Runs on the Board

athersWriting in Thursday’s Times (19th January 2017), Mike Atherton (above), their cricket correspondent and ex-England Captain wrote a piece about leadership. It’s worth a read if you can get behind their pay wall. Apparently the English Cricket Board (ECB) has enlisted the help of an ex-Army Officer now Management Consultant, Gemma Morgan to help them develop new leaders.

In doing so, they assess potential leadership candidates in four areas;

  1. their impact within a group,
  2. their ability to make things happen,
  3. their interpersonal skills and
  4. their thinking skills.

That’s not surprising. It’s what you might expect. But what’s striking in the article is her insistence on character being key. The overriding message at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst is that leadership is service. Their motto ‘serve to lead’ is everywhere. Now that’s remarkable. It’s almost the polar opposite of how things ordinarily work in the world of sport. Normally captaincy is about having ‘runs on the board’. As  Morgan, an ex-international lacrosse player, observes,

‘Coming from the sports field initially this turned leadership on its head for me, because until then I understood leadership as hero-based: am I the best player, the leading goal scorer, the go-to player that kind of thing’.

Many of us in church planting and  pastoring resonate with that kind of thinking. But our competencies have to do with preaching, evangelistic effectiveness, theological knowledge and strategic thinking and so on. But, she goes on,

‘At Sandhurst I came to understand that it was not about me but about duty and service to others. It opened my eyes. Before they teach you any technical stuff, they underpin everything with values that are uncompromising. Integrity, for example, if you breach integrity you’re gone and you won’t be invited back. Once you’ve got these anchors in place, they add on the technical bits. In sport and business it is the other way around. In the army, they will not take a risk on character’.

In recent months, the England One Day Captain Eoin Morgan decided not to tour Bangladesh citing security risks as his issue. He copped a fair amount of flak for that. This was interpreted as a leader choosing to abandon his men when faced with hardship. It looked self-interested. It may not have been if he was making that decision in such a way that it gave implicit permission for others to follow suit. Interestingly Alex Hales decided not to tour as well. When pushed for her verdict on this decision Gemma Morgan would not be drawn because she simply didn’t know the rationale and motive behind Eoin Morgan’s decision. But she did say this, ‘You have to lead by example and my experience is that people will follow if you think you have their best interests at heart’.

It turns out that leadership is not so much about having ‘runs on the board’. And England’s own history bears that out because one of the most respected and most successful Captains was a man who arguably wasn’t good enough to get in the 2nd XI. He was the man who got the best out of Bob Willis and Ian Botham in the 1981 Ashes series. His name is Mike Brierley and he’s written a book called ‘The Art of Captaincy’. It’s on my Amazon wish list!

For those of us who suffer under the delusion that we might still be the hero every church needs, Morgan did close with this encouragement,

‘There is a time for autocratic and direct leadership but to get people to follow unquestioningly you have to have invested a lot of time in the relationships. If you’re selfish you will get found out. If you get a combination of a brilliant player, a charismatic leader, and someone with the interests of others at heart? Then, great. But they don’t come along very often’.

The odds are that most ofus are not in that category. And neither are our leaders. And so character really matters. And self sacrificial service is paramount. Who’d have thought it?!

In Mark’s Gospel Chapter 10 verse 45, we read this, ‘the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many’. That’s leadership. And it’s runs on the board. Just in a different kind of a way.

There’s Nothing Average About These Prices


Colliers Wood has never looked so attractive.

Words I never thought that I’d ever utter. But with the average house price in Balham costing £740,000, Colliers Wood (more former than the latter) is the only place any of our young workers will be able to afford to buy. It’s nuts. It really is. We’re now more expensive than Wimbledon. Friends of our recently moved from Balham to Walthamstow. And with the house prices being what they are and the Victoria Line links into Central London you can appreciate why they’ve done it.

I love a good map. And especially one with a bit of analysis thrown in. Graham Miller from LCM is my usual source . But Facebook beat him to it this time. And this one from eMoov is revealing.

