Thursday, June 27, 2019

What NOT to say when an Abuse story surfaces

Another sad church abuse story has been officially admitted today. But I want to focus on the things we say in response, that whilst well-intended, can actually further foster a culture of abuse. So here's some things not to say, and why:

1. 'Lets pray for this fallen leader!'
This centres grace on the wolf in sheep's clothing, rather than the victims. This re-frames abuse as an individual's moral failing. In reality, it is often a gross abuse of power where countless lives have been ruined, impacting survivors and their families for years to come. There may be a time and place for praying for the wolf, but firstly prayers should be offered up for the survivors of the abuse, who have probably been ignored for years. Remember that survivors are reading your comments.
So its better to say, 'Lets pray for the survivors and for justice to be done.'

2. 'There are lots of ways I benefitted from their ministry!'
This centres the narrative on both the abuser, and the commentator, rather than the survivors. Furthermore, it misunderstands that these abusers 'bless' people in their ministries as a way of grooming by-standers. It is a strategy to get and maintain a network for abuse. The bystanders are unwittingly employed by the abuser to cast doubt in any allegations. 
Even in the minds of survivors, we can sometimes think, 'but they did all those good things, maybe what they did wasn't really abuse, maybe it was for my good etc.' And then, when you hear other people talk about the good this abuser has done, it can cause you to doubt yourself, and not come forward. 
So its better to say, 'I was duped.'

3. 'We must protect the ministry this person was associated with'
This is a big reason why abuse gets covered up in church groups. But first and foremost we must protect the vulnerable people, not the ministry. Secondly, its Jesus' name that must be glorified, not the name of our ministries. Thirdly, abusers flourish when there is a structure around them that enables them - so ministries really do need to come under fair scrutiny in these cases. Fourthly, its hard for us survivors to come forward when we see so many protecting their brand. Show us instead, that our dignity as image bearers is worth more than your brand. Show us that you believe Jesus' words that its better to be thrown into the sea with a milestone tied around your neck than cause one of these little ones to stumble.
So its better to say, 'We must protect the vulnerable more than our brand.'

4. 'This person didn't actually abuse in our organisation!'
If you gave this person a platform and a network, in which they could groom people and be vouched for, then your organisation played a part in an abusive culture. If people in your organisation were told about abuse, and you didn't go to the Police straight away, then you were complicit in the abuse.
If your organisation uses a technicality to keep trying to point out that you're innocent, then somethings wrong. Join the side of Jesus, the side of the oppressed, the side of justice, and be so against abuse that its clear to everyone.
So its better to say, 'Our organisation needs an independent investigation into any ways we've been complicit.'

5. 'Why didn't victims come forward sooner?'
Sometimes they did, but were silenced by people around the abuser. They learned that people would not listen to their voice because of the reasons above. Sometimes people can't speak about what happened  because its so hard for the brain to put words to unspeakable events. But when you say things that imply the victims did something wrong, you shift the blame to them, instead of the perpetrator.
So its better to say, 'What happened was unspeakable, and I'm so sorry for all those who tried to speak but were silenced.'

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

We Don't Need a New Strategy for Diverse or Deprived Areas

For a while, I've heard a variety of conservative evangelicals talk about having, a new strategy for reaching urban or deprived areas. People are recognising we haven't been good at reaching out to our diverse population, and are thinking a new strategy will help. This frustrates me because it was 'strategic thinking' that got us in this mess in the first place! I am convinced that what is needed is Repentance rather than Strategy. Strategising can easily be a false messiah promising fruit that will only come from repentance. Here's my reasons:

1. Historically, we 'strategically' targeted the wealthy and the white, creating a Christian machine that is almost unable to reach diverse and deprived areas. The idea was overtly driven by strategy, and no doubt covertly driven by the prejudice that exists in all our hearts. Strategising from sinful hearts didn't work then, why would it work better now? Surely deep repentance of all our prejudices must precede strategy. Surely such repentance also takes time, and the fruit is more, 'Can I sit with you and hear how I've hurt you,' than, 'I'm going to launch a new strategy.'

