Rick Warren leaders meeting, HTB leaders meeting #LC14

I was privileged to be invited with a small group of leaders to lunch with Pastor Rick Warren – afterwards there was an ‘Any Questions.’ Here are my notes on his responses. I couldn’t think of any questions so I gave him a hug instead :) 

Rick Warren Rick-Warren-2

We can no longer lead with proclamation, we need to lead with activity ; in the public square. It’s important not to get alienated or partisan.

The local church has to reclaim health care as part of its job. Christians took care of the sick & dying
Why should we help those with mental illness?
Jesus did it – health of spirit, mind and body.
Practically, when the church gets called in to people’s troubles, we better be ready and trained to represent him.

Where do you go for help?
Small groups
Everybody has to be in one:
Meet in temple courts (large worship)
House to house
Saddleback has more people in small groups than Sundays.

The Pastor has to model this. Go through life together, I was there when they needed me, and vice versa. And when Matthew committed suicide, they were there in 30 minutes. To show up, and shut up
Not to bring words, but a hug.

Small is better in small groups
4 is better than 6
6 is better than 8
10 is too many.

People join a group for content
And stay for relationship

Don’t try to recruit for relationship.

How do we encourage honesty?
You create greater relationship by walking in humility; not denying your strengths but being honest about your weaknesses.

I used to think I could never say ‘Follow me as I follow Christ’
But now I realise there are no perfect models. So not pretending to be confident, admitting your fears, when people say ‘who do you think you are?’ Wrong question! ‘Who do you think God is’? We are scared, but God wants us to do it
The world is looking for today, in the UK
Is an authoritative message
In a humble personality.
The combination is irresistible

Q: how do we help young people not leave church?

- headline he saw ‘If you love Pope Francis you’ll love Jesus’ The methods change, the message doesn’t
Figure out the keys to the heart- felt needs.
Rick was a worship leader first
I’m inner city LA he wanted to reach the gangs – their key? ‘Who’s strongest?’

So they set up a weightlifting gym
Then there would be bible study
Then they had ‘who is strongest’ competition

Most churches just say ‘take it or leave it’ and they leave it.

Gallup asked the whole world ‘what’s the number 1 need in life?’ A Good Job.
Half the world is unemployed
Whoever helps find jobs and creates jobs gets the hearts.

How do we get more of the church to open their homes to the new people?

Pulpit – the rudder of the church. But you have to say it 7 ways before they get it.

Who you want to reach – put up front. When people walk into your church, the first thing they ask is not a spiritual but a sociological but one. ‘who looks like me?’

Match your greeters to who you want to reach.

Michael Frost at New Thing Gathering #exponential – Aslan on the move!

Michael Frost at New Thing Gathering #exponential



Only one Australian has ever won the Nobel prize for literature; Patrick White
A brutal, critical hater of the church
in his biography he wrote about how he was with his gay partner of 40 years when he went out on the farm to feed his dogs,

He fell on his backside, covered in mud and dogfood he heard a voice say ‘who the hell do you think you are?’

He thought God was speaking to him.

So he went to church next week with his partner

He went to the Anglican Church and sat at the back, where the Rector was telling people off for entering the jelly bean counting contest and being gamblers.
‘I realised whatever faith I had needed to be a private matter’

And too many churches are putting people like that off or telling them off
Rather than being with them.
Being their friends I
And saying ‘that God who was taking to you, he’s my friend and he wants to be yours too.’

Canada – Another couple of Christians decided to pray for their neighbours every Tuesday night
They moved in and prayed

One night theres a knock at the door
A Muslim knocked on the door
‘Tonight Jesus came and said in a dream go and ask Nigel what I want you to do to help Single mums’

A friend was sitting in a cafe
A Buddhist monk approached him
‘I had a vision of Jesus Christ he told me to be here and Paul would tell me what to do.’
He led him to Christ
And He has in turn led 12 other Buddhist monks who follow Jesus.

God is at work
Something is up
God is working beyond the church because we are not sending people out and equipping them
So he says ‘I shall reign wherever I choose even if my people won’t be there’

We need people willing to nice out of the Christian bubble to where he’s already working, in the pubs and among the poor

We Christians have nothing to fear!
Why ?
God is on the move
Cf Aslan on the move.
It’s happening in the nations now, the thaw is happening now!
We are being set free from the frozen place.
God is about raising up an army.
God is winning!
There’s pain and suffering
But those days are numbered
And all heaven is breaking loose !
Get involved!