There may be an upside. It might just stop this nonsense of the ‘forever’ house that Christians of a certain age begin to spout. We need to remind one another that we only have one forever house and it’s in the New Creation. If we think we start to treasure one here we might just never get to see the one in glory (Matthew 6:21). Just get a house that you can afford and that works, having already worked out which church family you’re going to be a part of. But we don’t want to get into the mindset that begins to think that we’re building heaven on earth.

With my Christ Church Balham hat on this analysis is a little discouraging. But it confirms what we’ve thought for a while; that most of our young workers won’t be living here for ever. And so our principle ministry priority has to be to train them for service elsewhere.

With my Antioch Plan hat on  it’s going to make planning Cohort 2 an interesting time. There’s something to be said for planting churches in places where people can afford to stay! Trying to grow a church with ‘churnover’ is a like trying to fill a leaking bucket.


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.


A Capital Idea – Antioch

Antioch PlanNice piece in this month’s Evangelicals Now. Good to get some coverage. And what with Noah’s release it was hardly a slow news month. Front page was a bonus. I was expecting the piece to be tucked away on the inside pages sandwiched between an advert for the Protestant Truth Society and a book review for the latest book bewailing the theological liberalism of those that don’t hold to a six day literal interpretation of Genesis 1.

It’s a well crafted piece of journalism, in my honest opinion. OK, so I wrote it. What’s especially brilliant is the bit where I quote myself! In my defence, I’d been asked to write up something for EN. I spoke with the administrator who just happens to be an old school friend and he gave me some hints and told me to send something in from which they could work. I hadn’t realised it was actually going to be attributed to me! If I’d known I wouldn’t have quoted myself!

Here’s the piece in full.

The Antioch Plan is a new church planting initiative for London.

It’s been launched by Co-Mission, the cross-denominational church planting network run by Richard Coekin. This exciting development is an attempt to gather and plant ‘house church’-sized congregations across the wide variety of Greater London’s geography. Their objective is to recruit, train and deploy a cohort of ten to 15 pioneer church planters and fund them over a three-year period. And they’ve been given £1 million to finance it.

Anglican and Free Church

Recruitment has begun already. A wide variety of men from both Anglican and Free Church backgrounds have responded to promotional materials in the Christian press. The first in a series of selection interviews with the Antioch Board has already taken place. Four men have been approved for the scheme and they’ll commence in September 2014. The second round of selection interviews is due to take place later this month.

The diversity of candidates represents Co-Mission’s determination to plant in the different communities across London. Two of the recently appointed planters are Tom Sweatman and Mike Reith. Tom is 25 years old and he has recently completed a ministry apprenticeship at Cornerstone Church in Kingston. He is planning a house church plant on the other side of the Thames in the suburb of Hampton.

Mike is approaching his retirement. He has spent the last 20 years as the senior minister at Dagenham Parish Church. Concerned by the lack of gospel-preaching churches near his home, he wants to do something bold for the thousands who have never heard the good news of Jesus Christ. His plan is to plant in an ethnically mixed and deprived area of East London. These two planters and these two locations demonstrate the Co-Mission’s intention to resource a diverse range of new church plants.

Oak Hill and LTS

September’s cohort of pioneer church planters will have access to a training programme running alongside the already wellestablished Co-Mission apprenticeship training scheme. Lectures in theology will be provided at a Wednesday workshop by staff from Oak Hill and London Theological Seminary. Ministry training and Bible handling will be taught by senior Co-Mission ministers. The specific church planting training will be given by a variety of experienced church planters, many coming from the country’s gospel partnerships. In addition to a formal training programme, each planter will be encouraged to partner with an existing Co-Mission church, perhaps even recruiting a launch team from that church family. They will be encouraged to join a local cluster of Co-Mission churches to benefit from the wisdom and resources of existing churches. An Antioch church planting mentor will provide advice and support throughout the three-year launch period.

Over the past few years, Co-Mission has gained experience of planting both with individuals and small teams looking to grow house church plants. Two plants in particular have trialled the ideas that underpin the approach of Antioch.

