#tbt 8 – The ‘Whole’ Church.

#tbt – Throwback Thursday, a look back at the story of the Christian Church and having a think as to what we can learn today from them.

One reason I am getting more and more interested in church history is because it's an opportunity as you look into it to find out what stuff in church life is 'man-made' and what is 'God-made'. What practises, concepts, ideas, tactics and structures are from God, and what bits are from us (usually stupid) humans? Sometimes as we look into church history it's clear to see, other times it's a bit more tricky. Anyway, onward with this week's #tbt!

Near the end of the first century, a guy called Clement wrote a letter from the church in Rome to the church in Corinth. At the time the Corinthian church had recently chucked out their leader and appointed a new one, which Clement felt as a bad idea as the leaders are God ordained and they needed to trust God in it.

All sounds fine I right? Well, I guess it would be fine if Clement hadn't assumed that he wasn't just sharing his opinion with the church, but he was actually an AUTHORITY in the situation. This is where it gets tricky. In his letter, Clement shared a translation of Isaiah 60:17 stating “I will establish their bishops in righteousness and their deacons in faith” (if you find that translation to be anything but inaccurate please do tell me!). Clement shared that ultimately the succession of the church leaders came down the line from Jesus, and with that, an 'organisation'-like feel across the world that linked the churches together.

Up until now the local churches ran independently of each other. Doing their 'thing' in their part of the known world, advancing God's kingdom. But Clement here spoke of a global church, a church that was together, unified and one organisation, that these collections and gatherings of people were 'one church'

It was Ignatious of Antioch that first used the term Katholikos (take a stab at what word we use now!), which meant universal, or global, or 'whole'.

When we say the word 'Catholic' now, we get it mixed with 'Roman Catholic'. When we read the creeds and statement of faith that say 'we believe in the one catholic church', those of us who aren't Catholics needn't be confused, we are not speaking about the Roman Catholics, but speaking of the one, universal church.

So what comes to mind as you read all this? Is it right to say and have one universal church? Should we just focus on our local churches and forget about the global aspect of the church? The word Catholic isn't mentioned in the Bible, so what does that mean for us? How much accountability and leadership should our churches and ministries take from other churches and ministries, whether the church is down the road from us, or on the other side of the world?

For me and the church I am part of , we pursue unity amongst other believers and other churches. In the small town I'm involved in with our MultiSite we have launched, I am in good relationship with the other church leaders. For us, relationship is key. Strong bonds and relationships amongst other churches locally, nationally and internationally is deeply important. We are all on the same mission, let's encourage each other along the way! Accountability is also important, having other leaders and other churches we bond, link, support, encourage and share with is important (and I know our senior pastor does that).

However! Authority across churches puzzles and confuses me a little. Authority is often different to accountability and relationship. Clement seemed to stamp an authority over a church that he was geographically far way from, and quite possibly emotionally and mentally some distance from also. I'm not sure if I agree with him doing that. As long as the church in Corinth had good accountable relationships with other local churches in the area, I'm sure they could support, help and support each other through difficult decisions like those that had been made, why did it need some authority to come in and state the 'rules'?

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Anything to add or share about this kind of stuff? Thoughts on a postcard (or comment below, much easier)…




It is not about Trying. It is about Training.

Last week at my church I had the joy of preaching and introducing our August preaching series called 'The Soul Shift Series'. Click here to take a listen, and without merely repeating myself, here's a brief rundown of the message as well as the direction we are heading in over the coming month.

“It's not about TRYING. It's about TRAINING.”

So many of us try new things all the time, attempt things in life in order to better ourselves and improve our lives, and the lives of those around us – such as health, ideas at work, parenting and marriage tips, tricks and advice. But for various reasons, we often find ourselves failing, and then giving up. They rarely become part of our daily life, and they rarely become habits that are integrated in our lives. This is no different with Spiritual Disciplines. We may often be encouraged to read the bible, pray, have times of solitude and silence to seek God. But so often we try them out, they don't go how we thought they were going to go, and we give up. Why is that?

