Monthly Archives: July 2012

Reading Mark Together – Chapter 3 Up In & Out

As we look back at Mark 3 I want just to pick out two verses (maybe because when I looked back at my last post it was quite long!).

When Jesus called the twelve he called them with a threefold focus: Up, In and Out. He called them firstly to be with him. Mk 3:14 “And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him.” The first calling of the disciples was to be with Jesus and so it is with us, our first calling is to be with Jesus (Up). For the first disciples that meant they spent time walking with Jesus, talking with him, eating meals with him, listening to his teaching and watching & experiencing the miraculous with Jesus. What does it mean for you to be with Jesus? It isn't something for one day a week or for an hour on a Sunday morning in a Victorian church building. It means being with Jesus every day, it means reading his love letters to you in the Bible, it means spending time talking to him every day.

Are you spending time with Jesus, what does it look like for you?

Notice that Jesus didn't just call one disciple, he called a group of disciples, their next calling was to be with each other (In). Jesus never told people to be or to work on their own, when he sends the disciples out in Mark 6 he sends them out in pairs. He even sends two disciples to fetch a donkey in Matthew 21! We are not to be on our own, we need to be with others. Be in a small group, meet with other Christians, work with other Christians, drink coffee with other Christians, eat meals with other Christians, live life with other Christians.

Are you living life with other Christians, what does that look like for you?

The third part of the calling of the first disciples, and our calling, is to witness in words and deeds to the love and power of Jesus (Out). Mark 3:14-15 “And He appointed twelve … that He could send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out the demons.” Our calling is the same: to preach, proclaim or be a herald of God's love and life. So we are called to use words, and speak of Jesus to others. But not just to use words, we are called to demonstrate God's love in the power and authority he gives us as his ambassadors here on earth.

Sadly many Christians live a two dimensional life, living Up and In, but not Out. What we don't realise is that it is only as we live Out that we can truly live Up and In. I've heard Christians say they need more teaching, more nurture, they need to get to know God better before they witness to others. But that is back to front, it is only when we open our mouths and reach out our hands to those who don't know Jesus that we really grow and get to know God better.

How are you proclaiming and demonstrating God's live to those who don't know him? What does that look like in your life today?




Reading Mark Together – Chapter 2 – Changing our Thinking

Reading Mark 1 we saw that Jesus said that a change of mind, a change of thinking was needed. To repent (Greek Metanioa) isn’t just about sin, it is about looking at life in a different way. In Mark 2 Jesus shows just how much our thinking needs to change.

Mark 2:1-12 is about sin and healing. A sick man is lowered in front of Jesus in a dramatic way and Jesus’ response isn’t to heal him, but to forgive him. The result was consternation amongst the religious leaders who were present: Who does he think he is to be forgiving sins, only God can do that!!! Jesus challenges their thinking, yes only God can do that. Which is easier, sins to be forgiven or sickness to be healed? Perhaps our thinking needs to change on this – I wonder if we see forgiveness as easier for God than healing?

Mark 2:13-17 is about Jesus challenging the common assumptions as to who is in and who is out, and who was most in need of his time and focus. The good religious people were definitely in and tax collectors, because they collaborated with the occupying Romans and grew rich at the expense of others, were definitely out. The term ‘sinners’ was commonly used of tax collectors, prostitutes, adulterers, robbers and the like, and they were most definitely out, they were excluded from the synagogue and all expression of Jewish faith. Jesus didn’t just associate with those who were outside the faith, he associated with those who were way beyond and excluded from the faith. Jesus seems more concerned with the outsiders than the insiders. Perhaps today Jesus would be more concerned with those who don’t attend church services than those who do! Perhaps we need to change our thinking to become a bit more like his?

