Last week I attended the Launch Church Multiplication Catalyst Conference in Manchester. It was one of the best conferences, if not the best conference I have attended. The vision behind the conference is a desire to see a new future for the church in Europe. With the statistical trend of decline in the church in Europe, Launch is seeking to be a catalyst for church planting and multiplication.  The quality of the speakers, worship, venue and organisation were amazing! One of the main stage speakers was a man called Jossy Chacko. I want to use this blog to try and convey some of my main takeaways from Jossy. (I plan to try and do a few blogs on my experience of Launch.)

Jossy kicked off his talk by telling a room full of church leaders and planters to RELAX! “You don’t need to build the church, He [Jesus} will do it for you! Relax.” Refreshing! I have been to  many conferences with many supposed quick fix church growth/building tools. I love how Jossy launched his message by reminding delegates that Jesus said, “I will build the church.”

“You don’t need to build the church, He [Jesus] will do it for you.” Jossy Chacko

From that simple but profound reminder, Jossy began to delve in to the Great Commission. The Great Commission is about obedience. To GO, Make Disciples and to teach obedience, not just teach knowledge but to teach obedience. It’s an incredibly simple command, Go and make disciples. Jossy explained how in a recent survey world wide Jesus is number 3 in brand awareness to McDonalds and Coca-Cola. How can this be? Why is this? Christians need to be surrendering in obedience to Jesus. ‘Let it be, whatever you say, I will do it Jesus.’  This is beautifully shown by Mary at the Wedding at Cana when they had run out of wine and she tells the servants ‘Just do whatever [Jesus] tells you.’ “Just do it! Nike stole it from Mary.” Jossy Chacko! Discipleship is obedience!

Therefore, in order to be obedient we need to realign our priorities. In heaven there are two things we won’t be able to do. Find someone to share Jesus with and help the poor and needy. If we get to do everything else  in heaven then we need to in obedience prioritise finding people to share Jesus with and helping the poor and needy while we are here on earth!

“The only reason for any Christian to exist on the earth is to fulfil The Great Commission!”

“Two things you can’t do in Heaven:

1. Find someone to share Jesus with.

2. Help the poor and needy.”

Jossy Chacko

We need to get back to the simplicity of the message of the Bible. Hear and Obey! We have often defined Christian maturity by information, how much someone knows. But maturity is measured by obedience. I wonder how do we measure success from a sermon? Is it how many pats on the back you receive at the door? What if we started to measure the fruitfulness of our preaching by how many obey God’s word.

” Obedience is not a choice, love is! To obey more, love more. The root of it all is love” Jossy Chako

But what is the root of obedience? LOVE! John 14 v 15 Obedience is not a choice, love is.

I wonder how much do you love Jesus?

Our calling as leaders is to lead people into a deeper love of Jesus. This is what the church in Europe needs if it is going to see a brighter future – a generation of radical disciples who deeply love Jesus leading to obedience. In obedience we long to see many finding and following Jesus. Dr Peter Brierley notes that where growth is occurring in Europe one the primary reasons is that those churches are planting churches. I love how Jossy ended his talk by linking church planting and obedience.

“Church planting is a result of effective discipleship. Effective discipleship is the effect of obedience. Effective obedience is the effect of love.” Jossy Chacko

Do you love him?

I really appreciate you reading this! If it has impacted you in anyway please share it with others via Facebook, Twitter or any other way so others can be impacted too. It means a lot to me. Thank you.

*This was such a good conference I am already booked in for next year! You can join me

Fruitfulness on the Frontline – Ministering Grace and Love

Ministering Grace & Love

At Heysham FM Church our current Sunday evening message series is called Fruitfulness on the Frontline. The series is based on the book and course of the same name written by Mark Greene and the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. Even though we are only half way through the series,  we are already seeing people released from the burden of feeling that they are not doing enough or that they are not being fruitful. What does it mean to live a fruitful life as a disciple?

This series is based on the 6M framework from the course and book. What I love is from the outset, the course states that this is not another Christian tick list to get you down when you feel inadequate as you haven’t ticked each box in a day. Instead, its aim is to help us have the perspective of what it truly means to be fruitful in our everyday lives – simply by doing what we are already doing!

I had the privilege on Sunday to speak on the 3rd M: Ministering Grace and Love. To listen to the message Click Here

One of the key phases from the book which became like a refrain in the message is this  “Grace doesn’t have to. But grace does. Grace is on the lookout for opportunities. Love doesn’t have to. But love does. Love is alert to the possibilities.” So simply put yet so beautifully profound.