There are plenty of reasons most like, but I can think of a couple:

1. Comparison. We compare ourselves to others. “Look at how great they are“, “everyone else seems to find this so easy, but I'm useless at it.“, “I'll never be as good at them.” Comparison will be the death of us if we give it space. Check out Zeddie Little's picture (aka Mr Ridiculously Photogenic) at the end of his 10km race the other year. When I went for a run once I compared my terrible experience with the look of his. It didn't help!

2. We measure success on the wrong thing. So many of us assume when we try things, we'll be excellent at them straight away, and will see the benefit immediately, and when we don't experience that, we give up easily. Also, with Spiritual Disciplines we often think that the act itself of reading the bible, of prayer, or time alone with God is the goal. It's not. The Spiritual Disciplines are the tool for getting closer to God. The goal is ultimately to know God more deeply, to draw close to a Him, to develop a relationship with Him. Get the measure of what success is wrong, and you're bound to think of yourself as a failure or think that you are not hitting the mark somehow.

There is clearly something wrong with 'trying', the striving, the comparison, the attempting, the one-off 'giving a bash' style of attempting spiritual disciplines. The Bible helps us out. The Bible doesn't talk about trying, but about training. Ultimately, if you were asked to run a marathon, you wouldn't just turn up on the day and try, you'd need to train.

Check out 1 Timothy 4:7, Hebrews 5:13-14, and 1 Corinthians 9:26-27. All these are speaking about training, which I go into more detail about in the message itself, so take a listen.

It's tough though. And there are various obstacles that we put in the way, and other obstacles that we face in our world/culture today when trying to train. I think of 3 words that we live our lives by:

  • Fast (we live our lives very fast paced, and very 'full' and busy).
  • Public (we are encouraged to 'share' in our lives. In many ways, some of this good, but it can drastically contrast with the idea of developing a private relationship with God).
  • Self-centred (the idea that we feel that we don't need God to get through our days). The upcoming weeks at church in Kerith will look at these in more detail.

Let's remember that God is a God of grace and love. It's not about trying to do, say or be the perfect person. This is about training in godliness. Training to be more like Christ. We are not in it to please people, or please ourselves, or please God. Remember that his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. Thank goodness for that eh?

Personally, I can't wait to hear the next 3 speakers over the next 3 weeks at church. It'll be epic.


#tbt 6 – The Early Church Leadership Structure

Throwback Thursdays (#tbt), a look back at the story of the Christian Church, seeing what we can learn.

As time went on, the early church felt that they needed some kind of structure and organisation.

Around 60AD three titles were beginning to be used for leaders within the church. They didn't invent words. They simply used titles that were already used for similar roles outside of the church. Let's learn some Greek shall we?

Episkopos – nowadays we have use the name 'bishop'. The word meant 'overseer' or something like a 'foreman'. These people would oversee a few churches, most of which being under 100 people.

Diakonos – what we now call 'deacon', simply meaning 'servant'.

Presbuteros – what we now call an Elder. This originally was the name of 'a man of standing' in the community.

Giving people names and titles can be dodgy. Some let it go to their head and it can become a bit of an ego trip. But when you see what these roles looked like in the early church, you quickly see that they were hugely interchangeable. In reality, no matter what the title of the person was, there as a strong sense and attitude in them that all roles were servants, meeting the needs of others. Part of the bishops role early on was to look after the poor and needy, including ensuring that these people have somewhere to sit! If there wasn't a seat available the bishop would give up his seat. In reality however the roles of the bishops and deacons were very interchangeable. Not just the bishops would do this, but many would. There was a sense of all getting “stuck in”, and just cracking on with what needed doing. The modern equivalent would be anyone who spots a dirty toilet in the church grabs some rubber gloves and gets it sorted, regardless of title, position, salary or length of time serving.

No sense of a celebrity leadership culture here.

In fact, far from a celebrity culture, many people had trouble leading the church to take any notice of the bishops at all! There actually seemed to be a lack of respect and honour of the overseers. One of the early books (called the 'Didache') advising the early followers of Jesus urged Christians not to dishonour and ignore them, but treat them with honour as they would the prophets and teachers of the time.