This theme continues in Mark 2: 18-23 with his discussion of fasting, cloth and wine skins. Apparently if you take a new piece of cloth and attach it to an old garment and then wash them the new cloth will shrink and then damage the old garment rather then mend it. And if you pour new wine into old wine skins the danger is that the old will burst and you will loose both the new wine and the old wine skin. What is Jesus saying? Maybe something quite profound that challenges our thinking. In his time he was saying that the Kingdom of God which was now near wouldn’t fit in the structures and organisations of the old expression of the Jewish faith. And if you try to put the two together you would end up damaging both. I wonder today if we are trying to do exactly what Jesus warned us would cause problems. We have an old, established and institutionally ingrained expression of the Christian faith within the established church. We also have new expressions of the Christian faith that are reaching many who are alienated from the traditional church, yet many of those new expressions are expected to fit into the old structures and organisations and at best they don’t fit, at worst both the old and the new are damaged. Perhaps we need a new way of thinking?

Mark 2: 23-28 is about the Sabbath. I remember when I was young that our family had certain rules for how we observed Sunday. Each Sunday morning we all went to a church service, always in our ‘Sunday best.’ We always had a roast lunch together (a tradition I still enjoy!). We were allowed to play in our large back garden, but not allowed any ball games, so despite growing up in a garden which included a tennis court we were never allowed to play tennis on a Sunday. We had rules and regulations as to how we observed Sunday, just as the Jews had rules and regulations as to how they observed the Sabbath. One of those was they you weren’t allowed to do ANY work on the Sabbath, and picking ears of corn was considered as work. Jesus response is to challenge their way of thinking. Sabbath observance was to benefit people not restrict them with rules and regulations. One of the great things today is to see that people in our church communities are free to be themselves on Sunday. If you want to wear your Sunday best, then feel free, but of you want to come in jeans then feel free as well, we don’t judge others because of what they wear.

There is a church in the North that has taken this a step further. Once a month they don’t have a Sunday morning service at all. Instead they tell their church community to express their community life in any other way that they want to. Some meet together in their homes, invite ther friends and neighbours, chat, have lunch and hang out together. Others go for a walk together in the surrounding countryside. Others serve their local community by cleaning up the streets or doing the gardens of the elderly. Then in the evening they gather together to tell stories. I guess their worship and their learning is probably deeper, broader and more meaningful and more people are touched by God’s love. All because they understand that “The sabbath was made for man and not man for the sabbath.” Maybe one day we should follow their lead?



Reading Mark Together – Chapter 1

Over the past three days we’ve read Mark chapter one and there are a number of things that have struck me but I want today to highlight only one of them.

In Mark 1:4 we read the John baptised for the repentance of sins. Then in Mark 1:15 we read Jesus saying: “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” both of these use the same Greek word for ‘repent’ the word ‘metanoia.’

When I think of the word repent I automatically think of repentance for sins and of asking God to forgive me of my sins. The word ‘repent’ has become so associated with sins that it has become difficult to understand it in any other way. That is indeed the way John uses the word, but not the way Jesus uses it!

The Greek word ‘metanoia’ means to change ones mind or purpose and it’s implications for us are far wider than only our response to sin (although that is an important implication). Jesus is saying at the start of his ministry, the Kingdom of God is close, so close you can touch it, and in order to touch it you need a change of the way you think (a change of mind), and then you need believe, to give yourselves totally to this new way of thinking so that it shows in the way you behave.

Paul says something similar to the church in Rome: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

Over our lives our minds have become used to thinking in certain ways. ‘Ruts,’ or habits of the way we think have been created by the way we have been brought up and the experiences of our lives. Those thought patters now control how we think, respond and look at the world. We need to repent, to have a change of the way we think, and we need God to help us do that.

It may be in how we see ourselves, or in our relationships with others. It may be in how we relate to our money and possessions or perhaps how we view our work or retirement. It may be in how we see our role in the life of the church, or, dare I say it, what we expect from the vicar! But all of us need God’s help to change the bad habits in our thinking.

I heard a preacher say many years ago that the greatest problem for Christians is the one that exists between our two ears – the problem of our minds. I think he was right.



Exciting Times Ahead

At a meeting of Portsmouth Diocese Bishop’s Council last Tuesday a bold and important decision was made to recognise the needs of one of our church communities and to appoint a Church Army Evangelist rather than a traditional parish priest.

