Thursday, 30 July 2009

Front Page News

About 34,000 homes this week will have a copy of The Shrewsbury Chronicle.

On the front page, you will find this "exclusive" news about a local Church.

We would have had a photo too but a smiling 81 year old butcher stole that spot!

I think it is excellent on so many levels
  • We want to tell our story
  • The Church is newsworthy
  • There are clear benefits for people outside the Church
  • The people of God are generous
  • The Church is engaging with modern culture/media/technology
I think positive media exposure is really important when it comes to our public profile within the town, so I am really pleased with this!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

TOAM thoughts

Phil Whittall makes a decent point about the "Together on a Mission" Brighton Conference this year.

I had been thinking along similar lines but not really found a way of expressing it well. I am not sure I yet have, but will give it a go.

There were loads of good bits:
  • The offering
  • The worship on Thursday evening
  • Meeting old friends
  • Praying for situations around the world and hearing stories of what God is doing
  • Bringing spiritual gifts into a larger setting: the way it is done is just superb
  • Some younger guys preaching: Stef Liston, Mbonisi Malaba, excellent.
There are a also few things which niggle a bit.
  • It did feel a bit safe. I understand why there was no headline speaker but there were still several main sessions that were not Terry's talks which we could have used to bring in encouragement from outside the movement. The Nicky Gumbels and J. Johns of this world can really stir us up.
  • I feel too many new songs, or too many too soon, means the worship does not quite reach its potential. "Are you ready to learn heaps of new songs" was the question from the stage and personally, no. I want to learn some, maybe, but I want to be in the presence of God and somehow that is harder when I am concentrating on learning new songs. Maybe I need to change because I felt almost exactly the same last year.
  • My seminars were really good. I wonder whether the "one size fits all" approach of the main sessions is the best way of doing it? I genuinely have heard soem fo that stuff before, from the same people, if not at Brighton then in other settings.
  • On a personal note: I wonder if there could be a way of really seeking God for ourselves and for each other? I would have liked to go somewhere knowing someone would pray for me. A kind of "healing rooms" sort of concept, with an appointment. I think that has mileage. Some of the seminars had loads of praying for people and sounded amazing. I wish I had been there. I love the prayer on the Thursday night for the nations: I wonder what would happen if we focussed that level of prayer on each other and our own situations?
It is well worth going to Together on a Mission, but I have enjoyed it more in the past by being stirred up from those outside newfrontiers. I think I miss a bit of variety. Maybe I will have to go to Spring Harvest next year too!

Friday, 24 July 2009

Fighting the flab

Jon's amusing post about salad dodgers made me think.

It is nearly 7 full months since I started my fat challenge. It started as friendly banter but has got way more serious than that.

I weighed in at 12 stone, two pounds, six ounces yesterday morning.

That sounds a bit different to thirteen stone 8 pounds in January.

I am still just over two pounds off my target weight, but even so, that is equivalent weight of just over 9 bags of sugar lost from within my frame.

It has not been easy, and it has been very, very humbling.

  • I was not disciplined. God spoke to me really clearly about discipline and eating. Why are smoking and drinking seen as things to clearly avoid as a Christian yet unhealthy or excessive eating is OK? Are these Christian or cultural values? Some Christians would frown at someone having a cigarette outside the Church meeting, and then waddle past them to worship God. Does that fit? Well, those are a dependency. Doh! So is food. Well, those things damage your body which is a temple of the holy spirit. Doh! So does excessive sugar, or saturated fat, or salt.
  • The battle was lost. I was already fat, so what was the point? I was so used to being fat, I did not notice I was getting fatter. In my photos over the years I can see myself getting fatter. But at each stage I just saw myself as "fat", so why bother? I was fat at 21, and fat at 30, it is just at 30 I weighed two stone more.
  • My identity was wrong. I had modelled myself on the "funny fat guy". If people like Peter Kay and he is fat, then being funny is the answer. I did the whole "I am a bit overweight and I don't care" image, when in reality, I hated it.
  • My self image was wrong. I did not used to like going swimming. Ever since school I hated having to take my top off in front of people. I hated going to the beach if everyone else was just wearing shorts. My body image and my weight were so inextricably linked, and I was ashamed. Now I weigh nearly a stone and a half less, I still think I am fat. I still see a fat guy in the mirror. I don't feel thinner. I am on a journey of finding freedom.
  • It costs to choose healthy. Healthy food is expensive. Especially eating out, and even buying fresh stuff. Healthy is trendy so it is premium priced. Eating less is cheaper, but eating healthy can cost a lot more. I can see now why people on a budget load their trolleys with junk food on Buy-one-get-one-free offers. Obesity is about economics as much as anything else, and then it becomes learned behaviour.
  • I don't have the time. Healthy food takes time. Preparation time. Buying it fresh takes time. Finding a recipe takes time. "Bung a pizza in the oven" fits a modern lifestyle a bit better than a reduced fat Halloumi salad.
  • My clothes don't fit. People keep joking with me that my clothes don't fit. I can't wear trousers without a belt. Most of them are 34" and I am comfy in a 32" now. I bought a suit for my 30th birthday (I had been unable to wear the trousers on my old suit for about 6 years). Within 4 months of purchase it does not fit me. I am going to need to spend quite a bit of money on new clothes: doh!
  • It is a journey. I am on a journey. The reason for writing this post is because as it says on the top, I want to wear my heart on my sleeve. I am trusting God, learning about Him and learning about myself. It is really quite profound, really quite deep, and really quite humbling. I don't think there is a "weight" at which I will be "content" because actually, I need healing in my mind about my body image. My weight won't do it. I won't "achieve" it. I need God's help to take it captive and be free of it. I have never really dared to think that I could before, but now I will, and am doing. The discipline is there, the battle is being won, the identity is changing, the body image is changing, the financial cost and time costs are being budgeted for, I will buy some new clothes and continue this journey, with my heart on my sleeve.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Does the fruit prove anything? Part Two

In my last post I discussed what I feel about talking up numbers too much.

