Category: Carl’s Thoughts

For those that haven’t heard yet, In February next year, I’m taking up the role of Director of Church Planting and Church Development for the Elim movement.  I thought I would share some of the details in the background around one specific issue.  That of transitioning from being a CEO to having a boss or three again.

Theres a line in a well known Pacino movie that goes something like this:-

“Vanity, my favourite sin.”

In the movie, Pacino is the devil in disguise as a lawyer and uses the snare of ego and vanity to get his man.  Its a film every Christian leader should take note of.

After nearly 10 years in leadership at CVM and years before that as senior pastor of a large church, I felt for a whole number of reasons that it was time to step aside.  Some of these reasons were highly strategic.  I had come to the conclusion for example, that CVM needed to known for its aims and objectives rather than for one man at the front.  I also felt that I needed to make way for some highly gifted and talented people on the team.  There were of course, many other reasons for making the change but something I haven’t really spoken about yet was one (there are others) of my own personal reasons.

When I went to CVM I had been leading a large, multi congregational Baptist Church.  When I moved on I went to serve another leader as his “number two” on the team.  Many people at that time thought that I was mad.  “Why on earth would you leave senior leadership to work for someone again?” Was a regular question.  In due course I became the boss but first I had to learn to serve again.  It was a character forming time.

A few times in recent weeks people have asked a similar question or expressed mild surprise.  It seems that in the Christian world, this isn’t viewed as a common trajectory for a “minor personality” or senior leader.  In my new role I will have a day to day boss again and will also report to a National Leadership Team that I won’t be part of.  Sure, its a senior role and I will have a significant amount of freedom but the fact remains that for the first time in many years I wont be calling the shots or setting the overall direction or culture of the movement in which I will serve.  I may also have to deal with my leaders not agreeing with my views and getting on with it anyway without sulking or complaining.  I’ll also have to deal with asking for permission again for some things.  It’ll feel a bit weird but strangely, I’m actually looking forward to it.

Senior leadership has many privileges.  You are the culture setter.  You can make final decisions and you are in  sense, master of your own destiny on a day to day basis.  It has its pressures of course but the sense of freedom to “be” and to create is a fantastic thing.  However, you also get your ego stroked.  You walk into a room and people take notice of what you have to say.  You get announced as a “the leader” or ‘the founder”.  You become acknowledged for being successful (if you have been) and you get a seat round the table at some key meetings.  You also get invited to some pretty cool places.  It’s fun but if you’re not careful it can play havoc with your sense of self.

There is no doubt that God uses profile, personality and leadership.  You see that all the way through the bible. But it beholds us leaders to hear Gods call and not to let ego and vanity get in the way of taking what could be viewed as a “step back” in human terms in order to get the work of The Kingdom done.  In the margins I had several opportunities to still run a ministry or go freelance as I transitioned away from being a CEO but I knew that in this next season there was a specific role and task that God wanted me to fulfill and that as part of it, I was to serve a movement rather than to create one.

My conclusion is this; as servants of God, who have signed up to follow him where ever he tells us to go and do whatever he asks to do, we are in a sense his chess pieces to move as he sees fit.  Therefore, if as the overall boss of a church, ministry or business (as this applies to all followers of Christ) you aren’t able to move at his request and serve another leadership and lay aside some of your current privileges or status, then perhaps you shouldn’t have been a CEO type in the first place?

As for watching a new team leadership taking on CVM, I plan to delight in seeing things change and develop from a place on the board of trustees.  I pray that I will be an encouragement and strong support as they do things differently and progress CVM in ways that I couldn’t have done.  Thats what its all about.  I suspect that when we die and meet Jesus, the status or position we had in the eyes of men and women will count for very little indeed!

Real men don’t drink fruit tea.

