Monthly Archives: February 2012

Water walking is risky but worth it

I was walking round Langstone harbour one day praying for guidance on what we should do as a family after I finished Bible College. As I walked I noticed that the waves gradually became bigger and bigger and God asked me whether I was willing to move to the place where the seas were rougher and the waves bigger but that would also be the place of greatest blessing? Was I willing to get out of the boat? That was part of God’s calling on us some 28 years ago which has led us eventually to Sarisbury Green, but the challenge to get out of the boat has happened more than once for me.

The analogy of walking on water comes from the amazing and incredible experience of Paul as he did just that, he actually walked on water! It is this story, from Matthew 14:25-32, that is at the heart of John Ortberg’s book If You Want To Weak On Water You’ve Got To Get Out Of The Boat, which I’ve just read. I found the book both encouraging and challenging. Encouraging because I recognised and remembered some of the times in the past where I’ve dared to step over the side of the boat and have seen God do amazing things. Challenged because I also recognise and remember times when I’ve stayed in the boat and been unwilling to take the risk. I also recognise times that are somewhere between the two where I’ve stepped over the edge, but not had the courage to let go entirely!

When you see Phil or myself (or others during my sabbatical) leading public worship you may think we are confident and in control, at times nothing could be farther from the truth! A few years ago I introduced an element to our worship that felt very much like stepping out of the boat, we called it Bus Stop Prayers, an opportunity to stop for just two minutes during our worship to pray for healing for each other. I can still vividly remember the first time we did it. We had a visiting preacher and I was incredibly nervous and almost chickened out from introducing it. For me I felt I was taking a real risk and that sense continued each and every time I included it in our worship. Each time we included Bus Stop Prayers I, as the leader, had to step out of the boat.

Some of our regular congregation may rightly ask: What are Bus Stop Prayers, I don’t remember them? Your right, I did chicken out and stopped including them many, many months ago. Why did we stop? Because I chose the security of the boat and what I, and we, are more comfortable with. Will they become part of our worship again? I don’t know, it depends on what we feel God is saying and on whether I am willing to take the risk of stepping out of the safety of the boat!

I’d like to finish this post by quoting a most remarkable description of the church that John Ortberg includes in his book, it is well worth reading:

If I wait until I’m feeling 100 percent certain about having a spiritual conversation with somebody who is far from God, I may never have it. I will have to take the risk first. I have to get my feet wet.

Jeffrey Cotter tells about one time—an unforgettable plane ride—when he took the risk. As a pastor returning from a job interview and dressed in blue jeans, he found himself sitting next to a pinstripe-wearing, attaché case–carrying, Wall Street Journal-reading businessman. Cotter’s initial impulse was to avoid all conversation (especially about jobs), but when Mr. MBA greeted him, that option was lost. The man worked in what he called the figure salon business. He spoke of how they could change a woman’s self-concept by changing her body; he talked of his excitement about the power and significance of what he did.

Cotter was struck by the man’s pride in his work and accomplishments. He wondered why Christians are not more like that; why we are so often apologetic about our faith. He realized he had been in avoidance mode during the whole flight because of fear.

Looking skeptically at Cotter’s clothing, Mr. MBA asked about his line of work. Let Cotter tell it from here:

The Spirit began to brood over the face of the deep. Order and power emerged from chaos! A voice, in a whisper reminded me: “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

“It’s interesting that we have similar business interests,” I said. “You are in the body-changing business; I’m in the personality-changing business. We apply basic theocratic principles to accomplish indigenous personality modification.”

He was hooked, but I knew he would never admit it. (Pride is powerful.)

“You know, I’ve heard of that,” he replied hesitantly. “But do you have an office here in the city?”

“Oh, we have many offices. We have offices up and down the state. In fact, we’re national; we have at least one in every state of the union, including Alaska and Hawaii.”

He had this puzzled look on his face. He was searching his mind to identify this huge company he must have read or heard about, perhaps in his Wall Street Journal.

“As a matter of fact, we’ve gone international. And Management has a plan to put at least one office in every country of the world by the end of this business era.” I paused. “Do you have that in your business?”

“Well, no. Not yet,” he answered. “But you mentioned management. How do they make it work?”

“It’s a family concern. There’s a Father and a Son . . . and they run everything.”

“It must take a lot of capital,” he asked, skeptically.

“You mean money?” I asked. “Yes, I suppose so. No one knows just how much it takes, but we never worry because there’s never a shortage. The Boss always seems to have enough. He’s a very creative guy. . . . And the money is, well, just there. In fact, those of us in the organization have a saying about our Boss, ‘He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.’”

“Oh, he’s into ranching, too?” asked my captive friend.

“No, it’s just a saying we use to indicate his wealth.”

My friend sat back in his seat. “What about with you?” he asked.

