Friday, July 03, 2020

Online Preaching Tips

Last night we kicked off our monthly UMP webinars with 'Online Preaching.' We covered tech, tone, style, sermon prep, all age services. A lot of the material is helpful for regular preaching too.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

New Monthly UMP Webinars!!!!!!!!!

We're starting a UMP monthly webinar! They will be on the first week of each month, in the evening 8-9pm. We're going to start with Thursday evenings because that so far has been the most requested evening, but if you have an interest in another evening please do let me know.

The first webinar will be Thurs 2nd July 8-9pm on the topic of 'Online Preaching'.

Later webinars will include: Global Church History, Ethnicity & Class, Exegesis, Preaching, and Character.

Because a lot of people's finances are up in the air atm, the first two webinars will be totally free. We'll review that later on, but please know that I'm committed to making sure the training is affordableƂ for everyone.

If you'd like to sign up for the Thurs 2nd July webinar, please contact us here NO LATER THAN Tues 30th June, and I'll send you the Zoom link, and pass on your name to the co-host to give you access.

Lastly, these sessions will be recorded (but not participant's faces) and at some point put on Youtube.



Tuesday, April 28, 2020

An introduction to Exegesis

A bunch of people are presently doing the UMP exegesis module. Here's the first lesson, which explains how to study the Bible, and looks at the difference between exegesis, eisogesis, hermeneutics, and application.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

How to Handle Growing & Shrinking

Does your church or ministry tend to grow at times and shrink at others? This talk from Reaching the Unreached 20, might help you handle this from a Biblical and historical perspective.

Monday, March 09, 2020

Broken Hearted by many paper cuts pt 2 (Healing Balm)

In part 1 (Broken Hearted by many paper cuts pt 1) I talked about the accumulative pain of wounds that appeared to others as paper cuts, but which accumulatively caused great pain. Thankfully God also gave me a variety of healing balms to sooth these cuts.

Healing Balm 1: My only hope was to consider who I was in Christ. When it seemed like so many people were against me. I felt rubbish. I’d already felt rubbish that I could no longer physically protect my wife, and couldn’t even get up and down the stairs. But the attacks now made me feel worst.  So I had nowhere to go but to focus on Christ’s imputed righteousness each day. I realised how much of my identity had been in being a strong person, and now instead my identity was growing in Christ, I needed to think more about what God thought of me.

Healing Balm 2: My marriage was better than ever. We’d had counselling for difficulties that included how hyper vigilant I’d always been, and how I was so concerned about dinner (from having my food stolen so often as a child). I’d been so impatient with my wife, and set so many rules as an attempt to create a controlled safe environment, it wasn’t kind to her. My wife would understandably react to this, and I’d get offended. Counselling had helped, but what made our marriage even closer was my wife saying, ‘I’ve seen how they’re treating you, I don’t wanna add to that.’ My wife showed me an incredible amount of support. She really pulled me through. We’ve been closer ever since. She’s an amazing women, and I’m so proud of her, and I hope that over the years I can grow in sacrificial love, and show her all that support she needs.

Healing Balm 3: We looked for new friendships, a new tribe. We needed to be with people who could speak the truth in love, not slander in hate. We needed people who understood doctrine as well as brokenness. By God’s grace we found people who welcomed us in, and showed us love. No tribe is perfect, but we learned from them how to better show love to broken people.

Healing Balm 4: I wrote songs about this, once I’ve written a song on a topic, I find it easier to move on from that thing. With the psalms and my pain guiding me, I found closure on issues I’d faced like abandonment, and weakness.

Healing Balm 5: Someone said, ‘I’m sorry, it was like a pack mentality and I got caught up in it.’ That was incredibly healing to hear. Before that I’d been so confused. Even one of our 3rd party mediators had been confused saying, ‘I don’t understand how there’s been so much animosity towards you - it doesn’t make sense?’ So I was so grateful for those kind confessional words that explained how on earth this could have happened. We can all get caught up in stuff, especially if we don’t have healthy people around us.

Healing Balm 6: I talked to a counsellor. Being able to talk in a safe environment, and get wise feedback, to hear that you’re not crazy, to hear that its normal to feel hurt. The explanation that this reminded me of bullies and abuse in school, helped me understand why the pain was so severe.

