the baby and the bathwater


I don’t get it
September 27, 2008, 7:51 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I just don’t get it.

Apparently solving world poverty is unachievable because it is too expensive. The poverty line is people living off less than $1.25 per day, of which there are 1.4 billion (source, the world bank, August 2008).

In the UK alone the average bonus to bankers was just under £200k last year. Adding up to around £40 billion.

The USA can (nearly) agree a $700b rescue package for a group of over-paid bankers.

Am I being stupid? I know it’s some 20 years ago since I got my maths desgree, but even I can do the sums.

And they don’t add up.

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Blessed is he who does not blog in the ways of unrighteousness
September 27, 2008, 9:06 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

The church, well the evangelical alliance, has come up with the ‘ten commandments of blogging’. We at Trinity are doing some thinking about blogging generally at the moment as we are wanting to make sure we are using this potentially powerful way of communicating well.

I have to say, that much of this is helpful, because it seems to me that one way to get a big blog-following is to court controversy, rather than engage in sensible honest debate. However, I would prefer to see some discussion on the positives. And that’s why I am excited that we as a church are trying to get to grips with it. I am always of the opinion that the best way to be critical of something is to be creative, and hopefully at the end of our discussion we will come up with something that is truly positive and life giving, rather than just something that encourages negativity.

Anyway, for the moment, here is the EA’s view. You can see the full article here.

1. You shall not put your blog before your integrity.
2. You shall not make an idol of your blog.
3. You shall not misuse your screen name by using your anonymity to sin.
4. Remember the Sabbath day by taking one day off a week from your blog.
5. Honour your fellow-bloggers above yourselves and do not give undue significance to their mistakes.
6. You shall not murder someone else’s honour, reputation or feelings.
7. You shall not use the web to commit or permit adultery in your mind.
8. You shall not steal another person’s content.
9. You shall not give false testimony against your fellow-blogger.
10.You shall not covet your neighbour’s blog ranking. Be content with your own content.



Arsenal
September 25, 2008, 1:25 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The memory of 1989 will never die. The pain of that goal in the last minute that robbed Liverpool of the title they deserved will stay with me. Forever. And this is one of the main reasons that I, and so many other Liverpool fans, hate Arsenal.

But even I have to confess, that I have found something good that has come out of the club. And it is their motivational handout. Presumably this has it’s source in Arsene Wenger. He’s not a Christian, or at least he’s keeping it pretty quiet if he is. But this stuff is great, and could be something a church leader came up with. OK, so a few important things are missing, like Jesus, but other than that, it’s probably really helpful.

Team

A team is a strong as the relationships within it. The driving force of a team is it’s member’s ability to create and maintain excellent relationships within the team that can add an extra dimension and robustness to the team dynamic. This attitude can be used by our team to focus on the gratitude and the vitally important benefits that the team brings to our own lives. It can be used to strengthen and deepen the relationships within it and maximise the opportunities that await a strong and united team.

Our team becomes stronger by:

-Displaying a positive approach on an off the pitch
-Everyone making the right decisions for the team
-Having an unshakeable belief that we can achieve our target
-Believe in the strength of the team
-Always want more – always give more
-Focus on our communication
-Be demanding with yourself
-Be fresh and well prepared to win
-Focus on being mentally stronger and always keep going to the end
-When we play away from home, believe in our identity and play the football we love to play at home.
-Stick together
-Stay grounded and humble as a player and as a person
-Show the desire to win in all that you do
-Enjoy and contribute to all that is special about being in a team – don’t take it for granted.



Contentment
September 23, 2008, 5:58 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

content: satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else.

I have learned the secret of being content (Philippians 4, 12)

What is the secret of being content?

Contentment seems to be a quality in very short supply in our time and in our culture. In fact, more often that not, discontentment abounds. Most obvious in material things, it also rears it’s often unattractive head in relationships, in family life, in work and career. And it also seems to be evident by the bucket load in ministry. We want the bigger portfolio, we want the wider repute, we want the greater sales, we want to be leading the bigger conference.

And actually, some discontentment is good. It is good to want more of God, it is good to want more of his kingdom reign. It is good to want to be more effective in our lives. But how do we differentiate between a ‘good’ discontentment, and a ‘bad’ discontentment, because the lines are often very blurred (or at least, it is very easy for us to make them seem blurred).

It seems to me that most people I come across in ministry know their identity in Jesus. They know that they are saved, that they are a children God, that God loves them and has set them apart for a purpose. But there are far fewer people that have gone beyond this and worked out what that purpose is: what their calling really is. This lack of understanding about calling leaves a vacuum which gets filled with unhealthy ambition which all-to-often is never really satisfied, and leads to constant discontentment.

The ‘bad’ sort.

It tends to result in the chasing after things that shouldn’t be chased after in order to gain praise or recognition; trying to build empires of responsibility and influence that give an illusion of purpose and power; fighting your own corner to give an impression of significance or importance. In a word – insecurity.

Discontentment and insecurity. What a potentially explosive and destructive combination!

So the question is – do we really know what our God given calling is?

Of course, it’s very hard to condense into a few sentences but for me:

I think I am called to be a dedicated ‘second chair’ leader. Understanding this stops me trying to pursue being the ‘number one’ in a church, going for ordination, or church planting; I think I am primarily called to lead worship in my church. Understanding this stops me feeling undervalued when I don’t get asked to do hundreds of huge conferences all over the world; I think I am called to write and not preach. Understanding this means that I am not putting wasted energy in getting better at public speaking, or getting distracted to pursue speaking engagements; I think I am primarily called to be a songwriter, but not a recording artists. It means I focus my time writing songs, either on my own, or in partnership, and don’t try and pursue record deals; I think I am more and more called to use what position and influence I have to give other people every chance of success. It means that when people I invest in do well, or better than me, I take it as a compliment rather than a threat.

