Showing posts from 2014

How much should a minister work? Part III

OK, so following some discussion of the previous blog (Part I and Part II), I need to discuss another common model.  I'd already been thinking of this one and then other people mentioned it to me as well.

The basic form of this model of work goes like this.  Split the day up into three sections: morning, afternoon and evening.  Only ever work two out of the three sections in one day.

This has a number of extensions.  For example, I think an older version of this went something like: you spend the morning in the study and the afternoon/evening in the parish (visiting).  You also need to define a little further for day off.  That could be, you need to take 3 consecutive day sections off (which gives more flexibility) or you have a day where you take all the sections off.

There are a number of attractive things about this approach.

It is quite flexible.  So to some extent it flexes with your diary.  You can look at the fixed events in your diary and take time off around them.By fixin…

Manchester Diocese and the LGBT Agenda

The most recent mailing from our Diocese to clergy contained this:

LGBT Communion St Chrysotom's, Victoria Park, hold a service for LGBT people on the first Saturday of each month at 5pm. This is an initiative of Manchester Diocese and St Chrysostom's. This is Holy Eucharist with a special invitation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, their families and friends. The next service will be held on Saturday 6 December. There are those who wonder why I and others doubt the integrity and the point of the national facilitated conversations in the Church of England.  These kind of things are why.  If you wonder why we think the conclusion is pre-decided, the reason is that the conclusion is already in place.  In my view, it will be a betrayal of those Christians and churches who are trying to stand firm against this in almost impossible situations, if you go to the table with false teachers.  We don't need you to have facilitated conversations with them, we need you t…

Future Church of England: Evangelical Conversations and Same-Sex Marriage Part 1

Yesterday I attended an event sponsored by the Diocesan Evangelical Fellowships of Manchester and Chester and New Wine North called Evangelical Conversations.  It was an event to discuss the Pilling Report (which is the report related to the church response to those who experience same-sex attraction) and it's consequences from the perspective evangelicals (New Wine, AWESOME, CPAS were the main players from the front).

For me it was a mixture of encouraging, interesting and disappointing. Primarily it was encouraging because there was a commitment to an orthodox position on same-sex attraction, relationships and marriage.  In many ways this is the main thing and needs to be headlined as a great thing.

It was interesting for a number of reasons and disappointing for a number of reasons, which I want to explore a bit a time.

The first interesting thing - in fact it was very striking - was how similar it felt to meetings discussing women bishops amongst conservative evangelicals.  I…

Future Church of England: New Women Bishops

For me today is a sad day for the Church of England.  This is for three reasons.

I think the church has taken an unbiblical step in agreeing to have women as bishops.  My understanding of the contested passages (1 Timothy 2, 1 Corinthians 11, 14 and others) means that I haven't been convinced by the relatively modern arguments for women as church leaders or bishops.  If I'm right, then it's a bad thing for a denomination to take such a step.I think the church has taken the step for unbiblical reasons.  I know this isn't true of everyone, but it seems that most aren't particularly bothered by what the Bible says.  The decision has been made for equality, or to allow women to fulfil their calling, or because we are a laughing stock in the world if we don't allow women to be bishops.  A brief scan of the articles suggests this latter reason seems to have been particularly significant with respect to the change in the votes from the measure being defeated just a co…

How much should a minister work? Part II

A little while ago I wrote a blog about some of the problems related to managing your levels of work in ministry.  Like many jobs, ministry for a church is never-ending.  More unusually you don't have a manager as such, you don't have even notional "working hours" and even defining what is work and what isn't is rather difficult.

I finished up suggesting that one way to investigate the problems is to consider some of the solutions or models that are put forward.  Let me start with an increasingly popular one.  As ministry is increasingly "professionalized," it is not unusual to have some sort of contract with some sort of specification of work.

For example in the Church of England we now have something called Common Tenure, which means that there are some terms under which I work.  Interestingly, my work time is actually specified in terms of rest rather than work.  I am "entitled to an uninterrupted rest period of 24 hours in each period of seven…

Book Review: It's All News to Me

So this is a slightly different review for me.  While we were on holiday in the summer we picked up Jeremy Vine's autobiography and I've just now finished reading it.

It's really an autobiography focused on his 25 years at the BBC including his time as a political correspondent, an African correspondent, a Newsnight presenter and how he replaced Jimmy Young on Radio 2.