“Grace doesn’t have to, But grace does, Grace is on the lookout for opportunities. Love doesn’t have to. But love does. Love is alert to the possibilities.” Mark Greene -Fruitfulness on the Frontline

As I prepared for the message I was awestuck at the lavishness of God’s grace and love for me and the whole world. That He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure. Jesus didn’t have to come to earth, He didn’t have to die for me.  “Grace doesn’t have to, But grace does, Grace is on the lookout for opportunities. Love doesn’t have to. But love does. Love is alert to the possibilities.”

“There is, … a joyous generosity, a lavishness, about God’s grace.” Mark Greene -Fruitfulness on the Frontline

There is “… a joyous generosity, a lavishness, about God’s grace.” How can I not in light of the cross live a life of generous and lavish grace and love? One of the barriers is that we set the bar as what actually counts as ministering grace and love far too high. In Matthew 25 v 34-40 Jesus shows how simple and practical ministering grace and love can be – feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting those who are needy. Even something as basic as giving someone a glass of water! Whilst Jesus is primarily speaking about serving people who follow Him the principle still applies. Ministering grace and love can be as simple as a glass of water.

One the things I have been challenged about in preparing the message is about how counter-cultural ministering grace and love actually is. We find ourselves in a world of convenience. Where it’s all about ‘how can I get through life in the easiest way for me?’ We complain about traffic. Despite being British we complain about queues. We complain when our McDonalds order take longer than 3 minutes. But ministering grace and love isn’t about convenience. It’s not convenient.

“At root, whether convenient or not, ministering grace and love is at root about generosity. Generous Living. It’s about taking the focus off ourselves and proactively thinking about how we might help someone else.” Mark Greene -Fruitfulness on the Frontline

“It’s about taking the focus off ourselves and proactively thinking about how we might help someone else.” It requires us not to focus on ourselves – our convenience, but to focus on thinking about how we can help someone else. Remembering that grace doesn’t have to but grace does. Love doesn’t have to but love does. Knocking on a neighbour’s door because you haven’t seen them for a while isn’t convenient but grace doesn’t have to but grace does. Helping a colleague who has a massive workload isn’t convenient but grace doesn’t have to but grace does. Paying for the person behind you in the queue’s coffee isn’t convenient but grace doesn’t have to but grace does. Ministry is love in action.

As a disciple of Jesus I seek to not just know about Him, what He did and said. I want follow Him, copy Him and be caught up in His passion. His passion for people. That led Him to the cross. I want to live a life that shouts to the world you are known, you are loved. There should be a joyous generosity, a lavishness about the love and grace that we show. From a glass of water to whatever it may be, how can you minister grace and love?

I challenge you this week to minister grace and love to at least one person. Intentionally, generously minister grace and love. Remember “Grace doesn’t have to, But grace does, Grace is on the lookout for opportunities. Love doesn’t have to. But love does. Love is alert to the possibilities.”


Daddy’s Here

Sunday 26th March: a day that changed mine and Becky’s lives! Judah was born. Rushing to the hospital in the early hours to join Becky after I had been sent home as nothing was going to happen until tomorrow. Within a few hours we met our little man! What an incredible blessing he is.

The next day we brought him home, filled with joy but also to be honest a bit scared. We have done a little bit of babysitting etc but then we could always hand the children back! But this time we were responsible. Such a small vulnerable little boy and we had to care for him. No longer is it quite as scary but a beautiful adventure of being parents.

With the joys of Judah sleeping, laughing, developing is of course intermingled with crying. Early on when soothing Judah I remember without much thought as I held him close saying, “It’s ok, Daddy’s here.” One night as I held my boy reassuring him with the phrase I had become accustomed to using, “It’s ok, daddy’s here,” I had such a significant moment. What I knew in my head was true, I began to grasp that bit more. God gave a nudge and said, “It’s ok, Daddy’s here.” In that moment I had this beautiful vision fill my mind of being in the arms of my heavenly Father. Who in my joys and sorrows affirms the truth, “It’s ok, Daddy’s here.”

I am reminded of King David in Psalm 139 where he declares: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” David knows that God is always with him and there is no where we can go where He is not. I wonder what difference it would make if we truly grasped the truth that we are not alone. That God is with us where ever we are, what ever circumstance. That our God is Emmanuel. God with us!

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

Psalm 139 v 7

Maternity leave is great in so many ways for mothers nurturing their newborn for those precious early days. But it also comes with the financial challenges of maternity pay. There have been a few times in the last couple of months when the truth of “It’s ok, Daddy’s here” has been beautiful lens to see our finances through.

