Friday, 28 June 2013

'I have no need of you.'

Blue EyeWe are all different. We all have something to offer. We are all better in a team of complementary players.

The Bible says that local Church is a group of people who all have a part to play. The ear needs the eyes. The eyes need the ears.

I think it is challenging and complex to genuinely achieve diversity of strengths in teams and churches.

I think sometimes we implicitly communicate 'I have no need of you' by the way we approach problems.

'We just need to teach our people better.' If we say this all the time we will be communicating to leaders that they cannot make a difference. Teaching is good but it is not all we need.

'We just need to pray more about this.' If we say this too much we will dis-empower strategic thinkers. Prayer is good but it is not all we need.

'We just need to plan more thoroughly.' If we say this too much we will exclude the need for faith and spontaneous leading. Planning is good but it is not all we need.

'We just need to change the way we lead.' If we say this too much we will communicate that we do not value prayer or demonstrate a need for faith. Leadership is good but it is not all we need.

'We just need to hear from God (through prophesy)' If we say this too much we will communicate that we do not value wisdom and experience and sometimes even common sense. Prophesy is good but it is not all we need.

We could go on...

I guess most of us want to face challenges using our own personal strengths. I suppose this is natural. I suppose this is why leaders attract leaders who are like themselves because those with similar gifts feel valued, accepted and can play their part.

In the rugby culture different strengths were very much respected. The huge strong (slow) prop forwards were appreciative of the fast (light) runners. There was respect and honoring and a covering of each others weaknesses. I would like to play my part well to help cultivate this in my local Church. I want my Church to be a place where strength in different ways is cherished and appreciated. I guess this is more easily said than done...

Thursday, 20 June 2013

A great place to raise kids?

Okay so I live in Exeter, which most people would regard as a nice place to live and a 'great place to raise kids'. Maybe for some of you what you are about to read is therefore quite silly... anyway...

Nearly a year ago we moved house. One of the big questions we thought about was 'do we move in?' or 'do we move out?'


Do we move into the city area? Walking distance to the town centre? Lots more people around? A diversity of people? Less land maybe? Not as 'nice'?  City school? Walk up to city events?


Do we move out of the city area? Lots more land? Space? Countryside? Peace and quiet? Village school? 'Nice'? I even thought we could have some rugby posts in the garden... I'm told that people who can afford it move out to places like Woodbury.  Swanky.

In the end, we decided to move 'in'.

Soon afterwards, friends of ours were visiting us from London and we were bragging about our new home. We walked out the door and around the corner to enjoy the local quayside. Me, Chloe, kids and our friends were shocked to see two men fighting on the floor. One was bloodied, got thrown into the road and hit a car on the door. I guess this doesn't happen much in Exeter compared to other cities. I guess it happens even less in the country.

Our son is just about to start primary school. It has been an interesting journey for us. Some of the people who we have got to know are now moving out of the area for schools or looking for countryside options for there kids. Hmmmmm. What are we doing?

Chloe and I listened to a talk by Tim Keller called, 'It takes a city to raise a child.' If you are a Christian parent you might find it interesting. The first 30 mins are his talk followed by Q&A. In it he argues it can be much better to be in a city. Clearly he is in New York which is not really comparable to Exeter. However, Chloe and I still felt the in/out question and we found it helpful at this point.

As we are 'in' Exeter', with all its advantages and disadvantages, I was encouraged by his points:


If you live 'in' there is more going on for you to do with your kids, like live music, festivals, theatre etc - you need to find stuff to do for them.

Teenage Years

If you live in a place which is 'great for kids', by the time they become teenagers they will be bored and looking to get out. They may want to move asap and in the meantime you have to drive a lot!

Role Models

If your Church is a city church with 20s in it, your teenage kids are more likely to find role models who they respect within the faith. I'm glad my Church is like this.


If you live in a city and know more of 'real life', including I guess the fight we saw, your life and faith will have a credibility before your children as they grow up.  A great question our kids will ask is 'can our faith cope with the challenges of everyday life?' Personally, I have found it helpful to walk home past homeless people everyday, to have stinking litter on the streets for days on end, to have loud music opposite us and have our shed broken in to. It's one of the things that helps me as a pastor to stay a little grounded. Maybe? Even in Exeter? Will my kids see me as in touch with reality? I think this is more likely now that we have moved in.

I've never heard someone speak like this before. It made me wonder about myself, Church, faith, preferences, calling, in/out and parenting. I found it very thought provoking...

Sunday, 16 June 2013

'Honouring the founders & the future' - Prayers for Andy & Jane

It seems like yesterday I was sat in Andy and Jane's living room as a new Christian peppering Andy with questions on the membership course. "What about this?" "How does that fit with that?" He was very gracious with me!

Since then it has been a great journey for me under the guidance of Andy. Andy has shown faith in me and given many opportunities to have a go and keep going when i have faced some bumps in the road. This culminated in Andy handing the leadership baton of our church to me in January 2012.