2. Some of those calling for new strategies are the same people who have been unhelpful to those ministering to deprived areas. Unless there is repentance, how can their new strategies bear fruit? Growth will not come from strategy unless the Spirit of repentance is doing the work. Unless there is character change, how can long term partnerships last? Conferences and initiatives can be fig leaves that ignore some of the relational alienation that has taken place through sin. Repentance on the other hand would involve rebuilding relationships before doing any online posturing about deprived areas. Repentance would lead to godly character, and character can lead to helpful strategising, but to skip character, is a dangerous an unbiblical approach.

3. The idea of a new strategy from Evangelical gatekeepers is so patronizing. It would be far better to say, 'We've got it wrong, we've caused pain, we want to sit down and listen.' Instead the message is, 'We've decided we're gonna do a new strategy, we will gather some people we have chosen, so that we can know how to make our strategy good. Repentance on the other hand would involve having a change of mind about patronizing behaviour. This would take time, as well as listening to those who have been pushed out of the 'chosen group' and who felt patronised. This would then lead to a change of behaviour which would be far more beneficial than a change of strategy. Godly behaviour rather than clever strategy is what the Bible consistently calls for.

4. The knowledge base is too small to make a good strategy.
Conservative Evangelicalism just does not know much about diversity or deprived areas. There's a number of people having a go at it, but we're few in number compared to Pentecostal and Charismatic groups etc.  Furthermore, our old boy network approach to ministry means that many of our practitioners never get to contribute to our narrow knowledge base. All this to say, I don't think we know enough to start new strategies, UNLESS we're humbly in repentance going to our brothers in Christ we've ignored for years, and asking their forgiveness, and then later down the road asking their advice.

What we really need is repentance that will bear fruit.

So, the next time you see the word 'strategy' in a blurb, try replacing it with the word 'repentance' and see if it sounds more biblical and might produce more fruit?

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

If you can't make our Urban Preaching webinars in June

Hi,
We've got some wonderful people signed up our Urban Preaching webinars starting next Wednesday. There's also some wonderful people who have said they'd like to, but can't do Wednesday nights. Some of you have asked if I'll be doing another preaching series in the future?

I'm not planning on doing another series on Preaching until 2020, because I want to focus on other webinars and training days that will build upon what we've already taught on the UMP. BUT if anyone wants to work through the Urban Preaching materials this June, but at a time of your choosing, here's a possible solution:

1) Sign up for a month's access to the 2013 UMP Preaching course.
2) Order the accompanying Workbook
3) Watch each lesson online on the same week the relevant webinar occurs. 
4) Join in our discussions about it each week in our Facebook group.
The total cost of this is £25 (1-4). If you want to do this, please pay with the paypal button below (make sure you give me your youtube account email address so that I can give you access to the videos in youtube).









If you want more information on the Urban Ministry Program, please click here.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Preaching to the Heart in the Urban Context JUNE WEBINARS

I'm really excited to announce our June webinars in teaching the Bible.
These interactive webinars will further equip you to present a Bible passage to any group of people, in a way that engages their hearts, whilst being faithful to the text. It encourages you to consider the people in your context, and how to best present God’s word to them. At the end of this module you should know how to:

  1. Preach to people’s hearts, rather than their heads.
  2. Preach to a variety of people from different backgrounds.
  3. Walk people through a Bible passage in an engaging way.
  4. Make good sermon applications that are rooted in the text.
  5. Point people to Christ.

Wednesday evenings 8:00-9:30pm

5th June 2019, Preaching to the Heart: How to hit the hearts of different subcultures in your neighbourhood

12th June 2019, Walking Through A Text: How to explain a Bible passage to people with varying educational backgrounds.

19th June 2019, Pointing to Christ: How to show the Bible passage's relation to Christ.

26th June 2019, Starting & Ending Well: How to make engaging introductions, conclusions, and applications.

Total cost is £35, which includes a workbook we will mail out to you before the webinars start.
You will need a broadband internet connection, and a device with a webcam and microphone (tablets and computers are fine, but best to use a plug in headset/hand's free to reduce background noise).