Okay, before we get into this, I need to lay my cards face up on the table. I like fast cars and motorbikes, especially loud ones. I enjoy hot curry. I listen to indie bands and prog rock. I don’t get the skinny jeans thing and prefer to wear my trousers around my waist and not hanging off my rear. I own an air rifle. I like toys and gadgets and one of my favourite films is Rocky II (arguably the best of the lot of ‘em). I also like top ten lists, facts and stats about any sort of vehicle, building or structure and like to see things explode, especially caravans. I lift weights, go fishing, enjoy a sporting challenge that hurts (I’m running the Snowdonia marathon in a few months time) and don’t like clothes shopping or musicals. I mean, why sing when you can have a conversation!? I love hanging out with the blokes and enjoy real ale and good wine.

I am a cliche man. Or so you would think.

I’m also married and have two daughters. This means I watch chick flicks. Im not stereotyping women, its a fact that they like them, so I watch them with them because I like their company. I have to say that another one of my favourite films is Sleepless in Seattle, every man needs a guilty pleasure. Gets me every-time. It also means I get to cast opinions on clothes, makeup, self image, romance dilemmas and demonstrate tenderness and gentleness towards my daughters. I hug my kids, and tell all the girls in my life everyday that I love them. In fact, I love nothing more than a night in with my family. I also dabble in playing both classical piano and guitar, read history books, enjoy star gazing and have published some poems. Go figure.

Unbelievably I also love to cook for my family and tidy up after and am an animal lover with a big soft spot for dogs. (I have something of a small zoo). I also have a thing about nature in general and a little known fact is that I like trees and was once a member of the woodland trust. The point being, we are all deeper and more complex than might appear on the surface. Don’t make the mistake of pigeon holing someone because they like certain things or talk a certain way. Its discrimination. As an example, I was once introduced as:-

“this is Carl Beech, don’t let his accent and appearance fool you, he’s actually quite bright underneath it all”.

On another occasion someone said:-

“you don’t look and sound like someone with two degrees…”

If it wasn’t funny, it could really wind a guy from Essex up. The thing is that by the same token, telling me what I should or shouldn’t be in order to be a man is equally as offensive. And nor should I, as the leader of an international mens ministry define what a so called “real man” should look and sound like. It mildly amuses me that for the most part its women who are commentating on what “real masculinity is”. I could cite many articles written by women on this issue. Now think about it. If I as a man was to publish an article on “femininity” I would probably be rounded up and kicked out of Dodge before you could say “internal combustion engine.” Leave us be. We’ll work it out.

Back to the heading; personally, I think fruit tea is a bit weird. Its a bit like drinking hot blackcurrant juice but paying a lot more for it. Why bother? But if thats ya poison, fill ya boots. In my opinion, the same goes for the way some men choose to express their masculinity. Bottom line is this. Be your own man. It goes wrong when men feel like they have to order a beer at a bar, just because everyone else is. I mean, if you want an orange juice then have one. Baby Cham is a different story. Same goes for sport. I don’t massively follow football. Surprised you now haven’t I. I get interested because millions of men are interested and its a great way to reach out. I feel no pressure to conform though. You like playing the harp and tapestry as a man. Fine by me. You like loud engines and real ale. Fine by me. You like skinny jeans? Bit weird but fine by me! And so it should be for all of us. What I will do is challenge negative aspects of masculinity. Violence against women, propagating sex trafficking by visiting brothels, buying porn etc. I won’t knock testosterone though. And nor should you. That there are men willing to use their testosterone to keep us safe and lay down their lives is always ignored when men are criticised for their aggression. It can be harnessed for good and not ill.

The world needs strong and fearless men on a number of different levels. Radical love through to radical “life on the line” action. Anyway, as far as I am concerned, there are millions of men in the UK who like the “man stuff” who don’t know Jesus. I and CVM will meet them on their turf and in a way that they understand. The church needs to grasp this idea as well and ban streamers and God snog songs.

Maybe I’m a cliche in your eyes but for the sake of the millions of men dying without Jesus, I’m happy to be one. Just don’t buy me a fruit tea if we ever meet.

The Biggest Shame in History.