In the highs and lows of parenting, in the joys of seeing Judah develop but also in the middle of the night (although to be honest Becky does 90% of the nights shifts) when sleep is a real commodity. Or those times when you don’t really know what you are doing when your little man is beside himself in tears as he has a temperature and the calpol hasn’t kicked in. In every high and low I am learning to have the perspective that, “It’s ok, Daddy’s here.”

I wonder what challenges you face? What questions you are asking about your future? What keeps you up at night? What situations you are struggling to see hope in?

Remember this, “It’s ok, Daddy’s here.” Your heavenly Father knows you and loves you. God is with you. He won’t leave or forsake you. Now this may not change your circumstances. But I believe it will start to change your perspective as you change the lens you see your circumstances though. When you remember the truth that you are not alone.

“It’s ok, Daddy’s here.”

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.’

Deuteronomy 31 v

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The Power of Listening

The power of listening. What I am learning through listening.

In a culture where Facebook friends, likes & shares are counted; where Instagram followers & likes are sought; where Twitter followers & retweets are craved; where in a society of ‘social media’ which is meant to connect us more, we find levels of depression, anxiety and loneliness at an all time high.

For more than two years I have been working in partnership with a local high school running a weekly listening service in the school. Listening services are space to share what is on your mind. I have adapted the listening service model used locally in the Morecambe Bay area with the NHS GP practices to be appropriate within a school environment. The school listening service is an opportunity for students to share their joys and their hardships, it’s a place to laugh and cry. Over the last year I have seen over 45 students for at least one 25 minute appointment. The vast majority are referred from school case workers, heads of year or senior management in the school with few self referrals via the former.

Today as I drove home after the Listening Service I started to think about how this incredible opportunity came to be. I remember the meeting with a Deputy Head who was new to the school. The meeting was just a chance to get to know her and say what we are about as a church but also with the other organisations we partner with like NISCU. We chatted about what we were currently doing in the school which to be honest wasn’t working all that well. As I sat in that meeting I was prompted to be available and ask the question, “If I could give you a morning a week, what would you want me to do?” Without needing any time to think, the Deputy Head responded, “Listen –  we haven’t got enough time to listen. The students have all sorts happening in their lives and they need someone to just listen.” Within 2 weeks the listening service was up and running.

One of the major lessons I have learnt is the power of listening. For those who know me you know I love to talk. But the power of listening, the significance of offering time and space to someone, to intentionally give them a voice is something I’ve seen such value in over the last few years. For many students, the listening service has become one of the highlights of their week, and not just because they are out of lessons for 25 minutes and get sweets! But for some it has been the only time of the week where someone has asked “How are you?” and not as a small talk conversation starter but giving them time and space to be honest and share what is happening in their life, whether serious or chatting about their interests has been significant.

“Poor listening diminishes another person, while good listening invites them to exist and matter.” David Mathis – Desiring God.

I have seen many students grow in confidence as they have been able voice whatever it may be they are carrying. One girl I remember had such high levels of anxiety she wouldn’t walk to school, wouldn’t enter a shop, wouldn’t socialise. From a girl who was so nervous when she first came to see me to picking her little brother up from school and getting the train to town to meet her dad, her parting comment was “When I first came to see you I struggled with anxiety, now I don’t.” I don’t write this to boast. I write this because I am one who is so often quick to speak. But I have learnt as Bonhoeffer said that ““listening can be a greater service than speaking.” In seeing someone find freedom from anxiety, in seeing students perspectives change on school or home. Not because I said loads of wise words but because I was intentionally available and listened.

“Listening can be a greater service than speaking.”  Bonhoeffer

Now this shouldn’t be a surprise and is nothing new, James 1 v 19 tell us to be slow to speak and quick to listen. Good listening is a beautiful expression of the mindset of Christ. (Philippians 2:5) It flows from a place of humility. A humble heart that considers others more significant than ourselves. (Philippians 2:3). Bonhoeffer in his wisdom said we need to avoid ““a kind of listening with half an ear that presumes already to know what the other person has to say.”  Good listening cares and looks for the interests of others not to ones own interests. (Philippians 2:4). Good listening is patient and kind. (1 Corinthians 13:4).

But for me this has to be more than a morning a week in a local high school. I need to be more intentional to listen well in all my relationships, with my wife, my son, my family, my friends, those in church & those in my community.  My prayer is that others will know the true value they have to God and to me in the way that I listen well.