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.