Healing Balm 7: Our kids brought me so much joy. They were so understanding and accepting when I told them about my PTSD. They've given me so many laughs, and been so supportive. I’m so thankful for them all.

Healing Balm 8: Having a mediator from our new tribe. We weren’t able to sit down with everyone. But where we could, it was calming having someone who understood brokenness and grace, and who would help everyone be heard. This taught me a better way of talking to people about difficult issues.

Healing Balm 9: Repenting of my sin. Firstly, I realised that the judgmentalism and self-righteousness we experienced, was something I had sinfully encouraged myself. I had been so critical, that this had probably rubbed off on some of the people who hurt us. ‘Judge not or you will be judged,’ well I judged, and I ended up being judged! This caused me to mourn over my sin. Secondly, after mediation, I asked what I'd done to others, that led to a build up of emotions in them, that then hit me so hard? I learned that my lack of gratitude, and my fault finding had been impacting people. I’d never considered up to that point that I impacted and hurt people like that with my voice. I said sorry to them. Since then, I find myself daily trying to die to this, and speak more like our Lord and Saviour.

Healing Balm 10: I wrote out my story. Not this story, my whole story, from childhood. But it included this story. For each point of pain, I wrote how God saw the situation. I wrote what God’s word says about the situation. This helped me reframe my story. It brought hope and healing to my story. 

Healing Balm 11: People started contacting me, saying that they’d been hurt by some of the same people who’d hurt me. What had happened to me became clearer. There was an unhealthy dynamic at play, with people acting aggressively to others, and then victim-stancing. I started studying the topic more, and realising that I’d turned a blind eye to red flags in these relationships. This understanding gave closure to my mind. Until then I’d wonder ‘well what if I’d been more like Denny, he’s so friendly, I never would have got a hard time if I’d just been more like him.’ And then you hear that people like Denny have also been cut, and you realise this is not your fault, this is the result of living in a fallen world.

Healing Balm 12: I saw how God used this to soften me. It was only when I was on the receiving end of Christians and pastors crushing my wife and I, that I realised we need to be so careful how we treat one another. Its not always a clear cut case of the bad guys (the bullies) and the good guys. All of us can use our voices in ways that really hurt people. All of us can decide we know what’s best for someone without properly listening to them. All of us can gossip about friends, without realising the consequences. All of us can get defensive in an angry way, instead of listening to our brothers and sisters tell us how we’ve hurt them. I realised how easy it is for a bruised reed to be crushed. I determined to not crush others. Since then, I’ve felt softer in the way I treat people. I’m sure there’s lots more room for growth, but I feel a tangible difference within my approach to people. I pray that it lasts and grows.

Healing Balm 13: I recently talked to a friend about all these paper cuts. I’d kept it secret for years, and was hurting. My friend listened, and afterwards I felt like a load had been lifted off my shoulders. I realised that I couldn’t let unrepentant people silence my voice. I would have loved to tell a story where everyone kissed and made up, but I waited years for that, and only two people said sorry. I’m so thankful they did, I’m so sorry for how my sins partly led them to this. I wish for their sakes I didn’t have to ever tell this story at all. But I know that for my healing, and for the healing of others who need a nudge to tell their story, I have to type out these words. 

So, thanks for listening to my story. Maybe like me, you’ve been hurt too. Maybe you’ve been told to have thicker skin, and to be silent about it. But God cares about your story (Ps 56:8). Maybe write down your story and tell him? Maybe tell your story to a friend who’ll listen? If you’re stuck, you can tell me and I’ll listen.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Broken hearted by many paper cuts pt1

So much healing occurs when we tell our stories, and so much pain stays trapped inside when we keep silent. Hence why I wanted to sing it out in the cry of a broken hearted pastor. The problem with telling stories of emotional pain from a series of events, is that they never seem to sound significant to others. Its like describing a paper cut to someone - who cares? But lots of paper cuts together cause great pain, whilst being hard to communicate to others. Consequently, we keep it all to ourselves, and don’t find healing. So to help myself heal by telling my story, and to help others have the courage to share their stories— here’s my story of debilitating paper cuts that overlapped with each other over a period of a few months. But as I’ve found, thankfully, God also gives us healing balm for the wounds (which will come in part 2).