Don’t escape from reality or look to blame and scapegoat for the problems in the world
It comes from a heart of fear

Churches shouldn’t be fearful places
We should be the most engaged
And involved

Jesus was our scapegoat
We don’t need to blame anyone for your problems
You’re set free
Sent into the world
Not called into an escape pod

God is directing history to its true end
It’s our honour to be part of it.

#exponential Rethinking WITNESS. Danielle Strickland. Lifting The Veil.

#exponential Rethinking WITNESS.

1003 danielle main.ashx

Acts 3:1

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer – at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognised him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.


She was on a plane going to Zambia, and feeling bored. Then 5 women got on with burkhas on, and one sat next to her.

And she said ‘Hello!’ to her. But she didn’t know what to say to her, so like a mad person she asked her, ‘What do you think of Bin Laden?’


Then she said ‘I’m with him.’

WHAT??!! You mean he’s on the plane too?!

‘I mean, I’m not against him.’

Why? What have you got against us?

You’re infidels. I just graduated from an Islamic fundamentalist school.

‘Oh wow, we have so much in common! I love evangelism too.’

‘I specialize in converting Christians to Islam.’

OK – give me your pitch

And she was reading to try to remember everything she knew about Islam and then the Holy Spirit said ‘Tell her about Jesus.’

And so she gave her testimony of how much Jesus had done for her since he showed up in her life at 7.

And then the lady said, ‘Would you like to see my face?’

And she showed her face and it was beautiful and smiling and joyful.

Then she said, ‘was I what you were expecting?’

And she wasn’t. That’s not what an Islamic fundamentalist looks like.


We have to change the way we see

See who Jesus is

See who people are


At the gate beautiful Jesus saw a man nobody else saw as beautiful. The disciples learn how to see people. He lifts the burkhas.

The Roman soldier

The prostitute

The leper

If only we could SEE PEOPLE.


People aren’t PROJECTS. Notches on the belt. Could we love people – even if they never converted? Could you share life anyway?


What have we done to make coming to Jesus a transaction?

Who are we with our stereotypes?


In Hebrews it says when Moses was born his parents saw he was no ordinary child. They saw something.


Catherine Booth of the SA used to tuck her kids in at night and say ‘You were born to change the world.’

Lord help us see beyond. How he loves people for who they are now, not just for who they could be. If we could, it would change everything.

Alan Hirsch at #Exponential on Discipleship

We can’t say when a person becomes a Christian. Not even at what point the apostles crossed the line.

We are to make disciples
He makes Christians

What is discipleship?

1. Becoming more and more like Jesus
2. Letting more of Jesus abide in me

It’s a response to Jesus being my Lord and Savioiur

We believe in Jesus’ death, resurrection and return

But what about the focus on incarnation – if we are to go as the Father sent the Son.

What about his teachings?
His life?

That stuff is the LORD part
It’s not just the Saviour piece -as sin management

We are eternally destined to be confirmed to his image.

Bonhoeffer – ‘Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.’

CS Lewis
… the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose.

Ready – Aim – Preach!

(continuing my series of thoughts on this most vital area for ministry…) 

In 1948 Harold Laswell described the ‘Magic Bullet’ theory of communication. Communication = a process whereby a source transmits a message through some channel to a receiver. It’s called the magic bullet theory because the sender shoots the message out of his brain into someone else’s. The listener is passive in the experience.

Others modified the theory and included the idea of ‘Feedback.’ (How the listeners respond will have an effect on the sender). It seems really simple, and lots of us can think that’s what communication is. Cause & effect.

I preach a message from the Bible, the most powerful text in the world, someone hears it and, ‘Bingo!’ (or maybe no more bingo, if you’re preaching that gambling is wrong).

Message sent (cause) —– Received (effect). I deliver it, you get it.

But anyone who’s ever done it knows there’s a lot more to it than that isn’t there? ‘There’s many a slip ‘twixt ear and lip.’ When you look out at people scratching, shifting, checking the time and yawning; the magic bullet isn’t doing its job. Maybe the gun’s misfiring, or the bullets are blanks?

Or perhaps its because you never took AIM?

Imagine walking through the woods and suddenly you hear the crack of a rifle, you hit the deck as branches snap around you. What the heck?!

Eventually you see there’s a hunter (at least he’d call himself one) wandering around firing indiscriminately until finally, mercifully, he runs out of bullets: You ask him what on earth he’s doing.

“Well, I know there are deer out here in these woods somewhere, I figured if I shoot out enough bullets in as many directions as poss, eventually I’ll hit one.”


Ever heard preaching like that?  It makes you want to run for cover.