If you want to book your place on the webinar through PayPal, please click the 'Add to cart' button below, alternatively contact us at our website.




For more information on the Urban Ministry Program please click here

Keep Dislocating my Hip

Here's a quick health update. I keep dislocating my hip, which is very painful. I'm trying to strengthen the joint so it happens less. Please pray for me, thanks.

Monday, April 29, 2019

New Urban Catechism web page

We’ve just created a new web page that makes making disciples with the Urban Catechism even easier:) http://www.urbanministries.org.uk/catechism.html

Our new page contains the following changes:
1) Info on the Shorter Catechism (a quicker way of getting through the catechism).
2) Training videos to get you ready for each catechism question.
3) Worship videos to accompany some of the catechism questions.
4) Info on Parts 2 & 3 of the Catechism
5) Info on the Image Bearers discipleship course.

If you’ve ordered a catechism in the past, bear in mind that you’re eligible to join our Urban Ministries Facebook group. Contact me here, or find me on FB if you want to be part of that.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Monday, April 08, 2019

What do we trust God for?


 “I trust,” says the Christian, “in a triune God. I trust the Father, believing that he has chosen me from before the foundations of the world; I trust him to provide for me in providence, to teach me, to guide me, to correct me if need be, and to bring me home to his own house where the many mansions are. I trust the Son. Very God of very God is he—the man Christ Jesus. I trust in him to take away all my sins by his own sacrifice, and to adorn me with his perfect righteousness. I trust him to be my Intercessor, to present my prayers and desires before his Father’s throne, and I trust him to be my Advocate at the last great day, to plead my cause, and to justify me. I trust him for what he is, for what he has done, and for what he has promised yet to do. And I trust the Holy Spirit—he has begun to save me from my inbred sins; I trust him to drive them all out; I trust him to curb my temper, to subdue my will, to enlighten my understanding, to check my passions, to comfort my despondency, to help my weakness, to illuminate my darkness; I trust him to dwell in me as my life, to reign in me as my King, to sanctify me wholly, spirit, soul, and body, and then to take me up to dwell with the saints in light for ever.”


 C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings 7th October (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The UMP is now Free! And other UMP updates

FREE VIDS!
I'm very excited to say that you can now watch videos of UMP modules for free!
We have hundreds of hours of videos on 
Biblical Theology
Exegesis
Urban Mission
Systematic Theology/Discipleship 
that you can watch wherever you are with an internet connection.
For the best experience, we do recommend you order the accompanying workbooks, but you don't have to :)

DISCUSSION GROUP
We've also started a Facebook discussion group for anyone who is familiar with our resources. So, if you're been using the Urban Catechism, or had a training day with me, or done any UMP classes, find me on Facebook, and ask me to add you to the group. Here we'll be discussing things from discipleship, to church planting, to sermon prep (helping each other with FCF's etc.)

TEACHING THE BIBLE WEBINARS
I've also been running the Teaching the Bible module as interactive webinars for the last year. The next one will be after Easter, so please contact me if you want to sign up for that.

PREACHING COACHING
I am also doing one to one coaching to help people with their preaching. This is done via video conferencing, phone and email. So no matter where you live, we can help you fan that gift into flame :)

NEW TOPICS
Over the next year, we will have webinars for various topics that are not already covered in the UMP, so stayed tuned for those.

TRAINING DAYS
Also, look out for training days, where we'll all have the opportunity to meet up for a day of training and mutual encouragement :)

Friday, March 22, 2019

4th Health Update - Hand controls!


Hi, We've now got hand controls on our van, which means I can drive. We badly wanted this in time for two important events, and it looked impossible, but we prayed and God made a way! Having these hand controls is a big game changer, as these two short video clips demonstrate:



Sunday, March 10, 2019

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

2nd health update 6/3/19

Hi, thanks for all your prayers. Here's a video update.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Duncan's Health Update 27/2/19

Thank you so much for everyone who has been praying for me, here's an update on my health and our prayer needs:

1. We managed by God's grace to get the side of my bed rearranged so that i can get in and out of bed and bedroom with crutches (there wasn't much room before).

