Friday, 9 September 2011

Summer Reading

Well, I guess thats the summer finished and the kids are back to school...

I try and change rhythm in the Summer and do more reading and dreaming as well as spending time with my beautiful family. A number of people have asked me about the books that I have been reading and what I would recommend and so I thought I would list them here:

Pour Your Heart Into it by Howard Schulz
Onward by Howard Schulz
Love is an Orientation by Andrew Marin
Unmerited FavourItalic by Joseph Prince

What did I learn? That there are loads of books out there worth a read and I havent got time to read them all!

Seriously though, the Starbucks books were fascinating not just the telling of a great story of how a worldwide phenomona began but more importantly the second book where Schultz takes back on the ceo position and tries to help the company re-discover their original purpose. It's a great read for any church leader trying to remember why they do it and getting lost churches back on track.

Love is an Orientation is an eye opening book written by a straight christian guy who decides to connect with the gay community to understand them and their needs and to try and find new ways for the church to engage with this valuable people group that is so often overlooked. I havent finished it completely yet but already its got me asking loads of questions!

Unmerited Favour will mess with your head if you struggle with prosperity gospel type literature, but it is worth pursuing. Prince, who is well known for his preaching on Grace, points out that Gods gift to us of his only son Jesus to take our place was the ultimate in showing us his unmerited favour (a term he suggests is another way to describe Grace which has become too common a term). Enjoying God's favour, without trying to fully understand it, is something I have been trying to do since returning from Bethel Church in Redding, California back in June. This book has taken it to a whole new level. Gods favour IS turned towards me and it always has been, I just need to accept and enjoy it and not try too hard to understand and reject it.

I would definitely recommend any of these books to fellow readers if you are willing to be stretched and challenged, if not then read a John Grisham novel (I read one of those on holiday as well!).

My last book on my pile that I didn't get round to reading is Rob Bells Love Wins, unfortunately my wife Lottie got there first and isn't giving it back!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011


Been thinking a lot this last couple of weeks about the phrase "What If..."

It is a phrase that seems to be used by risk averse and cautious people: "What if you try something for the first time and you fail?" or "What if you apply for that job and you don't get it?".

But I felt God prompt me with "What if you stop HOPING my promises come true and you start BELIEVING that when I say it will happen it is guaranteed!" - If that became my reality how would I live differently?

So many people in the Bible could have given their excuses about why they couldn't do something. Noah could have said "What if it doesn't rain?" or Daniel could have said "What if the lions eat me for breakfast?" but they didn't and they were obedient to Gods calling on their lives.

Some did ask the What If question: Gideon said "What if I am the wrong person to lead the army of Israel?" and Moses said "What if Pharaoh doesn't let the people go?" but they still were obedient (eventually after a lot of prodding!) to Gods calling on their lives.

There is nothing wrong with asking the What If question but dont let it stop you from following Gods direction and the promises he has made to you, after all 2 Peter 1 tells us to "make every effort to respond to Gods promises."

Apparently the disappointment of DOING something is only felt for a short time, but the regret of NOT DOING something can last a life time.

What If I try something I have never done before and it DOES work out?

...and even if it doesn't - SO WHAT!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Its an Adventure!

We are presently teaching a series at church entitled "Adventures in Faith, Favour & Courage" where I have often encouraged people to take a step of Faith like the Heroes of Faith in Hebrews 11 which often requires a risk.

For example I have looked at Adventures in Giving with Cain & Abel and then at the character of Abraham and being Adventurous in Obedience! (Click here for the various Podcasts and Notes)

But a number of people have asked me - what if we are encouraging people to simply take risks without any divine direction? Who is responsible if someone in the church decides to jack in their job and go for something else and it doesn't work out? Good Question.

John Wimber once said Faith is spelt R.I.S.K. but conversely that doesn't mean that all risks taken are steps of faith!

I have tried to use the word 'adventure' rather than 'risk' as this is probably more accurate to what I believe God is calling us to be - Adventurous! Jesus said he came to give us 'life in all its abundance', but still pastorally I would not want anyone to simply take risks without praying it through carefully or taking wise counsel...