Probably my favourite recent Christian book on preaching would be Communicating for a change, by Andy Stanley.

He starts off the book with a parable of a truck driver who helps a preacher get better;

Lesson 1? Ask where you want to go. Preaching is like a journey; you go somewhere and end up somewhere. ‘The question is do you end up where you wanted to – or just drive round willy-nilly?’

If you don’t have a destination – you’re just driving round! He suggests you DECIDE in advance where you’re headed. In driving and in preaching a clear destination is VITAL.

If I just go on about various things I’m thinking or learning – it can be interesting (parts of it, to me at least).

I heard a Pastor once talk about ‘Preaching the notices.’ Don’t take him literally! What he meant was there’s a way for your sermons to drive the whole church forward – highlighting a value the church needs to have magnified or clarified (eg servanthood) or the vision of the church and a call to get moving or sustain momentum together…taking everyone on the journey with you where they discover truth together.

So, when you get up to speak – can you tell me the destination? Have you got clarity on that?

Ready to Aim? If not – you’re Fired!

Blah Blah Blah Preaching


I once heard Andy Stanley say, “Our approach to preaching should be shaped by our GOAL in preaching.”

What’s your goal with this Sunday’s sermon? Why are you doing this? What do you want to accomplish? Someone can say, ‘This is my goal’ but did you ever come out and wonder – what was that ABOUT?

It was Stanley again who said that instead of DETERMINING our goal, many of us INHERITED a goal. (from our church, pastors, preachers, theological college etc). I’ve gone through all of these goals during my time as a speaker;

a) Teach the BIBLE to people

Here, the Bible comes before people; you’re so focused on digging into the content the listeners are secondary, listening in on your musings. Success in this scenario is, ‘I got through it, I covered the material, and nobody died before we finished.’

Some home group leaders are like that. I was, when I led one. If the notes were two pages long I hated not finishing and would cut off a meaningful pastoral conversation because we still had to fill in the blanks on John 3:16 (For God so loved the _______). Teaching the Bible like this requires no real wrestling with the text itself, little creativity, no application, no visuals so it’s remembered. You just have to know a little more information about the Bible than the people and line by line tell them what you found out, till your slot is over and we sing a hymn.

People do this with varying levels of success. I remember being told about a young preacher who was asked for feedback by the old church warden, he said ‘There were only three things wrong with that sermon. You read it. You read it in a boring voice. It wasn’t worth reading.’

b) Teach PEOPLE the Bible

This is a little more audience focused, you want them to really know the Bible, so its not as dry, you get some personality involved, 4 things that rhyme, even better if they rhyme in Greek and start with the same letter, maybe throw in an application at the end.

People like me who take copious notes love this kind of preaching! We go away with more of our Bible coloured in saying, ‘I’ve learned something deeeeep today, I bet the apostle Paul didn’t even know he meant that when he wrote it!’

One of the first churches I was a member of had a leader who was a master at this; we’d do six weeks on one verse in Romans. I remember him telling us about when Paul referred to barbarians it was because to the Jews that’s what all the other languages sounded like to them ‘Bar, Bar, Bar…’ I loved that fact. Wrote it down. Remembered it for 25 years so far. One day it might win me a pub quiz. But it’s unlikely to solve any of the problems of the world or even answer the questions of a hurting individual. You’re not meant to be Stephen Fry on QI.

It’s good to help people know the Bible of course – but Jesus had most problems from the people who’d memorised most of it, so maybe knowing more is not the BEST goal. It’s not the Bible you know that matters, it’s the Bible you apply.

James 1 says there’s a way to handle the Bible so it really works inside of a person. But there’s a way too of  just listening to more information when we haven’t a goal to change or apply it is blatant self deception. It can be as much use as someone saying ‘Blah, Blah, Blah.’

“Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourself – DO what it says.”

What does it SAY?

What should we DO? Don’t just parse the verbs. VERB the passage. Put it into action.

Anyone who chats through a Bible study, takes a page full of notes, gasps at the insights and knowledge, but does nothing about it in their life except, ‘That’s interesting, shall we discuss it a little further?’ is like a person who looks at themselves in the mirror and sees a huge bogey on their chin and goes ‘Arrrggghhh!!’ – then just gets on the bus and goes on with their day regardless.

You get no credit for looking in the mirror and knowing you’re a mess. What will you do? This is the difference between Greek and Hebrew thinking apparently. In the West we think we know because we know, but the Hebrew mindset says you show what you know by what you do.

