Church Planting Conference

415734Just spoken to a mate who’s involved in church planting in Oxford. I invited him to ‘Planting for Christ’. Despite being an old Co-Mission boy, he didn’t know anything about it. To be fair, he’s been in the States for the last few years. And so I thought it’s probably worth a quick post so that people are aware it’s happening.

In my view this is a conference worth attending. Not all of them are. Don’t make me name names. As conferences go for usefulness, it’s up there with the administrators’ conference. It’s church planting specific. And its distinctive is the desire to be practical. That’ll probably be no more in evidence than in Richard Coekin’s seminar, which is an unplugged Q&A clinic. It’s entitled ‘Get going … in planning your plan’. Basically Richard will respond to  questions posed by delegates on church planting specifics. I can’t imagine that it’ll be recorded. It probably shouldn’t be because it won’t be characterised by nuanc; few things he says will die the death of a thousand qualifications. He won’t always be right. Irritatingly for those of us who work closely with him, he often is. But even when he’s not, he’s hugely stimulating and encouraging. That hour-long session is probably worth the admittance price alone.

Then there are two plenary sessions. I’m speaking on ‘What constitutes ‘success’ in planting?’ Because I’m so familiar with it, obviously! And Andy Patterson, the FIEC Yoda of Church Planting, will be looking at the issue of sustainable sacrifice in ministry. That’s a burning question amongst planters who feel like we’re involved in the spiritual equivalent of starting up our own business. You’re not. And you tell yourself you’re not. But you still think it.

The seminars before lunch are entitled ‘Get Going’. They’re to do with starting up plants. Reuben Hunter will reflect on his experience in planting Trinity West in Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush, in the seminar ‘Get going … in a big city’. Pete Woodcock, from Cornerstone Kingston together with Simon Martin from King’s Church Walton on Thames will talk about church planting in the suburbs. And Jason Roach of the Bridge Battersea and Graham Miller the Director of London City Mission will talk about getting going in a UPA.

After lunch the seminars are entitled ‘Keep Going’ and they’re to do with maintaining spiritual health. Andrew Nicholls, now on the staff at Dundonald as the Biblical Counselling guru, will deal with our marriages and the stresses placed on them by the demands of church planting. Jeremy Hobson, who’s led the St Helen’s Church Plant, Trinity Islington for the past few years, will talk about maintaining our own spiritual disciplines and devotion for the Lord Jesus Christ. Neil Powell will talk about keeping going despite the financial pressures. Neil is involved with Birmingham 2020, a church planting initiative in the country’s second city. He’s also the senior pastor of City Church. Andy Mason, who runs a ministry on a large UPA estate off the King’s Church, St John’s Chelsea will talk about perservering through the inevitable disappointments of gospel ministry.

I’m a big fan of this conference. I don’t think you need to be involved in church planting to find it useful. But the particular demands of church planting bring the issues that all of us in full-time gospel ministry face into sharp focus, perhaps with an increased intensity. You can find details of the conference here. It’s held at the Factory in Raynes Park (a suburb of  Wimbledon). And at £15 it’s a bargain.

 

Dead and Buried – The London Men’s Convention

2014LMCflyerfront_001The London Men’s Convention is going to be killed off this year. In its present form. But it’s due to rise again in a new and more glorious form.

I can still remember the excitement on the evening before eth first ever LMC. I was at Oak Hill Theological College wheer I was studying. I was having a BBQ with Tim Chapman and a whole load of others who’d gathered. Phillip Jensen was due to speak at Westminster Central Hall on the subject of biblical manhood. I’d never been to anything especially for Christian blokes on this scale. And it didn’t disappoint. And it’s been an indispensible resource in Christian ministry to men over the past decade. So it’s with some sadness that I’ll preside (as a session leader) over the burial of this great conference.

Here’s the official blurb sent out from Stephen Fletcher’s laptop this very morning.

This year’s event, on Saturday April 26, will be the last LMC of its kind – so come and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus – and what the London Men’s Convention will become!