He has very little focus on his personal life, with just occasional asides about it.  In fact, his main aim seems to be to draw journalistic lessons from his experiences, which he characterises a rules - some more serious than others.

Now the reality is you can go into any charity shop (as we did) and buy any number of modern-day autobiographies.  The big question is whether they are worth reading or not.

Let me suggest a few reasons why this might be.

The media and especially the BBC are pretty important in 21st Century Britain.  Having an informed insider cast a light on it is useful and interesting.Vine h…

How much should I work as a minister?

One of the questions that has troubled me ever since I started in "full-tine" ministry is: how much ministry I should be doing each week?  It's ironic that as I was thinking about writing this blog, I was ill (again), probably at least partly because I was tired (again), probably at least partly because I was too busy (again!).

When I started in ministry, at times it felt like it was a competition as to who could do the most work.  People would quote "better to burn out than rust out" (which for some reason I though was from Robert Murray M'Cheyne, although it seems to actually be Neil Young!  Although William C. Burns seems to have said something similar).  And plenty it seemed were burning out!

I can remember being taught from the following verse:

For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Colossains 1:29 ESV)

and feeling the challenge to work hard (and in reliance on God).  However, that verse doesn't really …

Future Church of England: The Diocese of Manchester and the LGBT Agenda in the Church of England

So everyone knows after the Pilling Report and the events that have followed (including clergy entering gay marriages and various bishops pronouncements) that gay marriage and the LGBT agenda in particular are the next incendiary issue in the Church of England.

I'm not aiming to explain the case for why biblical Christians both want to show the love and grace of Christ to LGBT people and also reject homosexual practice and marriage.  For good information on that see the Bishop of Birkenhead's dissenting statement in the Pilling Report and the Living Out website.

I just wanted to highlight a couple of stories sent out by the Diocese of Manchester recently.  See below, which are directly copied and pasted from the enews email.  Please pray that our diocesan bishop would be faithful.  Please pray for faith ministers in the diocese. and how we should act.

OUT! at the Cathedral
A special service celebrating Manchester's diverse LGBT community will be held in Manchester Cathedr…

Urban Ministry and Your Children

I've recently been reading what is so far an excellent book by Tim Chester and Ed Moll called Gospel Centred Family.

The first chapter is based on Ephesians 6:1-4, which includes the rather challenging v.4:
"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (ESV)The second chapter, entitled Gospel-Centred Hopes, focuses on Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and has a particular challenge to Christian parents that our priorities are not to nurture middle-class children, but children who believe in Jesus.  Let me quote at length:
"I've often heard people say they would consider living in the city, but they're concerned about their children's influences and education.  But that begs the question: what do you want for your children?  If you want them to be middle-class, prosperous and respectable, then live in a leafy suburb, send them to a good school and keep them away from messed-up people.  But if you want …

Future Church of England: The Parachuted Pastor

In the last blog, I wrote a little about the odd state of affairs in the Church of England where we seem to be developing a model of ministry which is the wrong way round.  Instead of a plurality of elders for each church, we have a plurality of churches for each elder.

Something I think is linked to that is the problem of the parachuted pastor.  I'm not sure, but it seems to me that the elders to be appointed in Titus 1:5 would mostly be locals and already a part of the church.  Now I know that Paul sometimes parachuted leaders in (like Titus), but I think it's unlikely that the majority of the leaders of churches in NT times came from outside.  However, in the Church of England (and plenty of other denominations) that is what happens, to the point where curates are often not allowed to go back to their home churches.

Now I'm sure there will be those who can list the problems of being a home-grown elder, but I want to suggested six weaknesses (feel free to add more!), wh…

Future Church of England: A Plurality of Elders or a Plurality of Churches

Something I learnt quite early in ministry training was that the New Testament pattern for church leadership was plural.  That is, when the eldership is referred to, there is no concept of the one-man band - the pastor or minister of a church.  So you find, for example, in Titus 1:5:

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you The implication is that each church has multiple elders.  My impression is that this idea has gained traction among evangelicals, who have been challenged about the error of one-man band approaches that dominated in the 20th Century.

Something I've reflected on recently, is the irony of the current Church of England practice, which instead of placing a plurality of elders in a church, gives an elder a plurality of churches.  Most ministers now oversee anywhere between two and twenty-odd churches.

Now because that clearly doesn't work, what actually happens is that some…

Book Review: A Praying Life

One of the things we've been thinking about as a leadership team in our churches is encouraging people to pray. Clearly it should be a Christian priority as it was for Jesus and his disciples (e.g Mark 1:35; 14:32-40; John 17; Matthew 6:5-15; Philippians 4:6-7). However, most of us find prayer a bit difficult.