From Putney to Brixton

The Boathouse Putney is a church plant into familiar territory for Co-Mission. But the way they did it was anything but familiar. Pete Snow and his wife moved into the area in 2010. Over an 18-month period they gathered a Bible study group and ranChristianity Explored courses for unbelievers. They launched a Sunday meeting in November 2012 with 25 people. They’ve recently appointed their first experienced pastor so that Pete can move to theological college to study.

Jay Marriner has spent the last two years training as a church planting apprentice at Christ Church Balham. During that time he has been trying to establish a reformed evangelical gospel work amongst the black community in the heart of Brixton. He has seen the Lord gather two Bible study groups, had contact with a large number of local residents and launched a mentoring scheme amongst teenagers at a local secondary school. He is currently studying at the Cornhill training course while he gears up for the imminent launch of a regular Sunday meeting.

Significant moment

Speaking to EN, the recently appointed director of Antioch and senior minister at Christ Church Balham, Richard Perkins, said: ‘It was a hugely significant moment in God’s plan of salvation when the first Christian believers at Antioch intentionally reached into a very different social context from their own. Antioch subsequently became the base for cross-cultural mission to the world. We’ve boldly called our church planting strategy after the church in Acts 11. Wouldn’t it be great if, as a result of these new fledgling church plants, a great number of people believe and turn to the Lord?’.

Still spaces

At the time of going to press, the Antioch Plan still had vacancies for its first cohort of pioneering planters.

If you wanted more details on Antioch, you can find them here.

Planting for Christ 2014

file_gbt2boo5x6iaxsvsx3latwcamfhjfwzyDetails of ‘Planting for Christ’ have finally emerged. It’s the day church planting conference run by Co-Mission. I’m a massive fan of this conference. I think it’s excellent. I’m sure I’m not supposed to say this given that it’s run by the organisation of which I’m a part. But I have no part in planning it. And until this year I’ve barely been involved in it. So I don’t feel conflicted. And it’s usually the seminars that make it for me.

You can find details here.

The aim of this planting conference is threefold.

1. To explore biblical principles that should shape contemporary church planting so we’re not just pragmatic but driven by God’s word.

2. To encourage missional priorities for making disciples of all nations so we’re not just growing our networks but reaching the lost with the Gospel

3. To share practical wisdom of proven church-planters for British contexts so we’re not just theoretical but realistic and effective, and so to glorify Christ, the Lord of the Church who is our motivation, model and message.

The theme this year is ‘Get Going: Keep Going’.

As in past years, there are two plenary sessions. And placed in between them, either side of lunch, are two practical seminars. This year Andy Patterson, the FIEC Director of Planting will speak on the subject of what level of sacrifice is ‘tolerable’. And unexpectedly, I’ve been asked to speak on the subject of what constitutes ‘sucess’ in planting. Short answer? Spoiler alert: Still being a Christian, married and able to string together a coherent sentence! I made need more than that. And 1 Corinthians 3 should help.

Arguably the best part of ‘Planting for Christ’ is the seminars.

Under the ‘Get Going’ heading of seminars Reuben Hunter from Acts 29 and Trinity West Church will talk about getting going in a city centre. Reuben is the pioneer planter who’s led the Acts 29 plant in the Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush area.

Jason Roach, from the Bridge Battersea, and Graham Miller, the Chief Executive of London City Mission, will talk about getting going in a Urban Priority Area (UPA). The Bridge is a collaborative church plant between Co-Mission and LCM.

Pete Woodcock and Simon Martin are going to talk about getting going in the suburbs. Simon has recently planted the Kings’s Church Walton on Thames. And Pete is the Co-Mission cluster leader from Cornerstone Kingston who’s encouraged Simon throughout the process.

Richard Coekin will run a church planting clinic in which he’ll respond to questions posed by the delegates. Richard provides this workshop on a termly basis. It’s an opportunity to download the wisdom compiled over years of doing church planting himself, overseeing church plants in Co-Mission and advising lots of others who seek his advice.

The seminars after lunch are about keeping going throughout the hardships and demands of church planting ministry.

Andrew Nicholls, the Biblical Counselling supremo within Co-Mission, will talk about keeping your marriage going.

