Saturday, 27 December 2008

The Table of Influence

While in the States recently, I had the privilege of meeting up with David Anderson and was able to have further discussion with him on various issues including ongoing diversity at Kings. His church continues to grow and is now gathering over 2000 each week.

It became clear that a key leadership lesson is to continue to think representation in diversitywe need different people at the table of influence. This will be on our leadership agenda in the coming months.

It was a real encouragement to be able to spend time with David who has been so influential for us at Kings.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Lessons from Willow Creek 3

The leadership book that I’m reading at the moment is the latest one from Bill Hybels called Axiom

It is an accessible read full of practical wisdom. Here’s a quote from the chapter entitled 'Vision Leaks'.

Something I have to remind myself of constantly is that people in our churches have real lives. You heard it here - engagements other than church. They have challenging jobs, children to raise, lawns to mow, and bills to pay. Because of all these daily responsibilities, the vision we poured into them on Sunday begins to drain out of them sooner than we think.

Definitely worth a read!

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Lessons from Willow Creek 2

I picked up this one from Mike Breaux who until recently was one of the teaching pastors at Willow. Mike spoke on preaching at the Willow Creek Conference!

He said that as leaders we all need

a Paul - A father, a mentor, someone we are following. I have been privileged to have a number of these in my life. Firstly my Dad, then my Baptist pastor Peter Ledger, who gave me loads of opportunities as a young man. Terry Virgo and Steve Nicholson would be others who have filled this important role for me.

a Barnabas - One who is a friend, our encourager.
My wife Deb is my best encourager and my most helpful critic. And Mick Taylor has a brilliant gift of encouragement!

a Timothy - Someone in whom we are investing our lives. I have had the opportunity to invest in many leaders. My greatest successes have been Phil Varley and Owen Hylton, and John Clark at Putney. Following the reminder at Willow, I plan to start another discipleship group for young leaders in the new year.


If you do not have a Paul – ask God to provide one! Who do you want to emulate and who is accessible to you?

If you do not have a Barnabas – prioritise friendship and ask God to provide one. Look at your friends and see who is trustworthy. And be a Barnabas yourself!

If you do not have a Timothy – find someone to bring alongside and make the decision to spend time investing in them as they follow you.

I commend this to you as something well worth considering!

Friday, 12 December 2008

Lessons from Willow Creek 1

One of the many highlights of my week at Willow Creek was to hear a day’s teaching by Gordon MacDonald.

During one session he talked about the questions people ask at different stages of life and presented a new framework toward understanding the concerns of each age group. I found this helpful as I think about those that I pastor, lead and counsel.

The questions are:

20’s - Am I noticed?

30’s - Can I really make this all work?

40’s - Is there something more?

50’s - Can I hold on?

60’s - Have I become obsolete?

70’s - Was it all worth it?

Many of you will have come across Gordon’s very helpful books. I would like to recommend to you his most recent – ‘A Resilient Life’.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Diversity 4 - The New Wineskin Challenge

Some of us will recall when our churches went through renewal – typically, the Baptist church I attended went through this in the 70s and 80s when services were a traditional hymn/prayer sandwich - our theology was a little bit liberal but getting more Bible-based. In charismatic renewal, churches started to talk about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit started to take us back to Scripture and to new wine in new wineskins.

I got saved at 19 when Christians began looking like they believed it. I observed that leaders/pastors struggled with renewal – there was a personal challenge, pressure to change, conflict in the congregation – the leaders knew change was needed but didn’t know what the new wineskin looked like.

That’s how I feel sometimes about diversity – I feel uncertain and unsettled. Not a great place to be when leading a church. Am I getting it right? Am I getting it wrong? Where do I go now? Am I under-reacting - or over-reacting? It’s unsettling for both leader and congregation. In renewal, it led to conflict and sometimes to a number of people leaving. Some of us were part of that migration to house churches. The churches that made it through were often led by experienced pastors who had been there a long time – they had a strong trust deposit, went slowly and got the pace of change right. They didn’t lose the pioneers nor did they let the conservatives keep things the same.