So what can we learn from this? In some sense the church had it right by not putting leaders on some kind of celebrity or 'know-it-all' pedestal. Titles are not everything. No matter what position you may hold, no matter what name or job title you are given, you are called to serve. The early church seemed to get this. It's not about trying to look great or get 'promoted through the ranks'.

However, the early church weren't perfect. Dishonouring and not listening or following our leaders is no way to help grow the Kingdom of God. Sometimes we can be put off by structure and organisation, as if it is somehow against the movement of the Holy Spirit in church. The reality is, we need leadership, leaders that serve in the right attitude, but lead nonetheless. Taking the reins, paving the way, pioneering new ideas, helping keep priorities in the right place and giving direction to directionless groups, not being afraid to make decisions, big and small. We need leaders who can lead us in living in step with the Holy Spirit.

What can you do today to honour your leaders? What can you do in your role/title/position in the church to serve where is needed? What does it look like for you to 'do what is necessary' for those you lead? The church doesn't need positions and titles, it needs servants.


Personality Tests, Strengthsfinders and All That….

I recently read an article in Wired magazine about 'Echo Nest'. Rather than spending the time telling you about them and the article, here's a link to it! Don't click here until you read my blog though!

When discussing some research that has been conducted regarding how the music genres we individually enjoy can say something about our political preference, I saw the following which I found it fascinating…

I know some people hate things like this. Studies and research that tries to understand what people may be like, and seek to define patterns of thought and behaviour. For example, the Meyers Briggs Personality Profiling, Strengthsfinder Tests, and well as other personality or 'type' studies. Many people put these kinds of things down saying that they don't want to be labelled. I totally agree. I wouldn't want to be labelled in my political stance due to my playlist on my iPod.

However, I do fully see the benefit of these things. The truth is, there are so many people on this planet, and there are patterns of behaviour and traits that we may share with others, that is clear. God has made us uniquely different from every other human on the planet – that I agree with wholeheartedly – and I do see a benefit in helping each other understand how different people interact. Sure, there are a limited amount of Meyers Briggs types, and only 35(ish?!) Strengthsfinder 'talent themes', but as we do these tests, studies, and discussions with one another, it can open up so many learning opportunities, how to work with one another, how to help each other, how we may or may not react according to our patterns of thought and behaviour we share with others.

We don't need to run our lives by these things, but let's at least listen to what they have to say about each other and see what we can learn from them. They don't have to define us, the answers don't need to send us in a certain direction in our lives but they might just help in those meetings or conversations where we disagree or have a problem to resolve.

Want to know a secret opinion I have? A long as you promise not to tell anyone! I would actually hazard a guess and say that many of us could generally figure out the people in our lives who are the 'types' of people who don't like this kind of stuff. Through patterns of their thought and behaviour, I'm sure we could tell that they hate these studies without asking them directly about this kind of thing. Ouch, I don't think that is something they'd want to hear, so don't tell them!

What so you think about these kinds of things? Love Meyers Briggs? Can't stand the Strengthsfinder Test? Have you had great or awful experiences with them? Share your thoughts in the comments below and let's keep the convo going.


6 Things To Do When You Lose Momentum

Ouch. You know when you take a visit to your own blog and realise that it's been quite a while since you lasted published any blogs. That just happened to me. I lost momentum. I'm sure you've lost momentum at something in your life at somepoint. We all do. It's how we recover and get going again that is the important thing. So how can we get going again? I've been pondering and acting on this whilst on holiday last week, and below are 6 things to do when you lose momentum.

1. Take a look at your purpose. Why did you start doing the thing that lost momentum in the first place? Is it the right motive? I asked the question 'why am I writing online?' 'Whats my reasoning for spending time writing rather than sleeping in longer in the morning, or playing a couple of games of fifa?' When you can genuinely reflect on your motives that may shed some light as to whether you should carry on or not. Are your motives in the right place to actually sustain you for the future development of the project?

2. Take a look at the cause? What has caused the drop in momentum? Something practical that happened, an event that took place or circumstance that has caused this break in momentum? Or maybe something emotional? For me, I realised after thinking it through, that an event entirely unrelated to my blog happened, at which I was left feeling under qualified to write I felt incompetent in various areas of life so I stopped writing, and I felt exposed and didn't want to exposed myself further by the people criticising my writing. It was an emotional cause that stopped me in my tracks – what's caused your slowing or stopping of momentum?

