Friday, 1 May 2015

Clear Vision


Sometimes feel like I have heard so much about vision, and failed so miserably to motivate people, that I should give it up!

I suppose as a leader of any group, a picture of a preferred future that produce passion is a much coveted asset.

At our senior leadership day apart, one of my team mates said, "None of this motivates me. I never talk about this stuff. I just like talking about Jesus." As a Christian, Jesus is the hero. He is the one who we want to draw attention to. We imagine our futures through the lenses of what He said and did.

An observation that has been made around my leadership over the last couple of years is that we have given too much 'what and how' and not enough 'why'. Simon Sinek makes this point brilliantly in a TED talk which I have understood but strangely struggled to apply.

As it happens, our little local Church has it's vision sketched around the contours of the life of Jesus. We believe certain things due to the life of Jesus which is shaping our Church. As we make an intentional shift towards the 'why', we hope both members and guests at Grace Church will both understand our motivation and also be more motivated themselves!  

Heaven help me. :-)

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Christianity has no clothes

No Whispering Without The Priest... 1

Monks wore robes to identify with people. 

Medieval monastic communities identified with, and worked for the benefit of wider society. Bosch writes, "Even secular historians acknowledge that agricultural restoration of the largest part of Europe has to be attributed to them." They lived simple lives and worked hard with dedication and perseverance.

Today, the same robes communicate the opposite message. 

Over time, the same robes began to communicate a very different message. To me, robes do not say, 'I am with you'. In fact, they say the opposite. To me, dress from a monastic community communicates, 'I am separate from you'. I do not associate monastic dress with practical help but rather asceticism and eccentric behavior. I think this would be broadly true today.

Sometimes to communicate the same message, you must change. 

I'm not saying any of these messages are wrong. I happen to think both of them are needed. However I am observing that it is very different from the original intention. Sometimes due to changes in culture you must change to stay the same. For the monastic community to continue to say, 'I am with you', through dress at least, required a change.

Of course clothing is just one way we communicate in culture. Each time we communicate we 'dress' our message in various 'cultural clothes'. Emotional expression, language, dialect, body language, physical contact, music genre, use of technology, lifestyle rhythms, approach to time, plausibility structure, teaching style and heroes are all elements of culture we use in community life.

As I consider my role as a Pastor, I want to live and communicate an unchanging message in a changing world. I am seeing a lot of the 'cultural clothing' used by previous generations is now communicating the opposite message to the original intent. I believe one must be willing and ready to change our clothes to both keep the message and connect with people today.

A lot of listening and learning ahead.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Five ways to love our city...

On Sunday at Grace Church Exeter we conclude our series, "I love my city."

I have personally enjoyed considering why and how we can enjoy and love Exeter better. I was thrilled by the Express and Echo article and am very excited to see how our Church will put some of these values into action.

Here are five things I anticipate will happen and am beginning to see at Grace Church:

1) Grass roots initiatives 

Within our 'Community Groups' we are seeing people pray and begin to plan how to make a difference in their part of the city. A 'Neighbourhood Health Watch' is being considered in one group and we are broadly considering how we can spark more creativity.

2) Relief work and partnerships 

We currently a partner with Exeter Foodbank and have began working with Christians Against Poverty in a small way. As former Chair of Trustees for Foodbank, I am looking forward to hearing news as we continue to partner through people, prayers and pounds. We are looking to invest in and grow these relationships into the future.

3) Vocational support

Many of our Church make fantastic contributions to our city and surrounding areas through their work. We have many in education, health and social care, law, as well as business leaders and others. Our aim is to motivate, support and celebrate these outstanding contributions being made. We are anticipating termly forums developing to take this further.

4) Nurturing creative expression

One of our Community Groups is based around music in our city. I am looking to meet with some musicians to consider how music and faith fuel each other, and how we might increasingly contribute to the music scene in Exeter. We are also considering how to grow in creativity within our Church meetings.

5) Influence for good 

Within our city the University attracts people who are exceptionally gifted, Many Exeter graduates are in positions of significant responsibility and influence within society. We want to help support and envision those with bright futures to be working with endurance and faith for the benefit of all.

All these five areas are important. It is unlikely that the same person will begin a grass roots initiative and apply for a position of influence. However, both matter and both should be celebrated and supported. At Grace Church I am looking for people to give more space to each other and honor the different callings we each have.

As a Church we are motivated for all these things because we believe that God made and loves His world. We believe He is at work within it today, and one day he will restore it. We want our words and deeds to tell this wonderful story.

We are, and will be, minimizing and restructuring ministries, promoting spirituality, gifts and talents for all of life, redefining maturity in a broader way, creating bespoke support and learning from many others who are on a similar journey.

Through our small lives we hope we'll all increasingly hear the voice of another say, 'I love my city'.

Friday, 20 March 2015

A spring in my step

Yellow Flowers In Springtime 3

A change of season

As the seasons of the year change, so do the seasons of life. As spring arrives in Exeter I also feel like I am experiencing a spring like season in my life.

Personal change 

After three months of intensive and painful counselling last year, I feel I have moved on in some important areas of my life. I feel spiritually healthy and hopeful.

Team change 

Ben Homer is growing and growing on our team in Church and enabling my role to evolve. I am excited about the opportunities ahead for further study, leadership focus and pastoral development. I will be moving away from the operational side of the church.

Significant friendships

Over the last few months I have increasingly been feeling a sense of gratitude for the amazing people in my life. I have begun to recognize that at different times we experience different levels of friendships and partnerships and I am deeply grateful for this particular season.

New chapter at home

My kids are now 3 and 5. They both (usually) sleep through the night. Rest is now a reality. Our rhythm now feels sustainable and I no longer feel like a zombie. This is good news.

Church change 

After a number of changes in Church life we are starting to both settle and see little shoots of new life. We are settled into a new venue. We have settled on our name and vision. We are now beginning to explore what it might look like for each of us.

Of course life is still full of challenge and heartbreak. I recently lost a family member, some of my friends in Church are facing horrible challenges. I feel heavy hearted particularly for four or five people at this time.

Underneath all the current challenges I remain grateful for the change of personal season. I am now looking to play my part well in all that is being asked of me.