2. We're trying to get hand controls fitted to our van so that i can still drive. I'm really hoping to get this done in time for a training day I'm teaching in Sussex soon, and a Serge prayer day the following day. To get the right controls, I need a driving assessment but these take weeks to come through. Thanks to prayer, I got an earlier appointment via a cancellation. Time-wise, its still v.tight, so we need prayer that 1) we'd be able to choose the right controls, and 2) the parts would arrive in time.

3. We've had to fill in so many forms to do with disability - Shays done a great job on this. I've often said that being disabled is like having a part time job, between doctors and paperwork, it takes up so much time (time that neither me nor Shay really have).

4. My physical pain is very bad, especially in my back, and knees. I can be groaning out loud in pain for spells of an hour until i'm too exhausted to make any noise anymore. The rest of the time is constant pain but i can keep reasonably quiet about it. A few minutes ago, my knee dislocated, and wouldn't go back in right away - that's painful but its not as painful as the other stuff. Often, if I wake up in the night, I can't get back to sleep because I'm in too much pain. 

5. My mobility is getting worse, my knees stop me walking much. I'm using my stair lift, and crutches to get around the house.

6. This all creates lots of work for Shay. She's getting me food and drink whilst i'm stuck in bed. She's picking up prescriptions, making phone calls, filling in paperwork, home educating the kids. And helping me with anything in the day I can't do. I can't really take care of the kids atm, so she's doing lots of work.

7. We need to do some DIY to make place more disabled friendly. Its a challenge to make decisions about this when in so much pain, and also to know who to hire for stuff. I don't have the strength to do it, and Shay doesn't have the time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Back in the Wheelchair & Feeling Derailed

After so much progress, 2 weeks ago I ended up back in the wheelchair. I'd made a lot of progress in my physical rehab but after a fall on the stairs (due to one of my joints slipping out of place) -I found myself back to square one. Its discouraging because it feels like a backwards step. Its upsetting, because I heard my son saying, 'I wish you didn't have a disability because then you could run and race me.' and then saw him going around people at church asking if they would play football with him. Its also scary because I remember what it was like almost 4 years ago, when my wife and I had to work through it with little help, and sadly a lot of opposition.
But I'm also reminded of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was in a bad situation years ago when his city was decimated. And then things looked better as a King decided to help him out. But then last minute Jeremiah got kidnapped and taken off to Egypt. It looked like his life plans were being derailed. But actually there was a good purpose in him going to Egypt. So, I find myself thinking of Jeremiah, and trusting that God actually has a good plan for this backward step.





Monday, February 04, 2019

What Happens When You Tell People You Have PTSD?


There's lots of encouragements these days to be open about mental health problems. but what happens when you're open? I think it varies on who your friends are and how clued up they are. In order to help other sufferers and their friends, here's my experience. I tried sharing my PTSD symptoms with friends and pastors over a period of around 20 years, and got a variety of responses I wasn't ready for. Hopefully these responses will help get you ready :)

1. Puzzlement. For years I tried explaining my PTSD symptoms to a few people (even seasoned pastors), but no one seemed to get what was going on with me. It meant that I almost gave up trying to explain it or get help for it. But don't give up, ask God to help you find someone who can help you.

2. Rebuke. After sharing some of my childhood abuse for the first time ever, a lay counsellor told me that Jesus would want me to repent of having a tough exterior that deters abusers. I still had tears in my eyes, and was taken aback that the first response to my story, was a rebuke. Maybe that's happened to you, but don't give up looking for help, there are better counsellors out there. And if someone shares their abuse story with you, start by telling them how sorry you are that this happened to them.

3. Ridicule. One pastor friend laughed at me, and told me I didn't have PTSD. Unless they're a psychologist, ignore their diagnosis!

4. Suspicion. Once I told some people I had PTSD, they then viewed me with suspicion. Even if they'd trusted me for years (whilst I had those symptoms and demonstrated sound judgment), the mention of PTSD caused distrust. Perhaps they confused hyper-vigilance (a PTSD symptom) with paranoia (not a PTSD symptom). Being treated this way can gaslight you and make you wonder if you're even worse off than you thought. So make sure your health professional assesses you, rather than your friends whose understanding of PTSD might come from either the movies or a quick google search. Conversely, if a friend tells you they've got PTSD, assure them that this is a normal response to trauma, and that they are not falling apart.