It was described as a humiliation, the biggest shame in history, a historical humiliation, a disaster and a slaughter. You could easily think that these were comments made about any number of international/national debacles, wars, kidnappings and abuses but for those of you that read the headlines you’ll already know that I’m referring to football.

Yes, in 1980 Watford smashed Southampton in the league cup, 7-1 having been previously beaten by them in a previous game 4-0. One reporter is quoted as saying that even thinking now about the day of the historic victory 24 years ago sends a shiver down his spine. Watford fans still talk of this astonishing victory today. Apparently by bizarre coincidence, Brazil lost to Germany in the world cup semi final this week, with exactly the same result. Not sure if you would be aware of that of course and it may not linger in the memory as long as the Watford game, but it did get me thinking a bit. Iconic images of David Luiz falling to his knees in prayer and Scolari saying it was the worst day of his life, got the brain cells firing up.

As the world reacted to the result and news stories about paedophilia, internet law changes, kidnappings, crises in the middle east and strikes moved from the front pages, a story started to trend. Tomaz Sardhinha became an internet sensation after TV cameras focussed in on him crying his eyes out, as Brazil got roundly thrashed by a clinical and ruthless German team. Tweets of him crying went global with motivational cries of “win this game for the crying boy” and words to that effect. Understandably, Raphael Sardinha, Tomazs’ Dad was a bit concerned about all the attention so decided to try and calm things down by posting a picture of his son smiling. This however also went global. To further try and calm things down he decided to do some TV and newspaper interviews. One thing Raphael said to the media mob stuck in my mind. It was, I would contend, a fine bit of wisdom: “I’ll repeat what I told Tomaz, as he sobbed after Germany’s fifth goal: this is just a game. It tears us apart, but it is only a game” Very true that.

I know followers of Jesus Christ whose whole mood is dramatically affected by the result of a footy match. I find that a bit odd. I know that I’m opening myself up for a bit of flack, but it needs saying. I wouldn’t go as far as Milton in Paradise Lost who implied that games are what demons do in their free time in hell, (he also said that about debating, tourism {exploring hell} and philosophy) but theres a serious point to be made. As followers of Jesus we know the truth. That this life isn’t it (phil 3:20). That actually we live with a sense of heaven on our shoulders and know that we decision we made for Jesus Christ affected where we will be 10,000 years from now (John 3:16). We know that we are the redeemed (Eph 1:7) and hang by a thread of Gods grace (Eph 2:8) from being separated from Him forever. We know the score (see what I did there) and we’ve read the last page. It ends well.

To sum up, its all about perspective. Yes we have bad hair days and things can go wrong, sometimes very wrong. Loss, pain. grief, trauma, suffering are all part of life. Some things, this side of eternity are very hard to cope with and recover from indeed. But crying over a game of football when you know what we know? Leave it out.

“If I wasn’t a follower of Jesus and I was looking in on the Twitter feeds of Christians, I would think several different things about who Jesus really is by the way people talk about him.”

When the parents of my daughter’s friends discovered the other day we were Christians, they asked if we were “happy-clappy or Songs of Praise”. An interesting way of defining the term ‘Christians’ we thought to ourselves.  In fact, it was also intriguing how “proper Christians” (as we were also described) are viewed.  It’s either one type or the other apparently.  Even more fascinating to me was how far this is all broken down once you are ‘on the inside’.Let me explain.  If I wasn’t a follower of Jesus and I was looking in on the Twitter feeds of Christians, I would think several different things about who Jesus really is by the way people talk about him.  And it gets far more complex than Songs of Praise or rainbow strapped guitars. At the very least, I would think Jesus is somewhat more concerned or defined by some causes and ideologies rather than others.  Examples might be:

  • Jesus the socialist (I find Tory Christians tend to be less vocal about their politics on Twitter)
  • The feminist (Ditto masculists as above)
  • The romantic (going by comments about worship)
  • The radical anarchist
  • The pentecostal
  • The cessationist (i.e. strange fire)
  • The new monastic
  • The abolitionist
  • The contemplative
  • The pacifist
  • The creationist (more vocal on Twitter)
  • The evolutionist (mostly keep their heads down on Twitter)
  • The environmentalist
  • The petrol head (added that one for my own sake)

In fact, when I talk to some people or read certain blogs, they often define their own walk of faith via a particular cause, often at the exclusion of other ideologies or positions. For example, “I’m a pacifist Christian.”

