relationship.
  • Overall it is a bit "marmite". Some people seemed to love it and it really, really blessed their marriage. Others did not seem to get it at all, and I am not quite sure why.
I am really pleased to have done the Marriage Course and am glad so many couples in our Church have done it over the years. I can see why it has been so popular and while not perfect, it certainly is a good place to start.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Two Services: the road ahead

The results of our questionnaire about two services are back and the results have been announced.

We wanted two services of equal size and stature to help increase the capacity of our Church to grow in our Sunday congregation.

With start times of 9.15am and 11.15am the distribution was 55% and 45%

10am and 3.30pm was an unworkable 93% and 7%

10am and 7pm was an unworkable 89% and 11%

So unless we want the second service to be about three people and a couple of goats and the main service being just as cramped as the current one the two mornings option is the only one that will work.

Pushing on further, many, many people commented on their questionnaire how important the "all age" feel of our congregation is. We stretch from 4 weeks old to somewhere near 90, with lots of children, loads of teens, lots of young adults, and plenty of silver hair from a decent sized group of senior citizen's considering the "style" of Church that we represent.

Interestingly enough, the biggest group to comment in favour of an all age environment were the young adults, people 18-30, who said it was part of what attracted them to the Church.

So there we go, either in November or January we will launch two sunday morning services. That blows open swathes of planning, recruitment, training and development of our facilities over the next few months to make it a reality.

I want the clarion call of our Sunday morning gatherings to be "taste and see that the Lord is good". If we want to reach those people who don't yet know Jesus, we have to make room for them, and so the process begins to make room for people we may never have even met yet who need an opportunity to respond and give their lives to Christ.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Newfrontiers Younger Leaders Conference Part 4



This is the gist of a prayer, given during a worship time, by Jeremy Simpkins who oversees various Churches across the north of England and is based at Jubilee Church Teesside.

It went something like this:

“Thank you for those I have been speaking to who have a real “staying faith”. People with faith to grow massive churches in their town or city. Faith to build churches that influence the place they are from, and the region they are around and the nations.”

That was the sound of the nail being firmly hit on the head, which validates how I feel about my Shrewsbury Church. Thanks Jeremy.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Newfrontiers Younger Leaders Conference Part 3



I have been going to various younger leaders type events since the age of about 13. My abiding memory is when I first kissed a girl, on an Icthus young leaders weekend!

Now however the title is no longer young, but younger, which signifies I am not yet older, but nor am I young any more!

I have heard plenty of stuff over the years via Soul Survivor, Youth for Christ and within newfrontiers and Vineyard encouraging younger people and younger leaders to push forward into their calling.

I have known people in their late teens be so full of vision and hope that goes beyond real opportunities that by their mid twenties they feel that they are discouraged and the youthful vigour starts to wane. I have seen this turn to cynicism, which is a tragedy.

In Jeremy’s talk he worked through the examples of Joseph in prison, Moses in slavery, Joshua in the wilderness, David being persecuted by Saul, Jesus before starting his public ministry and Paul in obscurity before starting his ministry.

From 13 to 40 years of background training, character development, knowledge gaining. I do feel sometimes people can be held back from developing but on the flip side I see people whose star rises so fast it goes way, way beyond what their character or grounding can survive and everything goes bang. There seem to be training opportunities in the desert, in prison or in the wilderness. David learned to shepherd with some sheep before he shepherded a nation.

It is a tough balance: releasing new leaders and yet ensuring people have the right level of grounding. I feel privileged to have worked within an eldership team since the age of 23, and after six years in support now as an elder for a year. I feel I have “served my time” as it where on the second row of the scrum and now I am taking up my place on the front row.

I am serving the vision of our team, and now have opportunity to influence that vision.

If I do go to plant a Church or be a lead elder somewhere else at any point I feel I will have been incredibly well served by having a fairly long period of my life mucking in and serving other people’s vision and biding my time. There is a fairly good biblical mandate of living in relative “obscurity” for a while, and allow God to do a little bit more in me and through me.

I have been just a project student, just a cell leader, just a cell overseer, just an administrator, and now I am just an elder. I want to always see it that way. Always in training for the bigger thing to come, and always giving 110% to whatever I am doing here and now.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Newfrontiers Younger Leaders Conference Part 2



These are my notes from this part of the teaching. I like David Stroud. As he is always honest, always personable and down to earth. There is nothing particularly new in here but lots to consider and bear in mind. I think it could be a good litmus test to compare myself to every so often. It is not an exhaustive list but rather a useful “heads” up.


a. People need their leaders to be hearing from God
b. Expressing the heart of God
c. Opening, explaining and revealing scripture
d. Sharing spiritual gifts safely and powerfully
e. Helping people see what it could look like in God’s purposes
f. Giving a sense of spiritual vision

a. This takes time, energy and commitment
b. Not people of fads, gadgets, blogs or ipods, but people of the book

a. Taking the word into the world
b. Does not mean being the same as culture
c. Does not mean being out of culture
d. Somehow fusing cultural understanding and relevance with the standards of biblical truth and revelation

a. Not just good teachers, but good leaders
b. Able to set vision
c. Able to build team
d. Able to train
e. Able to motivate
f. Able to recruit
g. Find someone already doing it well and learn from them

a. The mind does matter, and it needs to be submitted to Him
b. Think about it, then think some more!
c. Learn more, in your way
d. Education: get it, and encourage others to get it

a. Know how you tick
b. Don’t be too British and stuff emotions down
c. Learn how to grieve
d. Learn to connect to others by listening, showing empathy
i. Learn to feel what they feel
ii. Ensure the pace of leadership is right: don’t steamroller people and don’t take ages over stuff
iii. What to appeal to in order to influence people
iv. What part of the circumstances faced matter to them and why?

