Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Tim Keller on Preaching and Preparation

I was looking at Luke Davydaitis’ blog recently www.lukesblog.org/ - he had a brilliant quote from Tim Keller which I make no apology for reproducing. It’s about preaching and preparation…

‘In my blog post on Willow Creek, I said that many Reformed evangelicals think of sound, expository preaching as something of a 'magic bullet.' We may think that as long as we are preaching the Word--preaching the law and the gospel rightly--that everything else in congregational life will somehow take care of itself. We may give lip service to the other two marks of the church--the administration of the sacraments and discipline--but we don't give them proper weight. Fully considered, the administration of the sacraments includes pastoral care, education, and discipleship, while the ministry of discipline means rightly ordering the community, that is, pastoral leadership.
I have often seen many men spend a great amount of time on preparing and preaching lengthy, dense, expository messages, while giving far less time and energy to the learning of leadership and pastoral nurture. It takes lots of experience and effort to help a body of people make a unified decision, or to regularly raise up new lay leaders, or to motivate and engage your people in evangelism, or to think strategically about the stewardship of your people's spiritual gifts, or even to discern what they are. It takes lots of experience and effort to know how to help a sufferer without being either too passive or too directive, or to know when to confront a doubter and when to just listen patiently. Pastors in many of our Reformed churches do not seem to be as energized to learn to be great leaders and shepherds, but rather have more of an eye to being great teachers and preachers.’

Friday, 25 December 2009

Thank You for the Cross...

(concluding the series on the Cross by guest blogger Mick Taylor)

Finally, the doctrine of penal substitution is important because it underlines and clarifies a number of vital truths. Our fundamental problem is not only that we are victims of Satan’s power but that we are violators of God’s holy requirements. Sin is not simply missing God’s best for us but an act of rebellion. We are not just prisoners of war in spiritual conflict, we are traitors.

It is only as we see the depth of our plight, the bleakness of our situation and the unworthiness of our lives that God’s salvation is seen in all its splendour and the necessity of our guilt being dealt with is fully grasped. Other perspectives on the cross are vital for a full understanding of the gospel and enjoyment of all its benefits, but without penal substitution we are in danger, not just of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but of losing the bathroom along with the whole house because we will have fatally destroyed a strategic part or our foundations.

There is much to learn from present discussions. Controversy is not all bad. Church history indicates that it is often a sign of spiritual vitality. It shows that people think that truth matters and that theology has the power to shape our worldview and thereby our values, attitudes and actions. Current questions about the atonement are a stimulus to have our thinking refreshed by forcing us to think deeply and carefully about all that scripture teaches about Christ’s sacrifice for us. Such reflection can only lead to renewed power and devotion as we glimpse again all that He did for us.

And once again I look upon the cross where you died

I’m humbled by Your mercy and I’m broken inside.
Once again I thank You
Once again I pour out my life…

Further Reading:
Where Wrath and Mercy Meet by David Petersen edit.
The Glory of the Atonement by Charles E Hill and Frank A James III edit
Pierced for Our Transgressions by Steve Jeffery, Mike Ovey, and Andrew Sach (see also related web page
The Atonement Debate within Contemporary Evangelicalism by Mick Taylor

The content of the above series of blogs on recent theological debate about aspects of Christ’s death on the Cross was previously published in the Newfrontiers magazine in 2008

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The importance of the linchpin

(continuing the series on the Cross by guest blogger Mick Taylor)

The second balancing point in a discussion of this topic is that while penal substitution is not the whole truth about the atonement it should be central to our understanding of Christ’s achievement for us on the cross. It is part of the truth and not the whole but it is central not peripheral, and not optional! Or to put it another way, penal substitution is an essential foundation but not the whole structure. Penal substitution is an answer to a specific question about the work of Christ not the answer to every question. It does not endeavour to explain every benefit or consequence of Christ’s sacrifice but it does reveal how a holy God can justly forgive sin and so becomes the source of all the other benefits. The scholar Roger Nicole has put it like this:

A linchpin in a mechanical contrivance makes possible the unified function of several other parts. If the linchpin is removed, the other parts no longer perform their own functions but float away in futility. This, I believe is precisely what occurs in the doctrine of the atonement. (p447) …penal substitution is the vital centre of the atonement, the linchpin without which everything else loses its foundation and flies off the handle so to speak. (p451) (The Glory of the Atonement by Charles E Hill and Frank A James III edit.)

So penal substitution is the basis of other blessings. We are set free from sin, death and the devil because his hold over us, our guilt before God, is removed by Christ’s death in our place. Similarly we are reconciled to God because the barrier between God and us has been removed by that same sacrificial death.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Balance and harmony

(continuing the series on the Cross by guest blogger Mick Taylor)

In the context of this debate about penal substitution it is important to note two balancing points:

Firstly, penal substitution is a part of biblical teaching on the cross – it’s not the complete picture. One claim that is made is that the teaching of penal substitution has been taught to the exclusion of other biblical perspectives. So it is asserted that the cross as a model and motivation for discipleship is missed. Or the note of triumph that rings so loudly throughout the New Testament has been drowned out. The danger of one truth being so emphasised that it eclipses other truths must clearly be avoided. Where this is true we should readily agree that distortion occurs. N T Wright has put it like this:

In a musical chord, the ‘third’ (in a chord of C major, this would be the note E) is the critical one that tells you many things, e.g. whether the music is major or minor, happy or sad. That E is vital if the music is to make the sense it does. But if the player plays the E and nothing else, the E no longer means what it’s meant to mean. Likewise, substitutionary atonement is a vital element in the gospel. Miss it out and the music of the gospel is no longer what it should be. But if you only play that note you are in danger of setting up a different harmony altogether... (

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Critics - ancient and modern

(continuing the series on the Cross by guest blogger Mick Taylor)

What Paul writes in Romans 3:21-26 really should put an end to all the arguments about penal substitution. In his magisterial commentary C E B Cranfield writes:

We take it that what Paul's statement … means is that God, because in His mercy He willed to forgive sinful men and, being truly merciful, willed to forgive them righteously, that is, without in any way condoning their sin, purposed to direct against His own very Self in the person of His Son the full weight of that righteous wrath which they deserved. (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. 2 vols. Edinburgh: T & T Clark; vol. 1, 1975, p. 217.)

That’s why we can rightly sing in the words of the old hymn:

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,

In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

Seeing a penal aspect to the work of Christ has always had its critics; at the Reformation it was Socinius and some of the Anabaptists, in the modern period liberal scholars starting with Schleiermacher have similarly found such ideas anathema. One of the most surprising features in recent discussions is that similar objections are now coming from our friends, people some of us have studied with, evangelised alongside and cheered on in their mission. People we love and who are happy to be known as evangelicals.

There are a number of fronts on which they attack penal substitution - the most serious of course is that it is not biblical. An answer to that charge I have begun to outline above but all their concerns deserve detailed and informed responses rather than dismissing in a few sentences. Thankfully a number of writers have taken on this assignment.

Where Wrath and Mercy Meet by David Petersen edit.
The Glory of the Atonement by Charles E Hill and Frank A James III edit
Pierced for Our Transgressions by Steve Jeffery, Mike Ovey, and Andrew Sach

(see also related web page http://www.piercedforourtransgressions.com/

Friday, 11 December 2009

The Cross: Biblical foundations 2

(continuing the series on the Cross by guest blogger Mick Taylor)

The New Testament builds on the foundations of the OT and in a whole array of ways; through allusions, images, quotes and direct statements it makes the point that Christ took our punishment. Here are just a few examples.