My comments are aimed at the christian media, publishing, everywhere, and sometimes newfrontiers.

I am slightly uneasy when platform speakers or people whose books tend to get published and reviewed are "Mr X, from a big city, with a Church of 20,000 that has grown by 62% in just 18 months".

Do numbers on a Sunday equate with "God's blessing"? Does it make the pastor right?

What does it validate?

I think the issue is one of context. In America there are lots of large Churches. 1,300 over 2,000 in number, according to that fountain of all knowledge wikipedia! People in the UK swoon when they hear a Church is near the thousand mark.

How many mega Churches in the UK? It certainly would not be in proportion to America. Kensington Temple, HTB, Abundant Life, Kingsway, Renewal Centre Solihull? Any more?

There are loads more in America. More people go to Church, more people go to big Churches, there are more big Churches. Does that validate their pastor's ministry? What about the massive big trendy liberal Churches in metropolitan areas of the USA? What does their size validate?

Which preacher had the biggest exposure in the last two years? Step forward Mr Bentley. What did that validate?

Lots of the larger churches and ministries seem to thrive on elements of and exposure to properity teaching, which I detest.

If it DOES validate their ministry then why within newfrontiers do we not hear more of and more from the other megachurches in the UK? What about Abundant Life or Kingsway International Centre? Do we only pick someone who is fairly close to some of our theological positions, like a Keller or a Driscoll, who have also happen to have a big Church? For the record, I think Driscoll and keller have been excellent at stirring and challenging newfrontiers.

If we have invited them because we consider them to be "close" theologically (which I think is a mostly good thing) , then is the size of their Church relevant? In what way? Is the size of their Church indexed against the size of the city within which they draw thier congregation? Do we count new Christians or bums on seats? Does the percentage of the population who are Christian make a difference?

If it DOES NOT validate their ministry then why is it mentioned?

There are some wonderful pastors who lead massive churches. There are some wonderful pastors who lead small churches. Why does one get to write the books and speak at the conferences but not the other?

This is not just a newfrontiers thing, this is seen throughout christendom.

God is blessing x, y and z because their Church is "growing" or "large" or "successful"? Really?

My name is Dave, and I am an elder at a Church
My name is Dave, and I am an elder at a Church of 300
My name is Dave, and I am an elder at a Church of 300 in the town of 80,000
My name is Dave, and I am an elder at a Church that has planted two Churches in the last six years
My name is Dave, and I am an elder at one of the largest Churches in our town
My name is Dave, and I am an elder at one of the largest churches in our county

My name is Dave, and I am an elder at a Church of 300 in the town of 80,000 that has planted two Churches in the last six years and is one of the largest Churches in our town and indeed our county.

Is 300 big to you? Does it really matter? Does it make you think differently? Does it make us any more "right"? or our theology, ecclesiology or missiology any more robust?

Does 300 look small to you? Do you look down your nose at such a meagre sized Church? What could I know about anything? God is not blessing this so my thinking must have gone AWOL. Aw, look at him, poor little chap. Just a "team" elder in a small Church in the countryside. Must be tough out there on the fringe.

Both are equally imbalanced.

I am just Dave, and I want to follow Jesus, with my heart on my sleeve, and I will make mistakes, so we will just have to see what happens.

Now let's fish out some Paul Scanlon CDs, he leads a BIG church!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Does the fruit prove anything? Part One

For the record:
  • I want this Church to grow
  • I want the whole body of Christ to grow
  • I want this Church to be blessed by God
  • I want my whole body of Christ to be blessed by God
  • I want both these things in terms of number and depth.
Within that context I want to raise something that sometimes bothers me.

I am slightly uneasy when I hear or read comments which basically seem to imply "newfrontiers is growing so we must be right". That may not be the intended meaning, but it certainly sounds like it.

My basic problem with that idea is the same could be said for aspects of the Mormon church, which I do not believe is an evident sign of blessing from the truine God. It is just way too simplistic.

What is growth measured in? Numbers on a Sunday? Bums on seats? I know this is important, but not in isolation. What about maturity and spiritual depth?

I do think God is blessing newfrontiers, as He has, by His grace, blessed all sorts of sinful people over the ages. I don't think it makes us right on everything. Maybe many of the values we hold are godly values, but we may be wrong on some stuff, and we may not know what.

The fact that God is undoubtedly "blessing" us with growth does not make us right in everything. It can't do. So we can't just pick and choose the certain values we think God is blessing us for. And use our "growth" as a defence against those who disagree.

There are arminian Church groups growing. There are all sorts of different shades of evangelical churches growing. There are plenty of growing Churches who hold an egalitarian position on gender. There are even, drumroll please, certain liberal churches that are growing. The pseudo-Christian cults have always started off with a major growth spurt. What did it prove?

I want to be blessed and see the Church grow. I am certain it won't prove anything about me, but it will prove quite a lot about our gracious God.

In my next post I will cover what concerns me about "he pastors a big Church" kind of stuff.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Praying from Habakkuk

During the worship at our Church Together meeting on Tuesday I felt God speak to me through a relatively unlikely source: Habakkuk!

Chapter three, verse two to be precise. It just would not leave me, as a prayer for today, for what is stirring in my heart.
2 LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD.
Renew them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.
What a prayer!

I was stirred.

I have been thinking about the seminars I heard at the Together on a Mission Conference last week as noted here, here and here.

Hundreds of Churches planted across France, larger resource Churches growing into the thousands, 3,000,000 people having their lives changed by the gospel of Jesus.