The church has various things to help. We pray together in services fairly formally. We pray together at Praise and Prayer fairly informally. We've had a set of informal services based around prayer.
However, in Philippians 4:6 Paul writes: “in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (NIV) and in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 he instructs us to “pray continually” (NIV). He exemplifies this, as we see in his letters, which are peppered with his prayers for the churches. So prayer should be more than church run events. Prayer should, it seems, be part of life.
This is where the book A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller comes in. …

Ministry Matters: The Gospel - Part 1

I'm planning a column called Ministry Matters covering my understanding of some core things for our church magazine and for this blog - a way of outlining my values.  I plan to cover: the gospel, the Christian life, the church and Christian ministry over the next year.  With those things in place I'll be able to cover some more controversial issues I think.

Here's the first column.

As the now not-so-new vicar of St Peter's and St Luke's, I thought it might be about time for me to show my hand so to speak. If you attend the churches you may well have picked up some of my emphases and views on different things – I hope so! However, I thought it might be useful for me to have a column in the magazine where I systematically address some of those “What does the vicar think about...?” questions.
I plan to start with perhaps the most foundational question: What is the Christian message? Or to use the biblical language, What is the gospel?
Maybe the answer should be obv…

Be Holy! - September Magazine Article

I'm planning to write a few magazine articles about holiness, the first of which is below.
I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. (Leviticus 11:44 NIV)
The concept of holiness has mostly fallen out of use in our culture. Probably the only context in which we hear of it is when someone is described as being holier-than-thou, which as well as being a body-piercing shop in Manchester (Google provides all kinds of useless information!), is usually an insult about being a self-righteous so-and-so.
But holiness is an important concept in Christianity. The book of Leviticus is all about being holy. On the one hand there is a constant reminder that God is holy, which means that he is separate from sin, morally pure and blameless. On the other hand, there is repeated call to the Israelites to be holy themselves, because their God is holy (Leviticus 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:7).
In one sense, God has already made his people holy at this stage in Israel…

Enjoying The Keswick Convention

We went to the Keswick Convention again this year. The seventh year in a row for us and once again we found it a tonic. I wrote the article below for our church magazine.  I hope in time some of them will come and hear some good Bible teaching there.

I would have to say that there are issues with Keswick.  There was less Bible teaching this year (we went to week three and I was especially disappointed with the Bible-lite options). There was more emphasis on women speakers (although the tent was noticeably emptier at the one I heard, thankfully as she went perilously close heresy because the only relationships worth having are mutually submissive!). I wonder if the All One In Christ motto is being strained.  Certainly I would wish there was a clearer chairman.

Despite those things, there were many encouragements and I hope conservative evangelicals will continue to be involved and an influence for good.


The Keswick Convention is a Christian Bible teaching convention held in the beauti…

Making the Most Of Life: July Magazine Article

Written a bit quickly this month, but this is something I've been reflecting on while reading What's Best Next by Matt Perman (which is excellent so far!).

Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16 NIV)
In his very helpful book Don't Waste Your Life American pastor John Piper recounts a story from Readers' Digest of a couple who retired in their fifties so that they could cruise on their 30-foot trawler, play softball and collect shells. He asks us to imagine them, as they stand before Jesus on the day of judgement to give an account of their lives. What will they say about those years of retirement? What will they offer to Jesus? Their shells! His point, is to challenge us about how we use our lives. How should we live? What should we do?
In Ephesians 5:15-16 Paul takes us to that very question and gives us the answer. Our lives are a sequence of choices an…

Reading the Apocrypha

A while back I mentioned that last year as part of my Bible read through I'd read the Apocrypha.  It was part of the reading plan in my NRSV and it was something I was intrigued by.

The Church of England, like all protestant churches, does not include them in the canon of Scripture.  Of the Apocrypha, Article VI says:
And the other Books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine which it is worth noting is in deliberate distinction to the Roman Catholic church whose position was and is still that these books are part of the canon of Scripture (see paragraph 120 of Catechism of the Catholic Church).  It is also different from the Eastern church (with some variation of who accepts what - see the NRSV introduction to the Apocrypha for the details).  For some history and discussion on this position see Bray's The Faith We Confess (pp.44-47) and Thomas' The Principles of Theol…