“The employees? They’re something to see,” I said. “They have a ‘Spirit’ that pervades the organization. It works like this: The Father and Son love each other so much that their love filters down through the organization so that we all find ourselves loving one another too. I know this sounds old fashioned in a world like ours, but I have people in the organization who are willing to die for me. Do you have that in your business?” I was almost shouting now. People were starting to shift noticeably in their seats.

“Not yet,” he said. Quickly changing strategies, he asked “But do you have good benefits?”

“They’re substantial,” I countered with a gleam. “I have complete life insurance, fire insurance—all the basics. You might not believe this, but it’s true: I have holdings in a mansion that’s being built for me right now for my retirement. Do you have that in your business?”

“Not yet” he answered wistfully. The light was dawning. “You know, one thing bothers me. I’ve read journals, and if your business is all that you say it is, why haven’t I heard about it before now?”

“That’s a good question,” I said. “After all, we have a 2,000 year old tradition. . . . Want to sign up?”


Investing for the best return

Over the past week something that I heard Mike Breen talk about some years ago has kept coming to mind so I am grateful that I took some notes and more grateful that I managed to find them!

Capital is something we invest to seek a return or that we use in significant ways for our benefit. Capital is about investment & return or giving & rewards. This normally relates to financial things, but Mike talked about five Capitals that we all have and use.

For us, as Christians, the most valuable is Spiritual and the least valuable in financial. Spiritual capital is about our relationship with Jesus, not our understanding about God (that would probably come under intellectual capital). Nothing else in the world is more valuable than that.

The way you grow any of the capitals is to invest the ones beneath. For me that means at present that I am investing my financial capital in funding my sabbatical. One of the priorities has been to grow my physical capital because at the end of December I was utterly exhausted and living off paracetamol on a regular basis! To do that I have invested in the cost of joining a health club and I know that physically I am vastly better than a couple of months ago. I will have to decide if I need to continue to invest financially in my physical capital by continuing to be a member of a health club after my sabbatical.

The next step for me will be to invest my financial, intellectual and physical capital for spiritual return as I visit Bethel Church shortly. I was physically depleted at the end of last year but I was also spiritually empty and this investment is vital if I am to continue to lead and disciple others.

Mike suggested that each level of capital is worth ten times the level below. This would mean that Spiritual capital is 10,000 times more valuable than financial capital!

I have had this at the back of my mind ever since Mike talked about it (as an aside during a conference). I find it really helpful in thinking about what capital to save, what to spend and how to invest to grow the more important ones.

Much of our society has however reversed the priorities with financial capital being seen as the most important to acquire by investing the others. Our society has suffered spiritually and relationally as these are pushed to the bottom whilst the others are given greater priority.

Helpful questions to ask are what am I investing or drawing on at the moment, and am I investing the less important capitals for the benefit of the more important ones?

I hope this helps others as it has helped me.


Listen to the whole New Testament this Lent

This came through on an email and I thought others might be interested in it as well:

Crème eggs are back in the shops, hot cross buns are on special offer, and the daffodils are almost out: it’s that time of year again when we start to think about Easter!

There’s an awful lot said about giving something up for Lent. But this year, instead of giving something up, why not take something up? Something really powerful and something that can be life-changing!

Download Bible Society’s free audio New Testament – You’ve Got The Time – and listen during Lent. It’ll be just 28 minutes a day. And in 40 days, you will have listened to the whole New Testament.

Discover the Bible in a new way, and see the stories come alive through this dramatised version from Riding Lights Theatre Company. You can easily build 28 minutes of listening into your day; whether that’s walking the dog, doing the shopping or going to the gym. In fact, I’m planning to do it as I travel to and from the office.Visit and download your free audio New Testament. I hope you’ll join me and others on Bible Society’s Facebook page, for daily discussions and encouragement in going deeper into God’s Word this Lent.

God Bless

Supporter Relations

PS Download your free audio New Testament and join the discussion each day on Facebook.

Generations & Church Life Part 2

A baby changes everything – don’t they? When our children were born our lives certainly changed! But do babies and children (both physical and spiritual) change everything in the family of the church?

In his thesis Graeme Codrington very helpfully uses this as a challenging illustration of the relationships between the generations within church life.

Saying that young people must “learn to worship” with the adults is hypocritical to say the least. Why do adults not “learn to worship” with the youth. Why do adults believe that they have the right to be comfortable in the style of “doing church”, and that others must adjust? This is certainly not how a family works. Those newly pregnant parents who swear that “this baby won’t change the way we live” are rightly sniggered at by those of us who know what having a baby means. The child changes the way you live. It changes the way you talk. It changes the way you view life, and innumerable adjustments are made in the home to accommodate the new life. Parent’s preferences are deprioritised in order to make these adjustments. This is not to say that the baby becomes the boss. There must be give and take, and the child must learn to live in interdependence within the family. But saying this is very different from saying that the parents will make no concessions for the child at all. It is this latter attitude that is most prevalent, unfortunately often especially in “family” churches. (Quoted from Graeme Codrington’s Thesis see below).