And I want to pray:
2 LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD.
Renew them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.
I think of Wesley and Whitefield travelling in the UK and America, preaching in the towns, villages and cities. I read of huge crowds and huge responses to the gospel of Jesus. I see churches springing up in towns, villages, cities all across the nation in a move of God that could not be contained.

And I want to pray:
2 LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD.
Renew them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.
I think of the Welsh Revival and the stories we read about thousands being saved, and the pit ponies being confused because they no longer understood commands now the men did not swear at them! Churches springing up all over a nation as the gospel was preached and thousands came to faith.

And I want to pray:
2 LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD.
Renew them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.
I read about and see in practice the Church in South Korea where the Churches have stayed faithful in prayer and in the gospel and the whole nation is influenced by a strong and vibrant Church, sending thousands of missionaries and harnessing revival not into a decade but into a century of Church growth and gospel proclamation.

And I want to pray:
2 LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD.
Renew them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.
So we did pray.

For each other. In our homes. At our place of work. With our families. With our friends. Where we go to have fun. Where God has placed us. Where we have the privilege of living as witnesses of Jesus, who has saved us.

I think of what we heard and saw last Sunday as just a glimpse of what God can do, and it makes me want to pray:
2 LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD.
Renew them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.
So having been stirred I shared these things as a brief encouragement, and guess what?

We prayed.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Church Together

Every 8 weeks all the cell groups in our Church do not meet for a week and instead we have "Church Together"

This is an evening of worship and prayer.

The meeting on Tuesday was really special.

I always love it when Christians gather just to seek God. Sometimes I think Christian ministry focuses too much on what people receive rather than what they bring.

"Come and be blessed" the promotional material for many Christian events offers, whereas "Come to be a blessing" is less consumerist.

So we worshipped together, and prayed together.
  1. We prayed for a young man in our Church who is critically ill.
  2. We prayed for the nation of Iran. For justice, for peace, for a change in the political circumstances, for freedom for the people and for the Church there that is, and has been so persecuted.
  3. We then prayed for each other, in our own personal witness, looking forward to the start of the Alpha Course in September. We prayed for the extension of the gospel in our town and that God would use us as we live as witnesses to what Christ has done for us.
So we prayed within our Church family, for a nation, and for the gospel to spread through us being effective in living as witnesses of Jesus, where God has put us.

Not only do we want to seek God for these things, but where possible we offer ourselves to be part of the solution.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

TOAM Training Track 4: Lex Loizides: John Calvin's Mission

Lex is an elder at Jubilee Church Cape Town. He serves locally and internationally as an evangelist, including the Frontedge initiative within Newfrontiers. He is a really nice guy, with a fascination for cars and Church history in almost equal measure. I found the conversation while I gave him a lift to the airport with him last year fascinating, as is his blog.

Calvinism is often viewed as counter-productive to the gospel. The accusation is that it brings passivity and neglect to witness because it is “all in God’s hands anyway”

There is almost a sense that the believer needs to choose between Calvinism and the great commission!

“God is in ultimate control of the plan of redemption” has two clear objections to it, highlighted by greats such as Wesley and Finney. These boil down to election and the call of God to salvation.

Lex’s key claim was that CONVICTION ABOUT GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY IN ELECTION AND SALVATION DOES NOT REDUCE EVANGELISTIC VIGOUR using examples from real life and starting with scripture.


Acts 18:4 Paul is told to keep preaching for God has many people for Him there. This is quite clearly an evangelistic motivation to stay and engage in mission that comes from direct revelation from God. Calvin noted that God already called them “His” people to Paul even before their conversion.

This was a supernatural revelation to Paul.
  • It was not a hunch
  • The place and circumstances did not “look ripe”: it looked tough
  • It came to Paul from a decidedly “Charismatic” experience of God speaking
  • It was an ANTIDOTE to fear and apathy and enabled him to overcome his fear and persevere
In 2 Timothy 2:10 we see he won’t give up because of a genuine motivation

God had “Many” people for him in Corinth. By revelation 7 v 9 that “many” is expanded.

In Acts 13 there was seriously effective ministry happening in Pisidian Antioch and nearly the whole place was there. V48: as many as were appointed believed and v49 this spread across the whole region.

The scriptures relating to predestination in Acts promote or have the effect of stirring up evangelism. So if Calvinism is biblical, it should do the same.


There have been many Arminians and Calvinists zealous for mission who saw great fruit.

Both groups also have apathetic people and apathetic Churches who are not zealous for mission.

But the accusation that “Calivinism reduces evangelistic zeal” is simply not backed up a quick glance at some major historical figures.

Calvin’s original movement was pushing 2000 Churches across Europe and represented 3,000,000 people, with local Churches up to 9,000 people in number

Wesley and Finney were key critics of Calvinism, so let’s look at two contemporaries in each century they represent.

  • A strong Calvinist, but famous for being an evangelist
  • His most famous sermon is an evangelistic sermon
  • There are examples of both his Calvinism and his evangelistic successes right the way through his writings and sermons
  • He had a clear focus on evangelism
  • He saw a major harvest

  • Again, a strong Calvinist and a strong evangelist
  • He preached the need of new birth and gave a call for a clear decision, which is what we would expect from an evangelist today. The preaching became the “event” and massive crowds came to hear him
  • His ministry was at the centre of great awakenings in both the UK and the US
  • Wesley’s ministry, ironically, collected and organised many of the converts from Whitefield’s mission and turned them into a Church planting movement.
In both these cases holding a high view of the sovereignty of God certainly did not reduce either their evangelistic vigour nor their success


He is known as the “Father of modern missions”. He did not just sent others, he went himself. He waited 7 years for his first convert.

