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oscarmuriuglsOscar Muriu is the Senior Pastor at Nairobi Chapel, Kenya and a passionate proponent for the raising up of young leaders. He was one of the most provocative speakers at the GLS conference this year, bringing a straightforward message that will have been difficult for many to hear. I doubt many leaders went away saying ‘I really must put that into practice next week’. This was hard teaching.

He presented his five convictions of viral leadership:

1. The size of the harvest depends on how many harvesters you have (Matt 9.37-38).

These harvesters are leaders who need raising up. Jesus didn’t leap into the field and spend all his energy harvesting – his strategy was to invest his time in 12 disciples. The first thing he did was find his leaders and grow them. ‘Who will continue your work?’ he asked us. If you want to measure the impact of your life, ask yourself this: how many young leaders are you growing? A wise question and a challenging one  – am I investing in younger leaders?

2. Live for the next generation (Ps 71.18).

His challenge to us was to pour out our lives for the next generation, not our own, and by this he meant those 20 years our junior. This is certainly seek-first-my-kingdom stuff, and the challenge to selflessly live for a time to come was one of the most difficult of the conference.

3. Find your 70. (Num 11.10-17.18)

His point from Moses’ story was that the 70 leaders were already there, because he appointed them all in one day. He challenged us to find the budding leaders who are right under our noses, to recognise potential and train it.

4. Instil the ‘five loves’ (Mark 12.30-33).

Remember these? Heart, soul, mind, strength, neighbour… Love God, love your neighbour – everything is summed up in this! He pointed to these five loves as a model for teaching young leaders: (a) Heart – character; (b) Soul – conviction; (c) Mind – comprehension; (d) Strength – competence; (e) Neighbour – compassion.  Nothing revolutionary here, but a excellent framework!

5. Never do ministry alone (Acts 4.13).

His challenge was to always have budding leaders around, in every part of ministry, at every opportunity. If you’re doing ministry alone, he suggested, it’s a wasted opportunity for teaching. This was the advice I thought most leaders would find the hardest to implement. It’s such a wise idea, but I can see plenty of concerns being raised about privacy and so on. However, people are happy to accept this same approach in a teaching hospital: younger doctors always around, listening and learning, offering suggestions, trying things out. What is so different about spiritual ministry?

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This is the first of a series of posts on the Global Leadership Summit that I attended in Newcastle recently. Even compared to the usual high quality of these conferences, this was an excellent year. We heard huge amounts of high quality content – teaching, encouragement and exhortation – over this two days. Blogging the sessions is a useful way to process everything.

Bill Hybels opened up the conference with a call for leaders to have courage.

Be strong and courageous. Don’t be fearful or discouraged, because the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1.9

Bill-Hybels-GLS-2013Courage to pursue the vision that God has given you; courage to face reality; courage to build a healthy culture in an organisation; courage to establish values; courage in the face of pressures; courage to finish strong. Be strong and courageous!

How many visions never make it off the starting block because of a leader’s fear? Our cowardice adds to the world’s suffering.

How many organisations suffer because the leader cannot face reality? Or let fear keep them from apologising, from modelling humility, repentance and forgiveness? How many leaders let caution and fear hold them back in championing values? And how many hurt their own organisations by not facing up to the succession question, or fearing reinvention? Be strong and courageous!

Typically excellent stuff from Bill Hybels, with plenty of practical encouragement (although his personal examples are always on a totally different scale!). This was a powerful reminder that courage is not an optional extra for a leader. As he says, courage correlates to every component of leadership. ‘Pastor Bill’ talked a lot about his need to declare the ‘Joshua prayer’ to himself – and to keep doing so – at many points during his years in ministry. Bill is a favourite speaker of mine, not least for his passion and total commitment to the significance of the local church. This is a man who loves Jesus and loves his church, and in listening to him I never fail to be encouraged and emboldened – both as a leader and a disciple. Be strong and courageous! Don’t be fearful or discouraged, because the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. 

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James Lawrence has joined my ‘list’ of people I’d love to spend more time learning from.

James works for CPAS as the Director of the Arrow Leadership Programme. He was up in the North East on Tuesday, speaking at the Christian Leaders’ Forum.

James is one of the most effective communicators I have ever heard. I scribbled madly in my notebook all the way through, struggling to make notes of his ideas, quotes and general wisdom about leadership, while at the same time being in awe of his skill at teaching and sheer communication ability and energy. He has a huge amount of experience and wisdom about church leadership – particularly on the subject of growing leaders, which is one of his big passions. He is obviously very well read and up-to-date with current ideas and books (even I recognised one or two!) but it’s clear he has worked hard to create explicitly Biblical models.

His focus on Tuesday was on growing leaders, the why, who and what. He challenged us on the fact that growing leaders is essential to deal with our fast-changing culture, as well as the sheer scale of the missionary challenge that faces us. We didn’t need much persuading! He quoted from Bill Hybels:

There is no success with succession.