How do our preferences differ? The following are drawn from Graeme’s thesis and looks just at the theme of worship:

Builders (now aged over about 67) “prefer worship to be structured, analytical, clear thinking and precise, with a clear emphasis on absolute and timeless Truth … it is right and good that everyone worships in the same way, and that all worship is the same … (they) also tend to be clock watchers.”

Boomers (aged approx 47-67) “are much less structured … value highly freedom, a sense of creativity, experimentation and innovation. They enjoy frequent changes in style and approach … Efficiency, effectiveness and professionalism are important elements in worship … They prefer a “personality” leadership style, where the leader imposes his/her personality fairly clearly onto the worship event.”

Generation X (aged approx 28-47 today) “enjoy the less structured and innovative … yet desire more intimacy and relationship to be expressed. Being able to express one’s hurt, find healing and develop relationships are important aspects of worship. They are experiential, and prefer the worship leader to be a fellow pilgrim in the journey of worship, rather than a leader.”

The Millenial Generation (aged approx 11-28 today) “values flexibility and change, and is comfortable with very different expressions of worship … Professionalism is not an important factor, as long as people are able to connect with God in a meaningful way … a connection to the “real lives” is absolutely essential. They look for stimulation in the worship experience, valuing multiple sources of input, such as having two projectors, one for words of songs being sung, the other for appropriate images.”

We all have preferences and values that relate to how we pray, learn, worship and express community that are expressed differently within our generations. It is easy to label the preferences of others as maybe old fashioned or a modern gimmick, both of these are to misunderstand where others are coming from. Generational theory says there are genuine and deep reasons for these differences and we need to learn to respect and honour each other in our differences.

There seem to me to be two ways that these differences need to be expressed. The first is to respect and reflect the differences within the same gathering, service or event. This can’t be a ‘sop’ to the different expressions but an genuine respect for each other in such a way that we enter into what others prefer and value and so find that our own experience of God and Christian community is deepened.

The second way is to understand that these generational differences may mean that there are times when the generations meet separately. This already happens with Sunday School and Youth Groups (although I wonder sometimes whether this separation is more for the benefit of the adults than the youngsters!). But I wonder if we need to look at this more closely. For instance should we look at providing small groups that relate to the values, preferences and stage of life for the Silent generation (those aged over approx 67 today) separately from the Boomers & Generation X because they not only have different generational values but are generally at a different life stage?

If you want to read Graeme Codrington’s work (and I think it is great stuff and easily readable) you can find it in his book Mind The Gap or by reading his thesis which you can find online here:



Generations & Church Life Part 1

One of the goals on my sabbatical is to improve my physical fitness and last week, whilst at the gym, I heard a gentleman singing to himself, he was aged about 75-80 (I know guessing is dangerous), and the song he was singing was ‘The Sound of Silence.’ This was very appropriate as I have been reading some material in the last couple of weeks about the differences between generations and he was a member of what has been called the Silent generation.

I heard of a conversation recently between a member of that same generation and another member in their church. The member of the Silent generation was talking about all the changes in church life over recent years,”The church hasn’t changed for 2,000 years why does it need to change now, why can everything just stay the same, as it’s meant to be!”

Not too long ago I had a conversation with someone I know very well about songs that we sing in our Sunday gatherings. They were expressing how difficult it is to sing some modern worship songs and how the music doesn’t follow the rules they were taught at school for good music writing. Emphasis is on the off beat or between the beats and that makes them difficult for public, corporate singing.

At the time of each of these I had no idea how generationally effected each of these situations was. My reaction to the more elderly person who complains about change and wants everything in the church to stay the same as they grew up with can easily be to see them as stubborn and awkward, standing in the way of progress! What is happening behind the scenes is that the person probably grew up in a time of great turmoil and difficulty and the church was the one place of stability and safety and, for them, became a sanctuary and this is the root of their generational preference for keeping things as they are.

My natural reaction to music that is more modern and written to different rules and is therefore difficult to sing in public settings (especially when you haven’t got the strong and imposing lead of a worship band) is to say its not working, it wont work, it’s bad musically and therefore we won’t use it. What is happening here behind the scenes is that a generation has indeed rewritten the rule book for writing good music, their music is written on the off beat or between the beats and it isn’t intended for public, corporate singing in the same way that hymns or choruses are. It is a style of music where participation is not expressed by singing all the words with heart and gusto, participation is by joining in, supporting and enjoying the performance of the song.