3. Take a look at your tactics. Have you over promised and under delivered? Did you promise yourself to write a blog entry everyday and ultimately only 1 a week is viable? Did you tell yourself to apply for any job over a certain salary, only to find that there's no way you'd actually want half of the jobs, so you end up stopping applying altogether. Did you declare to the world that you would exercise for 1 hour everyday and only eat fruit and vegetables, which just didn't happen? Maybe your tactics could be altered going forward, simplify your tactics maybe strip them back to something more manageable.

4. What do other people think? It can be scary asking advice from others, but to be honest it's kind of necessary. Actually, I also find another way to ask others is to read others' thoughts. There is simply so much content online to learn from and hear from. Who are the people you trust, honour, respect and get inspiration from? Speak with them, learn from them and soak up what you can, whether through their blogs or face to face.

5. What's the impact on you emotionally? How do you feel about this loss of momentum? Annoyed? Disappointed? Angry with yourself or others? Isolated? Dejected? Maybe even relieved, or more relaxed, or maybe you feel nothing at all about it. How you feel about this loss of momentum says a lot about your thoughts and feelings towards the project or goal you are heading towards. Maybe it's not what you wanted to do anyway? Maybe it's more or less important to you than you originally thought? Similarly, how do you feel when you had momentum in the project? I love writing, whether in my journal or on this blog, I enjoyed and still do enjoy the hard work of crafting stuff together. But maybe you felt pressure when you had momentum, maybe it exhausted you, maybe it stressed you out? Is that what you really want to head back into? Keep reflecting and see what your feelings are saying.

6. Get back on the horse. For me, after a few weeks of not writing, I know that I want to keep doing it. I'm still figuring out if I actually have anything of purpose to say, but until I learn that I'm going to keep writing because I enjoy it! As I sit now writing this in a car service waiting area, I can feel the joy of writing again, and I know it's good for me to get back on the horse. Get moving once again. Stick that exercise video back on once again, get your easel out once more and just start painting something, apply for another job that looks satisfying and closer to your dream. Just get moving once again.

I'm sure there are plenty more things to think through and work through when you looking to get a project or goal moving again, leave a comment below with your thoughts and ideas to add to the list!



Business based on Trust

There is something great about businesses and organisations that do their 'thing' based on trust. For example, some WHSmith (the newsagents) shops have an island near the front door that are full of the daily newspapers. The idea is that in the mornings, it gets so busy in the shop that for someone to come and pick up their daily newspaper, then queue up and pay just 30p just simple isn't worth it.

So, this island they have set up also comes with a money slot where customers can put their money in as they grab their newspaper. They are able to pick up their paper before putting money in, and it relies on the integrity of the customer to put what they owe, as it seems nobody is checking. Business based on trust.

Also, ultimately ebay is based on trust, to buy something on ebay relies on you having trust that the seller actually has the item, and will actually send it when they say they are going to send it. I know the percentages of duff purchases on ebay is minimal. Again, a business based on trust.

This week I wondered into Waitrose, who now provide a coffee machine, available to anyone to use for free as long as you have a Waitrose card (available for free). Apparently you need to scan your card wih the cashier before taking a coffee, but this machine could be used by anybody. Again, this business idea is based on trust.

Why do I love all this? I feel that through initiatives that are based on trust, I feel I am being treated with dignity, respect, and honour. Being given the space and trust from companies, I feel that I want to go back. The same goes in companies. When given more autonomy and trust, my reaction is to work harder, more effectively and I have a stronger sense of ownership and purpose in my work, or I have a stronger sense of loyalty to that person or organisation.

As a leader I'm realising this is important in order to build great teams. Give people the space to lead, give them the opportunities to make decisions, to have authority and responsibility, and they will run with it, take hold of it, and ultimately achieve better results and be more fruitful in what they do for longer. Trust people and more often than not they'll turn up for you.

A mentor of mine continually releases me to crack on with things, and often encourages me onto new adventures and new possibilities and when he was my line manager at work, would give me freedom and autonomy in my role. He would release me to get on with things saying “it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.” I love this principle. Give autonomy. Trust people, and they'll support you for it.