James doesn’t say you’ll be blessed by what you KNOW. You can memorise 12 great principles of anointed marriage and still be instant messaging behind her back to that young girl in the office. It’s the same with money, parenting, or business. The blessing doesn’t come because I know. Or don’t.

It’s what I do. Or don’t.

There is no blessing in knowledge. The more we know about what God says and the less we do about it, the deeper our self deception.

And I know it’s all grace, but I can’t help tremble a little at the copious amount of words that I have written in my notebooks at those conferences and those churches, together with all the things I have taught as if I have known, but not done, will condemn me on that day when Jesus comes back.

20 years ago, George Bebawi told me, ‘Any knowledge that doesn’t help us love God or love people more, is useless.’

I’m up for the kind of knowing that gets us doing, but I love the way the King James puts this verse: ‘Knowledge puffeth up…’ LOVE is more important than knowledge. Thats’ a great goal for preaching, for us all to be loving more than knowing what agape means.

Together With People DO The Bible

There’s a lady in our church called Mavis. She has learning disabilities, and she is one of the most spiritually mature people I ever met. She always wants to love people. What she knows, is love. When the offering plate comes round, whatever she has in her purse goes in.What she knows, is generosity. She loves the people who help her, what she knows, is gratitude. She loves the worship. I’ve never heard her complain. I’ve often had a word of prophecy right from God through her when needed it. Often it sounds like a big smacking kiss on my cheek.

I want to grow more like her. I want Ivy to be more like Mavis. Because then we’ll all be more like Jesus.

Atomic Preaching #Bgbg2

I’m going to do a few blog posts around the vital area of preaching, which I think may incidentally help anyone who has to communicate in front of groups.

If I’m going to read anything, I’ll usually read something about leadership, or communicating, or Jack Reacher (but I’ve read all of those now so until Lee Child cranks out another I’ll read another book on preaching).

Communicating almost every week to large groups of people for years means I’ve grown and developed since I first recall standing up at the age of 14 in school.

I found myself in front of the class and electing to do a speech rather then present an essay. I wasn’t scared, I was excited. I loved the opportunity,  and half way through remember I felt something in that moment of ‘this is what I was made for,’ so – I joined the Police instead – until God put me on track with what he wanted me to do with my life and it ended up involving an awful lot of preaching and teaching.

That first speech was where I described to the class in graphic detail my research on ‘What Would Happen If A Nuclear Bomb Hit Manchester.’


Guess what – I had everyone’s attention! In those days everyone believed the Russians were ready to press the red button and we’d all end up obliterated or irradiated any day, so we listened to jazz funk at the school disco and tried to forget it. But the question was always there.


The first thing this first public speaking experience taught me was that you should aim at addressing the questions people are actually asking, rather than just imparting something you think is interesting.

A lot of preachers never get that. And if you haven’t got an aim – you should be fired.

Man, I’ve heard some boring sermons.

I came to faith partly as a result of hearing one great evangelistic sermon, by Eric Delve, but later when I first started regularly attending church I figured sermons were just something you just had to get through 95% of the time, perhaps because purgatory had been abolished.

One of the pulpit regulars was apparently a member of ‘The College of Preachers’, and he used to tell us so, but what he said each week was a disjointed collection of random thoughts of a faintly spiritual nature. Like listening to someone reading from various months off a Patience Strong calendar.

I thought that was preaching was, so I didn’t want to be a preacher.

I don’t know how he did it really, it must have been a very deep spirituality because I found it hard to read the Bible and not find that it had a point, it seemed very pointed to me, so I thought I couldn’t preach.

Sometimes preachers can have everything but a POINT!

Do you listen to your own talks?

Do you get regular feedback 1) from a cheerleader 2) from someone honest.

Did you have a point? Never mind three. Never mind three beginning with P.

Just a point.

Did you know what the sermon was meant to do?

If you didn’t, nobody else will guess.

We have to look at this because the church needs many more, better communicators. Why?

Because God has chosen the foolishness (I know it feels like it sometimes!) of preaching to move the gospel through culture. 

So preaching still matters. The reason so many churches have downgraded preaching is because so many people are doing a terrible job of it. And I know God can use it anyway, and looks at the heart and all that – but surely our strategy should not be that he works despite us?

Pick an aim – and press the button!

Where Are The Apostolic Leaders? #bgbg2

I was in online conversation today with friends as part of my mentoring group for the church planting network we are now part of, New Thing.

Dave and John Ferguson started off the huddle by talking about how we should be actively looking for and recruiting apostolic leaders, before helping us think about creating systems to train such leaders to plant reproducing churches.