5. Abandonment. Some people just ignored me when I told them. Its painful when you've opened yourself up like that, but don't let that stop you from seeking out help, coz it'll be worth it in the end. Bear in mind as well that God will never abandon you, and that Jesus knows what its like to be abandoned.

6. Encouragement. A couple of people said they were glad I'd got a diagnosis and was getting support. That was encouraging! I think that these days, there's more awareness, so you'll probably get even more of this than I did.

7. Safety. When i found a professional counsellor, they first said, 'we need to get you feeling safe before we can do counselling' and then they made accommodation arrangements so that this was so. This also meant avoiding contact with the people who did some of the unhelpful responses above that didn't make me feel safe. If a friend tells you they've got PTSD, help them get and feel safe. Now is not the time to practise your lay-counselling skills on them - now is the time to get them safe!

8. Space. Some people gave me the space I requested because they knew I needed to focus on counselling. My amazing wife was key in making sure this happened. In one instance this even involved her trying to stop someone getting on my case about something, because it would be too much for me. If you can, get someone to help create space for you. If you've got a friend having counselling that stirs up deep pain from the past - hold back from telling them all their character faults - you've got the rest of your life to correct them, it doesn't have to happen during the most vulnerable season of their life :)

9. Helpful Counselling. A Christian psychologist diagnosed me and then gave me amazingly helpful counselling. In a few months, they helped me get through something I'd tried most of my life to deal with but didn't know how. They did it without the puzzlement, rebuke, ridicule or suspicion. They truly acted like Jesus to me, who does not crush a bruised reed (Is 42:3). It was life-changing, and so worth it.

Interestingly, my counsellor told me to not tell more than 5 people that I had PTSD symptoms and was having counselling. This was for 2 reasons: 1) People have different understandings of PTSD, so you don't know what you're really communicating to them (too many people think of movies they've seen, or how the media associates PTSD with killers on the rampage). 2) It gets exhausting to have to keep updating a large number of people about how you're doing when you're going through painful counselling sessions. I also had an unrelated potential legal battle, and the symptoms might have been used against me - so it was best to keep it private. I didn't properly take the advice however, and told more people, thinking that openness was the way forward. In the process, however I've learned that we need to be careful about who we open up to when we're vulnerable. I'm glad I opened up to some people, but wish I'd kept the circle a bit smaller. Don't throw your pearls before swine when you have PTSD, you might be too vulnerable to take the trampling (Matt 7:6).

Monday, January 21, 2019

Why repentance is so hard

Have you ever tried doing Matthew 18 with someone and saying that you feel they wronged you? How did it go? Chances are they got defensive, and never admitted any wrong. Why is this so common?
The following from an article in the Observer is helpful: 
“If I see myself as someone who is smart, competent and kind, and you give me some information that I have done something foolish, immoral or hurtful, I have a choice,” says US social psychologist Carol Tavris, co-author with Aronson of Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me). “I can revise my view of myself, or I can dismiss the evidence. Most people take the least painful path and dismiss the evidence.”So, if someone says we've done wrong, we might discount them because its easier than considering that we're not as good as we thought we were. 
This makes me think: 
1) We really need God to do a work on our hearts to see any repentance. This means praying for ourselves to repent, and praying for those we loving confront.

2) If we view ourselves too highly, we won't accept people's correction. We need to have a biblically based, emotionally intelligent, and socially informed, sober judgment of ourselves.

3) Having a strong view of who we are in Christ, with Christ's righteousness, but also ungodly (Rom 4) will make it easier for us to accept correction.

4) If we grow in love for others and God, we might love them enough to not avoid the pain of discovering we're worse than we thought.

5) We need diverse friends who disagree with us. If you read that Observer article, you'll see how we tend to do group think, and our reason fails us unless we have people in our group with differing ideas.

6) Repentance requires God's supernatural work on our hearts (2 Tim 2:25).