The over-arching theme was that you can’t lead others if you can’t lead yourself. That requires knowing yourself very well. Knowing how you act, and how you react, so you can plan and develop yourself. In many ways the growth of your ministry is linked to the growth of you. That means your fears, your sins, your jagged edges need to be worked on now, before any ministry grows.

There is a lot here to ponder, and allow to challenge me.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Newfrontiers Younger Leaders Conference Part 1



These are five key goals that the UK team is using to shape the direction of the movement.

The bullet points are explanations from my understanding or my reaction to hearing it expressed like this.

  • No big surprise for anyone who has known anything of Newfrontiers in the last 15 years!
  • Talk of some of the biggest cities in the UK, and also Scotland, Ireland & Wales.
  • I am pleased that this has started to become such a foundational value because most people will “go” by staying right where they are and building
  • Also, if the movement gets too spread out too quickly we could have the danger of being top heavy on smaller churches with fewer resources. To successfully plant Churches I believe we need strong “mother” churches. We need both, bigger churches and more church plants.
  • This is a value which needs to be given more attention once more
  • This value is not for evangelistic purposes, even though we believe the best thing anyone can receive is Jesus. But rather before they are worth it, worth helping, because of their value in God’s sight, regardless of any response.
  • Planting Churches and growing Churches is not just about “winning the lost” although that is obviously a primary goal.
  • We have an opportunity to shape the society in which we are in, on a local, regional and national level. For example a lady from our Shrewsbury Church sits on various House of Lords panels for the problem of Debt. We can all stand up and use our voice.
  • We want to send a huge swathe of new missionaries to the nations.
  • This will include going to unreached people groups.
  • This will include serving the poor.
  • This will include going to the major cities of the developing world.
I found this part of the discussion really helpful because gives me vision to stay, serve the poor here, grow a large church which helps shape society in our town and through resourcing church planting we can help to see the growth of the kingdom, and help go to the nations through supporting the various Churches we have friendship with, such as in Ukraine.

One day I may actually be one of those who does “go” and do something else, but in the meantime I want to give my all to these things right here in Shrewsbury.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Dealing with Death, continued

It has been a pretty tough few weeks for our Shrewsbury Church. In fact, by any worldly score it has been an absolute shocker.

There has been the death of a prominent member, and within our eldership team of three, Martin's brother, Terry's father in law and my grandfather have died, and then one of our teenagers, aged just thirteen took his own life, as reported here and here. The funeral was on friday, with 250-300 present, including many from his school.

It has been a really difficult road to walk, and shepherd the whole church family through. That is why my blogging went silent and my reports of the marriage course tailed off.

On the very Sunday we were having a members meeting to announce our decision regarding going to two services we had to announce the death of Darian, and Martin taught into the whole area of suicide and tragedy. We keep having meetings the like of which I have never known before. Such sadness and grief and yet such unity and strength.

Darian died on the Thursday. On the friday the youth meeting was going ahead as planned (we gather 60-70 teenagers every Friday for a loud and up tempo youth meeting). The youth were told (most knew as it was front page news in the local press that day), and then amongst worship, prayer, opportunity to write tributes, and through tears, lots of tears, from everyone, leader or youth, there was an opportunity to grieve.

What struck me most of all, was when Timothy, a younger teenager, went up to the microphone, and opened his bible, and read these verses which he felt God had prompted him to read.

From Psalm 62:
5 Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
my hope comes from him.

6 He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

7 My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

8 Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.

I love seeing a generation of Christian young people who even in the darkest day of tragedy seek God through His word to bring comfort. It blew me away. I used that passage to start the Sunday morning worship as well: if God is going to speak so powerfully through the teenagers then I am definitely going to be listening.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Newfrontiers Younger Leaders Weekend

Esther and I have just been away for the Newfrontiers Younger Leaders weekend, followed by a week of holiday in sunny Worcestershire.

What fun it was to spend time with friends like Phil and Luke, and meet and make new friends like Dave. It was also great to meet Matt who has actually seen the famous Dave Bish in the flesh, which puts rumours he is actually the web face of a new IVP encyclopedia into touch.

The weekend was good. Worship, led by Matt Giles of Frontiers Church Exeter, was sensitive and open, with lots of spiritual gifts. Teaching by Dave Stroud and Jeremy Simpkins was mixed in with lots of free time to just chill, use the leisure facilities and make new friends.

Before the details, to come in future posts, I left the weekend feeling the following:

- I will know some of these people for a long, long time
- Some of these leaders will have wonderful breakthrough in their ministry
- I love being in a Church movement that values relationships, friednships, so highly
- I love being part of something bigger than the here and now, that gives me courage and confidence to give my all in the here and now
- The best leaders are humble leaders: which is why Jeremy and Dave serve where they do
- We really need to push forward in spiritual gifts in our public worship at Barnabas. Others are so much further ahead of us.