What sort of leadership is required?

  1. Leaders who understand the difference between leadership and ministry
    Ministry – serves the needs of people
    Leadership – directs, influences or facilitates ministry by others
    As the size of the church grows, the ‘minister’ need to exercise leadership rather than ministry, otherwise the church hits a barrier.
  2. Leaders who model themselves on Christ
    From John 10.1-18 – I’ll say more about this below
  3. Leaders who commit to working with others in leadership
    – and who understand the necessity both theologically and pragmatically.
    When we lead on our own we deny something fundamental about the nature of the church (body), and ultimately about God (trinity).

The idea that most struck me in this first session was the model he drew from John 10 to express what leadership modelled on Christ looks like.

  • Firstly, Jesus is the Good (competent) Shepherd. He (a) Leads his flock with a purpose – to pasture, safety and water (10.4); (b) Knows the sheep by name and cares for them (10.3); (c) Is also looking to add to his flock (10.16).
  • Secondly, Jesus is also a Sheep, in that he is himself led by his Father (10.15,18 also 5.19). Discipleship always comes before leadership.

    If we’re not being led, we’re not safe to follow.

  • Lastly, Jesus is the Sacrificial Lamb (10.15). His leadership is about serving and sacrifice, not power. We must be aware of the cost of leadership. Are we prepared to be vulnerable in our leadership and allow ourselves to be hurt? Are we naive about the cost?

Next, he went on to talk about How we Grow Leaders (post coming soon).

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A few weeks ago we read a fascinating article in my Hermeneutics MA module by Kevin Giles: ‘The Biblical Argument for Slavery: Can the Bible Mislead? A Case Study in Hermeneutics‘ EQ 66:1 (1994). In this very provocative article, Giles draws a parallel between the way the Bible has (previously) been interpreted with regard to slavery, and the way it is interpreted by those teaching the subordination of women in the home and in the church. I didn’t agree with everything in this article, but I thought it might provoke some good discussions!

In summing up he gives the following three options in evaluating ‘the Biblical case for slavery’:

1. “Those evangelicals who supported slavery with such fervour last century were mistaken in their interpretation of the Scriptures. … If this is the case…it is admitted that the most learned and devout of conservative evangelicals can seriously err in interpreting Scripture.”

2. “Those evangelicals who supported slavery, quoting the Bible in support, were right. … The word of God should be our standard, not modern ideas of equality, social justice, or personal rights.”

3. “Those evangelicals who supported slavery by appealing to the Bible were basically correct in their exegesis of the passages to which they referred but wrong in their doctrine of the Bible, in viewing it as a timeless set of oracles without historical conditioning; in concentrating only on those texts which seemed to support their beliefs, and in believing that every word of Scripture has to be obeyed whatever the situation.”

– Keep in mind that this was published in Evangelical Quarterly!

You can see where he’s going with this, can’t you?  And if that isn’t provocative enough, he goes further:

“These men appeared to the Bible as if it were a set of timeless oracles or propositions not recognising that in fact it reflected the culture of its authors and their presuppositions at least to some degree…failed to note that on most issues addressed by the Bible various answers are given to complex questions… In regard to slavery and the subordination of women the truth of the matter is that while the Bible supports both at one level, at another level there is a critique of both these oppressive structures. There is within Scripture great principles laid down clearly…which point beyond the advice given to particular people at particular times on these matters.”

And further:

“The biblical case for slavery is the counterpart of the case for the subordination of women, the only difference being that the case for slavery has far more weighty biblical support. …the internal biblical critique of slavery is less profound than that against the subordination of women.” [he goes on to explain…]

And he concludes:

“One final tantalising question: in a hundred years time will the spiritual heirs of those who now insist on the permanent subordination of women in the home and the church argue that such an idea simply cannot be supported from the Bible?”

If anyone wants to read the full article, I’m happy to lend it to anyone within reaching distance…

[I recall that I’ve previously reflected on some questions from feminist hermeneutics.]

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I’ve just finished reading John Burke’s book ‘No Perfect People Allowed‘. I came across John at the Global Leadership Summit 2008 I attended last weekend and was inspired to buy his book. I’m glad I did. Refreshing and inspiring; thoroughly recommended.

John Burke and his wife, Kathy, founded Gateway Church in Austin, Texas, in 1998. Since then, Gateway has grown to over 3,000 people, 70 percent of whom are in their twenties and thirties, and consists mostly of unchurched people who began actively following Christ at Gateway.” (From Zondervan website)

‘No Perfect People Allowed’ has been been a pleasure and a challenge to read. I have a small pile of books I’m half-way through right now, and all are good and inspiring, but the sheer number of stories scattered throughout this book has kept me reading it to the end. I’m a sucker for stories! (I recently cried my way through the stories in the Alpha handbook on a low day…but that’s another story!)