I love that stuff, live and breathe it. Friends in the USA and some other nations seem to have this just thinking come naturally. It’s something of what we’ve been trying to do here at Ivy and I know others are doing similar things. It’s what I believe the church in the UK desperately needs. It’s why I have dared to believe I can try to be part of the solution in some small way during the time God gives me, so I’m starting to dream about helping form a network of reproducing churches across the nation – NewthingUK.

The question I pondered out loud this afternoon was whether we actually have much of a stock of such potential leaders for  starting and growing reproducing churches here in the UK?

What do you think?

I’d love to hear from some more, and I do relate to some, but I look around and don’t see too much of that love for the church combined with fire for winning the nation to Jesus, to be honest.

I do see people who start out with that fire having it doused over time. They’re ‘deradicalised’ to be able to fit into our existing paradigms of church leadership (incremental collaboration toward small dreams of little impact and the non rocking of boats), or giving up on church completely because it’s so caught up in questions nobody else is bothered about, becoming that emerging church that never quite emerges, or taking that entrepreneurial zeal and gifting to work away from sterile ecclesiastical settings for risk taking parachurch organisations daft enough to believe in them, or even using it to make new apps for more money, rather than making disciples for Jesus.

I’ve seen it in India, Africa, and Haiti but here in the UK I don’t see that many young leaders standing up and being counted saying, ‘I will do whatever it takes and make whatever sacrifices I have to, to grow into the leader God can make me, to make a huge difference in my generation, by growing great churches that change the world, one life at a time.’ 

And even when some do, I don’t often see those young leaders being raised up, apprenticed, mentored and given responsibility so they believe that’s a possibility not a pipe dream.

I hear a lot about why all of that is really important if the church is to have a future here, I just don’t see structures, priorities or budgets changing so it can happen. I see a lot of playing it safe – the most dangerous thing to do.

My concern was heightened by the recent report following the 18 month study into the CofE I have recently blogged about.

I am always part of the wider church, while leading a small ‘non-denom’ network of churches and my heart for the CofE comes as a still ordained and licensed but often befuddled prayerful onlooker to the vagaries of the established church.

The report raises concerns for me because of course it speaks to that wider church in the UK too; though the way it was reported seemed to indicate it does not disturb the authors or the Church Commissioners, as they publicly highlighted the good news (of which there was little – 18% of churches grew), while the troubling (54% ‘remained stable’ i.e. plateaued, and 27% declined) is very politely brushed over. Try doing that with a business report and see what happens.

I was just getting over the report when Peter Brierley’s Future First newsletter  for this month tore the scab off yesterday, summarising the report on its front page with the cheery title Anglican Church Growth.

The section on Leadership reports:

‘Growth comes from a) having specific skills and qualities (those who motivate, energise, innovate) – no doubt confirmed by the Depart of the Obvious

and b) an intention to grow…only 13% of clergy said they had an intention to grow numerically.”

Hang on. I can’t have read that right?

“Only 13% of clergy said they had an intention to grow numerically.” 

Yes but didn’t Jesus say ‘Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations’?

“Only 13% of clergy said they had an intention to grow numerically.”

But aren’t at least some of them getting paid for their ‘work’?

“Only 13% of clergy said they had an intention to grow numerically.”

If you’re going to be a robber, at least put a mask on.

And while 82% didn’t, 18% of churches grew.

Ah! Now I see why that is slightly encouraging.


Because it means that 5% of those churches grew DESPITE their leader not wanting them to (because more people of course just means more hassle. If we add people I can’t get on with my stamp collection and deliberating over where we can get the cheapest custard creams for the deanery synod meeting)!

So if you’re in a church where the one who is called its leader seems to be doing his or her best to help it slowly die, maybe there is still hope.


Mark 2:22And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.”


How Grace Works #Bgbg2

Sometimes grace can be a great antidote to legalism and preaching morality. It’s a great way to grow a church to just say  ‘God loves you as you are, so stay the same.’ But that’s not real grace.

1 Cor 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

Paul effectively says ‘I am who I am by grace BUT… I worked.

BUT grace was working in me

It wasn’t me working – it was grace.

There’s an apparent contradiction, it really it’s a both/and

Grace is not a licence to do wrong but the power to do right.

Works don’t lead to grace; that’s legalism

But grace causes us to work.

We have to fundamentally understand grace because God not need your good works, but the world does.

You could never do anything to earn it, but when you get it – you are motivated by it.

And God will give me grace upon grace, not so I continue in sin, but continue in his power.

(from today’s devotional thought at @leadnet retreat)