Falling partly within the parish of Sarisbury Green and partly within the parish of Titchfiled the new development of Whiteley is a distinct community that is different to the surrounding areas.At present Whiteley has over 6,000 residents with an average age of approx 36 (79% of the population is under 44). It also has a substantial business park with offices of Zurich, NATS and ITV Meridian. As part of the South East Development plan a further 3,000 homes are planned along with two primary schools and a secondary school.

A Church Army Evangelist is someone whose primary gifts are in evangelism, church planting and establishing strong foundations in new church communities. Often they work in difficult and deprived areas but they also work in areas of new housing development like Whiteley. The Church Army Evangelist will be appointed for a period of five years and would have ‘one foot’ within the existing church community supporting, training and encouraging them in mission and the ‘other foot’ in the local community finding and establishing new ways of connecting with that community and possibly establishing new expressions of church there. As the average age in Whiteley is about 36 they will predominately be working with families with young children and with young professionals.

This all sounds great – but there is a catch! Although a Church Army Evangelist is a licenced minister within the Church of England they are not ordained Priests. So they cannot celebrate communion or conduct weddings & they cannot legally be the ‘priest’ or ‘curate’ in Charge of Whiteley.

Therefore to make this happen Whiteley Church needs the support of someone from another parish. As the Deanery Plan has always linked Whiteley with Sarisbury it was natural for me to be approached to support Whiteley in this way.

So the plan is this:

  1. A Church Army Evangelist would be appointed and licensed to Whiteley Church in a full time capacity for five years
  2. I would be licensed as the ‘priest’ or ‘curate’ in charge of Whiteley
  3. The Church Army Evangelist would also be licensed to St Paul’s with the remit of supporting our ministry in this church alongside their ministry in Whiteley.

This is an exciting and bold decision from our Bishop. I believe that for too long our churches have been led by Pastor/Teachers and we desperately need new leadership from the other three parts of the fivefold ministry Paul talks about in Ephesians – Apostles, Prophets and Evangelists.

I look forward to getting to know the community in Whiteley (both the church and wider community) and seeing what God has in store. I also look forward to working with and learning from someone with evangelistic gifts and skills and seeing how they approach ministry and can help St Paul’s with our mission in Sarisbury Green.

Exciting times ahead.


Read Mark's Gospel over the Summer

One of the small groups at St Paul’s asked what they could think about over the Summer as they didn’t want to stop meeting together. My suggestion, which they were keen to take up, was to read through one of the Gospels a little each day and when they met together to look at anything that had particularly struck them and any questions they had.