Vishal Mangalwadi lists his contributions to India:
  • He imported the first steam engine
  • Then taught the local blacksmiths how to make their own
  • Development of printing and publishing
  • Taught locals and showed them how to develop their own printing industry
  • He started local paper manufacture so he would not have to import as much
  • 1st newspaper published in an oriental language
  • Formed the first horticultural society
  • Performed major agricultural surveys
  • Wrote essays on forestry
  • Developed the concept of savings banks
  • Advocated new methods in leprosy treatment
  • Wrote the first Sanskrit dictionary
  • Developed Schools
  • Developed libraries
  • Campaigned against the oppression of women especially the practice of widow burning
  • Translated the bible into 3 Indian languages, and sections of the bible into many others.
“He saw India not as a land to be exploited but as His father’s land to be loved and served”

Is a list like this the work of a dull and fatalistic Calvinist who thinks he does not have to bother because God will sort it out anyway?


Believed conclusively in justification by faith, in the doctrines of the grace of God and in the sovereignty of God

  • He was one of the most successful evangelists of his century
  • He is the widest read preacher in history
  • He saw over 200 Churche splanted including overseas
  • 900 pastors were trained
  • He opened 2 orphanages
  • He wrote lots of books and pamphlets
  • He almost always spoke to the unbeliever in His sermons. It is estimated over 15,000 responded in his own Church meetings during his ministry and the Church numbered in the thousands.
Spurgeon was Calvinist and passionately evangelistic.


Both Scripture and history give us examples which disprove that accusation.

There are other reasons why people may choose to reject Calvinism but the accusation it produces apathy in witness just does not hold water.

Because God is sovereign, we should want to address the unbeliever with a relevant gospel.

This has implications for our neighbours, our street, our Church, our Town, our Nation and the Nations

This begs the question why are people so hostile?
  • Often people disagree with a caricature not a reality
  • They take an experience of the extreme fringe of Calvinism and stereotype all
Lex finished with a call to read and honour the contribution of Wesley and Finney because they did things really well and God used them in amazing ways, so we can learn much from them. If we hold to the doctrines of grace we need to extend that grace to those who disagree with us and remain open hearted.

This excellent session finished with questions and then a powerful time of prayer for the extension of the gospel.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Reaching Men: Part Three

This is a subject often discussed in the blogosphere.

I have opened the lid on it a couple of times here and here.

Normally different books / articles / discussions I have read seem to go one of two ways. Either going "hunting, fishing and shooting" and other manly activities seem to be the answer to most things (especially amongst our friends across the pond). Or people get very upset because discussing how to reach men becomes yet another example of a chauvinist Church excluding women.

Both extremes fall well short in my view.

So rather than put together a shiny new strategy, or suggest changes to make Church look more "manly" and less "girly", and rather than consider how some of us are "Wild at heart" while others are "Captivating", I will just let Mike and Matt tell their story. Can I recommend you spend 15 minutes or so listening to how they have come to faith in Jesus.

Here is the Alpha Flyer that gets a mention.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

TOAM Training Track 4: Greg Haslem: John Calvin's Legacy

500 years on, what still stands?

Greg leads Westminster Chapel in London.

There was quite a bit of overlap between this and the last session because of elements of Calvin’s life story being retold.

Greg started by suggesting the caricature of Calvin being a joyless, legalistic, penny pinching, aggressive, heretic burner needs to be weighed against the evidence for his life.

Much of the “history” was written by people in direct opposition to Calvin, both in his day and in future years.

Calvin was a theologian, a reformer and a teacher

A classically trained, French, humanist, lawyer – he became an influential preacher and biblical commentator.

His life is marked by opposition, tragedy, controversy and influence in equal measure


  • Centrality of the scriptures in everything
  • The value of the Lord’s supper and water baptism
  • In some ways he looked to reconcile differing views within the reformation
  • He was known to work very, very hard
  • Sent out massive correspondence all over Europe
  • He was involved in a huge amountof preaching, giving lectures and training leaders
  • He had an open home, often with travelling preachers / leaders passing through
  • He had a very poor health history, in all manner of pain
  • His 3 children died in infancy and his wife died after just 9 years of (happy) marriage
  • He trained new leaders in Geneva who took his message far and wide
  • He preached over 200 times a year
  • He printed books and commentaries that went all over Europe and greatly influenced the reformed Church
  • Above all Calvin was a bible teacher
  • Where the text went, so did Calvin, but no further
  • He believed that faith brought repentance
  • He gave unprecedented profile to the work of the Holy Spirit, in revelation, in the word coming alive and in sanctification
  • He was obsessed with the glory of Christ as Prophet, Priest and King
  • He emphasised the sovereignty of God.
Greg suggested Calvin's stance was:
  1. Theism in its fullness
  2. Religion coming from purity, prayer, sanctification and biblical values
  3. Evangelicalism at its best: utter surrender to an over-arching God
Calvin’s contribution is way, way more than the “5 points”

He had much to say about the Trinity, the deity of Christ, being saved by faith, the second coming, faith in the marketplace, sanctification and biblical ecclesiology.

To package “Calvinism” as simply 5 points does his legacy a huge disservice. Those 5 points were a reaction to Arminian teaching, not a shortened version of the teaching of Calvin which was much, much wider in its range and reach.

Greg went on to explain that he dislikes much of what he sees in Calvinism today. A joyless, experience-less, proud, judgemental expression of Christianity that is entirely unattractive to Christians and non Christians alike

Many of the “greats” of the history of the protestant Church have been heavily influenced by Calvin, and even now the self styled “New Calvinist” movement appears to be gathering pace.

Greg believes the following are just some of things we can recover into Church life from looking at Calvin:

  1. Every calling is valid, as everything is done for the glory of God. There is nothing “secular” except sin!
  2. Great worship: for we have something great to worship
  3. Not viewing God “all-matey” but God Almighty
  4. A sense of purpose and value in our lives and in our mission
  5. Freedom from legalism (although oddly, this can be very closely aligned with some expressions of Calvinism)
Overall: very thought provoking stuff. The one thing I will remember is that both speakers so far have had far, far warmer things to say about Arminians than about hyper-Calvinists who they believe give other Calvinists a bad name.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Back from Brighton

It has been a real whirlwind weekend following my return from Brighton on Friday.

Saturday was dominated by a lie in and then a wedding which I greatly enjoyed, at which Esther & I led the prayers.

Sunday started with a baptism service which I greatly enjoyed, which I led.

Then a post-baptism party, which I greatly enjoyed.

Then a birthday barbecue, which I greatly enjoyed.

Then visiting a young man from our Church in intensive care in hospital. This, I did not "enjoy" in the same way. However, seeing the grace of God resting upon his parents during this dreadfully difficult time was a most profound experience.

I then went to the gym, did some seriously overdue housework, and then roll on Monday!

I need to sit down and have a real ponder about what God has been saying. At the moment these are a few aspects I know have clearly spoken to me.

I think Joel's talk was absolutely spot on, there is a lot for me there.

Stef & Mbonisi were quality, and I felt are really speaking to "my" generation.

I went to my training track on John Calvin with an open heart and found it a really eye opening experience.

I also feel the way Terry Virgo has responded to the challenge brought by Mark Driscoll last year was really spot on.

I have a few suggestions for aspects of the conference I feel could help increase its effectiveness, but those can wait for a future post.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

TOAM Training Track 4: Andy Johnston : John Calvin's Church Planting

These three seminars really have given me a lot to think about. It was Calvin's 500th birthday on the friday of the conference, hence the idea to use that as a springboard to discuss his life. I will blog them bit by bit over the next few days.

Andy leads Christchurch Hailsham and has published several books on the reformation.

Andy’s basic assumption was to look at Calvin in the light of what we understand about “apostolic” gift.

If Calvin were alive today we would recognise his gift for:
  • Theology and preaching
  • Building a “blueprint” Church that others modelled
  • Mission and Church planting
Calvin finished his preaches with a prayer “Let Him work his miracle of grace not only here, but for all the people and nations of the earth”

Does that sound familiar?

10 Points of interest & comparison:

1) Calvinism was a “second generation” movement of the reformation. While other movements were running out of steam Calvin’s influence continued to spread.

Newfrontiers is really a second generation movement of the Charismatic renewal in the 1960s

2) Calvin was apostolic in his gifting although would not have been comfortable with that title

It just kind of happened, he was not in a rush to claim a badge. Sounds a bit like Mr Virgo?

3) Calvin was an outstanding theologian, one of the greats of the last 500 years. He focussed on the “Big picture” of the biblical narrative: the glory of God

Newfrontiers remains commited to historic evangelicalism and the doctrines of Grace

4) Calvin built a “Model Church” in Geneva which was a genuine attempt to be true to the biblical pattern of Church life

We are looking for the recovery of New Testament Church principles. Some of our Churches have served us as real “model” Churches to encourage others.

5) Calvin overcame huge opposition within his cultural context in order to change his culture

This is a major challenge from the Driscoll / Keller camp. How can we become a city within a city?

6) Calvin was, in the first instance, a fairly reluctant Church planter. He offered no help or support to such ideas before 1554

Newfrontiers only started planting Churches properly in the late 1980s

7) In the last phase of his life (1555-1564) Calvin inspired a huge momentum to Church plant, both in his native France and across Europe

This is a great encouragement

8) This remarkably successful phase of Church planting was “Calvin inspired” not “Calvin organised”. No one individual could oversee 1,700 Churches being planted across France. Training helped, but in the end the movement had a momentum of its own. Only 88 pastors were sent from Geneva but 1700 Churches started: you do the math!

The vision to plant first 400, then 1000 Churches in the UK is aided by strategy and training but ultimately it must be organic and come from a snowballing effect of having mission in the DNA of each local Church

9) Calvinists saw themselves as “family” and “on a mission”. There were regular offerings and fast days which provided both material and spiritual support for co-workers

Do those expressions sound familiar?

10) Seeds of potential problems in the future were sown at the very end of Calvin’s life as he softened his stance regarding secular power which opened the door for armed uprising against the state amongst some of the Calvinist groups.

What do we really need to “hold true” to?

There was also an interesting look at how in many ways Calvinism was a deliberate attempt to oppose key elements of medieval Catholicism.

Calvin was rooted in the primacy of the glory of God. Therefore he rejected outright any practices or doctrines which could reduce the glory of Christ such as
  • Intercession through the saints
  • Elevation of Mary
  • “Continual” sacrifice
  • Elevating the role of tradition alongside scripture
It was into that context that the doctrines of the sovereignty of God took precedence.

Friday, 10 July 2009

TOAM: Offering Night Pep Talk: Stu Gibbs

Confession time: I normally hate pre-offering pep talks. Ever since ones I heard at Hillsongs in Newcastle and Revival Fires in Dudley which were essentially a cross between poorly thought out life coaching and the prosperity gospel. Add in memories of the Good News Crusade camp in Malvern where they actually had a second offering if they did not raise enough money at the first, and well, frankly, I hate them.

So fair play Stu Gibbs: that was excellent. Not only excellent as an engaging, practical, grace filled, fun, challenging, brief talk about giving but excellent because now I can't hate pre-offering talks as much because I know what a good one sounds like and I can no longer think the concept is an automatic trainwreck. I still have reservations about the timing, but that is not in Stu's hands.

Stu used Luke 12: 32-35 and made the following points.

v 32 NO FEAR
  • Anxiety robs faith in the act of giving
  • With wonderful tenderness this passage shows us we do not need to be anxious because God is giving us the kingdom
  • God has raised us up to show his kindness and his grace (Eph 2). There is not place for anxiety, we can be at peace.
  • Jesus probably means we should consider selling our stuff and giving the money to the poor!
  • What would it look like if our Church culture did resonate with this?
  • 2 Corinthians 9 sets out a heart attitude and we see Jesus make himself poor that we may become rich: does that sound familiar?
  • Jesus wants a Church free of consumerism, without fear, without compromise.
  • What could you sell to give to the poor?
  • Or, put another way: where your money goes, there your heart will go also
  • Sometimes we need to send the money and let our heart follow!
  • Sometimes we follow our money int he call on our life to Church planting or mission or ministry to the poor because once we give to something we have invested something of ourselves in it
I then had a very interesting experience. I thought about my love of football, and my season ticket for Shrewsbury Town. I tested my heart on it: do I spend too much watching football? I did the maths. Every month Esther and I give to the Church, and to agencies serving the poor, the persecuted Church, and the translation of bibles, in total, excluding one off gifts, twenty times more than my season ticket costs me. That is, for every one game I watch we have invested 20 times in the kingdom. I don't say that to boast, I say that because I tested my own conscience because of the challenge Stu gave.

I am glad God had prepared my heart in advance because I think I could have been really quite hurt by what happened next.

Within ten minutes someone I know walked past me as we were singing and said "so are you going to sell your season ticket and give the money"?

Old Dave may have replied "Are you going to sell your house?"

Why is my football always the cheap shot? I don't see why my enjoyment and where I meet people who don't know Jesus should be singled out.

God had graciously allowed me to test my conscience and I had been surprised and humbled at how positively I could respond: twenty times for the kingdom, how exciting!

I don't want to have fear Lord, I don't want to compromise, I want my treasure to be in your purposes Lord, and thanks Lord for covering my back when someone had a needless dig at me in an attempt at humour.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

TOAM Main Session 6: Terry Virgo: THE FUTURE

This was the big one! Massively anticipated. Hugely important. The end of the beginning of newfrontiers...

Mark Driscoll said last year: “It isime for Terry to get a husband for his daughter”, and implied he needs to find a successor, a husband for his daughter.

Terry described it as being a good wake up call: but a successor is not the way we are looking at it.

People now, such as John Kpipi in West Africa is not just “working for Terry Virgo”. He has started a Church and planted Churches in 7 west African countries that Terry has never visited. John is growing in his gift and developing a sphere of relationships, stirring evangelism, building the Church, laying down values, training leaders, explaining the doctrine of grace clearly, breaking down tribal differences, planting new Churches.

That is apostolic work, not rolling out a programme or a system but building the Church.

Edward Buria in Kenya is similar: planting Churches, caring for the poor, teaching grace.

Not like the old guy is getting older and we need Terry mark two. There are now different spheres like this springing up all over the world, (and in a smaller way all over the UK).

We are not one big sphere that is to be passed on, just getting bigger and bigger. That will hold everything back. It is not just “Terry's” sphere any more. It is way more than that. Mark Driscoll was not speaking with that context. Terry is not looking to oversee everything, but wants to release and bless and stand with those building all around the world.

We are coming to the end of the beginning. It was one sphere. Now it is several. There will be more. Those there are will grow. The principle is established.

Jesus did not hand over a successor, Peter was not the pope. When Peter stood and spoke on behalf of the 11 at pentecost Peter was the spokesman, it was Peter’s moment, not Peter’s movement!

At the council of Jerusalem James does the summing up (Acts 15). Did not make James the boss, but it was his moment and they proceeded from there. Paul in Jerusalem (Gal 2:2) went to those of reputation, not the newly named leaders!

It is more like spiritual sons who become fathers who have sons who become fathers.

Paul was not from Jerusalem stable, not trained by Peter
  • He preached gospel
  • Knew Scripture
  • Founded Churches
  • Helped Churches
  • Saw much fruit
That is what vindicated his gift. He wanted unity with others, to work with them.

He stayed and challenged Peter: he did not go and do his own thing.

So they were a fellowship of friends, a group of apostles, a band of brothers.

Anyone is free to move on and do their own thing. People are free to seek relationship elsewhere. There is no central “newfrontiers” sphere. The values and friendships hold us together, no law or legal requirement.

We must believe God for the emergence of new apostles. We are not praying for a husband for Terry’s daughter. We are praying for more workers in the harvest field. Apostles are a gift to the Church, they are not an appointment of the Church.

Newfrontiers is the name given to an apostolic sphere under Terry’s leadership. It is more important that new sphere are raised.

Newfrontiers as a name can go.

Terry's desire is that apostles emerge amongst Churches dynamically involved in world mission together. Not just an institution and a badge and a set of rules.

It does not matter what it is called. We want "pumping" local Churches reaching their community, in relationship with others, sharing a calling and a future by pushing forwards into whatever God has for them, accomplishing more together than they can apart.

There are other movements around the world doing, seeing and saying very similar things. We are not the answer in ourselves, we just need to be faithful to God with what we have.

The session finished with a very warm ovation. The humility of the man exudes from everything he said. He does not want anything but faithfulness to God in his own life, and in the life of the Churches he serves, and the movement he has laid the foundation of.

This is the start of the end of the beginning for newfrontiers. There is not a human solution of appointments and organisational charts required but rather a work of God to continue His work amongst us and through us, imparting the gifts of Ephesians 4 to His Church.

TOAM Main Session 6: Terry Virgo: THE APOSTOLIC GIFT

This talk was intended to be Terry’s response to the challenge brought by Mark Driscoll last year. I am splitting it into two so the actual response does not get lost in the text.

It started with an explanation of what we mean when we say "apostolic" gift

How did Churches relate to each other in the bible?

There was no sign of denominations: rather was relational, geographical

Denominations” tends to have negative connotations

  • HQ mentality
  • Big machine
  • Impersonal
  • Rules & regulations
  • Centrally controlled
  • "One size fits all" kind of approach

What are we then?


  1. Being apostolic is to do with the "apostolic" gift of Ephesians 4
  2. It is to do with relationships around that gift
  3. An apostolic sphere is the relationship interacting with an apostolic gift

It is a biblical concept: you can see it new testament several times.

Where do we get our definition?

Apostle comes from Apostolos, to send. There is a sense of authority and commissioning. It is almost ambassadorial, being a representative.


  1. Jesus was an "apostle": Heb 3
  2. The twelve: Jesus gathered and commissioned them. God established something unique, special, one off, the Apostles with a capital A.
  3. Then in Ephesians 4 we see apostolic category in the life of the Church which was a gifting. "Apostles of the ascended Christ" is a useful definition: Paul (although He is set apart), and Barnabas, James etc

Jesus: the twelve: the Church - all three displayed "apostolic" gift int he sense we understand. Only the twelve were THE Apostles


They provided the foundation of the Church. 3,000 were added in Acts 2: they were added to a community being founded by the Apostles. Those Apostles had lived with Jesus, known Him, learned from Him.

Ephesians 3: the mystery of Church to be revealed through apostles & prophets.

  1. TEACHING: Acts 2 onwards: day by day listening to the Apostles teaching.
  2. IDENTITY: Gave identity to the Church. Not just identity of teaching but relationship with person.

What about those who say apostles were just those who wrote the bible? This is a commonly held the belief. Now the canon is complete we do not need apostles.

Only 3 of the 12 wrote the bible. Luke was not one of 12. Paul was not one of 12. Jesus did not write scripture and He was the great apostle. SO "Apostle" and certainly "apostolic" cannot only be restricted to bible writers.

Apostolic ministry is a dynamic driver of world evangelisation. The canon is complete, what we are talking about now is not the Apostles (noun), but people working with an apostolic gift (adjective).


They lay foundations for the Church: 1 Corinthians 3: see the narrative in Acts, read the letters. A dynamic practical gift. Like an evangelist may preach the gospel and pray for healing an apostle would help start, build and shape Churches.

They have clear relationships: There is a public link, a named partnership. Ongoing, dynamic, personal relationship. The "sphere" is the group of Churches relating to someone with an apostolic gift.

2 Corinthians 10:13 - NIV says "field", NASB uses "Sphere" There are often some geographical elements to the relationship.

We gave an apostolic sphere a name, newfrontiers. The name is not important, the relationships are. We have reached a very important phase of our development.

International apostolically driven world evangelism comes from the local Church and forms new local churches and is a partnership of faith and growth interlocked by living fellowship.

Apostolic ministry is not a “model” of Church organisation, it is a biblical value of relationships.

But as we get larger do we lose our edge? Do we just "belong" to something? Do we get the "badge" without entering a relationship?

And how can we stop this happening?


Gifts are "given" by God not "appointed" by the Church. I could say “I give you this evangelist.” But if they can’t do it, they are not and evangelist, no matter how much we say they are.

That is why it is up to the local Church to recognise the gift and accept it

TOAM: Leaders Session 2: Joel Virgo

This talk was outstanding. The best of the conference so far, and one of the most encouraging for me personally at the conference over the last few years.

A really down to earth, dug into reality, rubber hits the road look at what it is like when you are not the lead elder. Bingo!

He made a big joke of using the passage from 1 Samuel 14 about Jonathan and his armour bearer, which has been used twice in recent years from the platform. Kind of proves Phil Whittall's point, but amusing all the same.


  • Plurality of God is expressed as we work in team
  • Ministry grows exponentially in team (Deut 32:30)
  • There is still order in plurality
  • There are distinct roles within plurality (1 Cor 15)
  • Plurality of leadership is a reflection of the trinity
  • There are different roles but equal worth. There is someone with responsibility who leads the team and shapes the team and provides direction, and together we move forward.

We need to elevate the role of the local committed team player.

Amen Joel, Amen, as in walking up onto the platform and giving you a hug for saying who I am matters kind of amen.

Are team leaders always looking for a new Church planter or a new team leader? Who is raising up new team players? Where does scripture say we should only raise up headline leaders? Leadership throughout the body is needed and must never be undervalued.

We have "Lead elders", "Younger leaders", "Evangelists" conferences, is it time for "Team players" weekend?!!!

And then we read from 1 Samuel 14: 1-23


  • You have to be very careful who you commit to, it is not a blind thing
  • Herod said similar to a stripper and John the Baptist lost his life
  • We have to be sure what is on their heart.
  • We need to feel a peace about trusting them
  • Do we take time to consider what is on their heart? Do we listen to their prayers, what they are living for?
  • Not all find their guidance the same way as Jonathan! (v8-10)
  • We need to find our own way of hearing God
  • We should not compare and judge other people’s style of hearing God. From a burning bush to (Moses) to some wet laundry (Gideon) each needs to hear from God.


  • With this guy alongside him Jonathan is covered.
  • Leaders have a vision, they set a trajectory
  • They need people to help work out the implications for all aspects of Church life, to make it happen
  • Without you their vision may not happen
  • There is a complimentarity to it, like Moses & Jethro
  • But in Ex 32 Aaron does not cover Moses back well in his absence, with dreadful results.
  • We can help to cover weaknesses. Not cover up as in sweep under the carpet, we challenge, we rebuke, we admonish but we help through it, help them get over it
  • If you drop the ball it is not “game over”
  • We need to be strong where others are weak
  • We need to be effective where others are ineffective
  • Do we really trust each other? Paul said Timothy was of “proven worth”. In 1 Chron 12 They were asked if they could be trusted? Are we building on real trust.


  • Saul etc joined in
  • Jonathan and His armour bearer did not try to claim the glory for themselves
  • They did not set up the “Jonathan and Armour Bearer Military Academy” and set up a “The way to Victory” programme on God Channel.

In 3 John 9 we meet Diotrephes. The desire to be first caused great difficulty. Maybe we are part of someone else’s story as much as we are writing our own?