Convention Chairman Richard Coekin explains, “Since 2002 we’ve heard the greatest truths of scripture proclaimed by some of the most gifted preachers of our generation to men from all over London and beyond – and we’ve burst our lungs in praise of our God in some of the premier venues of our city – many men have been saved – all have been encouraged to serve Christ full throttle at home, at church, at work and at play. Bookings are coming in well but after 2014 it will be time for a change – so come for one last time to celebrate the passing of the old and the rising of the new…to celebrate the grace of God in the resurrection of our beloved Saviour and in the London Men’s Convention as we look back with fond memories and look forward with fresh resurrection hope – DON’T MISS THIS LAST LMC OF ITS KIND!“

Thank you to those who have already booked – we look forward to sharing the day with you!  If you haven’t yet bought tickets, we’d love to see you on this very special occasion.  Tickets can be purchased here.  Further details of the day can be found across the website.  It would be wonderful to see Central Hall Westminster full at both sessions (Early  – 10am, Late – 4pm) with men celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, and His goodness over the years to LMC.  And yes, just to clarify one thing that a few have asked about: we are at Central Hall Westminster, and not Westminster Chapel where we were in 2012 and 2013!

We look forward to seeing you on April 26!

As a committee member, I’ve been involved in some of the discussions about the future of the LMC. Watch this space for more details in due course.

 

Exposed

2014-03-26 20.11.19I’m really proud of our mission. In a good way, not an unattractive arrogant full of our own brilliance sort of a way. I just thought it was gutsy. We only did two things, which was realistic given the busyness of London life and the size of our church family. And both of them were gospel talks. We didn’t try to piggy back the gospel on an otherwise entertaining event. Of course, there’s always a place for other types of events. We need a ‘mixed economy’ so that we make it easy for friends to access the gospel at an event they’re likely to attend. And if that means running a wine tasting or asking a group of lumberjacks to do their thing, then so be it (more of that in a later post). We want people to hear the brilliant news of Jesus Christ. And so we’ll put on all sorts of events that encourage people to come and church members to invite their friends.

What was so great about these two talks is that they did what they said on the tin. We said we’d address the issue of whether there was a God and why we should care. And we said that we’d address the issue of only having one life and being careful not to waste it. And we did. We had a half hour talk at each evening. And then we invited peopel to submit questions on paper or to text them in to the church mobile. And then I gave people the opportunity to comment or question things from the floor. There was a great atmosphere and more importantly there seemed to be serious engagement with the issues that had been raised.  Lots of conversations continued up until last orders.

In my opinion our guest speaker, Martin Ayers, did a tremendous job in both talks. And he was exceptional in question time. He’s on the staff team at All Saints Preston (who must be delighted to have him supplementing the Vicar, Daf Meririon-Jones for the three years of his curacy). And Martin’s the author of ‘Naked God: The Truth About God Exposed‘. It’s a great read (although every time I write these words on a computer our accounatbility software sends an e-mail alert to a couple of ‘partners’).

We held the talks in the Wheatsheaf, opposite Tooting Bec tube. The function room at the back is a fabulous space with a makeshift stage constructed from milk crates and a playwood sheet. The ales on tap were also terrific (try the Otter when you get a moment). Both evenings were well attended. Wednesday evening in particular was rammed. And there were good numbers of guests at both. About twenty non-Christians heard the gospel. And they could not have failed to engage with the issues. They were evenings to be proud of.

The truth is that we probably got fewer along to these events than we will with the forthcoming Axeman, Beer and Hog Roast evening. But the few got more to interact with. And so, do you go for more with fewer or less with more? It’s a trade off, isn’t it? I’m pleased that this time we went for more with fewer. Because perhaps it’ll mean that the fewer will go further.

London Men’s Convention

2014LMCflyerfront_001The promotional materials for this year’s London Men’s Convention are now available.

The theme for this year is Resurrection. Writing in the flier, the Convention Chairman, Richard Coekin  says (and the capitals are original)

He’s ALIVE! Jesus is alive today! He’s dealt with our sins! He’s ruling in heaven right now! He’s coming back soon to judge! He’ll resurrect the creation! Our resurrection is guaranteed by his! And much more… This is HUGE! The resurrection of Jesus is MASSIVE. It was absolutely central in the preaching of the early church. But…It’s NEGLECTED!Jesus’ resurrection is unknown to most of London today and often  undervalued in our churches…

And so the conference theme this year is dedicated to rediscovering and celebrating the glory of Jesus’ resurrection and ours in the Bible. There’ll be an emphasis on learning how it transforms and challenges our lives, our witness, our work and our involvement in our communities.

