Just a Jolly Good Newbigin Quote

The debate about the nature of the Church’s mission continues . . . The concern of those who see mission primarily in terms of action for God’s justice is embodied mainly in programs carried on at a supra-congregational level by boards and committees, whether denominational or ecumenical. The concern of those who see mission primarily in terms of personal conversion is expressed mainly at the level of congregational life. The effect of this is that each is robbed of its character by its separation from the other. Christian programs for justice and compassion are severed from their proper roots in the liturgical and sacramental life of the congregation, and so lose their character as signs of the presence of Christ and risk becoming mere crusades fueled by a moralism that can become self-righteous. And the life of the worshipping congregation, severed from its proper expression in compassionate service to the secular community around it, risks becoming a self-centered existence serving only the needs and desires of its members. Thus both sides of the dichotomy find good reasons for caricaturing each other, and mutual distrust deepens.

10 Mistakes Leaders Make


This post is really a plug for a great little book I read last week by Dave Kraft called Mistakes Leaders Make. It was published in 2012 (I’m a little behind the times!) as a follow up to his equally brilliant Leaders Who Last. Here are his ten chapter titles to whet your appetite:

  1. Allowing Ministry to Replace Jesus
  2. Allowing Comparing to Replace Contentment
  3. Allowing Pride to Replace Humility
  4. Allowing Pleasing People to Replace Pleasing God
  5. Allowing Busyness to Replace Visioning
  6. Allowing Financial Frugality to Replace Fearless Faith
  7. Allowing Artificial Harmoney to Replace Difficult Conflict
  8. Allowing Perenially Hurting People to Replace Potential Hungry Leaders
  9. Allowing Information to Replace Transformation
  10. Allowing Control to Replace Trust

I’d recommend buying the book for your team and talking about a chapter every time you meet. It’s that rare combination of being super-readable, practical, and profound. Just buy it already!

The Five Stages of Competence


I’ve been doing a little training with our small group leaders recently. We’ve been talking about how to train and develop new leaders, and I’ve been using a well-known little matrix which related consciousness and competence. The grid identifies four stages of development as follows:

  1. Unconscious incompetence – there’s stuff out there that you don’t know how to do, and you don’t know that you don’t know how to do it. For most people who are part of teams or small groups this is where they sit. They know stuff happens but they don’t really know (or necessarily care) how it happens.
  2. Conscious incompetence – at some point you may be asked to contribute something to your small group or team. At this point you suddenly become painfully aware that you don’t know how to do what you’re being asked to do. Just the request brings on the sweats. You didn’t used to care; now you’re terrified of something that you used to take for granted when someone else did it.
  3. Conscious competence – eventually given enough support, opportunity, encouragement and practise you’ll achieve a level of competence in a task. You’ve worked out how to do something and how to make it work reasonably well. You still get nervous, but your confidence is growing.
  4. Unconscious competence – further down the track still and you’ve reached the point where performing a particular task feels straightforward and relatively simple to you. You won’t worry about doing it, and you may not have to think too hard – it’ll come almost as second nature.

Within this cycle there are a couple of danger points. The first comes between stages 2 and 3. First efforts at something are often not our best and the ‘pit of despair’ can swallow us up, never to emerge again. But there’s another danger point at stage 4. It seems to me that this shouldn’t really be the point we finish the process. If we get to the point where we are unconsciously competent, how do we train and develop others? How do we grow ourselves? If we stop at stage 4 we’ll think we’ve arrived and will stop growing. Worse, when others ask us for our help we won’t know what to say. Somebody will say to us, ‘how do you do that?’ Our answer will be, ‘mmm . . . not sure really – just sort of do.’

So I think we need a 5th stage which we might call ‘reflective competence.’ We need to be able to define why something works and where it can be improved so that we can keep developing and growing, and so that we’re able to train others. And it’s often only as we’re called to train and develop others that we really begin to learn ourselves.

competence 2

9 Ways to Make the Most of Easter

A few years ago I put together some ideas on how churches can make the most of Easter. In essence my thinking hasn’t changed all that much, so here’s a slight re-working of that previous post – here’s 9 ways to make the most of Easter.