That’s all well and good but I start to feel a bit miffed when people go on to say something like, “Jesus was a pacifist” or “Jesus was a socialist”, or any of the above actually.

I’m not going to argue the case over any of those issues, that is not the point of this piece.

But I guess I want to ask the question: “Do we talk about Jesus as King enough?”  Or do we rather talk about the Jesus of our own cause or particular emphasis ahead of that?

Now don’t read into this anymore than what is here.  I’m not saying those causes aren’t valid.  I may not agree with them all but that’s irrelevant.  One thing I’m sure we can all agree on is that Jesus is King and that one day every knee will bow to him.  More than that, I hope we can agree that this is a major thrust of the Christian message and that our lives need to be surrendered to him.  The issues and causes we are passionate about come about because the Holy Spirit has burned a cause or calling in our hearts and lives.  That’s fantastic and as it should be.  Faith without works is dead.  And a Christian without a passion for justice or without desire to see the world changed is like naan bread but without the curry.

In the process of choosing which causes we ultimately care about, let’s make sure the primary and overriding message is that of Jesus and the need to surrender our lives to him.  I fear that if we don’t, then the danger is that we are just seen as people who care about moral frameworks or beliefs.  Good and right though that is, it’s not the point is it?  Call me old-school but when I read the Bible I see bad news as well as good news.  I wish that wasn’t true, but it is.  Let’s make sure that we give people a valid opportunity to hear the gospel as well as hear the causes and passions we care about most.

This blog was first published on Threads.uk

A few times over the last few months I’ve mentioned the approach Ive taken to my teenage girls discovery of “boys”. A few times, you men out there have asked me to write down my thoughts:- So here it is. My guide to handling your daughters boyfriend without needing to get a shotgun license…

In the build up to facing what is every Dads worst nightmare, I asked a few people I knew what they had done when a testosterone laden, hormonally driven, sex crazed teenage boy turned up on the doorstep to take their daughter out.

(Note to any women reading this:- no this isn’t a stereotype and I’m not being shallow or over the top. I was a teenage lad once. I know what was on my mind and it wasn’t a game of charades or shopping).

Mostly people told me that they wanted to try and be the teenage boys friend. FRIEND?!?! WHAT?!?! I don’t want to be his friend. I want to be inside his head with a sense of Godly unpredictable menace. I want him to think of me when his hormones are telling him to do things that he really shouldn’t be doing. I also want him to think about things other than sex. Such as being caring, tender, honoring and respectful. So, as with all good Dad skills, I decided to head off “tango one” at the pass.

(Tango one being the code word for any boyfriend. For those that don’t know what Im on about, its a NATO style designation for a target).

Firstly, I sat down with both my girls and said the following:-

“I know you are interested in boys but I want to say something now because I love you very much and my job is to protect you and care for you…even if that means you don’t always like what I say. In fact, because I love you, I’m prepared to say and do things that wont always make me popular with you, but one day you’ll understand. If theres a boy you want to go out with, I just want you to ask yourself a few questions:-”

1) Will he treat you better than I treat you? (tip here is to set an impossibly high and expensive standard. ;)

2) Will he put you first and think of you when you are out with friends.

3) Will he draw you closer to Jesus (My girls are believers)

4)  I want to have a pep talk with him that will stay between me and him unless he tells you what I said.

My girls thought this was awesome. Yes really! In fact, my wife Karen said that the girls felt loved and secure because of this chat. Daughters need to know that their Dads care and are involved.

