Tagged: church

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!

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…

I’ve been thinking a great deal over the years about the way we communicate the “good news” about Jesus to men.  We wonder why we see so few men becoming followers of Jesus but fail to effectively and analytically look at the message we are communicating, the way we are communicating it and who we are communicating it too.

So, here are a few blog posts over a few weeks about telling ordinary men about Jesus.

I strongly believe that the church is failing to operate behind enemy lines.  As far as I can see, the UK church is rarely in the front line trenches of proclamation and hardly ever behind enemy lines. Check this very simple diagram out:-

scale

 

 

Dave (mark 1) is not a Christian.  He doesn’t give a stuff about what you believe unless he’s had a couple of beers.  He is after-all, like most men, an expert on everything already. Sure he likes to row with you in the pub but for the most part he doesn’t really care about church stuff and its not at the top of his list of hot topics to discuss with his mates.  Working class Dave wrote the church off years ago.

So who is Dave?  Well, Dave drinks beer, loves football (West Ham of course) and thinks that Jeremy Clarkson (if you don’t know who he is, you need to get out more) should be Prime Minister.  He has a skilled manual labour job, only goes to church when someone gets married, drops dead or chucks water on their kids head before having a few beers and a roast dinner.  He doesn’t care about atheism, creationism or any other ism.  He’s a bloke.

Then there’s Dave (mark 2).  Dave is a full on fired up follower of Jesus.  He prays, tithes, has a quiet time and feels guilty when he doesn’t. He goes to the mid-week prayer meeting and a home group.  He smiles at the little kids in the church and helps out sometimes at crèche.  He happily sits through long sermons and sings emotional songs to a man.  He has embraced churchianity and christianity.  He is Dave redeemed, tamed and cleaned up.  (More on the “taming of the Dave” in future weeks).

There is however a massive problem.  Most church evangelism starts where the church is on the diagram.  Way too far along the scale of belief.  To go on an Alpha course, you need to be prepared to sit and have a meal with a stranger, over a structured 10 week course, attend a Holy Spirit weekend and share your feelings.  Alpha is amazing as is Christianity Explored.  But to attend you have to be prepared to want the conversation and be fairly committed to seeing it through.  You’ve also got to be able to work through some real church sub-culture stuff and get the jargon. (More on this issue in future editions as well).  He’s also got to filter a message that tells him that he’s needy and needs a saviour.

Basically, it’s not going to happen is it?  Or if it does its rare.  Sure, someone will write to me and tell me how Dave came through but its not happening in massive numbers is it.

The church needs to learn how to operate in the realm and world of Dave (mark 1) and that friends, is behind enemy lines.  At CVM we view it as a massive victory if we move a bloke along the scale of belief.  Get a debate going with Dave that’s not beer fueled and you’ve won a skirmish behind the lines.  He accepts an offer of prayer and you’ve neutralised a defensive shield.  Get him to your church blokes clay pigeon shoot and bonfire and you’ve taken an enemy position out.

Firstly of course you’ve got to get behind enemy lines and to do that you’ve actually got to make some mates who aren’t followers of Jesus. I kid you not when I tell you that I know evangelists who haven’t got any mates who aren’t followers of Jesus. So lets get out there.

Future blogs will cover:- jargon, what is good news to a man, church for men and more.

As a final note, you’ll realise that this blog is about actually telling people about Jesus.   The UK church is swamped just now with loads of political and social justice activity.  I’m deeply involved in some of this activity.  Its all good stuff but I appeal to you that we mustn’t lose proclamation.  As far as I’m concerned, the biggest injustice of all is that people die without knowing Jesus.

Last night, I gave the plenary session talk at the Mainstream conference in Swanwick.  My theme was an analysis of how we live a Holy Spirit empowered ministry in our programme driven times.  Here are some bullet points of the hour long talk!  AS you can imagine, this is the very bare bones…

1) Do we create opportunity for spontaneity within the programme?

2) Are we under the governance of man or the governance of the Holy Spirit?  Who is really leading our ministry?  We should seriously consider this question.

3) What defines us?  Our budgets and constitutions or Gods mission?  Remember, God always pays for what he orders and He has ordered mission?  Do not let fear define you.

4) We will miss the divine spark if we do not challenge our structures.

5) 1Cor 16.  Paul is vague about his plans but certain about his faith.  We have become vague about faith but certain with our plans!

6) Do not be afraid to ditch the program or allow for Holy Spirit led opportunism within the schedule.

7) When people start to wave constitutions at us and talk about the rules, perhaps its a sign that we are on the right track!

8 ) Beware insecurity.  We should be surrounding ourselves with people who out run, out gun, out speak, out lead us…Some networks and leaders have not handed over soon enough.  We should be thinking about the handover from the moment we start…

9) Are you obstructing a work of God through human reason and insecurity?

10) Are we living on the edge or staying comfortable?

11) If we believe in the power of the gospel to change lives and the glory and majesty of the Kingdom of God, why do we form committees to buy coffee machines?  Get serious about the right things.

12) Michelangelo loved to do sculpture as he said it was the nearest he could get to mimicking the divine nature…but that is not a patch on the beauty of every single person.  Our job as leaders is to release people and to see them flourish.  We are meant to be giving people a shot at goal, not be goal keepers!

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson

The full talk can be found via mainstream and hopefully we will get a podcast up…