  1. Make a week of it. We have a women’s prayer meeting on the Wednesday evening (followed by a curry), and a men’s prayer evening on Maundy Thursday (followed by a curry). On Friday we join the town centre service with other Bedford churches. And on Sunday we have our own Easter services (morning and evening). Think in terms of Easter week, not just Easter day.
  2. Publicise well. Get some proper design and publicity done and spread it through local papers, word of mouth, flyers, posters, social media etc. Many people still want to go to a good Easter service (as they do Christmas), they’re just not sure where to go. Make yours stand out.
  3. Look out, not just in. Many Christians use Easter as a time of personal meditation and reflection, which is good. But in so doing we forget that there is a good opportunity to involve and invite friends, family, neighbours, colleagues etc. The news of the risen Christ is to be shared – think about how you can use Easter evangelistically as well as personally.
  4. Put time and effort into your Easter services. Most do this well but I think we’ve all been to some where the pastor has been having the week off (because his kids are off), and he figures its only really for his own folk (many of whom will go and see family), so the whole thing is shabby and badly done. Spend some time thinking about how you welcome people, how you start and close the service, how to make the most of media and music, who else to involve, and how you can prepare a stonking message.
  5. Exercise good hospitality. Put people in your car park (if necessary), have good welcomers, go out of your way to welcome visitors from the front, get some doughnuts in for after the service, and give people real coffee (for the love of humanity!). Hospitality matters. Don’t scrimp on it.
  6. Diarize well. As a church try to have events and courses that lead into and out of your major seasons and services. It’s no good having an Explore course two months after your Easter service. Think about it. Make sure the Explore course starts a couple of weeks after your Easter service so that people can sign up there and then.
  7. Invite some people for lunch. On a more personal level why don’t you invite people to come to church on Easter Sunday with you and then to come back for lunch. Makes a bit more a day of it and helps to prevent your friends feeling like you’re only interested in press ganging them into church.
  8. Give a gift to visitors. Doesn’t have to be anything flash. We used a £1 book we got from 10ofthose. For each and every visitor we gave a gift to thank them for coming. All of our gifts were taken and hopefully people may read and return.
  9. Be there! Save the most controversial for last, but plan to be there. Bizarrely, as many people want to come to church on Easter, many Christians want to go away. They see family, take a long weekend away, or go (maybe worst of all!) to a Christian conference! You can do those things at other times of the year. Get into the field at harvest time. Now of course we’re under grace and people are at liberty to go away whenever they like but it seems to me Christians miss a trick by being away from the local church (and their local friends) at such an evangelistically strategic time of the year.

What does ‘sin’ mean?

‘Sin’ is one of those Bible words that doesn’t carry a lot of freight in our culture. It’s normally thought of as little ‘naughties’, misdemeanours, humorous mischief, or even related to certain diet plans. For Christians we can easily reduce ‘sin’ to two or three particular images which resonate with us. The truth is the Bible contains lots of different ways of describing sin, some of which I’ve listed below. The challenge for pastors and preachers is communicating the full range of the Bible’s own imagery, and skillfully applying it to particular individuals or contexts. So here’s a list (clearly not exhaustive), in the hope that it may be useful:

  • Transgression/law-breaking (1 John 3:4)
  • Falling short (Rom 3:23)
  • A Coup d’etat (Psa 2:1-3)
  • A dirtiness (Isa 64:6)
  • Vanity (Phil 2:3)
  • Imitating God (in a bad way!! – Gen 3:5)
  • De-humanising (Psalm 115:8)
  • De-creation (Gen 3)
  • False faith (Rom 1:25)
  • Unbelief (Heb 3:19)
  • Arrogance (Rom 11:20)
  • Lostness/Going Astray (Isa 53:6; Luke 15)
  • Folly (Psalm 14:1)
  • Corruption (Psalm 14:3)
  • Covering/Hiding (Gen 3:8)
  • Turning away/running away (Jer 2:27; Luke 15)
  • Perversion (Luke 9:41)
  • ‘fight or flight’ (Lev 26:27)
  • Mistrust (Num 20:12)
  • Defiance (Exod 5:2)
  • Disobedience (Eph 2:3)
  • Disordered love (2 Chron 19:2)
  • Greed/Ingratitude (Eph 5:4)
  • Misplaced desire (Jam 1:15)
  • Sickness (Isa 1:5)
  • Idolatry (1 Sam 15:23)
  • Rejection (1 Sam 15:23)
  • Slavery (John 8:34)
  • Blindness (Deut 28:29)
  • Rebellion/enmity (Rom 5:10)
  • Ignorance (Eph 4:18)