Jeremy Hobson from Trinity Church in Islington is going to address the issue of how we keep going in our private spiritual devotions. For me, it’s toss up between this one and the next.

Andy Mason, the Senior Minister St John’s Chelsea, will talk about how we keep going through discouragements.

And Neil Powell from the 2020 Birmingham, the church planting initiative in that city, is going to help us make sense of life with the financial pressures.

I think it’s going to be great. The nuts and bolts practical approach of the seminars is what sets it apart, even as a ministry conference. You can book a place here.



Antioch – The Interview

Antioch PlanWe had the first tranche of prospective Antioch Planters for interview yesterday.

There were four of us on the interview panel. But we divided into two groups. Not quite good cop, bad cop. But when I mention that Richard Coekin was in one group with Rupert Standring, it’s clear that one interview was always going to be more demanding than the other! I was in the other group with a wonderful Christian woman who has lots of experience of project management, recruitment, interviewing and so on. Inevitably both groups covered some of the same ground. After all, we were both concerned with assessing the candidates’ suitability for this pioneering planting ministry. But we tried to think about this by coming at it from different perspectives. Richard and Roo were concerned more with any plans for planting. We were concerned more about personality and character. Obviously I was the best choice for analysing the soft skills! We gave each guy two thirty minute interviews. But most ran over. There was just so much to discuss.

Three quick reflections on the process.

It was demanding. I’d spent the previous night working through each of the application forms and digesting what their referees had to say about them. I was mindful of the advice meted out by a senior saint that we ought to give more weight to a reference than an interview. I believe that. But I still wanted to meet the guys for myself and find out more about them. I was exhausted by the end of the morning. I imagine they were too. But if we’re going to ask guys to embark on an enterprise to plant churches from scratch or with small numbers then we need to be thorough. And we were.

It was encouraging. A handful of men got to talk about God’s work in their lives. What’s not to enjoy about that? Regardless of whether they end up as Antioch Planters or not, we were able to hear how the Lord has used them already in their existing church situations and also to hear about their godly ambitions for the future. I finished the morning praising the Lord for the encouragement of hearing godly and really able men talk about their longing to see the gospel promoted, churches planted and Christ honoured. It was food for the soul.

It was challenging. These are guys who are willing to work bi-vocationally in order to try to plant a church. They can receive anything up to £60,000 spread over three years, which is some way shy of the £50-70K it costs most churches to employ a full-time gospel minister in London. We don’t provide housing, a wage or a pension. And yet they’re up for the sacrifice. One of the planters, a man in his mid 40s stated that he wanted to be involved in three church plants before he retired. And his wife was keen as well! That’s made me ask some questions about the costs I’m prepared to incur so that unbelievers hear the wonderful news of Christ crucified. Every now and again that’s a question worth asking. Hearing what these guys were willing to do for Christ forced me to confront any areas in my own life where I’d settled for comfort over cost.

This was just the first batch of interviews. There are more to come. And we can still take others. So if you’re interested go here for details.

Eight Characteristics of Pioneer Planters

Antioch PlanThe Antioch Plan is recruiting pioneer church planters. And it’s willing to train them, mentor them and resource them. But it’s hard to know what a pioneer church planter is. Would you know what to look for either in others or even in yourself?

The Bible is unmistakably clear that men ought to have three characteristics to be considered for church leadership. Titus 1, 1 Timothy 3 and 1 Peter 5 identify the ability to teach the truth and refute error, godly character and management of their household. And so any man possessing those three characteristics in growing abundance, and who’s up for it, should be considered for church leadership. But not everyone is well suited to every type of ministry. Presumably that’s why not everyone can get to be the Senior Minister at St Helen’s Bishopsgate, even if we wanted to! Some of us are better suited for one type of ministry over another. So who’s well suited to pioneering church planting?

This isn’t an exhaustive list but it’s been shaped by what we’ve observed over a few years of launching and growing church plants with a variety of individuals. These would be the kind of characteristics that we’d be looking for.