What do you think? How do you feel when organisations trust you? Do you know times that has worked and it has been a great experience to release people to new things? How easy do you find it? Any bad experiences when releasing people (I'm sure there are some!).

Yaya Toure | Small Things | Relating | Leaving

Yesterday over the sports news pages was the story about Yaya Toure, the Manchester City footballer from the Ivory Coast. The news stated that he might be leaving the club because the club showed him a 'lack of respect' on his birthday. Despite giving him a cake, and apparently tweeting about it, that simply wasn't enough for Toure, who said that the club didn't even shake his hand.

In total honesty, at first I found this hilarious. I thought 'what?! – this guy is paid thousands each week to play football and an annual cake, I think they give him enough! Surely missing a handshake isn't that bad!' Maybe you think or thought the same. Since then, a couple of thoughts came into my head…

1. Relationships matter. More than money, you can be paid as much as you like, but here is a classic example of the truth of the importance of human connection and relationship. Whether a millionaire, or somebody with very little, we all need relationships and connections with others. You can't buy loyalty and relationship. I know Manchester City is ultimately the organisation Toure works for, but I bet some reaching out relationally from the clubs officials would nt have gone amiss. In many ways ahead of the money we are paid, we seek human relationship and want to know that others care for me.

2. It's the little things that count. It's clearly the little thing of a handshake and a smile that counts for Yaya. And for us, it's the little things that count. The cup of tea made in the morning, the bringing in of biscuits to the meeting, the little present on a Friday when you come home from work, the taking to the airport, the asking 'how is your family?', the buying of a book because you 'saw it and thought of them'. Small things count.

2. People come and people go. What some people would not even consider as an issue (I struggle to imagine myself leaving my place of work because nobody shook my hand on my birthday!), some see it as a reason to leave. It got me thinking about why people leave organisations, groups, churches, and jobs. And there are so many reasons. What is a reason to leave for one person may be a reason to join for another. When somebody may leave a company for a particular reason, it may not even enter the mind for another. People come, and people go. Something tells me that not getting his hand shook is not the only reason Yaya Toure wants to leave Manchester City, there's bound to be other reasons too. When people want to leave and have made up their mind, there's not much you can do about it, so at this point, let people go and save yourself the worry, fear, anxiety and pain of it all.

What do you make of this? Have Manchester City been harsh and neglecting of Toure, or should he dust himself off and get over it? How important are relationships and the small things?

Be Changed

The other day I was reminded of the below words from an anonymous Rabbi that have been written. These words are now famous as he sat on his deathbed, and they were a powerful reminder to me too.

When I was young, I set out to change the world. When I grew a little older, I perceived this was too ambitious, so I set out to change my state. This too I realised was too ambitious, so I set out to change my town. When I realised I could not even do this, I tried to change my family. Now as an old man I know that I should have started by changing myself, maybe then I would have succeeded in changing my family, the town, or even the state – and who knows maybe even the world.”

I met a teenage girl at a recent Christian event in a seminar Heather and I were leading. We were discussing the dynamic of the way we were created to be, and the fact that God is changing and molding us too. This girl said that there is nothing in her that can change. She felt that God has created her the way she is, so no attitudes, habits, behaviours, feelings can change, no matter what she does or what God does. That broke my heart a little, to think that some people don’t feel they can enter a journey of growing and developing. The idea that we might just be ‘the way we are’ and that’s it. We chatted more about this in the group and hopefully began to envision her with the hope of growth, development and positive change in her life.

I pray this isn’t an attitude I slip into. I pray this isn’t an attitude people in our world have. Many of us want to make a difference, want to make a change. We’ve heard the phrase “if you want to see the change you’ve got to BE the change!”, and I hope we don’t just take that to mean that we are the catalysts and ‘bringers’ of change. I think the phrase does mean that, but it means more than that. It means that we need to be changed ourselves before we can bring about any change in the world around us. It means that we need developing, molding, changing, altering – in our attitudes, our behaviours, our habits, our ways of thinking and decision making, the way we treat others, the way we speak and communicate, the way we deal with our circumstances, other people and even the way we deal with ourselves. We need to change before we can bring any change in others.