At Kings, as we registered the need to re-engineer the whole church, we looked round the world to find models to help us – to Jubilee Church in Cape Town and to David Anderson’s church, Bridgeway Community Church, Columbia, USA. There are no well worn paths here…

Recognizing Leadership

I am a leader – it’s my primary gift and I have learned that I can recognize other leaders very quickly and want to place them in a leadership role. The trouble is – it’s a white leader that I recognize. When a black leader walks in – I’m still trying to learn what the reference points are and don’t always see it so instinctively. In a cross-cultural situation – one side of me can see it clearly but the other is unsure. It’s confusing and can lead to avoidance if we aren’t careful. In our church we are always looking for leaders – if we ‘see’ white leaders quicker, being under pressure to recruit can reinforce the bias as white leaders come through more rapidly. It’s unintentional but reinforces the problem. The process of vetting black leaders can take longer because we can misread the qualities of cross cultural leaders.

Within the Newfrontiers’ movement we recognize leaders – we give space as God raises them up for their gifts to develop and we recognize them. In African culture there is a high value on being submissive to authority (a good value!) and not so much on the need to be pro-active. So, if we wait for leadership to emerge western-style, we can wait a long time. We can see potential black leaders as passive if we are not fully aware.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Diversity 3 - Why are people of diversity joining our churches?

- Immigration – a huge influx – especially from Africa and Eastern Europe. All those who live in a town with an immigrant population will be aware of this. These arrivals often bring to our churches their robust faith and vibrancy.

- Reaction to a particular leadership style. They join us having left churches with an authoritarian leadership style.

- A desire to integrate. If you move into a foreign land, your kids go to a new school and you may go to work, so a church that consists entirely of your own culture can be a safe place. But over time, sometimes a Gospel-driven challenge comes – ‘If I witness to my white neighbour and he/she got saved, no way would he/she feel at home in my Nigerian church.’ A mother told me that her children had been asking, ‘Why do we have black friends and white friends and then go to a church where we are all black?’ There is a realization that every other area of life is integrated. When they start to look and find a place like Kings – it’s a halfway house. And those in mixed marriages feel they can identify with us, especially.

- Location. People often travel miles across London to go to a church/worship centre/teaching ministry of the type they prefer. Then, if kids come along and they can’t get to their own church one Sunday - they look locally, find ‘people like me’ in our church and say – ‘if they have made the journey to a church like this then I can, too’.

Of course we get excited, but it’s a big thing for them just to attend. Among other things, they have come to a different worship style and preaching style. We must remember as we consider this journey we are making that those who come from a completely different background have made a massive, massive move just to come into our churches.

The leadership challenge this brings is honestly the biggest leadership challenge I have ever faced. My difficulty is that I have never been down this path before and have few reference points. As a church planting movement we know it is easier to put in foundations at the beginning but now most of us are established as white majority churches with diverse people coming in after the fact. As Bill Hybels says, we now face the re-engineering challenge. God is blessing the way we do church, but now we have to make changes - and to re-engineer takes longer than to build from new. It brings tension and we have to hold it together. My only reference point from the past has been that of leaders handling renewal, which I will pick up on next time.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Diversity 2 - A Biblical Conviction

The drive within us on this issue comes from a biblical conviction. It is based in theology, not just pragmatically driven by a multi-cultural situation.

Simon Pettit spoke some years ago at the Leadership Conference on ‘One New Man in Christ’. Multi-coloured diversity had been pioneered in the church he led, Jubilee Church, Cape Town. It seems to me that only one or two churches could work this out in the UK where we have mostly provincial towns, predominately white. We must take the theology and work it out. We can cast a biblical picture and things have changed over the last 5 yrs as we have done so.

So we look at the following passages:

Col 3:11–12. Here there is no Greek or Jew…

Eph 2:14 He himself is our peace… and has destroyed the dividing wall of hostility.

In a surface reading of the New Testament there is a race issue as the gospel breaks out and impacts both Jew and Gentile. There are also cross-class and cross-generational issues for us to deal with. These biblical principles cover those issues, too. We have the privilege of living in places where we can work it out.


