the baby and the bathwater

April 30, 2008, 5:07 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Bear with me just for a moment.

I want to yield to one of the things I intensely hate about the blogs of worship leaders: I want to start this article with the phrase ‘I have just come back from a conference and….’.

I know it’s unforgivable, but I just can’t see any other way of introducing this blog post. So please, try and indulge me this time, and I promise not to use the phrase again ever. Well at least until June when I go to the next one….


I have just come back from a conference, and during one of the sessions, I was reminded of what is probably the most beautiful sound in the world. Voices spontaneously worshiping God. In this case, some 2000 voices. (Of course, this last comment is also mandatory worship-leader-blog fodder, because it gives an indication of how big the conference was, and so just how important and famous and anointed I must be to have been there).

It had been a strange conference in many ways – one in which my theology had been tested and my mind stretched. Lots of things I need to think about. And some I don’t think I will think about too much! But on this last night I was leading worship with my great friend Eoghan Heaslip. The band played really well, and the congregation were really ‘up’ for worship. It was quite easy in one sense.

But I have to admit that it was long after Eoghan and I had left the stage that this beautiful moment occurred. It was nearing the end of the ministry time that the speaker/leader struck up a very simple note, and encouraged the 2000 voices to sing out. And boy did they. And it went on for what seemed like ages. Amazing harmonies, rising waves of colourful heart cries, all meshing together in a Holy Spirit sustained cacophony of sound, where any imperfections in individual voices somehow offset themselves and created this wonderful, glorious symphony of worship.

And it all happened without a band.


So I am not indispensable then.

OK, so this wasn’t church. It wasn’t even close. For a start it was in this amazing conference centre where the acoustics were great – were you could really hear the combined voices around you without them disappearing into the vaulted ceiling of some cathedralesque monstrosity that most Anglican churches seem to be like. And the conference was made up of people who had paid good money to be there, who were church leaders and so understood (at least in part I hope) what makes good worship. And it was the final evening, so everyone had gained momentum. And of course we had all left our children at home with our parents, friends, baby sitters etc. And of course there were so many of us.

Nothing like real church.

But still this was a beautiful moment, one to be cherished, one that illustrates a lot of what worship should be. Holy Spirit inspired and sustained; no individual or band or worship leader playing any more than a bit-part role. And of course nothing going on that would generate a song royalty.

What a beautiful sound it was. One that will stay with me for a very long time.

In fact, I recon that if Carlsberg made worship, then…


Indian Food
April 13, 2008, 5:04 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This week I’m taking some time out with the family. We’re staying in a lovely cottage in the town of Beer in Devon. The cottage is owned by some friends of ours and we’ve been here a number of times. We love the tranquility, the open fire, the views of this charming fishing villiage, the deli and the beech. And joy upon joy, this year an Indian restaurant has opened just 100 yards from the cottage – just opposite the Italian and the fish and chip shop. And another great addition is a coffee shop that sells great take away coffees. Everything you could dream of all so close by. I am in heaven. I told my wife that I would like to buy a house here. She wasn’t overly impressed, but my negotiation skills are legendary, so watch this space.

Anyway, as I have has a little time to reflect on life so far, there are a number of things that have come into my thoughts again and again.

The first is that I need to get fitter. I have put a few pounds on over the last few months and I can tell. I am huffing and puffing too much, and my trousers are feeling slightly too tight around the waist. As I look at my diary over the next six months, I don’t think I will be able to do what I have to do well if I’m not in better shape. The usual stuff at Trinity, which still gets the vast amount of my energies, is challenging enough: but on top of that over the coming months I have: a couple of trips abroad – New Wine in Sweden and a Mission camp in India; leading worship at a couple of conferences; half a dozen talks; a couple of worship team training days; a women’s conference (!!); another racecourse celebration; and of course New Wine in Shepton Mallet. The thing is that I know I need to be physically up to it, as well as spiritually up to it. It means when I get back from this holiday I will need to be on strict food rations, and down the gym at least three times a week. My aim is losing half a stone. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Another thing that I have had to learn recently is that I need far more time on my own, preparing for all that I do. The office is no good, because it’s too busy. Home is no good because it’s too noisy. I have now found the perfect spot in Cheltenham where I can run off to most mornings. It’s a great coffee shop. And it’s not Starbucks! It’s very quiet until around 10.30 in the morning so I head off there for the first couple of hours of my day. I know that I need to keep that commitment up for my own sanity. The old saying that Linkyou can’t give out unless you first take in is true. And actually I am an activist (workaholic, some people call it) so find this sort of discipline hard. OK so the coffee helps, but I have resolved to more regular preparation time.

