A few other folk blogging on their experience in Harrogate this last week at the New Wine leadership conference:
Catherine Day 'it turned out to be pretty good', though like me she felt wiped out the day afterwards.
The Restless Rector 'My goodness, it was stimulating, encouraging, challenging, releasing and motivating.'
Ransomed, Healed, Restored, Forgiven 'I realised just how passive I had become recently, and I'm now fired up to get stuck into things, to pursue growth, and that the worship ministry of the church as far as I possibly can, by the grace of God.'
Mark Carey 'I was struck by the challenge to focus on your higher calling as a disciple and child of God rather than being dominated by the leadership calling' (amen to that)
Openlife ministries is Bursting out of my skin, but thankfully only in a metaphorical way.
And some of my overall impressions:
1. Raising the ceiling: John Coles opened the conference by reminding us that 'our ceiling is the next generations floor', and showing a telling slogan from the USA:
'Rosa sat so Martin could walk
Martin walked so Barack could run
Barack ran so our children could fly'
Nations can undergo massive change in just a few generations, and so can ours.
2. "It will cost you": charismatics are often unfairly tarred as being 'happy clappy'. I admit I'd much rather be happy than the alternative, but there was no shying away from the fact that we're called to obey and follow Jesus (rather than pursue the kudos of leadership) and that it will be costly.
3. Carl Medearis, fantastic main speaker with some incredible stories of sharing Jesus with Muslims in Saudi Arabia, Basra and Beirut. A selection of quotes from him gives a flavour of ihis style and message - which was basically 'focus on Jesus, not on Christianity or the church'
“Jesus wasn’t an evangelical either”.
“Church people don’t actually act the way Jesus actually acted”
"a lot of our evangelism is ‘Christianising the heathen’...We have the best news in the history of mankind and we are the worst at sharing it….. we’re really really poor at sharing this friendship we have with Jesus”.
“We’ve focused so much on the style, methods and ministry of Paul that we sometimes forget Jesus.” - Carl challenged us with the question "can you preach the gospel from the Gospels" - we so often go straight to a Pauline summary of the gospel, which short-circuits the life of Jesus by skipping straight to his death and resurrection, and missing out his life altogether.
“Jesus was always in the place where the religious leaders of the day thought he ought not to be.”
on witness to Muslims: “The 'my religion is better than your religion' mode: I don’t know how you find that’s working?”
“I’m hesitant to say that I actually am following Jesus – just ask my wife – so I think it has more integrity to say that I’m trying to follow Jesus.”
on how much time is taken up with counselling, compared to mission “There are some people in your churches who are always a mess, and my guess it that you can’t fix ‘em. Go out and get some new ones!”
4. Henry Orombi, on the challenges of leadership: that if we fall, other people will fall with us, so we need to be very careful with ourselves, and to stretch ourselves towards growth and holiness.
5. Patrick Dixon (like Robert Peston on fast forward) suggesting that if Jesus was able to have the impact he did have in only 36 months, then we as leaders, by being a bit more focused, can have much more impact than we currently do.
A great image: in response to the question 'how many balls can you juggle' Patrick responded by saying 'it depends how high you throw them'. Each time we hold a ball (a decision, a project etc.) we can throw it weakly (so that it has to be dealt with again next week, and the week after), or we can give it some real impetus (i.e. a clear decision on an issue, with clear direction over who will do what and by when), which means that the ball will spend much longer 'in the air' before it comes back to us. If you use the image of spinning plates - also a favourite image for the role of church leader! - it's about how much impetus you give to the plate each time you tweak it. The stronger the push, the longer it will be before you have to come back to it, and the more other plates you can attend to in the meantime. I found this really helpful.
and a choice quote from PD on the purpose of renewal: “Its not about equipping the saints so that they can go about ministering to each other for days and weeks and months and years. Myrtle Blenkinsopps ingrowing toenail will probably take her to the grave.... it's time to leave rehab and get back into the battle”
6. Releasing others. A repeated image was whether we, as leaders, were getting in the way of other people's ministries. Patrick Dixon asked “suppose you were to break a leg, would it be good or bad for the development of the church?". Using a baseball (and horrid management-speak) image, Jean Darnall pictured a scene where there is a batsman waiting at every base for someone to hit the ball far enough that they can run on and get home. A limp shot, or a miss, and they remain stuck where they are. But a big hit means they can start running. For a leader to 'step up to the plate' - it's not just about us putting in a performance, but about releasing everyone else in the team to be fruitful as well.
And a final challenge "The gifts I have given you will remain dormant until you go into this harvest field and then they will become active."