So, the big question is, what do I say to Tango 1? Well. here it is:-

“Tango 1, thanks for coming for a chat. I just wanted you to know how precious my daughter is to me… I mean she is really precious and I love her more than I can explain to you. So with that in mind (and please keep that in mind) heres some things that I wanted to say to you;

When you go out, please treat my daughter with respect. Please honour her and put her first. Make sure she is happy and safe.

Please don’t get her to do anything she isn’t happy with..and if she says no to something…please bear in mind that she should only need to say that once and Ive asked her to tell me if you don’t listen to her or upset her because its my job to make sure she is safe and happy and I take that job more seriously than nearly everything else in my life.

Honour and respect are really important values in our family…so if I say my daughter has to be home at 6pm, what time does she need to be home? (Note that 6pm is the right answer technically speaking but the wrong answer from a Dad perspective. 5.55pm is the right answer as this means he is being wise and respecting the time request).

Oh and theres one last thing. Please don’t put your hands anywhere on my daughter where I wouldn’t place my hands. Thanks”.

So whats been the result? When theres been an issue we talk about it. My daughters boyfriend has popped round for a chat when we’ve been unhappy about something. The air is kept clear and my daughters feel safe and we all get on great. So far so good. But if it all goes wrong, they know they can talk to me because I wont and don’t go off the deep end. The boundaries are set but the dialogue is ongoing and constant.

All the best fellas… its a tough gig.

Thousands of marble crosses and Jewish stars all lined up almost as far as you could see. One was to an unknown solider. “Known to God” was the inscription.

World-War-1-Soldiers-Graveyard-a22431386A couple of weeks ago I went for a fast blast across Belgium and France on my motorbike with a mate. The agenda consisted of clear European roads and enjoying the bikes and each other’s company. I wasn’t expecting it to include some of the most profoundly moving experiences of my life.

Let me explain.

During the First World War, nearly 900,000 British soldiers and more than 100,000 civilians lost their lives. That’s a staggering and horrific 2.19 per cent of the British population at that time. Many more were wounded.

In Ypres (now known as Leper) a third of the total military losses occurred. It turns out that 90,000 of them have no known graves and so in 1927 a memorial was opened at the Menin gate as an expression of gratitude by the Belgian population for the sacrifices that were made for their freedom.

On the first night that the memorial was opened, three buglers played the Last Post. Something remarkable then happened. Every night at 8pm a small group of men from the local fire brigade would close the road and sound the Last Post.

Remarkably, they haven’t missed a night since 28 July 1928. In fact, during the Second World War when Belgium was occupied, the Last Post ceremony was conducted instead in Surrey.

However, as soon as Polish forces liberated Ypres during the Second World War, the ceremony resumed, even though there was heavy fighting taking place in other parts of the city.

Think about it. They close the road every night at precisely 8pm and have done so for the last 85 years!

As we stood there at 8pm on a warm summer’s evening, I watched young and old bow their heads in respect as the buglers played. I saw blokes with tattoos and kids with their jeans hanging round their ankles lay wreaths and brush a tear away. Black, white, Asian, they were all there. In fact it was packed with all ages, genders and representatives from the Commonwealth.

I’m told it’s like this every night. I also saw what I presume were elderly relatives of those who died. I watched them as they stood with quiet dignity, carrying the responsibility for remembering a relative they may never have met. Yes, I had a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye.

A general who was present when the gate was opened in 1927 was reported to have said to grieving family members of the lost and missing:  “He is NOT missing, he is here…”

It struck me that it was important to have ‘a place’…

A few days later I stood in the American cemetery overlooking Omaha beach in Normandy, one of the locations of the D-Day invasion in the Second World War.  Thousands of marble crosses and Jewish stars all lined up almost as far as you could see. One was to an unknown solider. “Known to God” was the inscription.  A visitor had left fresh flowers next to the cross. People were still remembering and honouring sacrifice. Something about sacrifice touches the human heart.