You need to work out in your context the terminology you are comfortable with. We discussed this for hours and decided on the term ‘multi-cultural’. Others have gone for ‘multi-racial’ or ‘multi-ethnic’. The terms are often interchangeable, but Lex Loizides, the Newfrontiers’ evangelist from Cape Town, SA, argues passionately for multi-racial. Dave Devenish, a senior leader within our movement, prefers the term ‘multi-ethnic’. I received an e-mail from him explaining his concern with our choice on the grounds of what he would see as the failure of multi-culturalism in the UK. But we have chosen ‘multi-cultural’ because, apart from a varied racial mix, we also have in our church a deaf community who have a culture of their own, also second generation black Britons who do not think of themselves as a separate ethnic group.

Avoid being politically correct – we haven’t got into quotas. Try to be sensitive but keep humour in the situation. We are aware we have made and are going to make mistakes, unintentionally offending people from time to time. We are grateful that our black community continues to extend grace to us in this as we move forward into new territory.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Diversity 1 - Background

When I moved to lead Kings 15 years ago I thought that the church was already diverse. 10 to 15% of those attending came from the black community, but everything else about the church was white – the way we did everything and all the leadership. We had around 40 extended leaders which included just 2 or 3 black people, predominantly Caribbean, first and second generation.

While we were aware of the issue, in the first few years we had enough to keep our attention elsewhere – including a major building project. It wasn’t until we moved back into our new building that the first black African couple arrived, causing great excitement! Today, there appears no outright majority in our church.

We are on a massive journey. I may view things differently in three months time - we think we see things clearly and then as time goes on and situations open up even more, we have to change. We are learning all the time – I’m aware that most of our Newfrontiers churches are white but seeing increased diversity in those attending, so churches want to learn about this vital issue. If all we do is get excited about diversity, we miss the point. There are radical implications for how we lead our churches.

Let’s talk about something really basic first. Food! In the early days Deb and I invited an African couple for a meal. We asked if there was anything they didn’t eat - they said they ate anything but when we served strawberries, it was clear that the husband had never tasted one before. We all laugh now, but were all embarrassed at the time. We didn’t see - Food is an issue. When we began Alpha at church and were providing food there, we served white western (bland) food! We were trying to reach out to local people with the gospel and were giving them a hurdle to overcome by providing food they found difficult. I used to sit at an Alpha table in a diverse group and I would be the only one eating the food. ‘It’s alright – we ate before we came…’ they would say – it took me about three Alphas to work that one out!

Then, we got to know a family through the school our boys attend, and the Mum came along to one of our prayer meetings. I was very aware that she came from a different church background – a black majority church. We were doing our usual prayer meeting (which we thought was liberated!) and when I asked her how she was finding the evening, she said, ‘I’ve never attended a white majority church before’. I was stunned. I thought we were diverse! I wanted to say to her, ‘Look! There’s a black person, and there’s an Asian - and they aren’t sitting at the back!’ (I’d been to other churches and observed where people sat…) And then the penny dropped. I was looking from a white western perspective.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Lead Elders and Wives' Conference

There’s always a good buzz when the lead elders and their wives from our UK Newfrontiers churches get together at this biannual conference - about 370 of us met together at Milton Keynes last weekend. Apart from the opportunity to renew old friendships and catch up with news from here and there, there is so much going on in the churches – God continues to bless our movement, for which we are very thankful! This particular event provides a venue for our church leaders to focus again on God and His call on their lives as well as receiving fresh vision for future developments. All this springs from our devotion to Christ – at one of the sessions, Stef Liston spoke from Joshua 1 and exhorted us all not to neglect this vital relationship.

Vision is a crucial component in the armoury of a church leader – first it motivates us as leaders, then it is part of our task to cast a vision for those we lead. On Saturday afternoon Dave Stroud shared his vision for 400 Newfrontiers churches in the UK! This is a challenge that spoke to many of us - a focus for the future that is worth spending time, money and energy to achieve, while relying on God who provides all the resources necessary to do His work, His way! Go and look at the new church planting website ( and be encouraged and inspired!