1.       Pioneer planters need godly motivation

Fundamentally, we do it for God. We’re not about building our own little kingdoms. We’re not trying to make a name for ourselves. Church planting can be seen as the extreme sport of church ministry. And pioneer church planting sets us apart just that little bit more from the conservative risk averse normal people. But we do it for God and His glory. And so we’ll do it even when there’s little visible fruit. We won’t be deflated that the Lord doesn’t seem to share the same ambitions for our fledgling church plant as he does!

So it’s worth asking, is your motivation for becoming a pioneering church planter that you want to build Christ’s kingdom for his glory? Or is it more about your burgeoning reputation?

2.       Pioneer planters need biblical maturity

God grows His church through the gospel. That’s His powerful way of saving people. And we need to be convinced that’s the case so that gospel ministry is at the heart of what we’re doing. It’s not the whole of what we do. But it is the heart. And we won’t be deflected from it if it seems to be taking time to see the changes we’re praying for and working towards. Relational Bible teaching and personal discipleship is a deep work. It takes time for most people to be changed by the gospel. That’s not to say that God couldn’t do it in a moment. But for most of us, turning our lives around in repentance and faith is like turning a supertanker.

Are you persuaded that the way in which God will grow His church is through the faithful preaching of the gospel?

3.       Pioneer planters need personal work skills

Biblical ministry is fundamentally relational. It’s about forming friendships in which the gospel can be communicated and applied to our lives. And therefore pioneer planters need to be people people. They need to have developed skills in personally discipling individuals with the gospel.

And so ask yourselves or, if you dare take the risk, ask others ‘am I good with people?’

4.       Pioneer planters need robust and persevering personalities

All ministry has the potential to be discouraging. But perhaps the potential is more acute in trying to start a church plant from scratch. And so we need to be able to take some knocks and not be so brittle that we want to throw in the towel at the first signs of discouragement.

And so ask yourself ‘am I someone who perseveres or am I a quitter?’

5.       Pioneer planters need an entrepreneurial mind-set

Many ministry appointments involve being asked to take responsibility for a group of people who are already part of the church. But in pioneering church planting, there is no church. Or at least not much of a one! We have to go out and get one. And so an outlook that enjoys exploring different ways of reaching and gathering people is essential.

So ask yourself, ‘am I the kind of person that thinks of ways to make things happen and then makes them happen?’

6.       Pioneer planters need flexible patterns of Bible teaching

London is full of different types of people. There’s a wonderful diversity to the population of our city. And that’s true even within a separate suburb. And God has given the scriptures for everyone. And so we’ll need to develop different ways of helping different people access the Bible in a way that they can understand.

Are you someone who enjoys the challenge of helping a wide variety of people get to grips with God, Jesus and the Bible or are you mainly interested in pursuing one type of person?

7.       Pioneer planters need generalist skill set

It’ll probably be a long while before the church planter will be able to recruit his own staff. And it may be a while before he’s able to share the ministry responsibilities with others in the church family. And so he’ll need to be generally good at everything rather than exceptionally good at one or two things. He may need to be able to teach the kids’ slot, counsel a couple facing marriage issues, prepare a Bible study, speak at an evangelistic carol service and book the venue and make the arrangements for the church launch dinner.

So ask yourself, ‘does doing a bit of everything excite me or am I desperate to simply concentrate on a narrow area of ministry?’

8.       Pioneer planters need team building capabilities

Having met and gathered a core team, pioneer planters then need to build that team into more than the sum of its parts. They need to understand how teams work and be a team player and not simply enjoy being team captain. In particular they need to be developing others within the team to take responsibility for leadership. And helping everyone to commit to one another and to the task they’ve undertaken.

Are you good at recruiting others and helping them find a place in a team?

Co-Mission is after pioneer church planters. Could that be you? Or someone you know?

We’re not after the finished article. We don’t think it exists. But we are after leaders who have the potential to gather and grow a small group Bible study into a church family who initially might meet in a home or a small building. It’s a bold development in the planting strategy of Co-Mission. And we’re excited by what God might do.

Do you fancy being a part of it?