Once, when everyone was showing off infront of Jesus about how great they supposedly were, a guy came up to him and said ‘Lord, have mercy on me a sinner!‘. That humble attitude declaring our desperate need of God to change us is a great way to look at it. The thing about realising we need to change is that it requires us at first to realise and accept that we do things wrong, that we make stupid decisions, and that we need help.

The epic result, is that God always draws alongside us, helps us, strengthens us and loves us. We don’t stay with our heads down, he lifts us up our heads, and we find strength and grace from him and can be changed from the inside out.

What do you think? Is it hard to accept that we need to change? What do you feel when you read that paragraph from the rabbi? When was the last time you said to God ‘Lord, have mercy on me a sinner!‘?


Book Review: “Start” – Jon Acuff

The latest book I've finished is 'Start' by Jon Acuff. I've recently been on a Jon Acuff binge, following his own blog, his blog called 'Stuff Christians Like', reading the book with the same name, as well as writing about him too. I hope he doesn't read this. He'll get worried. Anyway below is a quick 4 question book review and some thoughts…

1. What's it about? 'Start' is Jon Acuff's latest book about getting ideas moving. With the tag line 'Punch fear in the face, escape average, do work that matters', Jon uses the pages to encourage us to move on with our dreams. I've heard it said before 'we all end up somewhere, it's just some of us end up somewhere on purpose.' This is what this book sharing about too. Jon outlines a process and 'stages' we can go through in our lives, and outlines what they look like how to pursue them, and assistance in each of then. The stages are 'Learning', 'Editing', 'Mastering', 'Harvesting', 'Guiding'. In the blurb he states that these stages used to be tied to your age, but not anymore. In honesty, even after reading the book I still don't quite get that.

2. What's the best bit? The wisdom Jon shares is great, but for me and Acuff's writing it's the funny quips and side comments he makes that kept me engaged with this book, great fun, lots of laughs and he seems to properly write out what his mind is thinking, going off on one sentence tangents bringing it all down to earth and keeping it real. This might sound a bit hard (and I don't want it to!) but his style outplays his content and wins 4-1, a comfortable victory.

3. Any tweetable lines? When speaking about working clever and hard he simply says “I've never met a farmer who was surprised by his crops.“. I live in the suburbs so I don't meet many farmers. But I get the point! Work hard and you'll see results.

4. Should I read it? In the space of being fair and honest, I'd say that if you want to read a good motivational book to get moving, getting things going and chasing your dreams then there are a LOT of books out there, and I wonder whether the world really needed this book? But, on the other hand, I'm very glad I've read it, as ultimately I do now feel motivated to get moving with some ideas I've had, and the patience to see me progress through the 'stages' he writes of at the right pace. So the book did work. And ultimately Jon Acuff is a good, funny writer too, very easy to read, so why not go for it anyway!

Have you read it? What do you reckon?


Talk about your idea

At some point along your journey of seeing something you'd like to do or achieve come a reality, you'll need to talk about it with someone else.

I hate that moment. It's a moment of reality. It's one of those gates you need to get through, and you're not sure if its locked or open-able until you reach it. Because when you start telling someone about it, the doors of questions are opened.

People ask questions. It's annoying isn't it? Particularly if they are interested in what you're doing. In honesty, we often think of questions as the things that come from the 'haters' or 'naysayers'. But more and more I am realising that we need question askers in our lives. It sounds stupid, to say it, but I hate receiving questions, as a bit of my nature responds with an internal shout of “don't you think I'm good enough?! Don't you think I haven't thought about that?! What do a YOU know anyway?!“. I get defensive, when really I need to get over myself and answer them like a real man.

Questions mean details, details that maybe you have thought about but ignored so far, or details that you hadn't considered and mean that here are holes in your idea that need filling. But they are important. If you don't ask questions at the early stages, you'll have to face them later, when it may be too late, as you've put too much money into it, or it's passed the deadline, or the opportunity has left.

Questions now save a lot of time later. So get telling someone about your idea, and do your utmost to not get defensive, but be ready to listen, learn, and get your details hat on.