The honour and the dignity I experienced really moved me. The horror and brutality of war also bruised me. I’m glad I know Jesus and I’m glad I have a future hope as well as a hope for today.

“Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:5-7).

This blog was first published here…

For our 300th post, we asked Carl Beech to tell us just why he loves the epic testosterone-fuelled film 300…

this-is-spartaThe Battle of Thermopylae is the stuff of legend.It’s around 480BC and 300 Spartan warriors face an invasion force of 300,000 Persians.Against the odds they determine to hold them off at a narrow pass called ‘The Hot Gates’ to enable the Greek city-states to muster their various armies and form a united front. It’s a suicide mission and they know it. They fight hard and to the last man. Historians tell how the last men standing were so ferocious they fought using their hands, feet and teeth.Basically, the Greek city-states gained much needed time to muster their armies and eventually, after a brutal war, the Persian army was driven back and Greece was saved.

There’s no doubt that there were some epic moments among the tragedy of the slaughter.

In a famous exchange captured in the 2006 film 300, the historian Herodotus said this of one of the reputedly bravest warriors called Dienekes.

“He was told by a native of Trachis that the Persian archers were so numerous that their arrows would block out the sun. Dienekes, however, undaunted by this prospect, remarked with a laugh: ‘Good. Then we will fight in the shade.’”

Of course, for all you history geeks out there, the historical version differs a bit from the film but it’s true they held the line, true they all died and true that they enabled the Greek armies to overcome and win the fight.

As a film, 300 rocked the world. It’s still the 24th highest-grossing film for an opening weekend, having taken more than £456 million and has a cult following to this day.
Interestingly the film is said to be popular with men and women, particularly because it has a strong female and male lead. There’s no denying it though that many men love the film and the story. I’m one of them.

Yes there’s glorified and over-stylised violence and I’m sure it says something about our culture that violent films do so well at the box office, but I confess that the film just gripped me. Why? Because it’s a band of brothers fighting against the odds who have each other’s backs. There’s unswerving loyalty to each other and to a cause. There’s pride in who they are and the nation they represent. They refuse to quit and stay upbeat even in the face of certain death. They are well-trained, drilled and motivated. I can’t explain why, but all this, and the sense of heroic struggle, deeply appeals to me.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a throwback dinosaur of a man (I can picture the nodding heads) or perhaps it’s because something deep within me wants to fight for a noble cause and get into a scrap. I think it’s probably something to do with my testosterone levels. Society wants me to be tame and so does the Church – or at least that’s what it tends to communicate.

My role model however isn’t King Leonidas, the Spartan warrior, or a gentile parish vicar; it’s Jesus, and in the words of C S Lewis: “Aslan is not a tame lion.”

This blog was first published here…

Carl Beech kicks off his all-male guest editor week with a challenge to all of us to realise that we are all deeper and more complex than might appear on the surface.

fruitteaOkay, before we get into this, I need to lay my cards face up on the table.

I like fast cars and motorbikes – especially loud ones. I enjoy hot curry. I listen to indie bands and prog rock. I don’t get the skinny jeans thing and prefer to wear my trousers around my waist and not hanging off my rear. I own an air rifle. I like toys and gadgets and one of my favourite films isRocky II (arguably the best of the lot of ‘em).

I also like top 10 lists, facts and stats about any sort of vehicle, building or structure and like to see things explode – especially caravans. I lift weights, go fishing, enjoy a sporting challenge that hurts (I’m running the Snowdonia marathon in a few months’ time) and don’t like clothes shopping or musicals. I mean, why sing when you can have a conversation? I love hanging out with the blokes and enjoy real ale and good wine. I am a cliché of a man.

Or so you would think.