So over the next few weeks they, and I, will be reading through Mark’s Gospel starting tomorrow. How about reading it with us and I may from time to time post some thoughts. If you have any questions as you read it let me know and I will try to reply here so that everyone can benefit.
Here’s the reading plan:
24th July Mark 1.12-28 Jesus Calls Four Fishermen & A Man with an Evil Spirit
25th July Mark 1.29-45 Jesus Heals Many People, Preaches in Galilee & Heals a Man
26th July Mark 2.1-12 Jesus Heals a Paralyzed Man
27th July Mark 2.13-22 Jesus Calls Levi & The Question about Fasting
28th July Mark 2.23-28 The Question about the Sabbath
29th July Mark 3.1-12 The Man with a Paralyzed Hand & A Crowd by the Lake
30th July Mark 3.13-20 Jesus Chooses the Twelve Apostles
31st July Mark 3.21-35 Jesus and Beelzebul & Jesus’ Mother and Brothers
1st August Mark 4.1-9 The Parable of the Sower
2nd August Mark 4.10-20 The Purpose of the Parables & Jesus Explains the Parable of the Sower
3rd August Mark 4.21-32 A Lamp under a Bowl & The Parables of the Growing Seed and the Mustard Seed
4th August Mark 4.33-41 Jesus Calms a Storm
5th August Mark 5.1-20 Jesus Heals a Man with Evil Spirits
6th August Mark 5.21-34 Jairus’ Daughter and the Woman Who Touched Jesus’ Cloak
7th August Mark 5.35-43 Jairus’ Daughter Pt2
8th August Mark 6.1-13 Jesus Is Rejected at Nazareth & Sends Out the Twelve Disciples
9th August Mark 6.14-29 The Death of John the Baptist
10th August Mark 6.30-44 Jesus Feeds Five Thousand
11th August Mark 6.45-56 Jesus Walks on the Water & Heals the Sick in Gennesaret
12th August Mark 7.1-13 The Teaching of the Ancestors
13th August Mark 7.14-30 The Things That Make a Person Unclean & A Woman’s Faith
14th August Mark 7.31-37 Jesus Heals a Deaf-Mute
15th August Mark 8.1-13 Jesus Feeds Four Thousand People & The Pharisees Ask for a Miracle
16th August Mark 8.14-30 The Yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod & Jesus Heals a Blind Man at Bethsaida & Peter’s Declaration about Jesus
17th August Mark 8.31-38 Jesus Speaks about His Suffering and Death
18th August Mark 9.1-13 The Transfiguration
19th August Mark 9.14-29 Jesus Heals a Boy with an Evil Spirit
20th August Mark 9.30-41 Jesus Speaks Again about His Death & Who Is the Greatest? & Whoever Is Not against Us Is for Us
21st August Mark 9.42-50 Temptations to Sin
22nd August Mark 10.1-16 Jesus Teaches about Divorce & Jesus Blesses Little Children
23rd August Mark 10.17-31 The Rich Man
24th August Mark 10.32-45 Jesus Speaks a Third Time about His Death & The Request of James and John
25th August Mark 10.46-52 Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus
26th August Mark 11.1-11 The Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem
27th August Mark 11.12-19 Jesus Curses the Fig Tree & Goes to the Temple
28th August Mark 11.20-33 The Lesson from the Fig Tree & The Question about Jesus’ Authority
29th August Mark 12.1-12 The Parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard
30th August Mark 12.13-27 The Question about Paying Taxes & The Question about Rising from Death
31st August Mark 12.28-34 The Great Commandment
1st September Mark 12.35-44 The Question about the Messiah & Jesus Warns against the Teachers of the Law & The Widow’s Offering
2nd September Mark 13.1-13 Jesus Speaks of the Destruction of the Temple & Troubles and Persecutions
3rd September Mark 13.14-27 The Awful Horror & The Coming of the Son of Man
4th September Mark 13.28-37 The Lesson of the Fig Tree & No One Knows the Day or Hour
5th September Mark 14.1-11 The Plot against Jesus & Jesus Is Anointed at Bethany & Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus
6th September Mark 14.12-25 Jesus Eats the Passover Meal with His Disciples & The Lord’s Supper
7th September Mark 14.26-42 Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial & Jesus Prays in Gethsemane
8th September Mark 14.43-52 The Arrest of Jesus
9th September Mark 14.53-65 Jesus before the Council
10th September Mark 14.66-72 Peter Denies Jesus
11th September Mark 15.1-15 Jesus before Pilate & Is Sentenced to Death
12th September Mark 15.16-32 The Soldiers Make Fun of Jesus & Jesus Is Crucified
13th September Mark 15.33-41 The Death of Jesus
14th September Mark 15.42-47 The Burial of Jesus
15th September Mark 16.1-11 The Resurrection
16th September Mark 16.12-20 Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene, Two Followers and to the Eleven & Jesus Is Taken Up to Heaven

The Importance of Physical Fitness in Christian Ministry

I have just completed 56 lengths of the pool at the Spirit Health Club which I understand equates to just over 1/2 mile! I know, I know, it’s amazing that this unfit vicar can actually swim that far! At the start of my sabbatical earlier this year one of my goals was to get fit. I joined the health club for six weeks and went 4-5 times each week. At the end of that time I felt a lot fitter and generally better in myself. But it’s one thing getting fit, it’s another thing staying fit!

I remember some years ago hearing Mike Breen telling about the start of the Form year out course at St Toms Crookes. One of the first things he did was to get in a number of fitness machines and transform one of the rooms in their hall into a fitness room. Why, you may ask? His answer was that you have to be fit to be in Christian ministry. I heard him say that and it lodged in my memory, but until January this year I did nothing about it.

