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.