Frustratingly the flip side to the discussion is that sometimes people are called to take a step of faith and because they share it with someone who is naturally more cautious they are encouraged not to press on with what they had believed they should do - this is a tough one!

Is the church meant to be a place of safety for the saved or a training centre for mission to those who are lost? (totally recommend Mark Battersons book "In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day", which tackles some of this...)

that is why our Churches need to have strong communities so that when our people step out and take a risk and it goes wrong we are there to support them, if it goes right we celebrate their success and even if they choose to take a safer option and regret their lack of adventure in future years we love them regardless... (Maybe the parable of the talents is helpful here?)

not sure I can answer the valid concerns raised, but personally I am keen to develop an exciting, adventurous Church that is up for the challenge of changing our world...

and that might require a risk or two...

Monday, 13 July 2009

Leading together?

The last few weeks have been busy trying to ensure everything is ready for the Autumn term before we 'break' for the summer. We have a lot of staff changes coming up which has meant a load of interviews for me to do (thanks Elaine for organising all the detail!). The good news we have some great people joining to replace all the great people leaving the team (all for good reasons - honest!).

Carolyn Chart will be taking on the role of part time paid Childrens Worker from mid-August to continue developing our rapidly growing childrens work at Central Hall. We now have up to 80 children on a Sunday morning which has almost doubled in the last few months. Carolyn comes with loads of experience and will help us ensure that the recent growth will be sustainable in the future.

It has also been announced in the last couple of weeks that Lottie and I will be officially taking responsibility for the morning congregation based at Central Hall as part of the New Community network of churches that is developing here in Southampton. It is a very exciting and daunting season for Lottie and myself as we start to put into place our various teams to take the church forward into the future.

One of our biggest conversations has been about Lotties role. I want her to be part of the leadership team as she adds so much to who I am. Lottie is concerned that she will be seen as just being part of the team because she is my wife. People have made comments about not 'seeing' Lotties contribution (which generally means they have not seen Lottie preach or lead a meeting). What people dont realise is that everything I have ever done has always been discussed through with Lottie, we are meant to one after all. So is it better to recognise her contribution or hide her away knowing that secretly she is providing leadership through me!

The way I see it is like this. If I was left in charge of our home things would be very different. I would probably be more efficient, the house would probably be cleaner, more organised, the walls would be painted magnolia and the place would be minimal and sterile - more like a doctors waiting room than a home. Lottie brings the heart to our home, she makes it unique and welcoming. Whenever we get visitors to our home they comment on how lovely it is and how welcome they feel - none of that is to do with me, it is all Lottie - she is the homemaker.

In the same way when we work together, Lottie brings the heart to the work that we do. If the church was left to me it may become all boxed up, organised and managed - efficient but without heart (bit German maybe?). Lottie ensures that I dont go to the extremes of my character she brings the balance. I need her and the church needs her to lead with me - she may never be 'seen' (although I think she will one day) but her input is invaluable.

Leading together as a married couple maybe a challenge to some but I know (and my true friends know!) that I am a much better leader and person with Lottie than without.

Any thoughts anyone?

Monday, 22 June 2009

It shouldn't happen to a Pastor?

I have just got off the phone from an irate man from Eastleigh wanting to speak to someone at the church about a pastoral matter. The phone call gets put through to me eventually and I endeavour to placate the very upset individual! "The music is too loud!" he says, having heard this complaint regularly, I start to apologise with the standard line that I use. Most Sundays there is someone who thinks the music is too loud and it is never the sound engineer or the drummer... I wonder if people ever complained about the volume of the pipe organ when it was first introduced into the local parish church? Still it is a part of modern church leadership that you can have the dead being raised, people overcoming addictions and new people discovering the way of Christ but somebody will ALWAYS complain about something unnecessary and mundane. It normally tends to be the ones who have been in the church for decades and feel they have the right to vent their frustrations about the change that has been imposed by all these new people that have recently joined the church.