Another thing I have been reflecting on is the whole area of legacy. I had a great hour with a friend of mine from the States – Andy Booth. He was passing through on his way to lead worship at Spring Harvest in Skegness. He is someone who I have a lot of time for – he is a great worship leader, and leads regularly at Spring Harvest, but you never feel anything goes to his head. He is humble and thoughtful and God-centered. He even manages to report on his travels on his blog without giving you the feeling that he’s bigging himself up. Check out his blog – it’s Anyway, he said a number of things that I found personally very encouraging. One of those was about legacy: what our own legacy in the kingdom is. He was encouraging about some of the worship leaders that have emerged from Cheltenham and gone on to be people who raised up others themselves. We talked about how one of the great tests of legacy is how those you invest in go on to invest in others. It’s as though the greatest fruit is in the generation after the next! I guess in the same way is that one of the ways that my parenting skills will be judged is not just about how my children turn out, but how they in turn raise their own children.

So there you are. Three thoughts for the week.

Must go now. The smell of Indian Food is wafting up the street and I have 6 days to go before I have to start my diet.

April 10, 2008, 7:17 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

promotion: advancement in rank or position, furtherance, something devised to publicize or advertise a product, cause, institution,

Ok, so admit it. How many of you have typed your name into google to see how often you get a mention?

I did it.

And I got 1,680 entries.

My 1680 entries are, unsurprisingly, far less than the 31,900,000 for Jesus Christ, but, rather pleasingly, significantly more than the 302 for the rev Mark Bailey. Rather disappointingly there are 2,040 entries for Keith Hitchman, but I think there must be another person with the same name as my friend and co-pastor, unless he is living a secret second-life as the chairman of the Snake Lane allotments committee in Feltham near Staines.

In the good old days it was very hard to get press coverage. You either had to be very rich to buy some advertising space in the newspapers or on television. Or you had to be truly news-worthy and attract the attention of reporters or publishers. OK, you could stand on the street corner and shout loudly, but that had limited market penetration. But these days, with the world wide web, you only need a few minutes, and a laptop (preferably a mac of course) and off you go. In fact, it has never been easier than it is now to promote yourself.

The very clever, also know how to manipulate their websites and blogs so they get to the top of a google search. (How do they do that? I mean I can’t even get my blog to appear in the results of a google search – even if i type in the blog name and my name in the search engine box – and let’s face it, if i know that then why would i need to google it anyway…)

The concept of promotion is not a completely unknown in the bible. Joseph got promoted, and so did Shadrach Michach and Abednigo. These were promotions in the workplace, the context of which we are probably familiar and understand. And that’s no bad thing. I used to celebrate the times that I got promoted in my days in the insurance industry. And even in the church ‘workplace’ there are promotions where people rise to levels of increased responsibility and influence within the church community. I understand that this has to happen. And I also realise that in the Christian marketplace there needs to be a way of providing information about products so that people can make informed decisions as to what they buy. I do understand.

But just recently I have found myself being very very disappointed as I look at various blogs and web-sites of worship leaders and see the level of self-promotion that is going on.

Very probably, much of it is unintentional. Some may even be a misguided attempt to celebrate what God is doing in their lives. But generally, I read most of this stuff and my heart just sinks. As a breed, we worship leaders are far, far too concerned with making public our own influence, our own impact on the Kingdom than we should be. And we are far too unconcerned with the way that our self-promotion – intentional or not – is robbing the King of His glory.

Call me old fashioned, but what possible benefit is there in having a worship leader tell me on their blog how many people are being blessed by their songs in countries around the world, or how well their album is selling, or what award they have recently been given, or how many people attended their latest ‘concert’, or even how much of their future royalties they are giving up to the poor.

I would say that I’m totally “not bothered”.

But actually I am.

Very bothered.

Because we’ve all got so much to lose.

And one sure fire way of losing something in the Kingdom is to put out a hand and grab some glory for ourselves.

So, in the immortal words of Blackadder in the ‘concert party’ episode: please please stop.

April 1, 2008, 9:53 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

lifeblood – life-giving, vital, or animating element

Creativity is the lifeblood of progress.

Creativity is the first-fruit of redemption: when a soul becomes born again, it aligns itself with the most potent, far-reaching creative person in the universe.

Creativity precedes consensus: it steps out in advance of the comfortable masses, forging a way through mediocrity, building a pathway that will one day become the norm.

Creativity flies in the face of traditional business models and measures of profit: it confounds their wisdom and redraws their landscapes.

Creativity took the Sovereign King to the cross and opened up a way to the Father.

Creativity releases potential: it allows us to breath, inspires us to run, propels us to flight.

Creativity is the perfect antidote to criticism, defying the insecurities of the world that surround it.

Creativity demands commitment: it engages the will and the purse in the pursuit of it’s objectives.

Creativity is light, revealing the nature of God to the world: it is the light that shines light on The Light.

Creativity expunges toxins that left untreated, lead to death: it renews, reforms, refreshes.

Creativity is the fuel of the dreamer: it paints in colours never seen before, carves out textures never felt before, produces harmonies never heard before.

Creativity is risk that flows out of hope: it says ‘things don’t have to be this way’.

Creativity is the lifeblood of progress.