The speaker line up includes Vaughan Roberts and Graham Daniels on main stage. And the three seminars are being run by Mark Greene from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, Pete Woodcock, Lead Pastor at Cornesrtone Church, Kingston and Dan Strange, lecturer at Oak Hill Theological College. That’s a terrific line up, especially given the subject matters that they’ll be addressing. Mark’s speaking on how the resurrection shapes our working lives. Pete’s thinking about the evangelistic implications of the resurrection. And Dan’s on the resurrection impact on our involvement in society.

It’s taking place at Westminster Central Hall on Saturaday April 26th. The convention is repeating the pattern of early and late slots to accommodate the demand. Booking information can be found here.

7 Lessons from our Pub Carols

Christmas AdvertWe’ve been doing the pub carols at the Bedford for almost a decade now. It’s probably the highlight of the term. It’s certainly a fitting conclusion to the calendar year and puts everyone in a festive frame of mind for Christmas.

This year we had two start times. One at 6pm and the other at 8pm. We had about two hundred people at each. The earlier slot attracted a handful of families with younger children. The later one was almost exclusively young adults. We’re upstairs in a large function room which is dark and decorated. The band play carols in a rock genre. We tend to have eight truncated arrangements interspersed with readings, adverts for church and a talk. It’s not for everyone but it is for us. And it’s clearly for others.

This is a list of the lessons that I’ve learnt over the years from speaking at the event.

1. You need to open with something that puts everyone totally at ease. The words ‘Richard Perkins, the Senior Minister at CCB, is now going to speak’ are a rude intrusion into a colourful carol event. People want to sing Christmas. They don’t want to hear about it. They came for the carols. They weren’t expecting a sermon. So don’t give them one. Give them a talk. But right at the start show them that’s it’s going to be quite unlike whatever they were expecting.

2. You need to be brief. I aim for fifteen minutes. Last year I got away with twenty five. When I say ‘got away with’ what I mean is that no one complained at the time. Apart from a few of the congregation. And the staff! They were probably right. Fifteen is just about right. You can barely do anything worthwhile in ten. You don’t need to have all the ‘what to do if you’re interested’ stuff in your talk. Get the person who’s leading the ‘service’ to say all that towards the end.

3. You need to be humourous. Not necessarily belly laughs but certainly witty. From the moment you stand up, you’re working against the clock. And so your talk is the closest thing you’ll probably ever come to stand up. But those laughs allow you to speak for a little bit longer. It’s gets the crowd onside. If you have to choose between laughing and listening, go for listening. But aim for both. At 6pm this year we got both. Wierdly, at 8pm it was only listening. I gave exactly the same talk but it got a very different response. I felt a little as though my talk had taken the fun out of Christmas. It was therefore helpful to have an ‘upbeat’ host and two rousing carols to come afterwards. 

4. You need to get enough laughs in the bank so that by the time you want to talk about the spiritually serious stuff, they’re prepared to listen. It helps to know your own limitations and not to try to exceed them! And so you may not be the best person to speak at the carols. Don’t ask the staff what they think. They’re too loyal. Ask your staff what the congregation say. After all, they’re the ones doing the inviting and they need confidence in the speaker if they’re going to bring their friends along. 

5. You need to park your expository inclinations. I can still remember with some discomfort my efforts one year to expound the Magnificat. What was I thinking? It gave me a chance to open with some ‘Christmas Number Ones’ trivia. But even so! I’m told that the best pub carols talk I ever gave was on John 3:16 and I explained what that verse taught us about God’s love. It was simple and clear. It explained the text. But it wasn’t strictly expository in that I didn’t spend any time at all putting it in context. My best pub talks are those where I’m not overly ambitious in what I’m trying to do. Less is invariably more.

6. You need to explain the gospel. And that includes the unpopular bits like sin and judgement. After all what does it mean that Jesus is our Saviour? What did he save us from? What did he save us for? How did he save us? Why can’t we save ourselves? To merely state that Jesus is our saviour and think that we’ve somehow done our job is laughable. We may cop some flak for what some see as the negative aspects of the Christian faith. But why would I need a saviour unless I’m convinced that I need saving. In dependence on the Spirit, we’re trying to persuade people that they’re sinners in need of a saviour and that Jesus is a saviour for sinners. Not everyone will like it. And not everyone will thank you for it. One Christian lady this year (not from our church) told me in no uncertain terms that she wouldn’t have done what I did in the way that I did it. She may have been right. But the well taught Christians will know that the gospel includes the Lord’s judgment on our sin (e.g. Revelation 14:6&7, Romans 2:16). And they’ll thank you for courageously and carefully explaining what we all need to hear. And what they brought their friends to hear; namely the whole gospel. Because without the bad news, the good news is just a little bit worse. 