And in this process I have found out that often my effectiveness, my passions, my enjoyment, my strengths all tend to point towards my calling. The things that come more naturally point to the things I think I should, if I can, put most of my efforts into.

It’s not that calling doesn’t change over time – God may very quickly shut some doors and open others – and so we constantly need to have listening ears. But there is a great sense of contentment at understanding what we are called to do, and trying to do that – and only that – with as much enthusiasm and excellence and fruitfulness as possible.



Victory is Assured
September 21, 2008, 8:23 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Even Microsoft uses a mac.



Respect
September 19, 2008, 2:22 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

There is a lovely elderly couple who I regularly bump into in my new-found second office, cafe nero. They are polite and dignified, well dressed and well spoken. The first time I spoke to them, she expressed her obvious pride in her husband, and his continued well being and perkiness, finishing with the phrase ‘you wouldn’t think he was 90 would you?’.

My first thought was ‘well actually yes I would’.

You see my own assessment of his ‘perkiness’ is slightly less positive than his wife, given that he looks like he could topple over every time he moves and that every lift of his coffee cup was accompanied with a worrying wobble and much huffing and puffing. In fact if I’m totally honest I am surprised, and slightly relieved, when he makes it through the next week.

However, there is something in me, when I chat with them, that wants to refer to them as ‘sir’ and ‘madam’. Which is strange really, because that feels very old-fashioned. But I somehow think this would please them, and show one of those good old values that in culture today is not really in abundance – respect.

As a worship leader of some years now, I have been through the times where the old has been steadily replaced by the new. In fact I have been around so long that even what was new is now old and there is a new even newer new.

If you see what I mean.

As we’ve gone through changes in our worship, from choirs to vocalists, from organists to worship leaders, from pianos to guitars, from hymns to choruses and on to anthems, I have experienced, and probably been party to, some moments of arrogance, of unhelpful words, and disparaging critisism of what has gone before. Those pressing for the new wine often seem to be people who are disrespectful of the old wine. And I’m not sure that is Jesus’ way.

Jesus himself represented a complete change when He came walked this earth. His appearance heralded the end of the sacrificial form of worship, the end of the temple as the only place of worship. He represented the ultimate challenge to old wine and the greatest initiator of all things new. Yet despite this, he remained totally respectful of what went before. Whether that was in the way he remained in the temple when he was 12 teaching in the place he called his Father’s house, or whether later in His life in the clearing of the temple of the traders. Yes, He was very obviously critical of hypocrisy of some of the religious leaders, but alongside that he seemed to be totally respectful of the institutions and places of worship that had for so long been the focal point of people’s worship.

It seems to me that we could, as a generation of worship leaders seeking the new things, learn to be more respectful of the things, and people, that have gone before. In our desire to continually catch the wind of the Spirit and where He blows, let us never become disrespectful of those things and people who have brought us thus far.

Having respect doesn’t mean that we aren’t challenging and forthright when we sense change is needed. It just ensure we handle that change in a dignified and godly way.



Tools of the Trade
September 9, 2008, 9:49 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

There used to be a time when, if you wanted to be a worship leader, you needed to have access to a guitar or keyboard to play; you needed the support and guidance of a church leadership to help identify and nurture your gifting; and you needed to live in a community where you want to serve the people of that community.

Now it seems that you need access to a MAC to write your tunes; you need the support and guidance of a record company to help shape and market your songs; and you need to live near an airport to give you easy access to the town, city or country where your next concert is held.

OK, so maybe I’m being a little harsh.

But it does seem to me that there is a huge danger for worship leaders, and also church leaders and speakers, to slowly, but surely, over time, distance themselves from involvement within their own local church. But why does that happen?

Well I think that one of the reasons is that we get ‘ministry-weary’ in our local church: we find that, after a number of years, we find it tough choosing yet another set of songs for Sunday; we get tired of having another Sunday taken up with ministry rather than family; we loose the spark that fires us to pressing into God and what he is doing in our own local church in order to write yet another song.

Compare that with: we find that we can choose a song set that works and then use it in many towns and cities that we travel to without having to work at a new one; we can do our concerts during the week so that we can still relax on Sundays, have our roast dinner and then doze in front of the TV watching the golf; we can use the song we wrote last year again and again and leave the writing of the new songs until we have that well earned rest in Barbados later in the year.

And I can sort of understand that. In many ways, it is easier for me to lead worship at New Wine for a few days in the summer, with it’s big gathering, with it’s sense of anticipation, and sense of ‘new-ness’ than for me to lead worship week in week out at Trinity.

Maybe I’m being a bit harsh. But the question remains – how do we stop ourselves becoming weary with our local church ministry.

Well I’d like to suggest a few things that I find helpful. These are just what are working for me at the moment.

-Stay connected to your church leadership, and see the bigger picture of what you are doing at your church.

-Have a realistic opinion of yourself and what your ministry can achieve: there is a danger that we overestimate the impact our ministry has on the worldwide church and underestimate the impact our ministry has on our own local church.

-Listen to testimonies of what God is doing in your congregation. Seek out good news stories. Encourage people to give glory to God by sharing the good things he has done.

-Read books that talk about God and not just about worship. Make this a higher priority than purchasing every worship album under the sun and analysing it to death.

-Connect yourself with other worship leaders in other churches that are doing what you are doing. Make this a higher priority than getting to the next big worship conference/live recording.

-Remember you are not in a competition to have the best worship ministry; you are in a battle to see the kingdom extended.