At our elders day apart in January 2013 Andy shared that him and Jane were 'feeling stirred' for a fresh challenge. We felt together, a year on from the leadership handover that Frontiers was in a position of strength and that Andy and Jane were carrying unused kingdom leadership.

We have been prayerfully discussing the following options:

1) Andy and Jane remain in Exeter and cultivate a wider ministry.
2) Andy and Jane plant another Church.
3) Andy and Jane move to lead and strengthen an existing Church.

It was great to catch up with Andy today and touch base. Andy and Jane are currently enjoying a sabbatical where they are considering their options for the future. We will be praying for Andy and Jane each Sunday from this point. At this moment in time no final decision has been made. 

As a leadership team we are committed to 'honouring the founders and honouring the future'. I would therefore ask friends and members of Frontiers Church to be prayerful during this season as we seek God's will together. We will be touching base with Andy and Jane when they return home and we are excited to see what is next for this outstanding couple.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Sunday Meetings - a new order for us?

As a leadership team we have decided to trial a different way of ordering our Sunday meetings.

Our traditional approach has been:

10:00am - 10:30am Coffee
10:30am - 11:10am Singing & Worship and Contributions
11:00am - Kids to Classes
11:10am - 11:20am Family News
11:20am - 12:00pm Preaching

Our observations have been:

1) Too much singing and worship without a fresh and compelling reason to sing and worship leaves guests, visitors and those struggling with faith feeling disconnected and not able to participate.

2) After people have heard teaching about Jesus they often want to pray for friends or respond. Our current meeting does not allow for much response particularly for those who have to go to collect children from classes.

3) Our worship has struggled to embrace all the seasons of life. Some of scripture is celebration while other parts are lamentation. Our current order relies on the worship leader and how they are going and philosophy of worship rather than the scriptures. 

4)  We have not created a regular time to enjoy communion which in my opinion is the high point of Christian Worship. 

From July 7th we are going to trial something like:

10:00am - 10:30am Coffee
10:30am - 10:40am Singing
10:40am - 10:50am Family News (This is what is going on in Church)
10:50am - 10:55am Break and kids to classes
10:55am - 11:30am Preaching (This is who Jesus is)
11:30am - 12:00pm Communion, Singing, Prayers and Contributions. (This is how you might respond.) 

We shared this at a recent prayer meeting and people were very positive. We are hoping that it will help more people feel like they can participate in our meetings more of the time. 

We shall see. 

Friday, 7 June 2013

I'm stuck in the 90's...

I just want to confess that when it comes to musical preference I am still stuck in the 90's.

Whenever I create a play list for the gym, go out to for a dance or reach for a CD in the car I still want to listen to the same old tracks. 

I don't know why this is.

Although I now struggle with much of the lyrical content, this will always be 'real music'. Some of my friends moved on to house music and drum and bass. I never made it. 

As someone who is involved in leading a Church that has singing and music playing every week, I find this an interesting dynamic. I don't really like most Christian music (as you could guess because I still want 90's hip hop or Dizzy Rascal on my playlist) so I am constantly choosing and influencing against my preference. 

I hope that in Church I can play my part in influencing our more creative people to write and play music that is widely enjoyed by the people in my city and the friends of those who are in my Church. I want the music in my Church to be as good and authentic musically as any local gig that our members would go to. Hopefully Church will become more fun for everybody. 

I wonder if in someway we all get stuck. Is that normal? How do we handle this? Worship leaders, do you still use those 80's classics? Do you still use the same old favorites? Maybe you are stuck just like me but in a different time and place... 

I am glad some of the Music and Worship team in my Church have written albums and play in local bands of different genres who are going well. I am hoping we are going to have more creativity, more 'current' music and that I will over time get 'unstuck' into a new day. Pray for me. ;-)  The future is bright. 

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Is it OK that I believe...?

It is my observation that every group of people/community have either written or unwritten beliefs that are acceptable to the group.

I have been part of a group where it was acceptable to be unfaithful to your girlfriend but very much unacceptable to be unfaithful with someone else's girlfriend.

I have been in a group where it was acceptable to use illegal drug X but not to use illegal drug Y.

There are always lines.

I'm not commenting on the value or merit of these lines. I'm just saying that I think they always exist.

If you cross certain lines you will not be able to keep playing.

In the Church there are lines. Historically many lines have been drawn. You can trace these lines through creeds and statements of faith which I guess tell some of the story.

Sometimes lines are repainted, removed or you move.

Recently I was in two forums where senior leaders were talking about issues where the lines were previously drawn but do not appear so clear anymore.

The inward surge of questions I experienced surprised me.

What do others think of me?
Am I outside the line?
Are they outside the line?
Are these lines good?
Are these lines bad?
Are we still playing together?
Can I explain myself?
Do you understand me?

It made me reflect how I lead my Church and the environment we are creating.

What lines do we have?
Are they good?
Do we need more?
Do we need less? 

But more importantly for me at this moment of time...

How do I explain what I believe?
How do I give people who are interested/want to join my church time to think about what I am saying?
How do I take time to listen, learn understand and respect those who have different views to me?