7. You need to ramp back your expectations for follow-up. It’s unlikely that the Lord will bring anyone to conversion through that one talk. Though He could. But you’re more likely to disavow people of the misconception that Christianity is irrational toshIn our experience very little of what happens at the Pub Carols has any impact in January at church. Rarely do people sign up for Christianity Explored, or come to church. Very occasionally people might pay you another visit to a Christmas event. But it’s all part of sowing seeds. And to that end it’s an event that we’ll put our heart and soul into each year. 

I’m sure that there are things that I’ve forgotten. But these are what came to mind following a conversation with a fellow Co-Mission Minister who was facing his first pub carols. Assuming that it’s not a complete train wreck, I guarantee it won’t be his last.

Will we remember them?

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA‘We will remember them’. That’s what we promise. And every year  since 2002 (when CCB was planted), we have. It’s not always felt comfortable doing so. It feels slightly odd to listen to ‘The Last Post’ played through an iPod. We meet inside a secondary school gymnasium. It hardly creates an atmosphere conducive to a formal act of remembrance. Wonderfully we’re not all British. In fact many have come from countries against whom our country has fought in the past. Few of us have ever done  any military service. And not many of us have any military connections. And yet, every year we say the following. 

Let us remember with gratitude those who, in the cause of peace and the service of their fellow men, died for their country in time of war.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.

And no one complains. I’ve occasionally wondered why that is. After all, we don’t tend to be tub thumping right-wing warmongerers (though they, like anyone else, are always welcome). We live in London amongst the left-wing liberal elites. And some of that has to rub off on us even if we don’t identify unreservedly with their ideology. Post Iraq II and the protracted and painful campaign in Afghanistan, most people are cautious of military intervention. We understand the necessity of the Armed Services. We’re glad that they do what they do. But we’d prefer not to dwell on it too much. It’s like death. We want to keep it at arms’ length and out of sight.

I would imagine that there’ll be a host of reasons why people at CCB are content to commemorate Remembrance Sunday. But chief amongst them must be that we’re Christians. It seems to me that Christians, of all people, ought to be among the strongest supporters of Remembrance Sunday. For we see in the death of our servicemen and service women an echo of an even braver and more brilliant act of self-sacrifice. We know, more than anyone else, what it is to benefit from someone who went to their death in order than we might have life. 

In Neil Oliver’s book Amazing Tales for Making Men out of Boys, he writes this,

‘The older I get, the more I realise how easy I’ve had it all my life. Having been born white and male, into a loving family, living in Great Britain in the last third of the 20th Century, I’ve been dealt what amounts to a winning hand from the cosmic deck of cards. All the opportunities of life have been available to me since day one. I’ve never had to live with poverty, or endemic disease. I’ve never experienced any kind of prejudice or disadvantage born out of race, religion or creed. I’ve been kept safe all of my life by nameless strangers, from dangers both foreign and domestic. Our politicians are as keen to send our soldiers into wars in foreign parts as they ever were, but having been born beyond the grasp of conscription or National Service, as I have, such dangers have always been the other chap’s problems. At 40, I’ve lived long enough to be too old for conscription even if they reintroduced it tomorrow. My safety has been provided for me by people I don’t know and whom I haven’t bothered to thank. I have effectively enjoyed an endless childhood. I’ve acquired certain responsibilities along the way – jobs, mortgages, partner, children – but nothing on a par with the responsibilities borne by men of all generations before me. To paraphrase Jack Nicholson’s deluded colonel in A Few Good Men, I’ve slept under the blanket of security provided for me by other people’. (p63)

I’ve slept under the blanket of security provided for me by other people. I’ve done so as a citizen. And I’ve done so as a Christian. I formally remembered Jesus Christ’s death only last night as I shared the Lord’s Supper with my church family. And I’ll be formally remembering the  death of my fellow countrymen on Sunday when I listen to ‘The Last Post’, stand silent and give my thanks to God for those who  self sacrificially gave themselves in war so that I might know peace.

Will we remember them?

I hope so.