In the Garden of Gethsemane Christ asks

"My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." (Matthew 26:39)

What is the cup which is so devastating to contemplate but the cup of God’s wrath?

The cup (poterion) refers not only to suffering and death but, as often in the OT also to God’s wrath. (for example Isaiah 51:15; Jeremiah 25:15 see also Rev 14.10)(D.A. Carson …….)

More than once in the Book of Acts the inspired summaries of apostolic preaching give the theologically laden reference to Christ hanging on a tree. (Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29) The significance of this phrase might not be obvious to modern readers but in context it is a way of saying that the punishment of God’s curse for sin is taken for God’s people by Christ. Paul makes this clear in Galatians where he writes:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." (Galatians 3:13)

In less opaque language Paul explicitly writes that

… there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus … (why? Because)…God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, (Romans 8:1 & 3)

What could be clearer? There is no condemnation because there is no fear of judgment and there is no fear of judgment because another has been condemned in our place.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The Cross: Biblical foundations 1

(continuing the series on the Cross by guest blogger Mick Taylor)

For many of us, teaching on penal substitution was imbibed almost with our mother’s milk, for others it was on hearing this message for the first time that we turned to Christ. It is as uncontroversial as bread and butter, its part of our regular staple diet. So it is disturbing when we hear that some have come to the opinion that it not just unnecessary and unbiblical but positively harmful, even poisonous. Others, while not so extreme in their comments, question whether penal substitution is an adequate or helpful way of understanding what Christ did for us on the cross.

The Bible doesn’t read like a systematic theology. You can’t look in the index and then turn to one chapter and find a complete description and definition of a particular doctrine. So it is with penal substitution. The ingredients for this doctrine are found throughout scripture.

In the Old Testament the Passover (Exodus 12) and the ritual of the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16) are key elements. The Passover was where faithful Israelites were saved from death through the death of a lamb. It pointed to the ultimate Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29) On the Day of Atonement the two goats are clearly substitutes. The death penalty that sinful people deserved was taken by them. It is, however, Isaiah 53 that states most powerfully and with crystal clarity that Christ took our punishment.

…he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6)

Friday, 4 December 2009


As part of my commitment to a theological approach to leadership, today, guest blogger Mick Taylor begins a series of 7 blogs on the Cross.

Crucifixion has always been controversial. Barbaric and shameful as a means of capital punishment, it was eventually abandoned even by the Romans. It was therefore staggering to the ancient world that a ‘new’ religion would declare that salvation had been achieved through a crucified messiah. How could a message so utterly ridiculous and a saviour so pathetically weak achieve anything? Yet though the cross was a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, (1 Corinthians 1:23) to many it proved to be the very power of God. (1 Cor 1:18) Throughout the history of the church the message of the cross has not lost its power to offend or to provoke - or, praise God, to save.

And it is not just outside the church that the cross has caused controversy. Within the Christian community there have always been seasons of wrestling with how best to understand the true significance of Christ’s death. In recent years this has recurred again but this time within the evangelical community. The debate has focused on what is called the doctrine of penal substitution. That is the teaching that, on the cross, Christ died in our place as our substitute and took the penalty for our sin for us.

Wayne Grudem defines penal substitution in this way: Christ’s death was “penal” in that he bore a penalty when he died. His death was also a “substitution” in that he was a substitute for us when he died. (Wayne Grudem – Systematic Theology p 179)

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Self-leadership 5 - Typical patterns and my support team

A typical week would generally look like this for me:

- Monday: day off
- Tuesday: King’s day. I get up at 7am, have breakfast, pray or read for half an hour and walk to the office. I meet with Phil Varley for half an hour, then lead the staff prayer meeting and may have a follow-up meeting. Increasingly I am not involved in any further meetings and can get onto planning and preparation. In the afternoon I meet people. Tuesday evening could be at home or I might have a meeting connected with my local leadership responsibility.

- Wednesday and Thursday are primarily spent in Newfrontiers’ activities.
- Friday: preparation. I finish at 1pm now on Fridays as we have three meetings on Sundays.
- Saturday: I keep free as much as possible
- Sunday: three meetings – 9.30, 11.30 and 5.30 – and I attend all of them.

Monthly pattern:
I like to look at my diary from a monthly point of view as I find that the weeks tend to run into one another! It’s important to see what’s coming up before and after a week otherwise your diary can lose shape quickly.

Annual pattern:
Apart from my yearly planning in the summer break, I also review my planning in my study weeks in January and April/May.

I recognise that I’m only able to live like this because I have the support of a fantastic team! Firstly, my PA, Carol is full-time and works just for me. Then the Eldership Team – particularly Phil Varley, our Executive Pastor, who leads the team in my absence. And I also have help with the blogs from a writer.

I have lots of support - essential for all Lead Elders! I would heartily endorse the words of John Maxwell – ‘Those closest to the leader determine the success of the leader.’ (from ‘Developing the Leader within You’)

Friday, 27 November 2009

Self-leadership 4 - e-mails, elders and my diary

E-mails: I have taken Driscoll’s idea of delegating the filtering of my e-mails to Carol, my PA.

Elders: I meet with the Elders once a month for two hours and at other occasional meetings when required. We have two days together once a term and once a year that time is extended to a four day retreat in France when we look at the coming two or three years ahead. Deb and I try to meet with the Elders and their wives for a meal about once a term. And on Tuesday mornings I meet with Phil Varley, our Executive Pastor, who has the responsibility of running King’s on a day-to-day basis.

Once I have looked at the year, I put all my prioritised responsibilities into my diary so I know that they will not be neglected. Firstly home responsibilities, secondly all those at King’s (all Sundays at King’s, All Elders’ meetings, Trustees’ meetings, meetings with key staff with husbands/wives) and thirdly Newfrontiers. This would include coaching days and any teaching and training dates. I list all the churches I am working with and I get some dates that work well for them and for me. Some of these churches I meet with 3 or 4 times a year and others only once – this depends on where they are, how much they need my input and also how much they think I should be involved!

Normally, once all those items are in the diary it’s pretty full and I find it easy to say no to other invitations!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Self-leadership 3 - Responsibilities at King's and for Newfrontiers

During my study weeks I look at my responsibilities at King’s. Apart from planning for near dates I look at the longer term, up to 18 months ahead. I also look at my preaching engagements for the coming term. I have recently pulled together a team of researchers to help me with preparing for preaching. They are given the Bible passages and contexts in which I will be preaching for the term ahead and I hope to receive from them an A4 sheet summary of the passage with key quotes and ideas. So, when I sit down in January and look at my preaching programme through to Easter I will have not only the Bible and my own background reading and thoughts, I will also have 4 or 5 A4 sheets summarising the key points as these selected researchers see them. That gives me a good resource from which to work. My aim is to have outlines of all the messages I will preach in that particular term by the end of my study week.

At King’s we like to have the topics for our preaching series well in advance – sometimes up to a year ahead. Apart from those already mentioned who support my preaching preparation, I have recently set up a new theological team to provide me with papers at regular intervals. Creation has already been done - the Cross and the end times are currently in preparation and will roll out on the blog in coming months.

As much as possible I try to keep Wednesdays and Thursdays each week for my Newfrontiers’ responsibilities.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Self-leadership 2 - Home responsibilites

When it comes to priorities at home, these would include days off with Deb, family nights and all holidays. If I can see particular pressure points in my diary, then I will try to include some rest and recovery time. I always have a study week at the beginning of each term – usually the first week in January and a week in April/May.

Deb and I have talked through a pattern for the week which would include at least two evenings in together – one with the boys for a family night (usually Saturday night at the moment) and Monday evening, which is our night. We also have Monday together. Deb works three days a week and we employ a cleaner and a gardener to help us run the house. I see this as a good investment! I also take responsibility for ‘big picture’ financial matters.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Self-leadership 1 - Responsibilities

‘Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because, if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers’ (1 Tim 4:16).

I was recently asked to outline how I manage my life and time in view of my growing responsibilities. I hope the following reflections will be helpful!

I recognise three significant areas of responsibility in my life – home, King’s Church and within Newfrontiers.

- Home: includes spending time with Deb, time with the boys, family nights, rest and holidays. I have particular responsibility for the budget.
- King’s: leading the church, bringing overall vision and direction, preaching responsibilities, planning, preparation, study time, major budgetary decisions and oversight, key staff, e-mails, communications and blogs etc.
- Newfrontiers: UK team meetings, Team Leaders, Prayer & Fasting, weekends away, the 11 churches that I oversee and all the teaching that is connected with my involvement with these specific areas.
- Any spare time that’s left is for golf and taking it easy!

Each of these requires prioritising and putting in my diary. I have a framework of workinga daily pattern, weekly pattern, monthly pattern and an annual pattern. In order to get the big picture, during the six-weeks over the summer when I take my break (including two weeks planning and preparation) I would put into my diary an outline for the next twelve months.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Leadership lessons from this year - Multi-site church

While visiting Seattle I saw a multi-site church at work. This is very important for us in S E London. Historically our approach has been - build your church, grow it, then plant another church. Multi-site church provides an opportunity for growth for a large church in an urban context where the constraints of property prices for larger facilities are considerable.

At King’s Church we are now running 3 identical Sunday meetings. As far as further growth is concerned, the limiting factor is our facilities. We have always seen King’s as serving not only the locality of Catford, but the communities of S E London, so to go to a multi-site strategy seems a logical step. As we were considering this earlier in the summer we were made aware of a building that had become available for sale – on a site that would enable us to build a 1000 seater auditorium, with 4 times the size of our existing building’s square footage. This would require a £5million building project.

In London we have city-wide churches – to reach such a city we need an integrated strategy that also involves regional and estate churches, large churches, church plants and a new component – the multi-site church.

It is not inconceivable that ten years from now, a church like King’s could be operating on anything between 5 and 10 sites.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Leadership lessons from this year - Visits in season

Another major way for me to learn is to visit other churches and meet other leaders from outside Newfrontiers, seeing what they do, asking why they do things and how it all works! This year, in one trip, I visited churches in Seattle, New York, Chicago (Steve Nicholson’s church – Vineyard) and Baltimore (David Anderson’s church).

On this visit I also attended a conference at Willow Creek where I heard Gordon MacDonald speak. He proposes that we look at life in terms of seasons. In each of these stages different questions tend to be asked by those going through them.

20s – Who am I?
30s – How do I balance all this together?
40s – There must be something more than this!
50s – Can I hold on?
60s – Am I redundant?
70s – Was it all worth it?

I have asked these questions of myself, of the King’s team, pastorally, and in the wider Newfrontiers movement!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Leadership lessons from this year - Diligence and learning

It’s not all struggle and gloom – we were able to successfully launch our third meeting, we are seeing people saved every week and our total Sunday attendances have grown by 25%. Such growth gives us other problems!

Romans 12:3 says ‘For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.’ And later, in verse 8 it says, ‘…if leadership, let him govern diligently.’

Diligence can be defined as persistent effort at work. Industrious in character! Steady application! Attentive to duties!

How do you learn? How can you increase your leadership capacity? By being diligent!

How do I learn? One way is that I read. The main titles I have read over the last year would be:

Surprised by Hope – Tom Wright
Wild at Heart – John Eldridge
Crossing the Divide – Owen Hylton
Church Unique – Will Mancini
For Men Only; For Women Only – two books by the wife and husband team of Shaunti & Jeff Feldhahn

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Leadership lessons from this year - Enforced changes

Last September (‘08) I spoke to some local leaders on 2 Corinthians 4 ‘We do not lose heart…’ and about leading in a time of crisis. These words turned out to be prophetic in nature! That week went like this:

Monday – day off!
Tuesday – all fine on the western front!
Wednesday – I meet with a local leader who is emotionally unwell following the death of his father.
Thursday – while I’m speaking at London Leaders we get a message that the wife of one of our Trustees - a valued member of our worship team - has collapsed at the Grand Canyon while on holiday in the US. By 6pm that day it is confirmed that she had died. Sue was in her 40s.
Sunday – I announce this tragic news to the church at our Vision Sunday, where I also cast the vision for the coming year and launch not only our week of mission but our third meeting.

These two events (Sue’s death and launch of the third meeting) shaped the year.
Romans 12:15 says, ‘rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.’ That’s what we were doing and this verse described that time.

Following on from this, within a few weeks we were discussing the possibility of Owen Hylton leaving us to lead Beacon Church – which was great for Beacon but at a cost to King’s! Owen started there in January 09 taking a small team – 10 of our members went with him at that stage (more have gone since!).

The impact of this on Kings meant that we had to totally re-engineer our staff team. We needed to strengthen our eldership at this point and look at the issue of diversity within our leadership. We are still working through this process. One of the recent developments in staffing has been that Malcolm Kyte (presently at Wimbledon) will be joining the team here at King’s to provide additional pastoral support in our growing church. His experience will be invaluable – we look forward to his arrival next spring!

Friday, 30 October 2009

Teams and Your Youth Development Policy

It’s not just wise football managers who invest in youth training. As a church leader spotting gifts and potential in young people and providing them with opportunities to grow in serving is a good investment. Give them input and on occasions give them their head! I have good reason to advocate this approach as I benefited from it myself.

The pastor of my home church began to invest in me when I was 20. By the age of 21 I was sitting in Elder’s meetings and was arrogant and opinionated. But all I learned then bore fruit in later situations as I had been exposed to the practice of leadership in previous years.

My plea is that leaders give responsibility at an early age. If you have young people that show potential then encourage them to aspire to the next level of leadership and provide learning and training opportunities that will stretch but not overwhelm them.

Book recommendations on leadership and team building

Developing the Leader Within You : John Maxwell

Developing the Leaders Around You : John Maxwell

Making a Team Work : Steve Chalke with Penny Relph

Effective Keys to Successful Leadership : Frank Damazio

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Winning teams!

I have already recommended the Belbin test for you and your teams – it is a well-researched secular team test which shows the contribution each type of individual makes to a team. Belbin enables you to identify the strengths and weaknesses in your team. On any team there needs to be:

- A trusted chairperson who uses people’s abilities. Trust is key – the team won’t function without it.
- A creative person, preferably clever as well. What Belbin calls a ‘plant’. This person will often bring a new angle on an issue. I have come to value contributions from our creative people at critical times in decision making.
- A fair spread of mental abilities.
- A good spread of team roles
- A matching of team roles and responsibilities
- A shared consciousness of the weaknesses of the team. At an early stage I realised that we were missing an implementer on our team. I’m a shaper, with implementer as my secondary role. As a result everything was bouncing back to me – not ideal. So, we staffed an implementer! (All senior staff appointments at King’s will undertake Belbin testing – that way we know where we are!)

The ability to recognise gifts – is a gift! We are learning about this all the time – the important thing is that you need to understand yourself as you go to recruit. Bringing a new team member on board - especially a senior team member – could destabilise the team. The personality of the newcomer is vital, so it’s not just about gifting. They have to ‘fit’.

Appreciating those on the team who are different from me means that I recognise that we need ALL their gifts and abilities, otherwise you will end up recruiting only people like yourself which will weaken the team.

It’s important to play to your strengths as a leader – and discover and then cover your weaknesses.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Defining your unique role in the team

1. Define the role of the leader!
Doing this will prevent responsibilities falling into that area where everyone presumes that someone else is taking care of it! And because you are a self-aware, self-reflecting leader you will be aware of your own areas of limitation and will staff your weaknesses!

2. Have clear job descriptions for team members.
Let others with expertise in this area sort the details of these documents as well as staff contracts. Though it seems tedious at the time, good documentation in this area can save a great deal of trouble in the future.

3. Areas to be aware of when building a team.
- Age distribution. If all your elders are the same age, they will continue to age together and you will need to introduce a rank of younger elders to add youth and vigour to wisdom and stability!
- Individual training. Variety in skills and gifting. Different experience histories.
- Varied personalities
- Ethnic mix. Diversity is an increasingly important and visible issue in our churches.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

And more on building your dream team...

- Team members know exactly where the team stands on any issue

Some years back we were going into a major building project and the small group system began to fall apart. I came under immense pressure to radically restructure this part of church life but I felt that it was not the time for a big policy change in this area. ‘Cell’ church was the big thing at the time but we decided to wait for 2 to 3 years. Our priority was the building – I felt we would only get one chance to design and erect a good building – once that was done we could recreate our small group system on an annual basis if we chose to! As it was, the delay gave us time to reflect on this important area of church life.

In more recent days we have moved to multiple Sunday meetings. We worked out that an attendance of 180 was ‘critical mass’ for a new meeting in our auditorium. At this point I spoke to all the ministry leaders and told them that I wanted them in that meeting! This was a change of philosophy.

- Team members are willing to pay the price

There has to be a personal counting the cost which may well have financial and career development consequences with implications for wider family members.

Friday, 16 October 2009

More on building your dream team

- Team members place individual rights beneath the best interests of the team

This requires a level of maturity from the team members who will be able and gifted in their sphere of work and who could, in some cases, go and lead their own team. Preaching is a case in point here. One of our elders was an able teacher and was at once stage the second preacher on the team after me. As the church has grown we wanted to promote and give opportunities to younger guys – the outcome of this (and other strategic staff appointments) is that he now preaches only once or twice a year – a real sacrifice.

- Each team member plays a special role – ideally to the person’s strengths

Working within your own gift means that you can run further and do more. Also knowing how you function physically helps – I know that I generally do better with 6 one hour sessions rather than 1 six hour session. You should be aware of what drains you in church life. I know that I’m a ‘solution’ person so that pastoral care and I have a limited shelf life together! Our personalities contribute to this.

- An effective team has strength in depth

Having worked at this, I really believe that my team at King’s is one of the strongest in depth within Newfrontiers!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Building your dream team - cont'd.

- Team members communicate with each other.

Trust and openness should be the norm. Give permission! Any idea is acceptable for discussion! (And implementers will struggle with this!)

- Team members grow together.

Training should be a continuous process. Developing skills is a high priority. In recent years we have had input into the team in the following areas:

Diversity : David Anderson
Counselling : Jeanie Kendall
Management : Brian Watts
Personality profiling : Peter Brierley
Multiple meetings : Steve Nicholson – US Vineyard Movement
Various : Willow Creek Association; Holy Trinity, Brompton
and from various apostolic figures within Newfrontiers. These bring huge gifts and other skills.

Our Newfrontiers foundations are strong and we are happy to receive from other streams of church life where appropriate and to grow in awareness and ‘roundedness’!

- There is a good ‘team fit’.

A useful tool in this area is the Belbin personality test. I would recommend that you and your team do this together. It will help you know more about the individuals in your team and to value difference in the team rather than being annoyed by it! It is important that your team has the full range of gifting and personalities in the room.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Building your dream team!

In my experience I have found that the following principles are important – if not vital – for building a great team!

- Team members genuinely care for each other.

What is the team temperature? A leader will monitor this and ensure good relational ‘gel’ in the team. Each year I take the King’s elders away for 4 days. We go to France where a former elder and his wife have a large house with a pool. In the mornings we pray and discuss and in the afternoons we rest and ‘play’. This is invaluable time together and I see it as real investment in the team. I think every such team needs an equivalent.

- Team members know what’s important.

Priorities need to be recognised and stated. Challenges need to be identified. These are the tasks of a leader and there will come times when as a result of these activities that you recognise that you need to up your game. One year I returned from my summer break to be informed that our Church Administrator was moving on, one of the elders was ill and had to take long-term sick leave and we were £90K down on our budget! We had a Family Meeting to tell the church what was happening and one of the outcomes was that I had to re-involve myself in areas such as taking funerals and pastoral care. By Christmas of that year I was losing the plot! I was glad to take time over the break to analyse the critical elements in our situation which I identified as – diversity, finances, apostolic reach, growth and impact on the team. On the first Sunday in January I presented these challenge points to the church and addressed them.

What are the key challenges you and your team are facing? If there is corporate ownership of these, that will help you as you assess your resources and move forward.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

A leader's capacity

As leaders we have to ask ourselves – What is my capacity? What can I achieve? It’s good to know this because members of your team (other leaders in effect) who have a greater leadership gift than you and more capacity will not play on your team for long. There is a direct relationship between the leader’s capacity and the capacity of the team member. If this relationship is out of kilter the result will be frustration on both sides.

Leaders generally work hard. However, the issue is not just one of hours spent but of levels of responsibility and emotional capacity - a leader carries the team. For me, increasing responsibilities outside King’s mean that there are no venues in my life where I don’t lead. This can be demanding. The advantage of this is that I have the chance to shape the culture of each ministry/event where I have input. Inevitably too my diary shapes the church agenda.

For every successful leader there are always more people who know that they are going to be second in rank. Some are happy to be part of a specialist team within the church and I would reckon that they feel good about that for around 80% of the time – with the occasional frustration! Inevitably a team member may come to the point where they want and need to lead their own team. Some will stay but some will go to grow elsewhere.

John Maxwell has been a favourite writer and speaker of mine for some years and I especially agree with him when he says,

‘…those closest to the leader will determine the level of success for that leader.’

This means that you should choose your team members carefully!

Friday, 2 October 2009

High Sundays 4

Like to know more about future trends in your church?

One of the greatest leadership challenges is to predict the future, and the best way to do that is to look at past trends. If your church hasn’t grown in the last 5 years, it is unlikely to double in the next five. At King’s we have always planned for and prayed for an annual increase of 10% - net! Your church will double in 7 years if you achieve this goal. On the basis of this principle King’s will have 2000 attending in 7 years time.

Over the years we have worked out that the leading indicator of growth is the number of ‘Like to Know More’ forms which are handed in at our Welcome Desk on a Sunday. I pray for 5 a week - we have 3 meetings. If we get 5 a week I now know we are going to have 100 more people in a year’s time. This is incredibly helpful information. From this we can then forward project numerical growth which shapes all our forward financial planning. We have a 5 year budget forward projection which helps to shape our staffing needs and our building requirements. All from new connection forms.

In this last year we have had 321 forms, at a retention of 50% - that represents 160 people. Of course some people leave, sometimes that’s a weekly event as well, mostly for good reasons - but from this analysis I am confident that we are continuing to grow and that we will have over 100 more people attending in a year’s time.

When I leave King’s at the end of each Sunday, I am given a report containing the numbers in attendance as compared to last year, and the number of ’Like To Know More’ forms handed in. From this information I can continue to tell King’s is growing – and how fast.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

High Sundays 3

Integration – a lesson well-learned!

Seven years ago I visited Willow Creek and it was there I met Marge Anderson. Her responsibility was for the integration of new people into a church which then had 20,000 attending. It was fantastic to find someone so committed to helping new people connect with the local church.

We learnt much from that visit which has helped us to connect new people to Kings. We have discovered that people fall into a number of different categories. Unbelievers we direct to Alpha; Christians who are generally looking for help, in other words, they are hurting and need pastoral care; people looking to connect through serving, and lastly those looking to connect relationally through a small group, or community life.

We can spend hours of time and thousand of pounds on mission activities or just pulling off a great Sunday and not have a way of pastoring the new person into the church.

The model we discovered at Willow Creek was that a phone call and some tracking of the new person increased our connection rate by 100%. Before we started to provide a way of connecting people we would keep about 25% of the new people who showed interest in Kings, since we started phoning and following up more intentionally this has increased to about 50%.

For more useful information on this topic go to:

Friday, 25 September 2009

High Sundays 2

We have also learned to integrate our High Sunday strategy with our overall programming in the life of the church. Our analysis shows that there are more visitors and people looking to join Kings in January and in September each year. Therefore, now we normally have FOUR high Sundays in a row in those months – Vision Sunday, baptisms, an invited guest speaker and dedications – all these would lead to and be integrated into our mid-week programme which would include a next step into Alpha, so we integrate our Sunday programme with our midweek programme.

We would always put up a strong worship and preaching team in the key growth moments on such Sundays and I try to ensure that I am in attendance at all these meetings.

We found that as the church gets larger it’s very important to publicise well in advance with high quality literature and we have realised, for the first time, that we need to publicise both internally within the church and now externally too.

We have done this most recently by having an integrated advertising campaign. Billy Graham used to say to his team that whenever he came into a city, if he did not see his picture often enough as he drove in from the airport, then he would be concerned! So, we’ve taken this principle and for the first time invested extra money in such a campaign, which involved high quality billboards, 10,000 leaflets, radio adverts and bus stop ads. We actually put this in place all around the launch of our third meeting and the visit of a guest speaker (Lex Loizides).

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Together at Butlins - Jan 2009!

Time is running out to book in at Butlins before the first cut off date of 30th September! We had a great time at this event last year with positive feedback from those who went, so we anticipate increased demand for next time. Book before Sept 30th for the cheapest price!

Billed as a weekend of ‘worship, teaching, vision and encouragement’, we look forward to hearing from Dave
Devenish and David Stroud as our main speakers, while there will be time to use the Butlin’s facilities and for fellowship with friends from our churches. Our
children’s and youth ministries are in the hands of those who will make sure that it’s a memorable time for everyone.

Last year we know there were those who were disappointed when they tried to book later in the day so we have increased the capacity to make sure that no- one is turned away this year! This is why we have taken two weekends for our region’s churches, with the first Butlin’s Bognor event from Jan 8th – 10th and the second from 23rd – 25th. Don’t miss out on a great weekend!

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

High Sundays 1

One of the key growth strategies that we have employed at Kings is something we call a ‘High Sunday’. It is a growth engine aimed at creating momentum.

Our strategy is simply to build to a Sunday where we will pray and invite as many people to attend and trust that God will meet with them – that they will experience God and then we provide them with a next step to connect with us.

We have run this system or strategy for the last 10 – 11 years and when I first arrived at Kings we would probably only do a few of these Sundays a year, or more likely, one or two a term. I remember when Terry Virgo came to speak in the first couple of years of my time here - this was an encouragement to gather the whole church as well as any visitors - 205 attended. Last Sunday we had over 1000 in three meetings and we are now regularly seeing this level of attendance. The first time we hit the 1000 mark outside of the Christmas season (in September 08) was a Very High Sunday for us! After that Sunday we had 70 people to follow up who had all connected with God or had provided us with an opportunity to follow up and link them to a next step.

Simply put – examples of High Sundays are Christmas, Easter, Mothering Sunday, a dedication of new parents, a baptism, a guest speaker, a themed issue or a healing service. Actually, what would happen now is that we would be running – probably every other week – something which we would describe as a High Sunday. It is an event which will attract more people.

Friday, 18 September 2009

London Churches Update

I always enjoy meeting up with Newfrontiers leaders from across London at the start of a new term and at our recent morning together I spoke about the key leadership lessons I had learnt in the past year – which seemed to be well received!

The highlight of the morning for me was hearing of the on-going success of the church plants in Camden (led by Stef Liston) and Greenwich (led by Stu Gibbs). Both these new churches are flourishing – praise God! It was also exciting to hear that our church planting agenda for London continues to progress, with plans to plant 4 churches in the next 2 years.

Roger & Elizabeth Smith are moving to Richmond-upon-Thames and are already gathering a small group.
Clive & Debbie Sharp are planting in Islington, while
Mark and Jen Waterfield are planning to start Sunday meetings in Newham around Easter 2010.
Plans for a further church plant for North London will be confirmed in due course.

As we look to continue planting churches, the training of future leaders is a high priority in our movement. I am delighted to tell you that our London Training Base began this year’s programmes at full capacity with 40 trainees on FP Impact, 36 on Leadership Foundations and the exciting new Leadership Advanced phase being piloted in London with at least 10 trainees. The extension of the preaching training element within this course and the addition of a marriage in ministry module are very positive developments. This year we have had to turn away a number of later applicants on two of the courses – we anticipate that this rise in demand for training will continue and are already addressing the issue of future capacity.

On a more ‘personal’ note to King’s, I am excited to announce that Malcolm and Cathy Kyte are joining the team here at Catford. Malcolm has successfully led the church at Wimbledon for the last 15 years and is a valued part of the London team. He joins Kings at a time of accelerated growth as we look to build a leadership team to serve a church of 2000 and to fulfil our wider call. Malcolm will continue to serve on the Newfrontiers London team.

I look forward to seeing our London church leaders and their wives on 20-22nd November in Bedfordshire for a time of rest and spiritual refreshment.

Looking ahead to ‘Together at Butlins’ at Bognor – we received some excellent feedback from this event last year and would want to encourage as many as possible of the churches in London to be there and not miss out on a great event! We are looking for between 4500 and 5000 to attend, so please encourage your people to book early!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Vision, £5 Million... and Malcolm Kyte!

I once heard a leader announce that he was praying for his church to double in the next year. There was no doubt this was visionary, but I am not sure anyone in the room truly believed it. The church he led had not grown for the last 5 years, so the faith required to believe for a doubling in the next year was beyond me.

There is an important leadership lesson here. While vision is about lifting people’s eyes to the future, the credibility of the visionary and the future picture painted by the leader are crucially linked to the past. Therefore, whenever I present vision to the church here at Kings, we always look back and give thanks to God for His faithfulness before we look forward. We celebrate His provision up to the present and then from that foundation look to the future.

At our Vision Sunday at King’s last weekend, I shared more about our proposed £5 million new building project, and the news of additional members to our staff team, not least Malcolm and Cathy Kyte coming to join us at Kings from next April. I was very aware that the very encouraging response from the church is rooted in our history rather than my ability to describe an exciting new future together!

Friday, 11 September 2009

Building Missionary Churches 8 - Conclusions and the future

We still have much to learn, but I sense that in coming days we may see a shift in relationship between so called para-church organisations and new church movements like Newfrontiers. While we still have much to learn from their vast experience, the relationship - I believe - will be one of drawing from that experience rather than sending our people out through such organisations. We will not serve the vision of the missionary organisation; they will partner with new church movements.

A vision of the future would be church planters sent out from our churches, overseen by apostolic ministry, while partnering with existing mission organisations for aspects of training in cultural awareness and language. But when it comes to church building, foundations, and leadership appointments, this would rest with the overarching apostolic ministry.

In conclusion, I believe we must continue to look to a biblical model of church which in no way separates local church life and mission. Mission-based para-church organisations have sprung into life in reaction to impotent local mission effectiveness, but the result has been to weaken churches rather than solving the problem, making the church more pastoral as a result. The lasting benefit of such mission is limited because when evangelistic fruit ends up in local churches, and these are weak, then weak disciples will be produced.

As David Watson says in I believe in Evangelism, “If we fail to build individuals into the corporate life of the church we have missed the purpose of evangelism; it is one thing to reap, it is another to disciple and add.”

The local church must place the Great Commission central to its agenda, allowing the apostolic ministry to lift our eyes to the harvest field, and must model truly an integrated strategy of reaching the lost, caring for the poor and training and sending leaders, with such generosity that many who have given up on the church will return. God is looking for such communities to emerge in our generation. Let’s build them, to His glory!

Friday, 4 September 2009

Building Missionary Churches 7 - Training and resources

To build mission-focused communities, as churches and individually, we need to avoid ‘giving fatigue’. We will need to continue to raise millions of pounds together, to fulfil our vision of 1,000 churches in the UK alone, as well as releasing millions of pounds into our global mission.

To build mission-focused communities we need to ensure that we identify, recruit and train leaders to have mission focus and skills. Our training programmes should continue to be flexible in achieving our goal. Interestingly, Prof Leslie J Francis in an article in Quadrant magazine states “Once ministry in the UK becomes reconceptualised in terms of growing new churches… then the leadership qualities prized by the churches’ selection criteria may also need to be revisited.” I could not agree more.

As the family of Newfrontiers continues to grow (we now have churches in over 40 nations), we will increasingly begin to operate like a missionary society, in the sense that we will be an apostolic people, a sent community.
But rather than sending our people off to a particular para-church organisation, we will look to the over-arching ministry of the apostolic to provide direction to our ever increasing army of young disciples who have the nations of the earth on their heart.

Para-church organisations are aware of such a phenomenon, and Global Connections very graciously asked Dave Devenish to address them, as David records in What on Earth is the Church for? - p55.

“I was asked to speak about church-based mission. My brief was to be as controversial as possible and to raise the very real issue concerning whether there is a future for mission agencies, now that the local church is beginning to take on its responsibilities for world mission.”

His whole chapter on church-based mission is well worth a read.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Building Missionary Churches 6 - Apostolic ministries

We must continue to start new churches all over the country, with bands of believers reaching out to local communities. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us; mission has to be lived out on the ground and must be ‘owned’ by individuals. I was struck recently by what Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 1 v 5 “We lived among you for your sake”.

We also need our apostolic ministry and our mission to have an international aspect to it.I am sure many of us will have known significant leaders who have left large established churches to go with their families to work in a church plant with a relatively small number of believers, both within the UK and to other countries. This needs to happen again and again.

To build mission-focused communities we must make space for the gift of the evangelist to shape our church life. Lex Loizides has helped me so much on this. On a recent visit he made to King’s, we had planned a gospel healing meeting: I suggested 45 minutes worship and then about 30 minutes preach and response. Lex laughed at me and said graciously, “Let’s do it this way - 20 minutes worship, testimony, words of knowledge, pray for the sick, preach the gospel, make an appeal, pray for the sick again.” With all my desire to see gospel breakthrough, I had planned a meeting for believers!!!

The Frontedge weekend is an excellent example of intentional equipping of churches to be more mission focused and effective. We ran another such event in May 2009, with evangelists placed in 35 local churches, preaching the gospel and praying for the sick. Over 7,000 people attended the Sunday guest services, including at least 470 guests. 138 people responded to the gospel appeals – not including known re-commitments. Such events see the lost saved, the sick healed, the church encouraged and the tone set for the future!

Friday, 21 August 2009

Building Missionary Churches 5 - What's required

To build mission-focused communities requires continued focused leadership in the local church. If we are to have integrity in our challenge to the role of para-church organisations, then we must continue to take a close look at ourselves to ensure that we are practising what we preach. Local churches have a tendency to drift towards a pastoral mode, taking their agenda from believers, rather than the lost.

During the last ten years of leading a local church based in South East London, we have transitioned the church to ensure that mission is the primary drive in all we do. As a consequence, to our delight, we are seeing increasing numbers of people saved, and while I would love to report that we are seeing people saved and added daily, we can say that we are beginning to see people saved and added every week.

To build mission-focused communities we need to continue to grow in our understanding of apostolic ministry. I heartily commend Dave Devenish’s book What on Earth is the Church for? - a must read. He brilliantly illustrates apostolic ministry on page 71, as not being a static serving of churches, but something where churches are caught up on mission together.

I love the passage in Romans 15: 23-24 when Paul says, “Since I have been longing for many years to see you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and have you assist me on my journey there.” Already planning his next apostolic journey, Paul boldly suggests to a church he has never visited before that they should help him to get to Spain. We need to release and support those with clear apostolic gifting to help our churches to be pulled into the regions beyond our local reach. Our attitude should not be, “How can we be served?” but rather, “How can we serve?”

Friday, 14 August 2009

Building Missionary Churches 4 - Don't settle for second best!

I agree with Howard Snyder in his paper to the Lausanne Congress when he said, “The Church is the only divinely-appointed means for spreading the gospel... further, evangelism makes little sense, divorced from the fact of the Christian community… The evangelistic call intends to call persons to the body of Christ - the community of believers, with Jesus Christ as its essential and sovereign head.”

Let’s not settle for second best. Let’s build mission focused churches, joined in heart to apostolic ministry so that together we can reach the nations.

While I sympathise with para-church leaders, or even the recent ‘emerging church’ leaders, in their desire to reach our generation and present Christ in a relevant way, and while I understand their frustration with the lack of mission effectiveness in church life, I have difficulty with their solution to the problem. I once attended a meeting with a number of senior leaders in the nation to discuss the ‘emerging church’ phenomenon. To my dismay, while I sympathised with their analysis of church life in our country, I found the suggested solution frightening - it seemed to be based more on being culturally sensitive, than on rediscovering New Testament Christianity.

Let’s get to the root of the problem and build mission focused communities, rather than trying to build an alternative structure, which perpetuates the issue.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Building Missionary Churches 3 - Consequences and Costs

Those who make it through into discipleship see the model presented in the local church: if you are serious about mission, you leave this place and join a para-church group, and so the cycle continues. Many times the new believer never makes it into church life, as their allegiance is to the mission organisation through which they were saved. University Christian Unions can be another example of such a separation. Students enjoy CU at university but if they become disconnected from local church life, when university ends they drift and may be lost to the church.

If we continue to operate outside a biblical model we do not address the core issue, which is - how do we make local churches mission focused?

Christian giving is a case in point. Too often the local church is deprived of financial resources necessary to fulfil its God given vision, not because Christians are not generous but because of an imbalance in their giving. According to David Barrett (International Bulletin of Missionary Research - January 05) at the time of his survey, 38% of all Christian worldwide giving went to the local church, and 62% to para-church organisations. While this imbalance continues we should not be surprised to find this has adversely affected church life.

I am aware that organisations such as Wycliffe Bible Translators do specialist work that a local church cannot do; my concern is more to do with what I see as part of normal church life. While many of our heroes of the faith like Hudson Taylor established what we now call para-church organisations, my point is simple - is this a biblical model? We must work to restore the church to its God-given purpose.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Building Missionary Churches 2 - It's about the church!

The prophetic burden of Restoration includes rediscovering the missionary zeal of the New Testament in everyday church life, or as the prophet Isaiah says, “It is too small a thing for you to be My servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring My salvation to the ends of the earth.”

Restoration is more than a quality of church life; its ultimate purpose is to build churches that take the gospel into the local community and to the ends of the earth.

Out of my passion to build mission-focused communities has grown a deep concern about the separation of what I see as normal church life and mission. My concern relates to so called para-church organisations – mission-focused organisations disconnected from church life. I honestly believe that these organisations are set up with a desire to reach people for Christ, but while in the short/mid term they see real evangelistic fruit, in the end they continue to propagate weak missional churches.

How can this be so? Let me explain. Some of the most gifted, mission-focused leaders leave the local church to join a mission-focused para-church organisation, which consequently pushes the church into a more pastoral mode. The church wants to identify with the individual on mission out of friendship and a genuine heart for mission, so it funds the para-church activity, thereby reducing the inward investment in the local church. Then, when such an organisation turns up in town to do a mission and people are saved, where do they end up? Often in an under-resourced, pastorally-focused community.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Building Missionary Churches - Convictions

Mission must take centre stage in the life of a local church. I am convinced that we must build mission focused communities and avoid any separation between normal church life and our mission agenda. This historical separation has led to an increasingly pastoral church and an ever increasing number of para-church organisations.

During my last sabbatical I looked at apostolic ministry in the New Testament, examining the New Testament in the context of mission. On the basis that “the apostle Paul wrote in the context of mission” (Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ - Thomas Schreiner) I enjoyed retracing the steps of the apostolic bands through the book of Acts, and the letters that were written in response to the challenge of embryonic churches being established. What a joy, with no deadline or the pressure of the next sermon hanging over me! This overview approach reinforced my understanding that the atmosphere of the New Testament is full of missionary zeal.

The promise of the Spirit in Acts 1 is with the purpose of giving believers power to be witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. When the Spirit comes in Acts 2, Peter preaches the gospel; he does not focus on the manifestations or the fact that it made them feel good. Rather, we have Luke’s wonderful summary phrase, “and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved”. The Jerusalem based church was full of evangelistic fervour.

The feel and atmosphere of the book of Acts is one of apostolic extension, new spheres of operation, gospel preaching, Spirit empowered witness, church planting, signs and wonders, gospel breakthrough, times of huge challenge and progress, against the backdrop of persecution.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Successful teams and why they don't always happen

To have a successful team the following elements are required:

1. A clear sense of direction – vision and purpose
2. The right people in place – a ‘dream team’
3. Sound finances – resources are essential

If one of these is missing it will be hard to achieve the desired result.

Reasons why people don’t build teams:

Control – the leader can’t let go. Such control doesn’t have to be by force of personality – it can be a quiet individual who has to have everything flow through them. This will become a limiting factor – the lead guy has to initiate a transition if the church is to grow beyond 200.

It’s quicker to do things yourself! – The leader sees that something needs doing and knows that he can do it quickly. If he is going to delegate the task he will have to recruit, train and monitor that person and they aren’t going to do it as well – at least initially! The half-done and wrongly-done elements of the task will keep coming back to him and will give him extra work, not less!

Past failures – if the leader has been let down by a previous team member who hasn’t delivered on supposed promise or who has received training and personal investment from the leader and has then decided to move on and go somewhere else.

In this context inertia takes over - in a growth context the immediate takes over from the strategic.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Issues of growth and transition

In Acts 13, the local church team releases Barnabas and Paul to travel as an apostolic team. With Barnabas leaving the church there is a transition to a team, which can bring with it massive issues. It can be difficult when an established leader hands over to a successor – the underlying character and attitude of both are key here, how the transition between the old and new leader takes place. It takes grace to stand back and allow someone else to take over – a real test of character.

In Acts 15 we see that this team has to be accountable to the apostolic team in Jerusalem. There are issues of theology at this point which need to be resolved and as these issues are thrashed out useful principles are laid down for other churches. The apostolic team then send Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch. Later, when these two make plans to revisit the churches where they have had previous input a dispute blows up between them – over a young team member! Should John Mark be included? His track record was that he had dropped out of a previous missions trip – was he going to prove unreliable again? There is the added complication of family ties between John Mark and Barnabas (they are thought to have been cousins) - this can be an issue today. Should family members, say husband and wife, be employed together? Is there a danger of a power/opinion block on the team?

The dispute over this one junior team member is such that the team splits! This is obviously not good – but God uses the situation. The two halves of the team go in different directions geographically, so covering more ground and there is later restoration of John Mark.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Team growth and diversity

We have biblical examples of team - as in Acts 11:22. We see a situation where the gospel was expanding but there is persecution and the scattering of believers as a result. The apostles had not been involved in setting up the Antioch church but at this point sent a representative to see what was happening. They found ‘evidence of the grace of God’ and a great number added to the growing church. Barnabas thinks ‘team’ at this point and Paul, who has been out of the picture for some years, is brought in - :27 indicates that other ministries were also on the scene.

By Acts 13 this is a massive church. There is a team with prophets and teachers. Barnabas leads and Paul is the last team member listed. This team is made up of those from different ethnic backgrounds, bringing a whole new level of complexity to the team. At King’s we are seeing an increasing number of black people joining us – as a result we are intentionally recruiting leaders, according to gift, across the multi-cultural spectrum. Some time back I asked a couple of the church trustees to stand down as all of this important group were white. We reappointed with diversity on the team - this being a real expression of our commitment in this area. Owen Hylton, who until he went to lead the church plant in central South London was an elder here at King’s, has been a tremendous help and provocation to us on the high value that we should place on inclusiveness. We are learning to assess each church event and ministry through a different filter of success – that of cultural and ethnic inclusivity.

Owen Hylton’s book – Crossing the Divide : A Call to Embrace Diversity (published by IVP) is available in bookshops from 17th July. I thoroughly recommend this book – coming from a UK point of view, it is a helpful and significant contribution to this vital issue.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Team Building - the importance of team dynamics

In recent years I have had an increasing role within Newfrontiers UK in helping to oversee churches and in doing this I spend a great deal of time talking with eldership and staff teams about team dynamics.

As a church grows team dynamics will become an increasingly important component of success. It has become clear that one guy can see a church grow to around 100 – 150 and many individuals are capable of this. Beyond that point a team-building gift is needed and
this ability will determine success in growing a church beyond this point.

One area of team management that many guys identify with is that of the football manager – even if it is only on the level of fantasy football! All the elements are there – the team, with gifted individuals. Some of them are young and talented, but not necessarily with the depth of character you would want. There are issues of allocating places in the team, instilling a common philosophy of football. Behind the team are the directors, the fans and the media and then there are issues of finance and budget, injuries and the ‘shelf-life’ of the team members. You need a youth team policy. And what happens when you import a super-star from another team, someone from another league? How do you and the team handle the change? Then there is the effect of the manager – he works with the team all week but his 15 minutes of input at half-time can turn the game. Certain teams have ‘team spirit’ – that dynamic of being with each other that gives them that ‘extra’ something in what they do. Looking at a team in a church context it is easy to see parallels.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The Nehemiah Principle

Rick Warren (Saddleback Valley Community Church) is another leader who has something to say on vision. In The Purpose Driven Church he writes:

‘In Nehemiah’s story of rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, we learn that halfway through the project the people got discouraged and wanted to give up. Like many churches, they lost their sense of purpose and, as a result, became overwhelmed with fatigue, frustration, and fear. Nehemiah rallied the people back to work by reorganising the project and recasting the vision. He reminded them of the importance of their work and reassured them that God would help them fulfil his purpose (Neh 4:6-15). The wall was completed in fifty-two days.

Although the wall took only fifty-two days to complete, the people became discouraged at the halfway point: just twenty-six days into the project! Nehemiah had to renew their vision. From this story we get what I call the ‘Nehemiah Principle’: Vision and purpose must be restated every twenty-six days to keep the church moving in the right direction. In other words, make sure you communicate your purpose at least monthly. It is amazing how quickly human beings – and churches – lose their sense of purpose.’

Friday, 3 July 2009

The principles of vision

- ‘The credibility of a vision is determined by the leader.
- The acceptance of a vision is determined by the timing of its presentation.
- The value of a vision is determined by the energy and direction it gives.
- The evaluation of a vision is determined by the commitment level of people.
- The success of the vision is determined by its ownership by both the leader and the people.’

From Developing the Leader within You
– John Maxwell

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

A person with vision or a visionary person?

‘There is a vast difference between a person with vision and a visionary person.

- A person with vision talks little but does much.
- A visionary person does little but talks much.
- A person with vision finds strength from inner convictions.
- A visionary person finds strength from outward conditions.
- A person with vision continues when problems arise.
- A visionary person quits when the road becomes difficult.’

From Developing the Leader within You
John Maxwell

Friday, 26 June 2009

Maxwell on Vision

I have always found John Maxwell’s books to be a useful source of wisdom on leadership. Here are a few lines about vision from Developing the Leader within You…

My observation over the last twenty years has been that all effective leaders have a vision of what they must accomplish. That vision becomes the energy behind every effort and the force that pushes through all the problems. With vision, the leader is on a mission and a contagious spirit is felt among the crowd until others begin to rise alongside the leader. Unity is essential for the dream to be realised. Long hours of labour are given gladly to accomplish the goal. Individual rights are set aside because the whole is much more important than the part. Time flies, morale soars upward, heroic stories are told, and commitment is the watchword. Why? Because the leader has a vision!’

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Guidance : final principle

Paul’s life was soaked in God’s word. He applied it to himself and it was a source of continual reference and his compass for ministry. In Psa 32:8 God says ‘I will instruct you…’ – we must put ourselves in a context where we can study and hear the word of God, both in our personal reading and in listening to biblical preaching. There’s no way to short-cut through this important process! Paul drew on his knowledge of God’s word for guidance on leadership and ministry decisions.

Some years ago, at a time when I was considering the possibility of coming to Catford, I wondered if I should become a church planter. I went to a day conference and heard Titus 1:5 read. ‘The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.’ God spoke to me through that verse and confirmed that my path was to Catford. I followed that direction and have not regretted it.

Since then I’ve had some major decisions to make. At the moment we are thinking about the possibility of going to a fourth Sunday meeting, going multi-site or purchasing another building – or all three! These strategic decisions will be the basis for many others, with consequences for the elders and staff team and for all our committed members as we budget for these decisions. We proceed in faith – confident that God has called us to this work in this place and that where He guides, He provides!

And in case you’re still wondering - we didn’t sell the building to the Jehovah's Witnesses…

Friday, 19 June 2009

Guidance : further principles

3. The counsel of others

The team concluded together (:10). Having taken all the indicators into account they came to a decision. Prov 12:15 and Prov 15:22 give good advice about advice!

I have my own range of advisors on a whole range of areas. I often speak with my Dad; Deb is another invaluable source of wisdom; experts in various specialist fields come to mind, not to mention my fellow Elders and the Trustees of Kings. It makes sense to draw on the wisdom and experience of others – God did not intend that we should be isolated as leaders and we can help each other avoid unnecessary pitfalls.

4. Common sense

Not to be discounted in our spiritual considerations! It’s basic life wisdom! Paul and the team came to the conclusion that it made sense to move into Macedonia at that time – and the gospel came to Europe. The first step to us receiving salvation here in the UK!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Guidance : Principles

Looking at Acts 16, John Stott encourages us again, ‘some important principles of divine guidance are, in fact, exemplified in the experience of Paul and his companions’.

1. Through the circumstances of our life

Paul and the team ended up in the port of Troas – which faced west! It faced toward Macedonia.

What port are you in at the moment? What life circumstances are you facing? We need to recognise that we are where we are – what we do as a result of our present placement is the key thing now, not necessarily how we got here… although there will be those for whom this is also a key consideration. The truth is that God will use our circumstances now to shape us and to shape our future. Personally, as I prepared this subject, I was able to rejoice in the path God has led me and receive faith for His plans for the future!

2. Prophetic leading

God can speak through dreams and visions as well as prophetic words given to us or to others. While some can be too cautious about placing weight on such revelations, others can want prophetic input for every venture. It’s important, in processing the prophetic to

- receive the revelation (picture, Scripture, word)

- discern the meaning, find the interpretation

- work out what to do as a result – the application

The bigger the decision, the more prophetic input we are looking for. And when receiving such input, look at the character and experience of the one offering that prophetic input.

Prayer is vital in hearing and discerning God’s voice and there’s nothing like a big decision that needs to be made to bring us to our knees before God! Reading the record of the early church in Acts, the importance of prayer and fasting is inescapable.