My contribution to the weekend was a session on ‘Rest’, which from feedback given was well received. With so much going on in church life and so much being demanded from our leaders, this conference was a good opportunity to remind everyone that we can be too busy. If we rest appropriately then we will serve God, our families and the church more effectively – to neglect our rest is short-sighted at best and can prove catastrophic. We need balance in this - the old Mars bar advert that talks about ‘work, rest and play’ comes to mind! And rest is more than a good idea – it’s a God-ordained part of normal life.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Marriage, Sex and Ministry 4

A strong marriage is so important in ministry. There is so much at stake - if you fall morally, you can lose your wife, children, job and calling. Behind each story of a failed marriage there will be huge pain caused to families, churches and most importantly, to God. Why not make a commitment now to take some action to ensure you and your wife build a strong and healthy marriage? Here are a few suggestions:

1.Take responsibility for your sexuality and your marriage. Make time to talk about how you are doing. Ask your wife if you are meeting her emotional needs? Be honest with your wife if she is not meeting your sexual needs!

2.Take responsibility for your love life. Deb and I have agreed that we will read a book a year on marriage. We would recommend for starters ‘The 5 Sex needs of Men and Women’ by Gary and Barbara Rosberg.

3.Invest time in your marriage. Do not allow ministry opportunities to take vital time away from your wife and family. Prioritise them when planning your diary.

4.Remember the biblical principle of example. Whether we like it or not, we provide a role model for those we serve. I call this the ‘goldfish bowl’ of ministry; people are always going to be looking at you! Although this can be hard at times, we must not dodge the biblical exhortation for leaders to be an example to others. What you model in your marriage will be seen by those in your church; the strength of your marriage will have a direct impact on the strength of the marriages in your church. Challenging, but true!

5.Teach regularly on the subject of marriage.

In conclusion, do I agree with Driscoll on this one? (That pastors and their wives should have sex daily.) In all honesty, I am always wary of being too prescriptive on these matters. I would prefer to talk principle and promote an attitude of generosity towards each other. If we apply the teaching of 1 Corinthians 7 - ‘Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time’ – then we will not go far wrong. Simply put, discover each other needs and, with sacrificial love, meet them. If all married couples did this, they would probably make love more often.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Marriage, Sex and Ministry 3

It is my belief that the strength of our marriage will have a direct impact on the effectiveness and potential of our ministry. For this reason, if no other, we should make a commitment to invest in our marriages.

It takes time to build a great marriage, and far too often other ministry priorities take precedence. However, I believe that one of the greatest limiting factors in ministry progress is that the marriage and home environment are not strong enough to carry the pressures that come as ministry grows. In our experience so far, every time we have seen ministry breakthrough, our marriage has had to strengthen correspondingly. This has involved a commitment to talking openly about the challenges involved and being clear about what it means to continue to show love to each other.

Christian psychologist Kevin Leman has this advice for couples wishing to improve the quality of their marriages:

‘ I spend a lot of time trying to help women get more active in the bedroom and trying to help men get active everywhere else’

I don’t believe we will go far wrong if we apply this principle to our marriages.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Marriage, Sex and Ministry 2

As we all know, sex is just one aspect of marriage. But an observation we have made during our years in pastoral ministry is that the quality of a couples’ sex life is a good ‘barometer’ for the health of the marriage overall; if a couple are not communicating or are having problems in one part of their relationship, you can almost guarantee that that will quickly be reflected in the bedroom.

As part of the ‘Sex, Romance and God’ seminar, Deb and I spent some time looking at the different needs of men and women when it comes to maintaining intimacy in marriage. Gary Rosberg, in his book ‘The 5 Sex Needs of Men and Women’, sums it up well in the following quote:

He (God) calls on men to connect emotionally with their wives in order to have their physical needs met; he calls on women to connect physically with their husbands in order to have their emotional needs met.

As a broad generalisation (and there will always be exceptions), women need to feel emotionally connected in order to be physically intimate, whereas a man finds emotional connection through sex. Interestingly, men are wired in such a way that they are often more emotionally open after sex. Gary Rosberg says, ‘Sometimes the best way to unlock a husband’s emotions is through satisfying his physical need for sex.’ H. Norman spells out these differences in this way:

For women sex is only one means of intimacy out of many and not always the best one. For many men, sex is the only expression of intimacy. Men tend to compress the meaning of intimacy into the sex act, and when they don’t have that outlet, they can become frustrated and upset. Why? Because they’re cut off from the only source of closeness they know. Men are interested in closeness and intimacy, but they have different ways of defining and expressing it. (This) is an area where men and women need to talk, listen and understand the other person’s language.” (H. Norman, quoted in ‘A Woman’s Guide to Sexuality’)

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Marriage, Sex and Ministry 1

When I returned from my summer break this year I was met with the tragic news from Florida about Todd Bentley separating from his wife and also news of another pastor in a local church failing morally. That was 2 in just 6 weeks, one who is known to Christians around the world and another much closer to home. In my view that’s two too many – and that’s just the ones I’ve heard about.

King David seemed to have everything going for him. If you read the chapters leading up to when he committed adultery with Bathsheba, the scriptures record success after success – the conquering of Jerusalem, the defeat of the Philistines, God’s promise to David. Victories and mighty men, it goes on and on. So how could a man, whose heart was committed to God, who had many wives to fulfil his sex drive, fall to temptation? What could lead a man such as David, at the peak of his ministry, to sleep with another man’s wife, leading to further deception and the murder of Uriah?

Why do so many pastors and their wives fail morally? Why do we seem to be so vulnerable to sexual temptation? We cannot be complacent. If it can happen to King David and a seemingly endless number of others, it could happen to any of us.

At the Brighton Conference this year Mark Driscoll got many of us talking when he threw out the line that pastors should be having sex with their wives every day! You may also have heard of the ‘30 Day Sex Challenge’ from the Relevant Church in Florida, aimed at challenging couples to increase the intimacy in their marriages. Apparently their congregation has increased by 15%!

The subject of sex in marriage is so important. Deb and I recently ran a Saturday morning seminar at Kings for married couples, entitled ‘Sex, Romance and God’. It was part of a broader teaching series we had been running on Sundays, called ‘Sex in the City’, based on 1 Corinthians. The seminar was for married couples only and gave us the opportunity to address the subject of sex and romance in marriage far more openly than would be appropriate on a Sunday morning. The seminar was both challenging and fun and we were asked questions we have never been asked before! We had planned to hold the seminar on just one Saturday, but had to repeat it the following weekend to meet demand. How wonderful to have so many couples seeking to improve the sex and intimacy in their marriages.

Friday, 7 November 2008

The Training of Newfrontiers' Leaders

When I left school at 16, I embarked on a 4 year apprenticeship in printing. The course involved some theory which was taught at Watford College and then practical experience on the shop floor. I learnt the important leadership lesson of serving as the first year involved getting tea and running errands for the journeymen, then working alongside these craftsmen and learning a skill by watching experienced printers! All good training involves teaching and modelling.

Newfrontiers’ training courses follow the same principle, a good theological grounding is vital, as is ‘on the ground’ training alongside an experienced leader – a brilliant way to learn. You could call it discipleship.

Today, I have enjoyed a planning day with all those involved in our training courses with Newfrontiers - that’s FP Impact and Leadership Training, both Foundations and Advanced.

Amongst many things, today we discussed the development of our full time pastoral training course, adding into the already strong course new leadership, preaching and marriage modules. All very exciting!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Multiple meetings 4

To conclude this overview of our experience in establishing multiple meetings at King’s, here are a few implementation points

One of the questions we are regularly asked is ‘How do you know which meeting people are going to?’ – we found a simple questionnaire to be a reliable indicator of which meeting people will attend.

One of the greatest challenges you will face in going to a second or third meeting is the volunteer challenge – you need to release a lot more ministry to run the Sunday meetings. So, for us to launch an evening meeting requires us to recruit, train and release 100 more volunteers a month (25 per week). Obviously, where there is children’s ministry at both morning meetings, the volunteer challenge is higher. We have found running a ministry fair on a Sunday as part of our launch strategy to be an effective way of connecting people to ministry opportunities created by the extra meeting.

When we moved to two meetings we had to pastor the sense of loss that some of our congregation felt. We did this publicly on Sundays, identifying with people’s sense of loss (‘I don’t see my friends anymore’), and providing an exhortation to see the costs of the move as worthwhile as we reach many more people with the gospel.