Paper cut 1: My Father died, and I wasn’t told or invited to the funeral. Suddenly many dreams of having a better relationship with my dad were shattered. I didn’t get many condolence cards for a while, but a friend sent me a letter of correction, telling me I’m seemed depressed (from paper cut 2). Another friend said he didn’t see how it would be a big deal to me because I didn’t grow up with my dad. No one offered to preach in my place that week, so all this made me feel like I wasn’t expected to mourn. I preached that Sunday, and I mourned alone, half-embarrassed that I was mourning. 

Paper cut 2: An abuser died, and after seeing them praised online, I found myself finally mourning all the childhood abuse I’d experienced. I got counselling, and discovered I’d had PTSD my whole life. The counselling stopped my PTSD symptoms, but I still now had to mourn the abuse. Some days were tough days, some were ok. I decided to be open and share my abuse story with a small number of people, and ask people to pray for me in the tough days. Pray requests were ignored, and instead of responding to my texts for prayer, people gossiped about me. Some of the things my wife and I had shared, about our difficulties over the months, got passed around like Chinese whispers (aka ‘whisper down the lane’ or 'the Telephone game' in the USA - which is the term I'll use from hear on, because I think we should stop saying 'Chinese whispers'), and the versions that eventually came back to us were untrue and very upsetting. People spoke to us with such a lack of love, so much criticism, self-righteousness, and dishonesty that we felt thoroughly beaten up. I’d tried to step out in vulnerability by sharing my story to people I trusted, but that sacred space was violated, and my trust crushed.

Paper cut 3: My Ehlers Danlos Syndrome symptoms had got really bad, I was in constant pain, bedridden, and suddenly a wheelchair user that needed help to get to the bathroom. My wife was heavily pregnant, and we weren’t being offered much help by people (but we’re thankful for those who did). Of course, this would have been easier to bear if it wasn’t for all the other paper cuts.

Paper cut 4: Our church asked me to pass on a polite complaint to an affiliation we belonged to. In response a senior leader engaged in an email conversation with one of the ‘paper cut 2 gang’ detailing a list of faults he perceived I had. This email got exaggerated and used against me. When I asked if we could see the email to get some clarity, I was told that it had been deleted by a virus. I gently approached this senior leader, hoping he’d understand he’d made a mistake, but instead he defended his decision, and showed no interested in dispelling the slander that had arisen. Our church never received a proper response to our complaint. 

Paper cut 5: When my wife and I tried to reason with these people, we were gaslit. Gaslighting is when you do something bad, but try to persuade others that it’s their fault, or that they've misunderstood. We were told that we solely were the problem. My wife was told, behind my back, that I was the problem. And I was told, behind her back, that she was the problem. People blame shifted onto the senior leader and local friends - but only behind their backs. We were told that our desire to move to a bungalow (a home without stairs for my wheelchair) was a sign of us wanting to isolate! My poor wife was so confused. We were so hurt. I’d gone from finally having no PTSD symptoms to then being told by critics that I had mental health problems. I was so confused. I thought I had a clean bill of mental health. I’d had loads of counselling, and I'd chosen to continue counselling (yet ironically one of the complaints about me was that I wasn’t having counselling anymore!). I subsequently had to talk to a psychiatrist to check I wasn’t losing my mind or in denial. 

Paper cut 6: Suspicion, slander and false accusations grew. I had some harsh things said to me in raised voices whilst I was sitting in pain with a dislocated rib/knee/wrist. Some accusations had elements of truth in them, some were ridiculous. A caricature had been created from so many people playing the telephone game without asking us questions. People from other churches told me they’d heard stuff, and subsequently, partnerships I explored for our church weren’t possible. Friendships were lost, at a time when I needed friends to say, ‘Can I take you out for a walk in your wheelchair? Can I help your wife?’ 
I didn’t tell our church though, because I thought it would be better to keep silent, and avoid gossip. I wanted to give people a chance to repent— I was sure they would, so why drag their names through the mud? I waited, and waited. I cried every day for about a year. For a few years since, I’ve probably cried once a week over this. My wife says it’s now hard to know who’s safe to be open with about everyday struggles, without fear of info being twisted and used against her.