John’s church, Gateway, prints this notice in their weekly service sheet:

Come as you are… You don’t have to dress up. You don’t have to be any particular age. We couldn’t care less who you voted for in the last election. And please, don’t feel the need to pretend about anything. Gateway Community Church is a place where God meets seeking people who are far from perfect. That means anyone is welcome, no matter where you are on your spiritual journey. So learn at your own pace. Ask questions. Seek. We believe you’ll find what you’re looking for. You’ll learn how to relate to God. You’ll experience Christian community. And here’s the big thing — you will change. Join us as we seek God together. Just com as you are.

In this book, subtitled ‘Creating a Come as You Are culture in the Church’, John discusses the challenges of the postmodern, post-Christian world, explaining the issues that mission to the ‘emerging‘ generation must struggle with and how Gateway has sought to address these. He puts these under five headings:

  • The Struggle with Trust
  • The Struggle with Tolerance
  • The Struggle with Truth
  • The Struggle with Brokenness
  • The Struggle with Aloneness

There is something so ‘right‘ about the way he describes how the church must respond to these challenges, to reach out to broken people and draw them into loving community and relationship with God. This may be old news, but we all need to be reminded again and again what the church is really about and to be inspired again that God’s message to the world is good news for broken people.

Do we believe that we have a message that ordinary, sinful, struggling people would see as good news for them if they only understood it?

I believe the problem comes from our wrong perception of the goodness of God. The church often fails to accurately portray his compassion for hurting, broken, sinful people. Creating a culture of hope in which God can heal our broken generation starts with the leader’s view of God. …

Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of his day because they had an inaccurate perception of God and no compassion for broken people. The focused on teaching people how to conform by outwardly making sacrifices. They taught extensively about not breaking God’s laws… and yet Jesus rebuked them saying, “You load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” He also said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

God’s love and mercy for a hurting, broken world is indescribable. But if we don’t work hard at describing and demonstrating it, people won’t believe it.

(‘No Perfect People Allowed’, p.208, my emphasis)

This is Gateway’s story, setting out how they responded to the challenges of their city and culture in Austin, Texas, and their specific response clearly reflects an American story as well. In Western Europe we are much further down the ‘post-Christendom’ path and the church has a correspondingly harder task ahead. It seems as if in the US, however postmodern the surrounding culture, the church is still on the radar for most people. In Europe, this is no longer the case for most people (see Tearfund’s report ‘Churchgoing in the UK‘ – pdf). But the struggles John Burke describes, the results of the ‘Postmodern Experiment’ (as he calls it), are still the same. I was inspired to hear Gateway’s story and to follow John’s example in modelling a ‘come as you are’ culture, displaying the reality of God’s grace at work in his own life as he leads others.

Here is how John ends the introductory chapter:

As you can see, the challenge for the church of the twenty-first century has very little to do with the type of music or weekly service or drama or art or candles or coffee we serve. These things are important and may attract people initially, but they will never keep people connected and growing in a faith community. The challenges ahead of us has to do with biblical priorities for the church, functioning as Christ re-presented in community. Only then will we help people overcome their struggles with Trust, Tolerance, Truth, Brokenness, and Aloneness.

(p.47, my emphasis)

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May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitations of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

From a Franciscan Benediction, quoted by Craig Groeschel at the Global Leadership Summit, and also in his book ‘It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get It and Keep It‘.

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Craig Groeschel is the founder and senior pastor of LifeChurch.tv, a church with thirteen ‘campuses’ in six states (video introduction below!). He spoke at session 5 at the Global Leadership Summit, which I attended last week.

He’s written a book called ‘It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get It and Keep It‘ and in this session he explained that although he doesn’t know what ‘IT‘ is, he’s seen enough of this transformational force at work to have some clues about what’s necessary in order to get It.

Here are my notes from his talk at the Leadership Summit:

Having a laser focus
He asked us: what can you be the very best at? How are you going to reach people that no one else is reaching?

To reach people no one is reaching, you’ll have to do things no one is doing – but to do things that no one is doing, you can’t do what everyone is doing!

He asked us to look at our ministries and to ask, what is actually effective at making disciples?
What do we need to stop doing?

Seeing opportunities where others see obstacles
He encouraged us to see the potential in who we are and where we are.

You have everything you need to do what God wants you to do.

He asked us, what is God trying to show you through your greatest limitation?

Being willing to fail
He emphasised that having courage to take risks and not being afraid to make mistakes is crucial. Failure is the first step in recognising God, in seeing his grace and power at work.
We have to be willing to ‘shake off’ failure and ‘step up’ when God calls us.
He asked us, what has God called you to do that you’re afraid to attempt?

Leaders who have It
He emphasised that in order for the ministry to have It, the leader must have It.
He described the way that he lost it in his own ministry when it stopped being about building God’s kingdom and was more about building his church. He became ‘a full-time pastor and a part-time follower of Christ’.
He challenged us to fall in love with Jesus again.

[Read a fuller summary of his talk here or here.]

our goal is to disarm people and confront them with the truth of the Gospel…

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