The London Men’s Convention – Reflections

It’s been a couple of weeks now. I’ve recovered. I feel I can be objective now that there’s some distance from the event and I’ve started sleeping again properly! It’s time for some reflections of this years’ London Men’s Convention.

I’m not an impartial judge. My objectivity is hopelessly compromised by my involvement on the organising committee (though it’s worth saying that no one ever listens to me and if I had the reins it’d look very different – but nobody would probably come). I also hosted the day. And together with Tim Thornborough we cajoled those without the requisite strength of character to say ‘no’ to contribute to the LMC book ‘The Big Fight’. I bear some responsibility for what we did and how we did it. But mainly it’s Stephen Fletcher’s fault. And the others’!

I don’t have to be involved. It’s not part of my Co-Mission job spec. It’s a big time commitment. And my life would be easier if I wasn’t. But I’m happy to be a part of it because I reckon it’s valuable. I think that, for the last ten years, the London Men’s Convention has served the churches of London and the South East. And presumably, since people keep coming back year after year, others think so too.

Speaking now as a small church pastor, the LMC offers our guys things that we cannot offer them at Christ Church Balham. None of these things are essential. We can do church and be church without them. But they are beneficial. And I’m keen for our men to benefit.

Principally, the LMC provides a big event feel. That was perhaps less obvious this year with our cost cutting move to the Westminster Chapel. It’s felt more convention and less ‘intimate’ at the ExCel Centre and the Royal Albert Hall. But we still had over 1,300 men present at each ’bout’. That dwarfs the average weekly attendance of every single evangelical church in London that I’m aware of. And the scale of the event enables us to offer things that otherwise most Christian men wouldn’t get. Here are some of them.

1. Guys get to sit in a sizeable crowd of people who share the same convictions as them. They get to look around at others who are pouring over the scriptures, listening intently to an explanation of God’s word and taking notes to help remember what’s been said. That counts for something. And then they can turn to the person sat next to them and talk about what they’ve heard. They can go and grab a bite to eat and chew  over what’s been said from the front with a crowd of like-minded friends who’ve all experienced the same thing. They can travel back to their homes together and continue to debate what changes need to be made in their own lives or what’s encouraged them to persevere in Christ’s service. The size of the event seems to encourage guys to take what’s said more seriously than we otherwise might. There’s a buzz and a vibe that helps concentrate. And it presents an opportunity for guys to make decisions, to resolve to be different and to make themselves accountable to others that can help them. And that’s not nothing!

2. Andy Fenton can recruit a fabulous band to provide a level of musical expertise most congregations can’t manage (for the record, we come close at CCB – this may save me some awkward conversations!). But the music was fabulous. Inadvertently I was the focal point of the singing. Standing underneath the projector screen meant that I was met by a wall of sound. And it was incredible. And as one or two others observed, it was so encouraging to hear blokes singing God’s praises at the tops of their voices. On more than one occasion I wanted to bring out the worshipful air guitar. But, worried that I may never live it down, it sadly remained in its case.

Look at the size of that clock - not that it made any difference to the timekeeping throughout the day!

3. We can persuade speakers with a gift for preaching to men or with an area of expertise to come and address us. There’s a reason that the likes of Al Stewart, Richard Coekin (not to mention Tim Keller, Rico Tice, Vaughan Roberts, Mark Driscoll, Phillip Jensen and others) are flown around the world and I’m not. And it has to do with the gifts that God has given them and the use to which they’ve put them. They are very capable speakers. And they’re much in demand. At the LMC we can ensure that lots of guys gain access to their gifts of teaching the scriptures. With Al we got a bloke who’s brilliant at speaking straightforwardly to men. His two talks on the world and then flesh were accessible, helpful and enjoyable. He made one or two really profound points that have stuck with me. His point about the transition from boyhood to manhood having to do with caring for others being one. For my money we needed more on how we fight the influence of the flesh in our lives. I think there’s more to be said than we need to exercise self-discipline. Richard’s talk on the Devil was incredible. He managed to compress three talks he’d given at Dundonald into one. And it felt like it! I think he probably wanted it to be the definitive talk for the evangelical constituency on the Devil . It was certainly exhaustive. And having sat through it twice I can tell you it was also exhausting. But it was brilliant. If you only ever listen to one talk on the work of Satan, this should be it. Though you might want to listen to it on half speed! But it is a thorough and comprehensive biblical treatment of an issue on which there is much confusion. He’s done us a great service through his work in preparation.

There was lots we got right this year (cost, music, theme, videos and vibe). There were a few things we got wrong. And there were a few things we could do nothing about (the location of the ‘nearby’ cafes, the temperature and discomfort of the seating arrangements in the upper tiers and the stench from the inadequate number of toilets). But overall, I think it was a winner. By the grace of God. And Stephen Fletcher.


4 thoughts on “The London Men’s Convention – Reflections

  1. Phil April 3, 2012 / 10:02 am

    I enjoyed it and got a lot out of it, which says more about me than the event I think, given that the LMC has been pretty consistent in form and content over the years.

    I liked the book too, especially the testimonies, though I felt each chapter was only really scratching the surface of the topic at hand. Perhaps you could commission an author to write a whole book, rather than get people to write a series of disconnected chapters? I’m sure the Good Book Company could work something out!

    • theurbanpastor April 3, 2012 / 4:49 pm

      Thanks Phil
      Glad you enjoyed it.

      We made an editorial call on the type of book we would try and commission. We felt we could only really scratch the surface if we were going to get the majority of guys to read it. If we went for something significantly bigger then a few keen beans might plough their way through it. But the majority of blokes aren’t readers. And so rather than produce a hoofing tome we went for something a little lighter in feel.

      However, te recommendations at the end of each chapter sendare there to people to places where they can read further, if they want to.

      The connectedness of the chapters arises out of the fact that these are areas in which men typically struggle to be godly. They book is coherent because these are the issues with which men are fighting. Having said that, we’re keen to have another swing at the book. It was produced with tight time constraints and we reckon that with a bit more time all of us who contributed could improve upon what we’ve written.


      • Phil April 4, 2012 / 9:32 am

        I wasn’t asking for something bigger or less accessible! I just think there might be value in getting one person to write a book rather than a load of people.

        Is there a theme for next year yet? How about something on money? There could be talks about treasure on earth, treasure in heaven, and you could tie it in with supporting something like CAP. Though that idea isn’t for men in particular, I guess.

      • theurbanpastor April 4, 2012 / 9:52 am

        In fairness, you implicitly asked for something that did more than scratch the surface. How do you propose doing that without making it longer and more involved!
        The one author idea is a possibility, though quite a big ask for one person. The advantage of the many authors approach is that it spreads the load. It also allows different people the opportunity to contribute and get a taste for writing. And readers may warm to one man’s style more than another and so the odds are that they’ll find a style they like if many people contribute! If we were to go down the one author route, wWe’d have to make decisions about topics and so on much further ahead. But that would not be a bad thing!
        Thanks for the idea about money.

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