Leadership Foundations 2

Another month has absolutely flown by, and so it seemed like no time at all before I was back in Milton Keynes for the second Leadership Foundations training block. It was great to catch up with some of the people I’d met first time around (despite my lack of skill in remembering names!), as well as getting stuck into something completely different. Complementing the first weekend, which was quite ‘theologically heavy’, this block was a lot more practical and hands-on. On the Friday, the theme was ‘Everyday Evangelism’ with Duncan Podbury, and Saturday was “Vision, Strategies, Systems and Team Leadership” with Richard Wightman and Colin Baron; producing a real variety of topics, approaches and styles over the two days.

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Here are some of the key things that stood out for me:

It’s a Journey
One thing Duncan particularly highlighted was that too often when thinking about evangelism, we use conversions as the measure of how well we’re doing. If people aren’t becoming Christians left, right and centre, we must be failing! We forget that coming to faith is a process, not an isolated moment. The Bible uses illustrations like farming, growing, building and even baking to describe the journey of developing a relationship with God – and most of our journeys will include times of going both backwards and forwards too! Instead of despairing when we put on an event or run an Alpha course where nobody becomes a Christian at the end, we need to celebrate the small and celebrate the journey that people are on.

The lady who had never before set foot in a church, but came to a carol concert and enjoyed it.

The man who’s been on three Alpha courses and keeps seeking, even if he’s not convinced yet.

The student who only came to a CU lunchbar for the free food, but stayed for the talk and asked some questions at the end.

That only comes by walking alongside others, building genuine relationship and not seeing individuals as projects to work on, but as people to be valued. “If people are going to see the treasure on your jar of clay, they need to be close enough to see through the cracks”.

Looking for gold, not dirt
Thinking through how we raise up and develop leaders, Colin used the illustration of a miner; looking past the dirt and mud of the ground for the smallest glimmer of gold. It can be easy to look around and wonder where the perfect people are who can step in or form the next generation of leaders, but the reality is that nobody (and certainly not your existing leaders!) have it all together. The way you develop positive people is by looking for their positive qualities, purposefully choosing to not add qualifying statements, and giving them a go with full support and guidance. If you’ve looked for gold, the dirt gets sorted out on the journey.

I hope that gives a little flavour of the weekend. Next time: Preaching and Teaching!

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Leadership Foundations 1

On Friday and Saturday last week, I visited Milton Keynes for the first time to attend the first training block of Leadership Foundations; the leadership and theology course that I’m doing this year as part of my Pastoral Internship with Oasis. It was a really great couple of days spent looking at the Theology of Scripture and Hermeneutics – or in other words, why the Bible is important and how we interpret what it says. In a topic like that, it would be easy to get lost in the multitude of complicated words and concepts, but Andrew (the course director and speaker for the two days) was excellent in ensuring that things remained accessible through creative illustrations, had real practical applications, and heavy theology was broken up with humour and frequent Q&As (and coffee breaks!).

Leadership Foundations 2014/2015

One thing that really struck me was the variety of people there. Some, like me, were freshly graduated and involved in part-time work with their churches, some had just arrived from different countries to move to the UK, some worked with UCCF helping students reach students and some had full-time jobs in all sorts of areas. There were even a few people who had been Elders of their churches for 20 years, and wanted to go deeper in undertaking a more practical theological course! From 20-somethings to Grandparents, men and women from all over the country, all united by a desire to hunger after Jesus; to seek more of Him and learn to love Him more with all of their heart, all of their soul, all of their mind, and all of their strength. Meeting such a mix of people was a great experience, and I’m looking forward to spending the next year working through some big questions with them! I also met a lovely couple called Martin and Ros, who I’m staying with on the Friday nights of the course. I definitely didn’t expect to be greeted by a full roast dinner (very tasty indeed), but am exceedingly thankful for their warm and generous welcome!

There’s fortunately a whole month now to chew over everything I learnt over the two days, along with a few assignments to complete, but I’m already looking forward to being back again.

Regards,

Richard

Reflections on Catalyst

Good evening!

It’s been a couple of weeks now since I was fortunate enough to attend the Catalyst festival at Stoneleigh, with my church, Oasis Church Birmingham. Now, a couple of weeks on, it’s had a little time to sink in and I can really take a step back and reflect on what was a wonderful few days.

I can think back to meeting so many new people for the first time, and properly getting to know some I’ve only met in passing at Church. It’s easy to find yourself in a student bubble sometimes, particularly at University and even at Church, and it’s easy to simply hang out with the same people and never branch out. But that’s not what we were designed for! When Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 12 about being part of a body of Christians, he makes it clear that in that body is a huge amount of diversity – differences as stark as a foot is different from an eye! Something that really struck me over the few days away is that the body of Christ really is beautiful because of its diversity, and not simply in spite of it. We are all part of a bigger whole, bigger than the student bubble at Oasis, bigger than Birmingham, bigger even than the newfrontiers family of Churches, a wonderfully varied assortment of unspectacular people running after a spectacular God.

I can think back to the thrill of worship with thousands of others lifting their voices to God; that same sense of being part of something bigger condensed into one moment as voices rise, singing new songs, old songs, non-songs and praises of all kinds. I never feel closer to heaven than when I look around at people as far as I can see lifting their hearts and eyes to Him and pouring out love. The realisation too, that the God who is so present in the room of 4000 is just as present in your prayer meeting of ten the week after, and hears every silent prayer spoken alone in your room at home. How astonishing it is that He would be interested in us!

I can think back to challenging talks and seminars, spending time considering bodily resurrection and predestination and ‘big theological stuff’ and also mulling over devastatingly simple, core-gospel talks which force you to re-evaluate what you are putting at the centre of your life. If it’s not Jesus, it’s not worth it! Reflecting back, it is much easier to see the lessons learned, to see a great time for stretching and building my faith.

I am looking forward to next year already, but also to building on what has begun at Catalyst, deeper friendships with those at Church, my brothers and sisters, a faith challenged and grown, and a renewed joy in the beauty of a broken people rescued by Grace and seen fit by the King of Kings to be welcomed into His courts, now and forever.

Regards,

Richard