Paper cut 7: Our beautiful baby was born. And within minutes of her entering this world, I was crying over all these paper cuts. I tried so hard not to, but my heart had been pummelled. On top of this, people who I expected would say congratulations, were silent. I felt robbed of the joy that I wanted to share with my wife on this special day. 

Friday, February 21, 2020

Vision and Values - Julian Rebera RTU20

Here is Julian's excellent talk on vision and values. This was such an encouraging and convicting talk, I hope it will be a blessing to you.

Saturday, February 08, 2020

How to Respond when a Bully is Exposed in Church Leadership

1. Pray for the victims.
This will be a time when victims are happy and sad. Happy to see the truth finally brought out, to see their cries finally heard, to be finally believed. But also a lot of unpleasant memories will come up, and reminders of the broken friendships when bullies trash talked and shunned them. Yes, you can still pray for the bad leader to repent, but our priority should be the downtrodden.

2. Consider where we've been complicit.
Narcissists need structures to enable them. We have enabled abusive leaders by giving them platforms, recommending them to others, and ignoring the people who've tried to warn us. If we haven't spotted they're bullies, we need to consider what's wrong with our discernment? Most likely, we haven't been trained in spotting narcissists (so see video below), and most probably, we enjoyed the way the narcissist made us feel. If we've acted as bodyguards for the bad leaders, we've been doing the devil's work. Sadly, many leaders complain of abusive leaders behind closed doors, but then publicly act friendly with such leaders, making others think they are safe people. Let's confess this in tears and humility. Let's, go to the people we avoided or bad-mouthed because a bad leader maligned them (a key strategy of abusive leaders), and confess our sin.

3. Consider our own narcissistic tendencies.
If you're a church planter, then like me, you've probably got some narcissistic tendencies. These can be channelled in a healthy way, or an unhealthy way. Learn about these tendencies, and get help, so that we can serve and protect people better.

4. If you run a Training program, consider if it's Tainted?
These abusive problems are often in the DNA of someone's ministry. It leaks out in their preaching and resources. We saw this clearly in the USA a few years ago, and saw it more recently with ChurchToo in the SBC (where misogyny could be seen in teaching videos from the 80's). It's worth going over our training resources, and asking if they unwittingly promote abusive leadership.

5. If you're a Network leader in Evangelicalism - why aren't you protecting us?
Come on brothers, you've been so silent on issues. People have cautioned you about abusive leadership, but you remain silent. If you've promoted people, and encouraged people to give funding to such people's projects - you owe it to all of us to come clean, and explain how you allowed such people to flourish.

6. Let's stop claiming a plurality of elders protects us.
I've heard plenty of abusive leaders claim that their plurality of elders protects them from going off key (Me thinks you protest too much!). The reality is that they are manipulating their elders, bullying the vulnerable, manipulating the gullible, and outcasting the unmalleable. I'm all for plurality of elders IF your church is big enough for qualified leaders. But the key thing is QUALIFIED leaders. We have too many unqualified leaders (in terms of their character) leading a team of elders. There's godly Anglican leaders (without a plurality of elders) who aren't being abusive, whilst there's ungodly Reformed Baptists abusing people (with a complicit board of elders) and vice versa - so polity isn't our saviour here. Jesus is our saviour, he's our benchmark of what a man should be like, one who serves and protects, and who overturns tables when there's injustice in the church. Brothers and sisters, I think its time we start overturning some tables.

A Glimpse of the RTU20 Conference

This was such an encouraging day, check it out!

Monday, January 13, 2020

What is Self-Theologizing and why do you need to do it

This is crucial for council estates, urban areas, and working with multiple cultures.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

RTU20: 'Encouraging Estate Ministry' conference is for everyone

Hi, the conference is coming soon! Here's a short vid explaining how the conference is not just for leaders, and not just for people who live on estates.
Don't forget to book your place for 1st Feb!