In all these things we just need to be satisfied that we know God and are saved by Him. The rest is up to Him. We must not seek it or need it, but seek to serve God and each other as God calls, not seeing hierarchy but seeing unity.

Then we really will know what it is to be “Together on a Mission

Awesome talk Joel, absolutely spot on. My highlight of the conference so far by a long way.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

TOAM Round up

Too lazy to use Newfrontiers bloggers?

Then here are a good variety of write ups. Interesting to see what speaks to different people!

I am trying to keep things up to date here, here, here, here, here and here. The only thing missing is my seminar notes: I think I will wait until after the event for those.

Of the "official" blogs Adrian Warnock covers a lot of ground here, here, here, here and here. Mobilise gives daily reports here and here, while CCK Brighton is also giving daily reports here and here.

Into the "unofficial" blogs (which I think most blogs should be really, otherwise it is less of a blog and more of a newsfeed.)

Phil Whittall is expressing his thoughts here, here and here. These include increasingly humorous "Old Testament Character count" for the main sessions. Is it really that predictable? What is charicature and what is reality? There have been 5 main talks, with 4 using old testament characters, something Phil said would happen here.

I am very impressed with Chris Smyths series found here, here, here, here, here and here.

I am not a member of Rob Mason's site but can see he is blogging TOAM here

Food for thought. Lots to digest and consider. I think next week when the dust settles we could have a really good discussion starting about some of the positives and possibilities to improve the TOAM conference.

TOAM: Main Session 5: Terry Virgo

Terry started off showing a map of the UK with where there are newfrontiers churches and then a map of the world with countries marked where there are newfrontiers Churches.

Man made in the image of a truine God can only really see fulfillment in community, because God is community in His very being. We do not grow into spiritual maturity alone, it happens in community.

Paul had major revelation of the Church, when encountering Jesus on the road to Damascus. "I am Jesus who you are persecuting". Jesus himself identifies himself with the Church to this former pharisee.

Paul shows his heart for the Church as he writes to the Church in Philippi. Chapter one, verse one: "1Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!"
  • My brothers
  • You whom I love
  • You whom I long for
  • My joy
  • My crown
  • Dear friends!
Do we love our Church? Do we really love them? Do we really yearn for them? Do we believe for them, for a Church that is glorious?

  • We need to preach it
  • We need to live it
  • We need to model it
  • We need to give ourselves it
  • Grace was one of Paul's biggest battles to contend for within the Church: still is today
  • Much of the Christian life only makes sense within the Church community
  • Much of the Christian walk can be worked out within the Church community
  • We were not designed to be in a vacuum
  • Moves away from a consumerist view of Church
  • Community values the little things: the small groups, the relationships, serving in teams, being together
  • God wants people full of Him, not full of themselves
  • We find our place of serving
  • Sanctification can happen in community: people who know you, who can highlight issues for you, who can care for you
I must say that by this point my mind started to wonder a bit. From this good foundation I could not quite connect the content with the title of the talk, and I could not really follow the content clearly.

It is not like I disagreed with the content: I am just not sure what the real focus was or who it was for. Maybe my view was slightly blighted by the lady near me who was fast asleep! Maybe I am starting to get conference fatigue syndrome?

"Who we are" for me would be better served with a talk based on the list of values that were circulated to Church leaders earlier this year.

Or maybe Mark Driscoll's definition of Church last year could have been thrashed out a bit and applied to our movement?
"1. A regenerated church membership
2. Called and gifted church leadership
3. A regular gathering of believers for the preaching of the Word and Worship
4. A church is a place where the Sacraments are rightly administered.
5. A unity and love which is the evidenced work of the Holy Spirit among His people
6. A place where people experience church discipline in order to walk uprightly
7. A place where people practice the Great Commandment to love one another and our neighbours
8. A place where people actively obey the Great Commission to make disciples"
I would have liked to see those eight made real for newfrontiers with hands on examples, explanations and resources. Chuck in a clear definition of Ephesians 4 ministry, ministry to the poor, reaching the nations and a few other bits and bobs and that would be it nailed, surely?

Anyway: back to the talk. God wants a restored Church, a biblical Church. Nehemiah started rebuilding. Ezra started rebuilding. We are rebuilding. Recovering the blueprint also requires restoring the presence of the Lord, with parrallels to when David restored the Ark.

The Church is a group of people gathering to the manifest presence of God. First they gathered with Jesus, then they gathered in the power of the Spirit.

We finished with the awesome Kate Simmonds hymn "In Him we have believed". This song really does sum up what we are building and why we are building it, so was a great place to finish.

In Him I have believed, on this my hope now rests
That Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!
The all-surpassing joy of knowing Christ my Lord
The former things, I count them all as loss
Called out of darkness into Your goodness
We are Your children, chosen in Christ!
Now in Your family, heirs of the promise
To Your purpose on the earth I give my life

A people born of God, united by Your call
One faith, one Lord, one Father of us all
Joined with bonds of love, and planted in Your house
We worship You with hearts and lives poured out
Let us go on in the power of Your Spirit
Taking Your gospel to all the world!
Declaring Your wisdom, our great commission,
That Jesus Christ has come to save the lost!

Whatever trials may come, in faith, Lord, help us stand
For righteousness and justice in our land
What fear can hold us now?
We run toward the prize
Our lives already crucified with Christ
Through every nation, Your kingdom advances
Who can extinguish this spreading flame?
Through tribulations, we’ll stand on Your promise:
‘I will build My Church and hell will not prevail!’

And on that final day, the citizens of heaven
Called out to be the new Jerusalem
In multitudes will bow before the throne of God:
One nation called from every tribe and tongue
Great celebration! The glorious union:
The Lion of Judah and the pure, spotless Bride!
All of creation waits for this moment
All your promises fulfilled in Jesus Christ!