In January I had the time to stop, reflect and make changes to my life and work schedule. I had got to the stage in December where I had run out of resources, mentally, physically and spiritually. So something had to change. I needed to find a pattern of life that would sustain me in the long term. One of the major changes has been to join a health club and to use it at least three times a week. It costs, but the investment in my physical health I believe will have long term benefits in my mental and physical health.

I am investing my financial capital (see my post on the 5 Capitals here) as well as the important resource of time in order to benefit my physical capital which will in turn benefit my spiritual capital. That will have real and long term benefits for me personally, but also for those amongst whom God has called me to minister.


The Human Jesus

I have recently finished reading two books by Anne Rice one the early life of Jesus. The recommendation to read them came out of a conversation I had about how I had encountered the humanity of Jesus in a new way when I was in Israel. There I felt closer than ever before to the human Jesus, being in the places where he lived, walking the streets he walked on and experiencing the sites and sounds of the environment where he grew up, lived and ministered.

The books are fiction, but well researched fiction. They paint a good picture of life in First Century Israel and the joys, stresses and struggles of that society. They also struggle to find answers to questions we may not have considered before. What was it like for Jesus growing up as a sinless child, never losing his temper or doing something wrong? How did others view him, what nicknames did they have for him, how did he interact with his peers at the age of 7, 12 or his teenage years?

The author also asks questions of how Jesus dealt with his sexuality as a man. Did he ever ‘fall in love’ and how did he cope? We know he never married and never sinned, but how did he deal with and respond to the God given and naturally human attraction towards the opposite sex?

However the most difficult and maybe controversial question is when and how did Jesus become aware of his divinity and relationship with his Father? Luke 2:52 is an intreaging verse “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” At what age did Jesus become aware that he was different to everyone else and how did he know? Jesus was at all times fully human and fully divine, man and God, in one person. He didn’t become God, he was God, but at the same time he didn’t stop being human, he was a man. From the very instant of his conception Jesus was fully and totally God and fully and totally human. He was aware of his humanity from the moment of his birth, but how did he become aware of his divinity?

Along with this question Anne Rice interweaves questions I had never thought of. When and how, for instance, did his mother tell him of the events surrounding his conception and birth? More poignantly when did his family tell him of the events in Bethlehem after they fled for Egypt, and how did Jesu react knowing that other children were slaughtered and he was saved?

All of these are questions of Jesus’ humanity and I found the books really helpful in relating to the man Christ Jesus. The historical and cultural background in the book is excellent and well researched. However these are still fiction novels and there are events depicted that i wouldn’t agree with. Read them for yourself and let me know what you think.

Anne Rice:
Christ The Lord – Out of Egypt
Christ The Lord – the abroad to Cana

A warning to leaders: Turbulence is not the danger

Best fasten that safety belt. Turbulence is the new normal and our response? We need to honour the past but we need to know how to learn from the future. Too many leaders are focusing only on the turbulence, not realising that they’re trying to face the future using yesterday’s logic. That might explain a lot!

That is the conclusion from an article by Graeme Codrington. You may remember that I blogged about Graeme's work during my sabbatical when I read his book and thesis on generational theory. I learnt a great amount from him that is still moulding my thinking and my approach to leadership within the church.

This article by Graeme is written with business leaders in mind rather than churches. However the wisdom he offers is very applicable to church leadership. We live today in a time of turbulence in almost every area of life. There is turbulence in our economies, turbulence in the moral framework of our society, turbulence within the family structures of our communities and turbulence within how our churches relate to and engage with the communities we are called by Jesus to reach with his love. According to statistics I heard recently over 50% of churches have no teenagers in their church communities. A missionary organisation I have connections with is committed to planting Missional households alongside the top 100 universities in Europe and the top 100 universities in America – why? The drop out rate of Christian young people going to University for is massive. In Cambridge there are 33,000 students at the university, but only 1,000 connected with any local church, we are in danger of loosing a whole generation.

It has been said that when faced with difficulties we can't expect to do the same things as before and get a different result, yet so often we seem to be doing exactly that within the life of God's church.

Graeme's article is well worth reading and can be found in full here: