Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Know yourself - personality and type

Personality comes after character in importance but can have an important bearing on your level of self-awareness.

Knowing if you are an internal or external processor will be of help to you and you need to know how others tick with this issue, too. An external processor deals with information by talking it out. Internal processors on the other hand sit quietly and think about things and come back with a well-thought out, cohesive plan. Guess which I am! If you’re part of my team I could come out with something that sounds like my conclusions on a particular topic – especially as I’m a very persuasive leader and as team leader I have a measure of authority that goes with that! However it’s probably just me thinking aloud and my team get that now – most of the time!

And what about leadership styles? Authoritarian, persuasive, consultative, democratic and laissez-faire – each of these might be appropriate in different settings – or inappropriate! In a critical situation like a fire, you don’t want democratic leadership. (‘Let’s have a meeting about this – shall we leave the building? Let’s vote on that!’) My leadership style is persuasive. I pretend to be consultative but actually I’m not. In the context of my eldership team I’m at my most consultative but I’m definitely not democratic...

Character and personality – there’s a difference! And character is more to do with the fruits of the Spirit.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Know yourself - essential elements

Character first! This is vital. But competence and chemistry are other important issues. Competence – when looking at potential new members for my team I want someone who can do the job well, and chemistry – how will this person fit, both with me and the rest of the team?

How does this work practically? Here’s an example from a few years’ back. I’ve got a growing church, I’ve got a very good team and then Terry Virgo said to me over a meal, ‘Mick Taylor is thinking about a move. You’re looking for an Ephesians 4 teacher on your team – are you interested?’ I said, ‘No! I can’t afford him. I’ve got a big building debt.’ But I meet him. Here is an experienced pastor who has led his own church and who has then been an elder at Bracknell for 11 years. He has lectured at Spurgeon’s College and knows some Greek and Hebrew. He’s obviously competent! But I’m also looking for chemistry. Do I connect with him? And more importantly, will he connect with my team? He could come in with his gifts - but if he messes up my team, he’s no good to any of us! Some years down the line now I can report that he slotted in smoothly – one of the easiest transitions in integrating a new team member that I can recall!

Character is of prime importance – look at 1 Tim 3:1-13 and Titus 1: 1 – 9. Through these passages – a summary of the qualifications for elders, overseers and deacons – the emphasis is not on gifting. Good reputation, self-controlled, hospitable, open-hearted, able to teach (there’s the reference to gifting – in the middle of the rest of the character requirements!), not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money and not a recent convert. These are the criteria. And leadership at home is also included – how the leader is with his wife and children matters.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Know yourself - character

I learned early on the importance of developing character along with gifting. When I was leading the youth work, one of the guys on the team was brilliant with the young people. Have you ever met one of those? It doesn’t matter what age they are – they just connect with young people and young people love them! They might have a bit of the Peter Pan about them as this guy did – he was the most gifted youth worker on my team. My problem was that I did not know from week to week what emotional state he would be in when he turned up! If he was on a good week – an emotional high – he would be an inspiration and all the youngsters would gravitate to him. The next week he would be at the back of the meeting feeling sorry for himself. I could not depend on him. It didn’t take long to realise that the dependable (but not so inspirational) youth worker bore more fruit. Before too long one of the elders and I had a talk with the guy with the wide swing on his emotional pendulum and challenged him about this aspect of his character. Initially unwilling to acknowledge the reality of how he was, before our time together was over he asked for help.

If your character and gifting develop at different rates you will find yourself over-exposed. The gift opens up opportunities for you but your character cannot support your skill and will lead to trouble. In fact – your character needs to be ahead of your gifting. One of my prayers is, ‘Lord, please make sure that my character is up to speed!’ and ‘Lord, don’t let me get myself into a position beyond my character and gifting.’ I’ve seen that happen to people – they get badly burned and either withdraw completely from ministry or the setback costs years, sometimes decades, of fruitful work.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Know yourself!

Successful churches need two elements. They need a leadership gift and a teaching gift – these two together give balance and if the church is to excel then both need to be done well. Theological grounding - knowing the truth about God -is essential for a teaching gift, while to develop as a leader it’s vital to know yourself!

I’m a person who gives 100% to what I do – the end of each day sees me physically drained. I’m not only committed, I’m intense (so I’m told!) So when in my early twenties I was at a meeting in Manchester and heard a guy speaking from the call of God to Isaiah and Jeremiah, I went to him after the meeting and told him, ‘I felt God call me today.’ Some time later Gerald Coates came to the church and picked me out from among the elders. He prophesied that I would be doing what he was doing in about 10 years’ time. He told me I would have a platform ministry. Doug McBain also prophesied that I would be involved in evangelism. The challenge of all that was how to handle big prophetic statements about my life – character will be crucial at this point. But the value of outside confirmation by recognized leaders gives inner confidence to believe that God has called you to lead. Then when the internal struggles come – standing before the people thinking, ‘Can I do this? Can I lead this people through, for example, a massive building project?’ – at that moment those external encouragements can help. Prophetic words of this type can give you backbone in such a situation. But you also have to learn that you can’t do it all yourself.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Something to look forward to...not just Christmas!

Guest blogger Mick Taylor concludes his series on ‘the Last Days’

It is easy to let the debates about different eschatological frameworks obscure the fact that the New Testament writers were convinced that they had already experienced the beginnings of the new creation in Christ’s resurrection. The longed-for Kingdom of God was not just a future expectation but also a reality which broke into our fallen world through the power of the Spirit. That is what inspired them into mission - as it should also motivate us.

We are not just called to plod on with limited resources until Christ returns. Rather, we are called to advance His Kingdom in the world today. When we pray, ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ we should anticipate some answers in the here and now, not just at the Second Coming. In a fallen, broken creation the Church is the Hope of the World - because in it the powers of the age to come have already broken in.

And while we commit ourselves to that mission we have a glorious hope – something to really look forward to. As the song puts it,

‘… we will meet Him in the air and when we see Him, we’ll be like Him… then all hurt and pain shall cease and we’ll live with Him forever… and in His Glory we will live.’

What a hope!

If you want to read more about this, among the books I have found the most helpful on this topic are:

- The Meaning of the Millennium – Four Views ed. Robert Clouse

- The Bible and the Future - A A Hoekema

- The Meaning of the Millennium - Michael Gilbertson (Grove booklet)

- The End Times - John Hosier

- What the Bible Teaches about the End of the World - Bruce Milne.

- Surprised by Hope - Tom Wright

Friday, 26 November 2010

Eschatology - so...which view is the right one?

Guest blogger Mick Taylor continues his series on ‘the Last Days’

Biblically, I would argue that the Post-millennialism and Dispensationalism should be rejected. Post-millennialism, while attractive, ignores too much biblical material and minimises the on-going battle with evil. Dispensationalism cannot be accused of ignoring scripture but it does handle it in a peculiar way. Particularly it ignores how the apostles consistently saw Old Testament prophecies concerning Israel being fulfilled in Christ and the NT Church.

Also, to make the system work, many things are divided which more naturally fit together. For instance, in the dispensational view there will be multiple judgements in the future. There will be the judgement of believers’ works at the rapture, then a judgement of Gentiles before the millennium, a separate judgement of Israel and judgement of the wicked at the end of the millennium. Similarly there are multiple resurrections at the rapture, the beginning and end of the millennium. It’s as though pieces of jigsaw have been torn into segments and forced to fit in different places in the puzzle.

This leaves Classic pre-millennialism and a-millennialism as schemes which do the most justice to the biblical material. Both have strengths and weaknesses and areas of uncertainty that probably won’t be resolved before the great day of Christ’s return. On balance I find a-millennialism makes the best sense and, for me, handles the material in Revelation as a whole and the key verses in chapter 20 in a way that is sensitive to the nature of apocalyptic literature.

One development in a-millennial thinking that has recently been evident is a non-triumphalistic yet optimistic and positive view of the church and its mission. While agreeing that the battle with evil will continue and that at the end we can expect this to reach an unprecedented level, alongside this there will be an equally evident increase in the vibrancy and purity of the Church. The choice for the watching world will be even more clearly pronounced and the Church will be victoriously defiant as it waits for the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. We are called to build such a church, for the glory of God and the honour of Christ. This modification is significant and surely right. We should look forward to a glorious Church but it will always be in conflict with the forces of darkness until Jesus returns.

To be concluded…

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Eschatology - evaluation: Biblical roots and spiritual fruit

Guest blogger Mick Taylor continues his series on ‘the Last Days’

If the four millennial views are placed on a spectrum according to their attitude to mission and the church, then a clear pattern emerges.

Post-millennialists are the most optimistic about the church and have the widest possible view of mission. For them the Church will be so effective in evangelism that one day Christians will be the dominant influence in society and international relations. Mission is seen as bringing the Lordship of Christ to bear on every sphere of culture.

Dispensational pre-millennialists are at the other end of the spectrum. Historically they have been negative about the Church and have a very narrow view of mission. A foundation of the dispensational view is that during different periods of history (dispensations) God has worked in different ways giving people different tests. In the Garden of Eden it was not to eat the fruit, now it is to believe in Christ. Every dispensation has ended in failure. The letters to the Seven Churches in Revelation 1-3 are often seen as representing the history of the Church and according to this view we are now in the period of the Laodicean church - lukewarm - and fit only to be spat out! Mission is seen almost exclusively in terms of evangelism and the institutional church, at least, is doomed to failure.

Typically Classic pre-millennialists and a-millennialists have sat between these extremes. Through history the Church has known times of significant growth and influence but also the reverse. Until the end this oscillation is thought to continue. It’s what I call a 'Ho-Hum' attitude to church and mission.

To be continued...

Friday, 19 November 2010


Guest blogger Mick Taylor continues his series on ‘the Last Days’

Atheism means not believing in God. A-millennialism doesn’t mean not believing in the millennium but rather that the millennium covers the entire period from the first coming of Christ to His second coming.

This was the view that Augustine of Hippo set out in his great book The City of God (early 5th century). While Pre-millennialists read Revelation and especially chapters 19 & 20 chronologically this view sees the book as a series of overlapping visions which complement each other. The 1000 years in Revelation 20:1-6 is seen as symbolic of a long period, a symbolic number in a book of symbolic numbers. The binding of Satan in Revelation 20:2 was achieved through the life and death and resurrection of Christ. So Jesus taught that He could cast out demons because He ‘had bound the strong man’ (Matt 12:29). In the ministry of the 70, He saw Satan fall like lightning (Luke 10:18) and Paul writes of the disarming of the principalities and powers through the death of Christ (Colossians 2:15). The limiting of Satan’s power, it is argued, is seen most clearly in the Gentiles pouring into the church of God.

So the A-millennial scheme looks like this:


To be continued…

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Eschatology - the most comfortable option

Guest blogger Mick Taylor continues his series on ‘the Last Days’

Post-millennialists are a happy, optimistic group.  Not surprising because this scheme teaches that the progress of the gospel will continue to grow until, through worldwide revival, the whole world is Christianised, so that while not everyone will become a Christian every culture will be dominated by Christian values and world view. Only after a period of extraordinary blessing and progress (the Millennium) will Christ return. They believe that during the Millennium Christ will reign through His church - not by His bodily presence. The Great Commission is a key text for those who hold this position. In Matt 28:18-20 it talks of making disciples of all nations, not just preaching to them.

This commission is not merely an announcement that the gospel will be preached but implies a promise that the effectual evangelisation of all the nations will be completed before Christ returns. (Loraine Boettner - The Meaning of the Millennium ed. Robert Clouse p118).

So the scheme in this view is


What is obviously missing here is tribulation. Some who hold this view would allow for a rebellion at the end of the Millennium but do not major on this. Others would argue that in fact the tribulation predicted in scripture was to do with the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD and other events of the first century. (Technically this is known as a Preterist view of prophecy). Given the choice, this would probably be every Christian’s preferred view but it is questionable if it does justice to the sense in scripture of a continuing tension and struggle between the kingdom of God and the forces of evil before the end which the scripture frequently underlines. Interestingly, Post-millennialism has often grown out of the experience of revival, so Jonathan Edwards, who was a key leader in the Great Awakening, held this view. As Iain Murray, in his book The Puritan Hope, makes clear, many of the English Puritans held this view too. Other proponents include B B Warfield and Loraine Boettner.

To be continued…

Friday, 12 November 2010

Dispensational pre-millennialism

Guest blogger Mick Taylor continues his series on ‘the Last Days’

Dispensational Pre-millennialism is a much more recent teaching and began with J N Darby, a founder of the Brethren Movement in the in the early 19th century. It became hugely influential through the notes in the Schofield Reference Bible and is a dominant perspective of many Christian fundamentalists, especially in the USA.

A particular distinctive of the Dispensational Pre-millennialist view is the secret return of Christ at the Rapture. In this teaching (at least in its original form) Christians will not endure the tribulation but will be secretly raptured before it starts - as portrayed in the Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Non-Christians will not see Christ appear but will be shocked by the disappearance of all true Christians. During the ensuing period of Tribulation the Anti-Christ will appear and will at the end of a period of seven years wage war on those who have become Christians during this time. This will include the vast majority of the Jews. The conflict will reach its climax at the battle of Armageddon (Rev 16:16) and when defeat looks inevitable Christ will return in glory with the raptured saints. This time every eye will see him. Then begins the 1000 year reign of Christ on the earth in which the Jewish Christians will take a leading role and all the unfilled promises of the Old Testament concerning Israel are fulfilled, including the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.

So for Dispensational Pre-millennialists the scheme is:


Behind this slightly different scheme lie less obvious but even more significant issues. Key to this view is that the Old Testament promises about Israel have to have a literal fulfilment. So the apostolic interpretation, that many of these are fulfilled in the coming of Christ and His resurrection, is downplayed. (Acts 13:32-34). Along with this, dispensationalists conclude that God has, in a sense, two people. The Jews and the Church both have a destiny but they are different. Israel has an earthly destiny, the church has a heavenly one. Often those who hold this view also adopt an uncritical pro-Israeli attitude in regard to present day tensions in the Middle East.

To be continued…

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Eschatology - four major views

Guest blogger Mick Taylor continues his series on ‘the Last Days’

From the agreed pieces of scriptural jigsaw given in the previous blog four major views have been developed and they are defined by how they understand the relationship between Christ’s return to the earth and the millennium. The four positions are:

1. Classic Pre-millennialism

2. Dispensational Pre-millennialism

3. Post-millennialism

4. A-millennialism

In both Classic and Dispensational pre-millennialism Christ is seen as returning before the Millennium. While for the Post-millennialist Christ will return only after the Millennium. For A-millennialists the Millennium is not a totally future event because it represents the period between the two comings of Christ which means we are in the Millennium now!

So Pre-millennialism has two varieties, Classic and Dispensational. For clarity it is helpful to consider them together but it is also important to note there are significant differences. They agree that Christ will come before a literal reign of 1000 years on earth. They differ in their history and in key elements o f their teaching including what happens at the rapture and concerning the role of Israel.

Classic pre-millennialism has its roots in the very early history of the church. In the first few centuries it was this view that was dominant. The scheme of end times would be:


In support of this view is the fact that it follows the pattern Revelation 19 and 20. Against this view is it is only in one small section of a highly symbolic book that a Millennium is mentioned (Revelation 19-20).

To be continued…

Friday, 5 November 2010

Eschatology - what is agreed...

Guest blogger Mick Taylor continues his series on ‘the Last Days’

The resources for understanding what the Scriptures teach about eschatology are many and varied. They stretch back into the beginning of the Old Testament where God promises the serpent that one day ‘his head would be crushed’ by one who is a descendant of Eve, (Genesis 3:15) and goes through to the end of Revelation with a vision of the New Heavens on the New Earth (Revelation 21:1-2;). Along the way prophets, apostles and the Lord himself make many statements that give glimpses of what’s in store - but none of them spell it out in detail. It’s a bit like having been given a variety of jigsaw pieces but no picture to work from. Most Christians agree on the pieces but there is real debate about how they fit together.

So, before considering the different schemes of how things will work out at the end, it’s helpful to consider the key elements on which most Christians agree. These are:

- The personal return of Jesus to this world. (Acts 1:11)

- Rapture: from 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 we learn that at His return the dead will be raised and those still alive will join them to meet Christ in the air. Note: Tom Wright and others think this is symbolic language and not to be taken literally but this is a minority position amongst evangelicals.

- Tribulation. There are various verses that indicate that towards the End there will be times of great stress and difficulty which will affect both Christians and the world as a whole. (Matthew 24: 21-22)

- Millennium. In Revelation 20:1-6 we read of the 1000 year reign of Christ with his saints.

- Judgement of the living and the dead.

- The ushering in of New Heavens and New Earth.

To be continued…

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

If you don't know what 'eschatology' means - is it the end of the world?

I’m delighted to welcome my good friend and fellow-elder, Mick Taylor, for this series of guest blogs. He brings a wealth of knowledge on this important theological topic.

Eschatology literally means ‘last things’ which can sound rather remote and irrelevant. Many British Christians have a vague memory of seeing ‘Eschatology’ as the final chapter in a Systematic Theology book at some time, but the truth is that they don’t worry too much about it and are probably concerned that anyone showing an interest in the topic may be displaying early symptoms of an unfortunate spiritual disease. Of course, there is a minority who rather encourage this idea by making the ‘last things’ the first and only thing they want to talk about.

This series of blogs aims to clarify and evaluate the four main positions that Bible-believing Christians have adopted about the events surrounding the return of our Lord and show how the conclusions that you reach on this topic affect your vision for the church - and your engagement in mission. Eschatology is not to be dismissed as an irrelevant extra but should be the fuel, a driving motivation, for all we do. Anthony Hoekema put it like this,

From first to last, and not merely in epilogue, Christianity is eschatology, is hope, forward looking and forward moving and therefore revolutionising and transforming the present. (A A Hoekema - The Bible and the Future, p3)

Where Christians are vague or confused about eschatology it can often indicate compromise or at least an accommodation with the world as it is. People are either too comfortable with the way things are or despairing that things will ever change.

To be continued…

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Step out!

When it comes to prophecy, we’ve got to have relationship and support people and allow mistakes from time to time! We had someone prophesy once at King’s. They got half way through and stopped and said “I’ve completely lost it. Honestly. I thought God was saying it. I got to delivering it and …” I walked over to the person and said “That’s just really fine. Don’t worry about it”. So take responsibility. Take a risk and let others do the same. Do it in relationship and let’s eagerly desire spiritual gifts and especially the gift of prophecy.

There will be a number reading this that need to step up to contributing in prophecy for the first time. Others have done this in the past but have now become passive. You need to come to God and say “I’m going to be really open again to prophesying and making a first step. I want to be someone that brings encouragement and comfort and correction”. Or maybe you want to grow in the prophetic. Press on! We need prophetic words to direct us and lead us, don’t we? They have shaped us and our churches and we continue to need the same!

Responsibility, risk and relationship! Taking them in reverse order – since you are built into relationship with your church and its other leaders you can be secure in taking a risk and stepping out in prophecy. Then you can be responsible for increasing the blessing to your church as you bring strength, comfort, encouragement – and perhaps eventually, direction! Wait on God and see!

Friday, 22 October 2010

The three 'Rs'

How do we grow in the prophetic? How do we know if God is speaking to (and through) us? Sometimes we just have to have a go!

I’ll give you three R’s. You’ve got to take responsibility, take a risk and be in relationship! Some of you have never brought anything of this kind in a meeting, not even ‘I’ve got a sense that God might be saying this...maybe!”. Take responsibility! You’ve got to believe what scripture teaches about God speaking to His people and you’ve got to take a risk. Ask God to give you something and then bring it in humility and accept guidance from other leaders.

I’ve told this story before, but it highlights the process well. I once was in a meeting with about 150 Newfrontiers’ leaders and I felt God said to me ‘start a song’ - “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” When I started this song I thought - it’s a well known song and I’ve got my youth team with me so as I sing it they’ll join in. “...Worship the Lord and give Him praise.” At this point they had not joined in. I’m not feeling good at this moment. I’m annoyed they haven’t joined in because I have the first line of the song but I can’t remember the second line - at all. But I thought that if I started it other people would join in and together we would get away with it. So I carried on. “Worship the Lord in the beauty of dah dah dah…with dah dah dah and we sing Your praise.”

I took responsibility. I took a risk - and died. I stood there and thought, ‘I’m never going to be invited back to anything to do with Newfrontiers!’ Then a guy called Colin Baron, one of the senior leaders within the movement we’re a part of, walked across the room to me and he said “Great prophetic song, Steve” and walked off. It’s amazing how quickly the Holy Spirit can come back in the room!

To be concluded...

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Cornered by God

Another major prophetic word for King’s Church came when the church at South Lee joined us in 2002. Timing was the important thing here. On the Sunday evening we had a prayer meeting. On the Wednesday I met with one of the leaders from South Lee - Simon Linley - who’s now in the church here and we talked about the possibility of working together.

Then on the Thursday, Annie Twort walked into my office and said, “I’ve got a word for you... While everyone was praying together for you I was praying specifically about your role outside King‘s in the wider London Newfrontiers sphere. In my mind I saw a picture of a deeply planted forest”. So here comes some revelation here. “Someone was going in amongst the trees and removing a tree here and there to allow more light into the forest as a whole. The forest had been too densely planted. Some trees, just a few here and there, need to be cut down. This will bring health and stronger growth to all the other trees”.

Now at this point I’m cornered by God. I’m aware that to close the South Lee church - not everyone is going to be happy with that. They’ve invested too much in it. But God had spoken. Revelation - trees. Interpretation - you’ve got to cut a tree down for the overall health of all the trees. Application - we’ve got a church joining us, a church you need to close.

I’m encouraged today because we can honestly say that what we did those years ago has really borne fruit and many churches have been planted in London as a result. King’s Church particularly has grown in strength through our friends from South Lee who came and joined us here.

To be continued...

Friday, 15 October 2010

How do we administer prophecy at King's Church

We aim to follow the pattern of Acts - Revelation, Interpretation, Application! You know the story of Cornelius in Acts 10. Peter is a Jew. Christianity at this point had been a Jewish sect. It hadn’t gone beyond Jews. Peter was troubled as to whether the gospel was also for God-fearers and Greeks - then he has a strange vision of a sheet coming down with different animals in it. Revelation.
Then in Acts 10:17 Peter starts wondering about the meaning of the vision. So when anyone brings any prophetic word where I’m in the room I’m thinking ‘What does this mean?’ Sometimes it’s crystal clear but sometimes it isn’t - especially when you get funny pictures about monks’ cloaks!

Acts 10:19 carries on... ‘While Peter was still thinking about the vision.’ In a context of prayer you weigh the word/picture when it’s given, or over a long period of time, praying back to God what God has said, seeing if it resonates with you.

The interpretation (‘What does it mean?’) is followed by the application - what you should do. Who? What? When? and Where? are the questions to ask. Peter’s response in :34 is - “I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts men from every nation”. So he preaches the gospel, explains what Jesus has done. The Holy Spirit falls on the hearers. They get baptised in the Holy Spirit and Peter follows this by baptising them in water... All because of a vision of a sheet with animals. Revelation, interpretation, application.

To be continued...

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Testing prophecy

When we weigh and test personal prophecies - when someone comes up to us and says ‘I’ve got a word for you’, we generally receive it graciously but we don’t necessarily act on it. We make sure that we get other guidance and confirmation first. In that way we test everything and hold on to the good.

These are the questions I ask when I test prophecy – and this would apply to prophetic words brought to the church in open worship. Does it glorify Christ? Does it build up the body? Is it in accordance with the written word? Is the word given in love? Is Jesus Lord of the speaker’s life?

It’s very important that you actually know the prophet as well as the prophecy. Does the speaker submit to the leaders of the church? From time to time we have had a ‘roving prophet’ attend on a Sunday. For some reason they find me and say things like “there’s a curse on the church”, or things like that. I look at them and say “Do you come to this church?”, “No”, “Do you go to any church?”, “No”. I say “Goodbye.” I do. I actually say “I don’t want you to prophecy and I want you to go somewhere else”. I will do that.

I have done that because it is very important that any gift is in submission to the leadership of a church. Does the speaker allow other prophets or leaders to assess their contributions and their life? Sometimes what happens is that in the middle of worship someone brings something and as you weigh it in your own spirit you either go ‘Yes God’, or you go ‘Uh umm! OK, maybe it’s me, maybe it’s them - but it just didn’t kind of connect with me’. Other times you hear a word brought and you can feel faith rise within you. It points people to God. It doesn’t point it to the man or woman who brings the word - it’s God. And, of course, the ultimate test of prophecy is to ask – is it fulfilled?

Friday, 8 October 2010

Encouraging stepping out

There are measures of gifting. It’s a bit like Romans 12 when it says, when talking about prophecy and other spiritual gifts: ‘Do it in measure of your faith.’

Most of us operate at the end of the range where ‘simple’ prophecy lies. Weighing the words and the gift of discernment become critically important. That’s why 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 is vital: ‘Do not put out the spirit’s fire and do not treat prophecies with contempt.' If you have been in a meeting where some strange picture has been given and you’re leading the meeting - what do you do?

I normally just let things keep going unless it’s dubious. The danger is that it is very easy to get cynical about some prophecy but if you close it down too soon, people won‘t take the risk of contributing. They won’t step out in faith because they’re worried about getting ‘jumped on’ and so you have to live with that level of contribution. You live with it to have the moment when you get something that really redirects your life or the life of a community. Even a prophet starts with ‘simple’ prophecy, so there needs to be space for people to grow in bringing prophecy and as leaders we need to actively encourage prophetic contributions. But it’s important you test everything and hold on to the good.

To be continued...

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Prophetic 'bombs' in meetings

We prepare our meetings. It's important to prepare. I prepare at length to preach. The worship band will meet before to pray and practice but of course we don’t know what the contributions ‘from the body’ are going to be. I actually had someone come to me once and say ‘It’s just all stage managed, it’s coordinated’ - as if I’d gone round and given cards out and said ‘Look, you speak then and then give it a moment, we’ll sing a song and then you say that’... We know that’s not true! Anyone can contribute, pray out, read a scripture.

Now occasionally, very rarely, someone speaks out in a way that is not edifying and has content that is against what we know from Scripture. It happens in most of our churches from time to time. If that happens at King’s one of the elders will step in and say something firm but gracious. We wouldn’t want to expose the contributor to censure but we would want to refocus on Jesus.

I did have one occasion when someone came to the front during worship and said to me “I’ve got a prophetic word. God has told me that Saddam Hussein is going to drop an atomic bomb on the church” and gave me the date. I prayed quickly and then said “I don’t think we’ll go there today” and declined to let them contribute. I didn’t think that word would build up or bring comfort to the church! So it’s all done with order and with leadership. This gives security.

To be continued...

Friday, 1 October 2010

That nugget of gold...

Strengthening and encouragement come first - a prophet also reminds you that God is there and is interested in us. I find this helpful! To be used prophetically is just to say, ‘God wants to speak to me and He wants to use me - and use me in a spiritual gift to encourage and comfort others.’ That’s a good place to start, rather than coming out with ‘The Lord says...’ We don’t do that at King’s. ‘The Lord says that the church should do this and this...’ Christians aren’t generally given a big directional word for their church to start with. It’s likely to be a word of encouragement first.

We probably have one or two people at King’s that we would recognise as having prophetic gifting. We haven’t got anyone in our church that has a prophetic ministry or prophetic office at the moment. It would be great to have someone - but at this time we haven’t.

Another way of looking at this is when you’re at the end of the spectrum where we are dealing with what are mainly words of exhortation and encouragement, then there are likely to be more of man’s words than God’s word! It says in 1 Corinthians 13 that ‘we prophesy in part’ and that means, in my experience, when people prophesy, most of the time the word is, at the very least, for them.

What I look for when anyone brings a prophetic ‘word’ is the little nugget of gold that makes me think ‘Ah! That leads me towards God’. This is a useful check and it’s helpful because sometimes strange things happen to people when they contribute in this way... you know, their voice changes – that dreaded ‘prophetic’ tone of voice! Sometimes this makes it difficult to weigh what is being said and probably within it there is something of us and something of God together.

To be continued...

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Prophecy - the measure of gifting

Scripture really encourages any Christian filled with the Spirit to prophesy.
‘Everyone come with a tongue, a scripture or a prophecy.’ 1 Corinthians 14:26

It is not just for the spiritual superstars. The New Testament teaches that it’s for all Christians. There are different measures of such a gift. This useful graph is drawn from Vineyard teaching.

I had the privilege of going to Mike Bickle’s church in Kansas a number of years ago and found it very helpful. They say that there are degrees, or measures, of the prophetic gift. The first ‘level’ is what Bickle called ‘simple prophecy’. It doesn’t put this particular gift over and above any other. It’s just simple prophecy.

Someone might have a prophetic gift. Someone else might have a prophetic ministry and then yet someone else, who’s more like the role described in Ephesians 4:11, has what could be called a prophetic office. This level of prophetic input is a rare thing. I have seen it. It’s where the accuracy and level of revelation is amazing. I have been in meetings where complete strangers to the speaker have been identified, asked to stand up and have been told their name. ‘This is your name and this is what you do as a job.’ That’s exciting and scary. When prophets like that come to town Christians repent before they come to the meeting! Everyone is faced with the fact that God knows that person’s name and if He knows that person’s name... He knows mine. He knows my name, He knows all about me! It brings a sense of the power and the holiness of God.

To be continued...

Friday, 24 September 2010

Responding to prophecy - now!

When we received a directional prophecy about building a 1,000 member church with King’s Church in the future - our response was in the ‘now’. It was ‘OK, let’s get on with it. Let’s put a new building up, let’s do multiple meetings’. But the important thing is not to get stuck on the future – to but invest in the present time.

Sometimes people get prophetic words over their own life (‘you’ll be this, you’ll be that’) and I’ve met people who are so taken up with the future that they are neglecting the ‘now’. Their head is full of ‘I’m going to be this, I’m going to do that’ and they need to be told to get out there and lead their small group or play their part in the youth group/worship band – or whatever. It’ll be OK.

When prophecy comes, the key thing is our response now. Sometimes the word is predictive.
During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius). The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 11:27 - 30)

Here is a recognised prophet in the New Testament who brings a prophecy which predicts a famine that actually came to pass in the reign of Claudius - but what’s the response? They take up an offering at that time so it can be sent to the church in Jerusalem so they can be strengthened. The ‘now’ response is key.

Most of the time what you get is not directional words but what I call general prophecy, if there is such a thing. An encouragement, a comfort that highlights an attribute of God, His holiness or His Spirit. Most of the time we’re living in that realm. But occasionally words come which impact what people do with their money – like Agabus’ prophecy that redirected that church’s action.

To be continued...

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The purpose of prophecy

John Wimber, who founded and led the Vineyard Movement until his death, said this: “Prophecy is declaring the message of God to His church for the purpose of edification”.

David Watson, who was a famous Anglican leader in the UK, defined it like this: “Whilst the written word is God’s truth for all people at all times the prophetic word is a particular word inspired by God given to a particular person or a group or persons at a particular moment for a particular purpose”.

I like that quote because it states right up front that we’re not looking to add anything to the Bible, which is God’s inspired written word. What the prophetic word does when it comes is to bring alive an aspect on which God has already spoken.

Over the years I have had moments when I have had the privilege of bringing a prophetic word over someone or I have received a prophetic word where God has spoken to me. These needed to be weighed and tested.

While we see in 1 Corinthians 14 that prophecy is for strengthening, for encouragement and for comfort, sometimes it will be directional. In Acts 16 the apostle Paul is seeking direction. He was planning to go to Ephesus and then has a vision in the night about going to Macedonia. As a result the gospel first comes to Europe because of a prophetic vision! Paul shares the vision with his team and they all agree that God is telling them to go to Macedonia… and off they go.

To be continued...

Friday, 17 September 2010

'Search in the history!'

When we searched in our archives we found that C H Spurgeon had planted our church in Catford in 1880 – with a vision for 1000 members! This discovery came through a prophetic word - and it was in response to that that we outlined our vision to believe for that 1000 member church in the early 21st century! For the last 14-15 years that’s exactly what we have been endeavouring to see fulfilled. We have been through a £2 million building project, a £600,000 extension, establishing two meetings, three meetings and now we’re looking towards a fourth at a second site – which involves a £5 million project. All because of a prophetic word!

We’re not just doing it because we think it would be nice! We were called to this task – we believe God has spoken. We’re 15 years in. I’ve worked it out, I’ve got about 15-20 years more and then I hand it over to a younger guy who will take it on further. We’re half way in and we’ve got a long way to go. I probably will look back over my time in ministry and this will be the defining prophetic word that has impacted my life.

‘Eagerly desire the prophetic’ - because then when it comes it can shape you easily. What we call King’s Church actually came together out of a prophetic word – one that was given to two churches, one called Catford Hill Baptist and one called Allerford Chapel. The word came to both churches, ‘I’m calling you to be a resource church so I want both churches to close and come together’, and that’s what happened in 1984. So the very foundation of this church is born out of a prophetic word to the point that two churches closed and died - to create something new so that a resource church would be raised up.

When prophecy comes with weight it is powerful to redirect not only an individual life but the lives of all who are connected together as His family.

To be continued...

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Interpreting prophecy

Interpretation! After the prophetic word had been given, another member of the Vineyard team brought the following.
“... I saw a church building which I took to be yours. Water had drained from the church into the gutter along the street and was running down into the drain down into a deeper spot and then just settling there”.

When this word was brought someone had put a pick axe through a pipe at the side of the church building and water was actually running down the outside wall of the church! This really got our attention! It was that remarkable. He went on:

“I think that I sometimes see drums when the Lord is trying to speak to me about messages like the call to battle. Rhythms that keep the ranks going in battle. For your church there is a call, a vision that has been left aside a little bit. No one was playing it. The drums are what was taking the infantry forward and keeps the ranks together. There is a vision the Lord wants to rekindle and impart to you all. I think the candle speaks of the same thing. Something in the history of this church that the Lord wants to be rediscovered. In praying it through I see it as a positive thing. Search in the history”.

We took that as God’s word to us. We searched in the history of the church and discovered that it was planted as a part of the ministry of that great Victorian 'Prince of Preachers', C H Spurgeon. As a 22 year old he planted a church in Catford in 1880 with a vision for 1,000 members!

To be continued...

Friday, 10 September 2010

I want you to prophesy!

Paul’s message to the Corinthian church in 1 Cor.14:1-5 regarding prophecy is clear – prophecy brings strengthening, encouragement and comfort. As leaders we all want these things for our churches!

The major prophetic ‘words’ spoken to us at King’s Church both reinforce the importance of prophecy and give examples of prophetic words that have been instrumental in redirecting our lives and focus – individually and corporately.

The first ‘prophetic word’ to mention really shaped our vision of King’s - what we believe God has called us to do. It was brought by Steve Nicholson and his team of prophetic guys from the Vineyard Movement who visited King’s when I had been pastor for 4 weeks. We had an evening where they met with the leadership team and we received the following prophecy. It was God’s word to us as a church. It has shaped what we’ve done - an important word!

“I have a series of pictures. First a military snare drum, infantry division, early 19th century. The drum and some drum sticks. The sticks are slightly damaged. They are on a shelf in a basement next to a window. They are slightly illuminated. That picture was burned away by a flame of a candle. The candle is the second picture. It is in a darker, deeper basement. The candle is set down by a monk type figure, a monk’s cloak, a book, an old book, very ancient and dusty.”

Having already told you that this prophetic word shaped this church - it’s got the phrase ‘a monk’s cloak’ in it! Wow. At this point the ability to weigh and interpret such words become of first importance. I’m talking about revelation here.

To be continued...

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

It's great to be back!

Highlights of my sabbatical include a fantastic family holiday in the States, a half-written book, the completion of the purchase of the Lee Green building - and 77 on the golf course! On Sundays I visited eight different churches, both here in the UK and also in the USA and saw and heard some thought-provoking things!

And I return refreshed and ready for the next phase of ministry! Raring to go! Setting the tone for the year, the next few weeks sees another first for us at King’s - the start of preaching four times on a Sunday across two sites. The first draft of the book has to be with the publisher by the end of September, then there are key planning meetings for the move to three sites with 5 or 6 Sunday meetings (this development to take place in the next 6 months), and this includes building projects on two of the three church sites. King’s Church is changing – radically!

However – there’s a key leadership lesson for me. Following another intense year in church life and a brilliant sabbatical, I must not make last year’s work pattern into a life style! Looking at the above list of things to be done, I would value those who regularly take the time to read this blog asking me from time to time, ‘How are you doing with those boundaries?’...

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Stop Press

Building contracts exchanged, purchase completed!


I am delighted to inform you that we have exchanged contracts on the Lee Green building and that completion of the legal transfer of ownership has taken place! The ‘new’ building is now the property of King’s Church!

Just over a year on from the original phone call that made us aware of this opportunity, the building is now ours. How great is our God! I honestly believe that this huge step of faith we have taken together will provide the foundation for thousands of people to come to Christ in our generation and for generations to come.

My thanks yet again for your on-going support for this remarkable venture. What a great church King’s is! And what a fantastic God we serve!

And I promise that this will be the last interruption to my break from blog-posting as I continue to enjoy my sabbatical and prepare for the exciting days ahead at Kings!

For a virtual tour of the building visit our new multi-site website at www.movetomultisite.co.uk

Steve Tibbert is currently on sabbatical and will return in September

Friday, 25 June 2010

A Multi-site Road Trip - Greg Surratt, Greg Ligon and Warren Bird

This is been the most helpful book I have read on multi-site church. It continues to shape our thinking at King’s, Catford as we transition to becoming a fully-fledged multi-site church.

If you are looking at this issue and are seriously considering ‘going multi-site’, then I would say that this book is an essential read.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Church Unique - Will Mancini

This is a leadership book that made me think! I found sections I quickly disagreed with and other chapters which really helped me.

The chapter summaries and the emphases on leadership in books written over the last few decades were insightful, showing how we have moved from church growth to effective church and now to missional church.

I wonder what will be next?

Friday, 11 June 2010

Honor and Shame - Roland Muller

This book was recommended to me by David Devenish, whose wide experience of cross-cultural ministry makes him well worth listening to! It opened my mind to new thinking on how three predominant world views shape our mind-set, our interpretation of scripture and our outlook on life. A ‘must read’ for any one involved in cross cultural ministry or in leading a multi-cultural/multi-ethnic church. The insight into Guilt/Law, Shame/Honour and Fear/Power based cultures was brilliant.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Making of a Leader - Dr J Robert Clinton

Summer is an excellent time to invest in our reading! Over the next few blogs I will be suggesting some titles that I have found useful.

If you have enjoyed my recent postings on the seasons of life and leadership preparation tests, this book will be a good follow up. It’s a leadership book with a difference - looking at what God is doing in us and with us through the seasons of life and in our ministry opportunities - it will help you appreciate God’s timing and His sovereignty. A good book for the summer to help you take stock and look again at where you are in leadership and ministry!

Friday, 28 May 2010

End of a season

In my last few weeks’ postings I have been sharing lessons about the seasons of life and ministry preparation tests. This has all been extremely relevant to my own life and season in ministry.

I am looking forward now to beginning my three-month sabbatical - an important time of rest and an opportunity to reflect on 15 years leading the church here at Kings. Deb and I arrived here in Sept 1995 - I was only 32, and now at 47 I believe we have reached ‘half-time’ in our call to lead this great local church. During that time the church has flourished - God willing we are only half way along the journey together! I am praying that by the time I reach the age of 62 we will have fulfilled our dream of building a 1000 member church. The season following that will be about leadership succession (amongst other things!) but I will worry about that in 15 years time...

The sabbatical means that for the coming months I will also take break from blogging. The postings will be reduced to one a week, written before I go away. I am also delighted that after that David Devenish has agreed to be guest blogger across the summer. His rich experience and the wisdom he has acquired, especially in cross-cultural situations, will no doubt be a part of what he posts!

During my three months out of pastoral ministry I plan to write a book on leadership in the church and look forward to returning in September refreshed and re-envisioned – ready to lead into the ‘second half’ at Kings! This will include leading the church through the transition to becoming a fully-fledged multi-site church, having 5 meetings on 3 sites. I am trusting that God has prepared me – and the church - for this next phase.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The promotion test

Here I’m talking about delay in promotion or a failure to have your gift recognised for someone already established in ministry. When a leader finds that he or she is not moving forward in ministry, that’s the promotion test. Tempted to become angry, bitter at the lack of progress and being shut off from influence in life and ministry - this can happen at any age and any season – at any point in ministry. The more developed the gift or ministry, the harder this is likely to be to endure.

At the same time we have to recognise that at some point we all reach our limit. We come to the end of the amount of grace we have for the measure we are. It takes real maturity to get to a point of recognition, ‘This is my measure of achievement. I’m going to be satisfied with it rather than always wanting to be something else.’

The alternative is real unhappiness and a grinding sense of disappointment. Such a situation, like many personal crises of this kind, needs to be resolved before God and lived out before men.

There is a huge range of negative emotions that can accompany such situations. Anger, resentment, a sense of hurt, isolation, rejection, bitterness, feeling misunderstood, loneliness – all these are possible. Some leaders fall into depression. I’m not talking about sin here – it’s about life. How you process the emotions could be the thing that makes you, or disqualifies you…

How you handle these various tests will have huge influence on how you progress to the next phase of life and leadership.

Friday, 21 May 2010

More on conflict

In the hand of God, conflict is a powerful toolhow you process conflict is important. It can shipwreck you – or be a channel for growth. When the eldership team that I had joined in Bedford ‘blew up’ I had the opportunity to learn this lesson first hand. I had seen conflict take other leaders apart. I didn’t want that to happen to me. I learned a lot about team dynamics. I learnt a lot about the amount of authority that the pastor has – especially if he has been there a long time. I learnt a lot about myself and my dependency on God.

I had never planned to be in London. If there hadn’t been conflict I would have remained in that provincial town and would not have had the privilege of coming here and seeing all that we are seeing. I would never have done it because I had my future all sorted out! So – I now know that God can use conflict and that there are times when we need to embrace it!!

Not that you seek it – ‘let’s go and create mayhem in our team so I can learn from the conflict…’ Rather, wisdom shows us how to stand back and say, ‘God, what are you saying to me here? What are you teaching me in this situation? Don’t let me become bitter or lose my heart for You!’

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Further tests for leaders

The Servant Test.

Are you willing to serve? We all have to start out with this question. When we were younger we were happy to serve. As we ‘progress’ it’s easy to lose that servant heart. I may not put out as many chairs in meetings as I used to but I hope that I still pass the servant test and think about the needs of others and get a cup of tea for the team members occasionally!

The Submission Test.

When you’re asked to do something by God or by someone else that counters your own plans or desires, are you willing to submit to God’s purposes - right now? Anyone can submit – if it’s something that you want. What about when I don’t agree with what I’m being asked to do? If you are going to administer authority then you also need to be under authority.

The Conflict Test.

This is a relational testit’s about your ability to cope with conflict and work it through. When you start out you will have a senior leader – you are dependent on that leader. Your relationship is that of a junior to a senior. Over time, your relationship with that leader will change. As you grow you will seek more independence, feel the need for elbow room, for space to grow. This is a classic point of conflict and if leaders are not aware of this dynamic, i.e. the senior guy says in effect – ‘Get back in place!’, then the junior guy is likely to leave before too long. The aim is to grow to interdependence. When I started at King’s and Phil Varley came to join us, he lived at our house. I was the pastor and he was giving the church some time. Now he’s the executive pastor of the team and one of the elders. The relationship has transitioned to that of peers. We have open, equal conversations and speak into each others’ lives. That’s the way it works

Friday, 14 May 2010

The frustration test!

This is the test of delay at the start of ministry. You have a prophetic word over your life, but it’s not happening yet. The purpose of this test is to help the developing leader grow in faith. This ‘time test’ also purifies the leader’s motives and attitude - if he allows it to. During the time of delay the leader in question can deal with his own impure, selfish or proud motives that can cloud the purposes of God.

When I was 25 I was put forward to be an elder at the church at Brickhill. I had been sitting in on elders’ meetings for about 3 years and was regularly preaching and leading worship. What happened was that the second tier of church leadership, who were nearly all old enough to be my parents, didn’t respond positively to this idea. There was much discussion about me and my relative youth and I got caught in the crossfire. What do you do?

I decided to write a letter. ‘Dear Church, I’m aware that my proposed eldership has caused difficulty for some and the last thing that I want to do is cause disunity in the church, so I’m happy to withdraw my name for going forward as an elder. I will continue to serve the church as I’ve always done. Yours, Steve’. This was read out to the church.

What happened? Those who had previously thought that I wasn’t mature enough and ready for the responsibility began to say ‘I think I got it wrong’. Truthfully, to get to the point where I wrote that letter took some emotional journey for me as I was confronted with the fact that they didn’t recognise me as a leader. We all crave recognition. I had to die to that recognition and live to God. Two years later I became an elder.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010


Have you felt that your ministry has been delayed? The older you are, the harder it can be to deal with delay. When you’re young and are asked to do the Tearcraft stall and open up the building you just think – I can do that! You’re not thinking of yourself as a leader at that moment, there’s not much temptation to over-inflate your role. But later, if a senior leader gets ahead of themselves and their ability or anointing, it can become a limiting factor to their ministry.

Eventually, after much delay, Joseph is brought out of prison to serve in one of the highest offices in the land. He is given responsibility over the nation in a critical time with prophetic fulfilment of his early dreams when his brothers come seeking help in the context of the famine.

Then there’s the story of David. Where’s David at the start of the story? Not even asked to the meal with the rest of his brothers when the important priest visits, because he’s the youngest and is looking after the sheep. And even when he is asked for and is anointed for kingship by Samuel, what does he do? Returns to the sheep! I found that so helpful and have applied it to my life at various times. If you try to grab at the opportunity in church life, it slips away.

So, the principle is – upon successful completion of a ministry task, a leader is usually asked to do something else but not before there is some form of testing.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Guiding Principles for Training Leaders

There are two guiding principles that God uses in training leaders.

Firstly, upon successful completion of a ministry task the developing leader is usually given a bigger task.

Secondly, every leader that God uses in any capacity must undergo preparation in order to function in that capacity.

When I first felt that God was calling me into leadership, I thought I was going to Spurgeon’s College. That was delayed for 7 or 8 years. How I coped with that delay was more important than I realised at the time.

A Biblical parallel would be Joseph – a great model of God’s progression of a leader. Firstly, he has a dramatic prophetic revelation, which he misuses by boasting to his brothers about his own future greatness. The result is that they kick him out of the family – his arrogance has dire repercussions. In slavery he begins to get some responsibility – he runs the household and does it well but then comes under a test, a moral test. Again, he responds well.

If you are in leadership, you will come under moments of temptation. How you respond will totally affect your future ministry. If you blow it, recovery is possible – but at a cost.

Despite his good result in the moral test he ends up in prison. Here he gains credibility, he’s faithful in the tasks he is assigned. His God-given ability to interpret dreams brings him to the attention of those in authority and it looks like he’s going to get out of prison, although that doesn’t happen for about another two years.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Growing Through Different Stages of Ministry

Leadership in business and in the church

Bill Hybels of Willow Creek tells the story of a friend who is a successful business man.

‘My friend runs a company of about 3000 employees. He says he wants to relax after retirement and lead a church. He says it doesn’t have to be a Willow Creek style church, maybe just 7000 or 8000 with some growth potential. I told him that leading a church would ruin his retirement because it demands a higher and more complex from of leadership than business does.’

I think this statement is true. I’ve done the business thing. When you run a business you can hire a bright, energetic, young employee and say, ‘ Here’s our vision, here’s your part in it, here’s your salary, here are your perks, here’s your car, here’s your phone, here’s your secretary, here’s your office, here are your holiday prospects, here’s your promotion and here are your share options.’

As a church leader what do you tell your prospective church members? ‘You are depraved, degenerate sinners who are going to hell unless you repent and get sorted out with Christ – and that’s the good news!’ Then we tell them, ‘We’re going to ask you to commit to giving 5 to 6 hours per week in ministry, with 2 to 3 additional hours for discipleship. We’re going to ask you to get into a small group where your character flaws are going to be exposed and be chiselled away. We’re going to ask you to come under the authority of the elders of the church and give a minimum of 10% of your money - and by the way, there are no reserved seats, no special privileges and no voting rights.’

That’s the comparison between running a business and leading a church – and this is before we get into the area of the demands of pastoral leadership, where, on average, you would speak at a meeting of some kind once a week, often more. There is pastoral pressure – expectations that people have. There are financial challenges. You have to manage your family and work balance right. In business your family can implode and you can carry on in your job – in the church you are an example in all you say and do and a wrecked marriage can end a fruitful ministry. The requirements for church leadership are high, very high.

While I acknowledge that those in business have high demands on them too, I believe that Hybels has something important to say here.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Seasons of Life 2

continuing Jack Hayford's analysis of life's seasons...

I’m now in my 40s, in the season of summer. I’m now all that God has done in me in the previous years and I’m trusting that 0 to 40 has prepared me for this moment. It’s a good reminder to those not in their 40s yet not to worry so much about fruit. Any success before this time is a ‘wow’ bonus – God is preparing you for the season to come.

Hayford continues… ‘Then Autumn. As with the natural world life’s harvest begins in summer and climaxed in the fall. Our 60s and 70s can only be described by autumn. The season of magnificent colour and splendid holidays. No lovelier season colours our calendar. No happier times are scheduled than those at home with friends and family during those months.’

‘At 61 I’m anything but feeling old. Autumn joys are just beginning. I’m discovering the wisdom and delight of building new relationships.’
And you can also get some great late autumn fruit!

This is also the time of major transition in our working life when paid employment comes to an end. For churches, succession of the leader is a massive issue. A wise leader is thinking about managing succession at this point. Knowing when to step back and let the younger generation come through and make their mistakes – their gift will still be developing, as will their experience. At this point it requires huge strength and wisdom to know when to let go – and to do it!

‘Lastly, Winter again.’ This is 80 plus. ‘The final years are winter again as we move into our final term as a biological being. There is nothing dour or dead about winter – it concludes the cycle of seasons. Life’s winter will claim my physical frame but ahead for each of those whose faith is in Christ, there is another spring coming – the Resurrection!’

It’s good to be mindful of our season in life as we can have a tendency to get ahead of God and our own development. We need to learn patience and rest in His timing and purposes.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Seasons of Life 1

One of the things that will shape you as an individual and as a leader is the season of life that you are currently in. Jack Hayford (of the Church on the Way, Van Nuys, California) has written an article on this subject. He saw the human journey in terms of full 20 year seasons.

Between birth and 20 was the first Winter where ‘foundation points of growth were being made in body and mind while we are still beginners in the earthly journey. The evidence of our true soul is being readied to be made.’ These are sovereign foundations! You didn’t choose your parents and you didn’t choose most of your first 20 years - whether they were good, bad or mixed.

Spring follows from years 20 to 40. In this period things that will eventually grow into fruit begin to develop. In this time many people generally conclude their formal education, marry, have children and launch their lifetime’s work. This is the seed sowing time of life, which will determine the type of harvest to be garnered in the years to come. That which is learned in these years and all that is done is part of God’s training of you. He is more interested in your development than your fruit, but young men and women want fruit! We want to succeed - but God has a longer term view.

‘I used to think’ Hayford continues, ‘that whoever coined ‘life begins at 40’ was whistling in the dark trying to console himself. But I’ve recently concluded life’s third twenty-year segment (Summer) and I can say around the age of 40 there is a distinct turning point in the life of unfolding drama. Our first fruits begin to harvest during our 40s and 50s – what we have been becoming increasingly reveals itself. For example in my 40s and 50s I found that the early years of study in God’s word returned a wealth I hadn’t anticipated. I reached and grasped for things eternal and a new depth of preaching. This is only a sample of the wealth the summer years can bring.’

Friday, 23 April 2010

London Churches Update

As the leaders of London churches within Newfrontiers gathered recently to pray, we announced the news that Pete and Nicky Cornford will be moving to Australia to plant a church in Perth. Pete has been an outstanding leader amongst us, planting a brilliant church in the borough of Hillingdon and motivating and encouraging us all to continue to keep church planting high on our agenda.

His leadership in the last few years has been the primary impetus in moving forward the four latest London church plants into Richmond, Haringey, Newham and Islington. He has provided constant support to many other church planters. And on a personal note he has provided consistent encouragement and support to me. We will miss him – and we all pray for his ongoing success and a smooth transition for the Cornford family to the Land of Oz! Apart from our prayers, the London Team decided that we would support Pete in this move with £10K from our Church Planting Fund.

On the wider front we have decided not to go ahead with our ‘Together @ Butlins’ event in January 2011 and we are now planning to make it a biannual event - look out for details for 2012.

In the light of Pete’s move I will be gathering more regularly with all our London Pastors to pray together. The next meeting will be on Thursday 9th September (not in June as previously planned) when I shall have returned from my sabbatical!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The Top 5 Reasons Churches Don't Grow 4

This brings us to the number one reason churches don’t grow.

1. Worship Services that aren’t Worth Shouting About:

Your church can have all the other growth-killers sorted and still not grow. If conflict isn’t an issue the almost certain cause for lack of growth is because the worship services don’t move, touch or inspire!

Churches can grow in areas of declining population, in economically impoverished communities and even in hostile environments. But if worship doesn’t inspire, especially its guests, then the chance of growth is almost zero. It’s not about the worship style, technology, nor the range of instruments or lack of them – it’s about the totality of the worship service. Services that blend different worship styles usually disappoint everyone but even they can contribute to church growth if they move, touch and inspire. This means that the music connects with the worshipper’s spirit and the presentation of the gospel in preaching, music and action is clear and concise. This requires that the sermon/message is so motivating that people don’t leave with a list of facts but with a heart-wrenching commitment to live their lives differently when they leave the building. This means that nothing gets in the way of the Holy Spiritin spite of our theological inadequacies and odd ways of doing church, God shows up with power that breaks the rocks of the heart and with a gentleness like a whisper in stillness.

Here’s the deal. If your worship services aren’t moving your members enough to invite their friends and relatives, let alone their acquaintances, neighbours, co-workers and everyone else, then your worship services aren’t worth shouting about. It’s time to examine the whole of this area of church life and – if necessary – get help to make changes in order to take your worship to another level.

Bill Tenny-Brittian’s view is that if you nail down these five areas of church life, you will not only grow, you’ll explode. In a good way!

Friday, 16 April 2010

The Top 5 Reasons Churches Don't Grow 3

Still in reverse order…

2. Ineffective Assimilation/Discipleship:

Even churches who don’t deal well with the above points manage to get a new member or two occasionally! Keeping these new members for the long haul is another matter.

Typically they are gone within a year, fewer still making it through a second year. Bill Tenny-Brittian worked with some large churches that have been stuck at the same attendance level for a decade, even thought they were receiving in new members almost weekly. One church had an average attendance of 500 for twelve years and when the data was examined they had received in over 800 members during that time – and also ‘lost’ 800 in the same time period. The problem was that members stayed for 6-12 months but never seemed to connect with the church.

Assimilation and discipleship don’t happen by themselves. Churches that grow have developed and successfully implemented a system for seeing first time guests make the transition from ‘pew’ to small group to friendship to ministry involvement. And they can also see a first time guest move from seeker to believer to disciple. Churches who haven’t sorted this out may receive in members but their attendance figures are flat-lined.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

The Top 5 Reasons Churches Don't Grow 2

Still continuing in reverse order…

4. Lack of Guest Follow-up:

Churches, listen! Here’s a clue! If a visitor puts their contact details in the visitors book or on a ‘welcome card’ then they are interested! Some churches don’t have any way of visitors registering interest, others don’t follow up visitors until they have been two or three times and many don’t know what to do with the information when they have it. The statistic stands – follow up within 24 hours and your guest is 86% more likely to return. Leave it to the end of the week and the percentage drops to less than 25%.

3. Lack of Hospitality:

Bill Tenny-Brittian says he is constantly amazed at how inhospitable most churches are, scoring less than 5 out of 10 on this important scale. While the church members will tell you how friendly they are, in reality the nursery facilities are poor, the toilets need cleaning, the welcomers are busy with their friends or don’t exist at all. Other indicators that count in this measurement are coded language in notices/bulletins (e.g. acronyms for youth organisations that mean nothing on initial hearing), churchy language in worship and publicly identifying visitors in any way (this can range from name badges through to asking them to stand up and be recognised in a meeting). Then there’s poor signage around the building and lack of attention to visitors by church members and staff. It would be useful to have the equivalent of a ‘Secret Shopper’ visit your church and provide feedback!

Friday, 9 April 2010

The Top 5 Reasons Churches Don't Grow 1

I came across an article by Bill Tenny-Brittian - a church leader who is often called in to help churches in the USA that are stuck, plateau-ed and declining. From his experience he maintains that the failure of a church to grow arises from one of six issues. Although the article has ‘five’ in the title, he states,

‘..you can major on ‘fixing’ the top five for the rest of eternity, but if you don’t take care of this one single issue, it will be for naught. I’ve said it before, and I suspect I’ll say it again, and again, and again. The most heinous church growth killer is unresolved conflict. Period.’

Having given this foundational issue at the outset, he lists the top five growth-killers in reverse order:

5. Ineffective Attendance Tracking:

Few churches do this well but growing churches tend to do this exceptionally well. If you want your church to grow, you have to know who’s there and who’s not. If you don’t get contact information from visitors – how can you follow them up? And if you don’t know who’s not there then you can’t do effective pastoral care. Bill T-B has debriefed hundreds of church drop-outs and found that one of the top reasons that they no longer attended was that they missed a Sunday or two (for all sorts of reasons) and no-one bothered to contact them and ask if they were OK.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Rest - holidays, study breaks and The Finish!

I have a week off at Christmas and then the first week of January is a study break. My study break is very different to my normal routine. I read, prepare, pray – and play 18 holes! At Easter, I have the same routine – a week’s holiday, a week’s study break. I am far more creative as a result of those study breaks because I have just come off a week’s holiday and it would be my view that the leading edge of my church comes out of those times. It makes me more fruitful. Then in the summer I have six weeks out. Some of you are now asking – ‘What happens to your church?’ Your church is far more robust than you realise – it can survive without you. And if it can’t - then you haven’t built anything. In fact you have filled the gaps so much that you have left no space for others to come through. Sometimes, by getting out of the way, hearing from God, being refreshed, I find that I see things totally differently after just a week or two. And build team. Allow others to help you. Give away as much as you can!

The purpose of rest is to enable you to run well! Please think about the principles that I have laid out here and apply them in your situation. I really believe that doing this will enable you to run well.

The aim of running is to get to the finish – be intentional about running well, resting well and finishing well! My aim is to go through the finishing line at speed – to the glory of God!

Friday, 2 April 2010

Rest - refreshment from elsewhere

Another thing that can help in refreshing us is to take up an interest beyond ministry. Bird watching? Train spotting? Golf? Give yourself to something else for that time. For me it’s sport. I've always loved playing sports - I watch sport and have all the Sky Sport channels. I think all church leaders need Sky Sports (more high fives!)… Deb is different (surprise!) - she reads. What is your other interest that takes you out of this goldfish bowl?

Also friendship is important. Now for some of you this is an area of pain. If you are involved in a church plant and you’ve moved from your home town and church then you’re just longing for someone to connect with. And it’s complicated in ministry. You have to be intentional about making good friends in such situations – it might not ‘just happen’ by itself. You need to connect with some people that fuel you and don’t drain you. Some people I’ve seen are so compassionate that they spend all their time with those that they are pouring their lives into. Sometimes this can be feeding a lack or void within – but true friendship is essential.

I’m a task orientated person. As a result I have come to the topic of rest and seen it as a task! After 6 years of leading a church I realised that the prospect of doing what I was doing for 30 – 40 years was daunting. In making rest a task I plan ahead for it. So, the first things that go into my diary each year are my holidays, all my time off and my study breaks. These are all essential for my sense of well-being and my ability to stay the course long-term. I’m not suggesting that you must do this in the same way but I would say that you need to take the principle of rest as a task and apply it to your own life and situation.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Rest - meeting each other's needs in marriage

In a piece of research done on the topic of meeting each others’ needs, men were asked ‘How much time does your wife want to speak to you in a week?’ Their response was ‘15 minutes, twice a week’. Are you ready for the next bit? They then asked the wives – ‘How much time do you want to speak with your husband?’ Guess what their response was? One and a half hours - per day.

Just hearing that statistic made me feel tired. Do you know why this is important? It’s actually critically important for those of us in ministry because too many pastors and their wives fall morally. Too many fall out of the race because of emotional burnout. You hear of the wife who got attached to another guy at work or emotionally involved with another guy at church. Normally such an attachment ends up in bed. And the guy who’s emotionally washed out and whose wife is not responding sexually is more vulnerable to some-one else. That vulnerability can also end up in bed.

I don’t want that to happen to anyone reading this. I really don’t. There’s too much at stake for God, His church, your life call, your children – so it’s very important that we have appropriate rest and that our home and marriage is a vital point of refreshment.

So here’s the question. Here’s the application. Guys - ask your wife, ‘Am I meeting your emotional needs?’ If in the course of that discussion she says that she needs an hour and a half to talk each day – listen to her! Because in a moment she is going to ask you this question: ‘Am I meeting your sexual needs?’ At which point you can say, ‘An hour and a half each day…

As a result of this blog I’ll be welcomed everywhere by male leaders with high fives! But seriously... men and women, husbands and wives need to understand how the other half ticks on this topic!

Friday, 26 March 2010

Rest - the importance of your marriage

The most important relationship is always that of husband and wife. If your marriage is not strong enough, if it’s not overall a positive thing that refreshes and refuels you both, then you will struggle even more in Christian ministry. There will be struggles even if you have a strong marriage!

Invest in your marriage! One way that Deb and I do this is that we read at least one book on marriage every year. This year we have read ‘For Women Only’ and ‘For Men Only’ by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn. I’ve been married for 20 years and what I read gave me new insight into my beautiful, creative wife! We discussed what we had each read – it gave us the chance to look at things from a point of view that we would not necessarily have got to on our own.

Like the following… (and I will caricature somewhat to make my point!) I want you to imagine a husband coming home from work. The guy comes in – he’s exhausted. His wife wants to connect emotionally, talk about the day… The husband has no emotional capacity to connect in this way. Because of the way he’s wired he still wants sex because for him that is emotional connection. It’s not just a physical thing. A godly wife wants to respond but it’s a lot easier for her to do this once she’s connected emotionally. In a poor marriage situation you can quickly get a downward spiral. The guy, wasted with ministry, can’t connect with romance and giving time and affection and listening to his wife. While the wife struggles to respond physically because she’s not having her emotional needs met.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Rest - the importance of priorities...and of home!

It’s important to set priorities or other things will swamp you.

Deb and I did this with regard to our home life. In a real desire to understand the pressures on her, I asked Deb what took so much of her time at home. ‘The washing’ she said. ‘I have to pick it all up from the bedroom floors, put it into the basket, wash it all, dry and iron it and put it all back so that the whole process can begin again.’ Anyone relating to this, guys? As we were on holiday when we did this review, I had spare capacity and time to think about this! I nearly made a spreadsheet to track what’s happening, recruiting the boys to do their bit, streamlining the process … But then I got it! I want my wife not to be tired and to be available when I come home and the decision to employ some help in the house as a result of that review was a positive thing.

Now I know not all of you are in a position to be able to do that, but the process still holds. Life moves so fast sometimes that you have to reposition the priorities where they should be. It’s no good thinking that things will calm down soon – experience shows that’s not true!

This brings me to another important point. Home must be a place of rest. If home is not a place of rest in Christian ministry then things are going to be really hard. I have observed, just from my own life and those of my team members, that in times when a family member is sick, times of demand that result in lack of sleep, dealing with elderly parents, to name but a few – all these issues put into a context of a demanding ministry – these can destabilise a home. They can come out of the blue and rob us of any refreshment we might have found in our homes previously.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Rest - Prayer & Fasting and a story...

I love being in God’s presence. I love corporate worship and I love our times of Prayer and Fasting – three times a year we assemble as Newfrontiers leaders and I love it because I can get away from the demands of church and be in God’s presence for two days with my mates! It forces me to dwell in God’s presence in a way that I don’t tend to do elsewhere. I would suggest that if you find yourself too busy for Prayer and Fasting then you need to look at that.

You may have come across a version of the following illustration but it bears retelling!

A philosophy professor stood before his students with a very large empty glass jar which, without comment, he proceeded to fill with golf balls. He asked them if the jar was now full – they agreed it was. He then took some small pebbles and poured them into the jar where they rolled into the spaces between the golf balls. He asked again if the jar was full. Everyone agreed it was.

Next he poured sand into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up every other space. He asked again if the jar was full and was met with a unanimous ‘Yes’.

Finally, from under his desk he produced two cans of beer and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty spaces between the grains of sand. The students laughed, at which point the professor told them that the jar represented their life.

The golf balls represented the important things – family, children, health, friends and favourite passions. If everything else was lost and only those things remained, life would still be full. The pebbles stood for everything else that matters – like jobs, house and car, while the sand is everything else – the small stuff that crams into our days.

‘If you put the sand into the jar first’ he said, ‘there will be no room for the pebbles or golf balls… If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Spend time with your children, your parents and grandparents. Take your spouse to dinner. Get your medical check-ups and play those rounds of golf. There will always be time to clean the house and see to household repairs. Set your priorities – the rest is just sand.’

One of the students asked what the beer represented. The professor smiled. ‘The beer shows that no matter how full life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers with a friend!’

Amen! Preach it brother!