So I am used to complaints, some I take in my stride and make all the right noises to encourage the complainant that I am listening and taking them seriously, but there are some that seem very personal about my style or my approach or my lack of this, that or the other and I always take them personally (funny that!) - my friend Jim says "you're a wee bit sensitive, Sim!" which always offends me!! :o)

So, I am on the phone to this guy upset about the volume being too loud trying to placate him with my normal grunts of encouragement when he says "and it was 3 O'Clock in the afternoon!" - what? oh, he's not talking about our Church worship band after all he is talking about his neighbour! He just wanted someone to talk to, to complain to, to have his say and for some reason went through the yellow pages and rang me at Central Hall. A strange phone call to start the week off, but if someone in desperation sees the church as a place of refuge and a place to be listened to then I am all up for helping out the needy for surely that is what Matthew 25 tells us.

So if you need help and you want someone to rant to about the stuff that life throws at you give me a call the confessional is open!!!

This week I am in a bunch of meetings with our Church Fun Day on Saturday in Victoria Country Park for a BBQ and games for about 300 people, then speaking on Sunday morning. Great day yesterday morning with an awesome response to the offering - God is good...

Monday, 15 June 2009

Dedication's what you need...

Yesterday we had our fourth child Jemimah dedicated at Central Hall. It was a perfect day! We had both sides of the family including Lottie's Nan who is 90 and and my Granny who is 93 - amazing! Theo did a great job of leading through the service and friends and family swarmed forward to pray for my beautiful little girl. Friends from our last Church, Arun Community Church had taken time out to come and join us and Rich Hubbard spoke on Faith it was a great time of celebration with the wider church family.

Then it was back to our house for a BBQ with over 50 people crowding our recently re-modelled garden - weather was perfect and the new half price BBQ from Asda passed the test and everyone was fed plenty. We still have loads of salad and pasta in the fridge!

But the thing was on Saturday night I was starting to get concerned that we were making too much effort on the food and tidying the house and garden that we were forgetting the real reason for the day of thanking God for the life of Jemimah. But as I reflected I realised I was just getting a bit religious and not recognising that hosting a party for my daughter, having friends and family all mixed and eating together is very important. The prayers of thanks need to go with the celebrations and so often we put one in a 'spiritual' box and one in a 'worldly' box.

I know God can cope with the complexities, I sometimes wonder if I can? I know that God is as interested in the church service as the party, food and conversation but sometimes I revert to a religious mindset... fortunately I have great friends and family who keep my thinking straight!

Thanks to all those who made the effort to come to Southampton for the day much appreciated...

This week I have several meetings, finalising budget for September, looking through applications for childrens worker post, preparing for speaking on Sunday looking at Values through a Father eyes (its Fathers Day in the UK) and trying to finish my final assignment.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Back from Holiday

Just got back from an excellent family holiday in France. We spent three days in Paris by ourselves visiting the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe as well as getting the kids portraits drawn at Sacre Coeur (something Lottie and I did on our last visit 12 years ago before kids!). It was a brilliant family time with simple things like just getting around the City of Paris on the Metro with 4 kids and a buggy was great fun.

Then it was off to Brittany to join up with the rest of my family: Mum and Dad, four brother, one sister, three sisters in law, one brother in law, one brothers girlfriend, five nieces and three nephews - 26 of us in all (I think!). We hired five Gites on the same site with shared swimming pool and play area and we all had a great time. The kids loved playing with their cousins with Floella every morning up and dressed at some ridiculous hour asking to go and play. We managed to keep them in most mornings until 8 am...

Then during the day it was beaches, parks, rock climbing, eating ice creams, drinking coffee, great photo opportunities, sun cream, hats, sand in your shoes and all the normal stuff of holidays and then back in the evening for a BBQ. We all took turns cooking each night - which meant we only had to cook one night each - perfect...

Anyway we are back home now, rested and relaxed and I am more desperate than ever to get on with doing a great job leading my wonderful, beautiful family and serving the church and helping it to connect the world with Jesus. I pray for his presence to impact our church meetings and our every day lives so that the Power of God becomes a reality and not just a phrase.

This week I am giving a lot of thought to the future leadership team of New Community Central as well as preparing budgets for September and developing the teaching programme for our morning congregation. On Sunday we will be dedicating our fourth child Jemimah to God with family and friends for a BBQ at ours afterwards - it will be a great day I am sure...