It is also important for older church members to understand that the radical societal changes of the last twenty years have not left cultural expressions untouched. In particular, music has changed radically. For example, “youth today, for the most part, are not listening to music that they can sing. Most youth music is simply heard but that does not make it nonparticipatory music. The music still demands nonverbal participation” (Schowalter 1995:21). (Quoted from Graeme Codrington’s Thesis see below).

The work I have read is by Graeme Codrington. His presentation on generational theory was for me one of the highlights of the Portsmouth Diocesan Conference in September last year. Since then I have heard him gve the same presentation again and I have read his book, Mind The Gap, and also his MA thesis on multi-generational ministry in the church. His presentations, both in person and in writing are thought provoking and challenging and potentially effect almost every area of the lives of our church communities. The way we prefer to pray, learn, worship, lead and understand or experience the Gospel can all have significant generational overtones.

I write this having just led a Myers Briggs workshop for people in Winchester Diocese (I know I’m on sabbatical but the fee for the workshop will help pay for a small part of my sabbatical!). I am aware therefore that there are many different aspects to who we are. Our family setting, upbringing, experiences, gifts and abilities as well as our personalities have made us who we are today. What I had not realised to any real extent before was how much the era in which we were born has also moulded who we are today. We are all created as unique by God, and yet there are similarities between us. There are 16 MBTI types and I was reminded last weekend just how similar individuals with the same MBTI type can be. Just as those with the same type are unique but also have deep areas of similarity, so those born in a generation are unique but also have deep areas of similarity. All is well and good with one type or generation until they meet another type or generation, and potentially mis-hear and misunderstand the other. It is so easy to think that our type or generation has the ‘right’ values, worldview, understanding likes and dislikes. When one type or generation is the dominant one it can be difficult and uncomfortable for the other types and generations and within the church the option is always there to walk out of the back door never to return (and many sadly have done so!).

I’ll pick up this theme in my next post but in the meantime if you want to read Graeme Codrington’s work you can find it in his book Mind The Gap or by reading his thesis which you can find online here:


Heritage in Life and Death

On Thursday last week I was involved in the funeral and Thanksgiving Service for my aunt. It was a sad time for me, especially as I led the graveside burial which reminded me of leading a very similar service for my own father a little over a year ago.

It was the Thanksgiving Service however that really made me think. I learnt much about my aunt’s life as one often does at funerals. I learnt of her devotion to God, her commitment to sharing the Gospel, the quiet and gentle way in which she touched the lives of many, many people on different continents, her love for the people of India and her willingness to follow God’s leading whatever that meant and wherever it led her. She was a remarkable saint and I regret not knowing her better.

There were two moments in the Thanksgiving Service that I found deeply challenging. The first was in part of the tribute given by her granddaughter. She had spent the last hours with my aunt and, having read sixty or more Psalms to her, had fallen asleep. She awoke in the early hours and sensed that my aunt’s life was about to end. Instead of tears or sadness she spoke with real energy and excitement about being with her grandmother when she died to this earthly life. “Is he here? Is Jesus here? Is he coming for you?” Those were the last earthly words my aunt heard.

“If we think about our death, we will learn to live our lives!” (quoted recently on Twitter). I know from her granddaughter’s tribute that in her last days my aunt thought about her death, not in fear or dread, but in joy and anticipation. She could truly have said with St Paul “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” Phil 1:21 and “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me — the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return.” 2 Tim 4:7-8

The challenge for me is how much am I truly living for Christ and do I have the same attitude to death that my aunt had?

As part of the Thanksgiving Service George Verwer gave a tribute. For those who haven’t heard of George Verwer he founded Operation Mobilisation (OM). According to Wikipedia “OM currently has more than 6,100 people working in more than 110 countries around the world, seeking to demonstrate and proclaim the love of God.” He said very little about the life of my aunt! Instead he gave an encouragement to those present under the age of 25 and a challenge to my aunt’s family (which includes me!). The encouragement to those under 25 was to be used by God in transformation of the world for God.

The challenge for my family was “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required” Lk 12:48. I am aware of how much has been given to our family. I count it a privilege to have been brought up in a family with a Christian heritage that stretches back through the generations. I know I am one to whom spiritually much has been given, by my parents and grandparents and by the love and prayers of my wider family. God has invested much in me through my family and I feel a weight of responsibility to use that investment for the best return in the a kingdom of God. Yet I know at the same time that Jesus himself said “My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” Matt 11:30.

George Verwer’s words made me stop and think. Each of us has a heritage from the generations before us. That may be through the generations who have worshipped God before us and invested so that we could know the joy of a living relationship with Jesus. It may also, like me, be through parents and grandparents who love Jesus and pray regularly for us. The question for me, for us, is what heritage we will pass on to those amongst whom we live and to the next generation? It isn’t a heritage in bank vaults or buildings, but in lives touched by God’s Kingdom and transformed by His love and power.

I saw this short video today that made me think CLICK HERE to view it in YouTube: