Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Attitude is key...

Deb: When Steve and I got engaged in the summer of 1988, I had little idea of what God had in store for us as a couple. Yet ours is a gracious God, who leads, directs, and even carries us when needed. Looking back over more than 20 years of marriage, I am able to see just how much He has taught me along the way.

One of the most important things I have come to realise is that having a sense of being caught up together in the call of God is vital to being partners in the mission God has given us together. Steve and I aren’t experts in this area – we owe much of what we have learned about this to the example of other ministry couples – Dave & Liz Holden, Terry & Wendy Virgo and John & Liz Lanferman come immediately to mind.

It is important to recognise that different couples operate in different ways, according to their own gifts and the call they have. Some ministry leaders’ wives have a very public ministry of their own; others take a more supportive role. There is no set rule for this – it has to be worked out couple by couple. But one thing that has become clear to me in recent years – and especially since we have been at Catford - is that my attitude to what God has called Steve to do is key.

When Steve first went into full-time ministry as a youth pastor, we had been married just a year and I was in full-time work with a demanding job. While I was supportive of what he was doing, my involvement was minimal! When I gave up work to be at home with our children, I had more time to be involved in church life and so that changed. But there were times when I would feel resentful of the time when Steve was away from home and there was a real sense in which I didn’t feel part of what Steve was doing and so not actively involved in his call.

A few months after we had arrived in Catford, God met me in a powerful way. While away together on a leaders’ weekend, I found myself deeply challenged about my attitude to Steve’s ministry, and felt the need to confess and repent of it. At that moment God showed me that He would give me grace to release Steve into what he was called to do. Over the next weeks I experienced a sense of freedom and strength which transformed my attitude.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The Importance of a Great Marriage

Steve: I think it is vital that church leaders should work at their marriage, aiming not just for a good marriage but a great one! The growth of the church at King’s and the increased demands that came with such growth showed Deb and I that our marriage needed to grow in parallel – a great marriage provides a strong foundation from which to serve God together. I would say that marriage is a vital partnership – and as such is worth giving time and energy to. This wouldn’t be a hardship as far as I’m concerned! Deb is the love of my life so any excuse to spend time with her is fine for me!

When I see leaders who seem to prefer ‘doing ministry’ to being at home I recall that early in our marriage, young and ambitious, I could be out six nights a week – not a healthy way to live! It all came to a head about nine months before we moved to London and centred on a ministry trip to India which required me to fly out on Christmas Day. While there I was challenged by God that I needed to prioritise Deb more.When I returned home I told Deb what I believed God had said to me, repented of that attitude and sat down to take practical steps to adjust my work/life balance. I had to re-order my priorities in order to put Deb and the boys above the demands of ministry - and it’s an on-going process, one that requires regular attention.

The first five years at King’s saw us not only building a church but also a marriage that would be a place of mutual support and rest – vital if we were going to achieve all God had called us to. The personal life and the corporate leadership of a church leader are totally linked together – I believe our culture makes a great mistake in separating the private and public aspects of a life; integrity is always an issue of character.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Better Together

Just over a year ago (and so much has happened in that year!) King’s launched a new site in Downham, partnering with an existing Newfrontiers church. King’s adopted this church on a large south London estate and replanted it as a part of our move to becoming a multi-site church. It is extremely exciting to see the site flourish - just a few weeks ago three people become Christians on one Sunday and seven others responded to a call for baptism. So much has happened in such a short time - a church which had struggled a little over recent years is now healthy and growing!

On this journey we have been helped by the wisdom and experience of Jim Tomberlin from the States, an expert in the multi-site movement and now someone we consider a friend! He and Warren Bird have recently written a new book on the subject of churches that merge to become more effective. Called Better Together - Making Church Mergers Work, I was asked to give a review/recommendation – this is what I wrote:

‘Jim Tomberlin and Warren Bird have provided the church with a visionary and practical book from which, if many churches could embrace it with real humility, the kingdom impact could be huge. Whether you lead a thriving church or are involved in one that is struggling, I commend this book to you.’

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Growing a church - Keep telling the story...

If I’m preaching elsewhere on a Sunday I will receive a text message from a staff member at Kings at the end of the day which gives me the numbers of people who attended and the numbers of responses – all this comes in as I drive back.  I’m motivated that way.  Some of my team think that at my funeral people will say, ‘Well… Steve would have been pleased, you know, because we’ve done the count.  There were 415 at the funeral …’

I believe if we’re going to impact a nation we have to be intentional about mission. I live in a big city with 250,000 people in the borough of Lewisham alone, so King’s needs to reach thousands of people.  I don’t know many pastors who say ’I want my church to be smaller’ - in the end it’s about having a heart for people - you must prioritise growth and mission right up front and this will impact your Sunday programme. 

We know that historically our church grows most in September and January - we have also had times when we’ve grown very fast and the usual trend has gone out of the window.  We build what we’re doing on Sundays around that knowledge.  We plan quite far ahead and we aim to be Spirit-led too!  So in September we have a Vision Sunday and prior to that date a personal letter goes out from me to everyone in the church and also to everyone who’s visited the church in the last 12 months, inviting them to come along for the Vision Sunday.  I sign a lot of invitation letters in the run-up to those particular Sundays!

I find there is a need to repeat our vision to the church - time and time again - this is very important because people often just don’t get it first time – or the second!  So I keep telling the story and explain why we do what we do, keeping the vision before the people - constantly.  

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Growing a church - Mission - just do it!

I believe in local church-based evangelism.  I also believe that mission has to become central to the life of the church - if you want your church to grow and see evangelistic breakthrough, then mission has to be the primary focus of your church.  The priority of mission in the life of the church affects issues as basic as the church diary and prioritising what happens on a Sunday.

When I first came to King’s the church programme was shaped by my diary and my availability, not around the purpose of mission. For example, ‘I can’t be here on that Sunday as I’m on holiday so we won’t do the mission event there…’ We soon worked out was that was the wrong way of building! We decided - mission comes first.  I think in everything we do now, right through the philosophy of the church, mission is primary and then we build in behind that priority - the church programme must reflect this philosophy.  

Mission at the heart of church life particularly affects our Sundays - our Vision Sundays which we do twice a year, one in September and one in January, (and which I always do as the team leader) always includes an aspect of growth presented within it.  It will always include an appeal for new people to step in.  It will always include telling some of the King’s story.  Mission will be explicit in our goals and what we are reaching for over the next 5 years - that will be very high profile.  I’ve got this evangelistic thing in me (although I am not an evangelist – I realised that when I met one!) which makes me instinctively think that’s the way to grow.  So in our prayer meeting, if I’m leading, we will pray for other areas including pastoral care but I would probably always lead us into vision and into praying about growth.  I just do that.