We have found that as we have provided more options and more space, God has given us more people.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Multiple meetings 3

Further principles to be taken into consideration:

We found that it is easier to go to two morning meetings than straight to an evening meeting – this helps particularly when it comes to volunteers. (This may differ in university towns and cities.) The length of our meetings is 1 hour and 30 minutes, with a 30 minute ‘turn-round’ between the two morning meetings (9.30 and 11.30am). Our third meeting is at 5.30pm – the time of the start of meetings has a greater effect than one might realise.

More preparation needs to be given to Sunday planning during the week. On the Sunday the pastoring of the meeting is extremely important - you have to start and finish on time, notices should be brief, preachers must be disciplined and ministry times included in the 90mins where appropriate. The loss of the luxury of flexibility to run over time is weighed against the benefit of reaching more people for Jesus.

We preach the same message at each meeting, and we launched our second and third meetings at key growth points in the year – for us, September and January. We have added the extra meetings in September and profile these changes with massive leaflet drops, advertising our Sundays and encouraging everyone to invite people along. Our third meeting commenced at the end of a week of mission thus encouraging the church into greater involvement in this major development.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Multiple meetings 2

Following on from last time - here are some further key numerical principles that have helped us make the decision to go to multiple meetings:

1. We have always worked on the principle that when our auditorium is 80% full – that’s people sitting down during the preaching – we are full.

2. It’s important to work these figures out on your high attendance Sundays - if you are hitting 80% on your ‘high’ Sundays it’s time to extend your building, move to another venue, or go to a second meeting.

3. As we moved towards two meetings, we worked on the principle that we didn’t want a divide or split of more than 60/40 - in other words we didn’t want 300 at the first meeting and 100 at the second. We worked very hard on retaining the integrity of this principle, including changing the time of one meeting at an early stage to move people forward and asking a particular ministry group to move to the other service.

4. Ideally, you never want to be under 50% full in your auditorium’s capacity i.e. 100 people in a 300-seater venue can rattle somewhat!

5. Also ideally, attendance should be no less than 170 – 180 in the smaller of the meetings in order to maintain critical mass (based on a Sunday attendance of 400 or more). This is particularly important in a church context that places a high value on corporate worship. If you have been used to a celebration of 400 then the worship experience with a group of less than 170 feels very different.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Welcome to another new venture!

I have been called many things over the years that I have served in the church, however I have realised that when all is said and done, I am a leader! In the light of that and with the encouragement of a number of friends and colleagues, I decided to launch this separate Leadership blog. The King’s blog is where I can give the church access to my world. My plan is that the Leadership blog will be a place where I can make available some of the leadership lessons and insights that I have learned and am learning, with the aim of encouraging many to lead well!

Following a short but successful time of leadership in business I have now been involved in full time Christian leadership for 18 years, leading Kings church for the last 13 years. During that time the church Sunday attendance has grown from 200 to what is now regularly over 1000.

How to accommodate a growing congregation on a site that cannot be extended, either in its footprint or height, has been one of the major current issues for us at King’s Church. This blog will start a short series dealing with how we have dealt with this issue.

The Move to Multiple Meetings – Part 1

Just to give you a historical context, following the extension of our building in September 04 (which seats around 500) we grew rapidly so that we had to launch a second morning meeting a year later in September 05. Three years later, growth has continued so we needed to establish a third meeting (early Sunday evening) which happened in September 08. Steve Nicholson, a friend from the Vineyard movement, has been a valuable help in this – Steve is based in Chicago and much of what follows is drawn from his experience.

I have drawn together some key principles that have helped us make decisions and establish multiple meetings with at least a measure of success:

Guiding principle 1: It’s highly ideal that you do this in a context of some momentum and growth. If your church has not grown for the last ten years, it is unlikely that dividing what you already have into two will help you! Going to a second meeting should not be a decision taken lightly – for us it was as important a strategic directional call as our £2 million building project a number of years before.

Guiding principle 2: You do want to do it with a sense of God speaking so that you can move ahead with a sense of faith and anticipation that God will help you with the challenges that lie ahead.

Guiding principle 3: The move to multiple meetings reflects the missional motivation which is at the heart of the church’s life. Making room for more people to hear the gospel is what it’s about!