I’m also married and have two daughters. This means I watch chick flicks. I’m not stereotyping women, it’s a fact that they like them, so I watch them with them because I like their company. I have to say that another one of my favourite films is Sleepless in Seattle (every man needs a guilty pleasure). Gets me every time. It also means I get to cast opinions on clothes, make-up, self image, romance dilemmas and demonstrate tenderness and gentleness towards my daughters. I hug my kids, and tell all the girls in my life every day that I love them. In fact, I love nothing more than a night in with my family. I also dabble in playing both classical piano and guitar, read history books, enjoy star-gazing and have published some poems. Go figure. Unbelievably, I also love to cook for my family and tidy up afterwards. I’m also an animal lover with a big soft spot for dogs. (I have something of a small zoo). I also have a thing about nature in general and a little-known fact is that I like trees and was once a member of the Woodland Trust.

The point being, we are all deeper and more complex than might appear on the surface.

Don’t make the mistake of pigeon-holing someone because they like certain things or talk a certain way. It’s discrimination. This often happens to me. As an example, I was once introduced as:

“This is Carl Beech, don’t let his accent and appearance fool you, he’s actually quite bright underneath it all.”

On another occasion, someone said:

“You don’t look and sound like someone with two degrees.”

If it wasn’t funny, words like that can really wind a guy from Essex up. The thing is that by the same token, telling me what I should or shouldn’t be in order to be a man is equally as offensive. And nor should I, as the leader of an international men’s ministry define what a so called ‘real man’ should look and sound like.

It mildly amuses me that for the most part it’s women who are commentating on what real masculinity is. I could cite many articles written by women on this issue. Now think about it. If I as a man was to publish an article on ‘femininity’, I would probably be rounded up and kicked out of Dodge before you could say ‘internal combustion engine’. Leave us be. We’ll work it out.

Back to the heading; personally, I think fruit tea is a bit weird. It’s a bit like drinking hot blackcurrant juice but paying a lot more for it. Why bother? But if that’s ya poison, fill ya boots. In my opinion, the same goes for the way some men choose to express their masculinity. The bottom line is this: be your own man. Things go wrong when men feel they have to order a beer at a bar, just because everyone else is. If you want an orange juice then have one. Babycham is a different story. The same goes for sport. I don’t massively follow football. Surprised you now, haven’t I? I get interested because millions of men are interested and it’s a great way to reach out. I feel no pressure to conform though. You like playing the harp and tapestry as a man? Fine by me. You like loud engines and real ale? Fine by me. You like skinny jeans? Bit weird, but fine by me! And so it should be for all of us.

What I will do is challenge negative aspects of masculinity. Violence against women, propagating sex trafficking by visiting brothels, buying porn etc. I won’t knock testosterone though. And nor should you. That there are men willing to use their testosterone to keep us safe and lay down their lives is always ignored when men are criticised for their aggression. It can be harnessed for good and not ill. The world needs strong and fearless men on a number of different levels. Radical love through to radical ‘life on the line’ action.

Anyway, as far as I am concerned, there are millions of men in the UK who like the ‘man stuff’ who don’t know Jesus. Christian Vision for Men and I meet them on their turf and in a way that they understand. The Church needs to grasp this idea as well and ban streamers and God snog songs. Maybe I’m a cliché in your eyes, but for the sake of the millions of men dying without Jesus, I’m happy to be one. Just don’t buy me a fruit tea if we ever meet.

This blog was first published here…

I’ve noticed a trend among Christians that’s starting to make me feel grumpy.

oh-noIt may just be the people or organisations that I ‘follow’, but as I look through my Twitter feed I notice that the vast majority of comments are on issues such as justice, food banks, trafficking, gender issues, politics etc.

All of this is of course very good indeed. Before you get grumpy with me, yes I do think that Christians should be engaged with the world, and yes I do think we should be leading the charge in many of these areas. It’s fantastic that Christian leaders (mostly, if not exclusively women, in fact) comment on the papers on BBC News and Sky TV. It’s great that the Evangelical Alliance has staff who are engaged with parliament and it’s fantastic there are big ministries engaged with family life, politics, trafficking and poverty.

There is however a noticeable and surprising absence in all the comment. The stories of radical transformation through the proclamation of the gospel. Sure, there are some, but in no way to the same frequency as the other stuff. I’ve started to wonder why this is.

After all, any speed-read through the gospels and you soon notice that most of the content is about finding and saving the lost. Yeah ok, it’s old-school terminology, but that’s what Jesus calls people who don’t know him, so thats good enough for me. So I ask the question: “If the majority of the content of the gospels is about salvation, why isn’t that reflected in our activity and comment?”

Have we lost confidence in the fact that the simple proclamation of the gospel has the power to radically transform lives? I don’t think it’s a lack of confidence in the gospel that is at the heart of the problem. The problem is that we have drowned out the message of the cross through lots of activity that was inspired by the cross in the first place.

In a nutshell – have we stopped actually telling people about Jesus?

Also, have we stopped believing that the radical transformation of society and the end of injustice will come through people meeting Jesus Christ?

It may be that you haven’t personally done this, but let me tell you that when I talk to Christians about evangelism, I soon discover that most Christians have never led anyone to Christ and most don’t have any non-Christian friends. Even people I know who get asked to speak on evangelism have privately told me that they don’t have friends who aren’t Christians. I find this troubling.

Here’s another truth: when budgets get tight the first thing denominations and mission agencies do is axe the evangelism/mission department. I suspect it’s because it doesn’t attract the money in the same way that other departments do. It’s time to think again.

The thing is that I’m discovering more and more that people are searching for God and that divine opportunities are all around us, all the time.

A few months ago I was speaking at a curry night in a small village with 22 men in attendance. One bloke stood out. Skinhead, tattoos, piercings, aggressive stare all the way through my talk. To cut a long story short we had a chat at the bar afterwards. It turned out he was a ‘general’ in the extreme far-right movement. He asked me if Jesus could forgive anything. I said yes, then he left.

It turns out that he didn’t sleep all night. The next morning, he went to a local church and found the pastor in his study. Moments later he was on his knees giving his life to Jesus Christ. I met him last week. He had renounced his old life, started afresh and gave me some tips on witnessing to people. I saw him in the corner (it was another curry night) praying with three other men, arms around each other. A transformed life, leading to a transformed society.

God is a God of justice and yes we need action to fix a broken world. But let’s not stop telling people about the one who can fix it and them.

This blog was first published here…

In case you missed it, today is International Men’s Day.

It’s not an officially sanctioned United Nations day but it’s now recognised in over 60 nations around the world, so let’s get behind it!

landscape_screen shot_imd_2013

This year the focus is as follows :-

Keeping Men and Boys Safe

The five challenges for 2013:
1. Tackling male suicide
2. Keeping men and boys safe to allow them to become tomorrow’s role models
3. End tolerance of violence towards men and boys
4. Boost men’s life expectancy by keeping men and boys safe from avoidable illness
5. Keeping men and boys safe by promoting fathers and male role models

Statistically, men are much, much more likely to commit suicide. Men and boys globally are also much more likely to be killed as a result of violence. Did you know that 7 out of 10 murders victims in the UK are men? The majority of the 300,000 child soldiers around the world are boys, (yes it’s true that girls are also used as child soliders and that is, of course, also horrific), but violence is a way of life for hundreds of thousands of young boys. Tragically, every hour there are around 150 acts of violence against men and boys. In fact, according to the office of national statistics, last year a staggering 800,000 men were victims of domestic violence (as opposed to 1.2 million women). Of course, men are not very likely to speak out about this … nor are the 1 in 6 boys who are sexually abused … yes, 1 in 6.

CVM exists to go to the heart causes of these issues. We believe that true transformation comes from an encounter with Jesus Christ. You can see a great testimony here: http://www.yesheis.com/en/v/rob-sanassis-story

In the mean time, please consider how you might be able to help contribute to the change that we desperately need to see.

Ps. CVM salutes everyone, men and women, who are always cheering men on – not just on International Mens Day!