Tag Archives: leadership

Modelling hope amidst the chaos….

The words below are words that I spoke at our church gathering on Sunday 26th June 2016. This was the Sunday immediately following the E.U referendum. These words are as pertinent today (for me at least) as they were then.

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This week we wake up in new era…there have been some seismic shifts that have taken place politically over the past few days. Some of us here will have been elated at the news that we are going to be leaving the EU. We may feel thrilled that at last our views have been heard. Others may be pretty devastated….some have indeed spoken to me of a profound sense of loss…of feeling like exiles within their own land. Within this church community we will hold a range of views and a range of emotions. 

People on both sides of the referendum have expressed a creeping sense of fear now that the genie is well and truly out of the bottle now. David Cameron has resigned…..we await to see whether Boris Johnson or someone else will be the next (and presumably unelected Prime Minister). The labour leadership is looking distinctly shaky. It looks as if Scotland may vote to declare independence from England, Wales and Northern Ireland….the whole integrity of the EU is being called into question as other nations talk about the possibility of their referenda and there is there is the constant danger of the far right rising up. 

I think that the woeful campaigns by both Leave and Remain and the woeful behaviour since have allowed us to blame the ‘other’ without ever looking at ourselves. Race, religion, class and more have all played their part in the most unpleasant domestic political campaign most of us have ever witnessed.

Whatever our views on Thursday’s vote, these monumental changes are things that we desperately need to bring to God! 

God is still God! God is still sovereign and He is still in control! 

Echoing the words of Psalm 46 are the words of a song we sing to the Dambusters theme tune…..

God is our strength and refuge,

Our present help in trouble;

and we therefore will not fear,

though the earth should change!

Though mountains shake and tremble,

though swirling floods are raging,

God the Lord of hosts is with us evermore!

 

God would say to each of us Peace…‘Be still and know that I AM God!’ 

I would ask that we be gentle with each other? Here in our church gathering, amongst our families, in our work places and our community. It would be easy to gloat in our referendum victory or rage like a spoilt child in our loss, but instead let’s seek to work together to influence the future of the UK so that it doesn’t become isolated and insular. So that we can exercise leadership in the world…so that we can build bridges and not walls, so that we can bring the values of heaven to earth……so that we can bring hope, compassion, justice, mercy and love to the places in this world where love is not!? The church has a key role to play in modelling transformative healing…..and we need to pray over the coming days, weeks and months that God helps us to do just that.

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Inaugurating the Kingdom-A City On A Hill?

Globally, this is a time of uncertainty and disequilibrium. We are currently witnessing, (mostly through the media) a rise in global terrorism that shakes our sense of stability and security to the core. We are observing a growing exodus of forcibly displaced people – a higher number than at any time since the Second World War. It would be surprising if people didn’t find this unsettling!

During times of turbulent change, people often seek refuge in all kinds of fundamentalisms. Fear can make people intolerant of tolerance and disrespectful of differing points of view. Instead of seeking the often complex, hard to understand truth, people look instead for simplistic (post-truth?) answers, soundbites and scapegoats. These scapegoats are often provided by those whose thoughts, behaviours, racial identity or appearance are different from that of the observer. This may affect how the observer acts and how they vote. This sadly permeates the thinking, actions and voting preferences of many within the global church.

Of course Christians can and should have a view about politics and current affairs. Perhaps they have more reason to do so that those of no faith. Personally, I long that followers of Jesus serve in politics at all levels (and in many of the parties) so as to bring something of the values of the Kingdom to their work here on earth. Christianity itself, however, must never be co-opted by Government or ‘the powers’. It is vital that the Church herself maintains an appropriate and critical distance, particularly in these challenging times. If she fails to do so, she will fail to be the much needed prophetic voice that she is called to be!

Sadly, at times in history (and in the present) the Church has been co-opted. God himself, however, cannot be. He is always on the side of the poor, the oppressed and the powerless all over the world. If a person is blessed, that person is called to be a blessing. If a nation is blessed, that nation is called to be a blessing!

You cannot be God’s representative on earth whilst always putting yourself ‘first.’ That is selfish. That is wrong and that is not the godly response of a ‘righteous’ person or a ‘righteous’ nation.

God has a high calling on his people; his church. He is calling her to be shaped by his own ethical, holy character….to reflect his righteousness, justice and mercy to a world filled with evil, oppression and injustice. That is the mission of God’s people. There is no mission without ethics. There is no discipleship without ethics. There is no holiness without ethics. In each case, it must be BOTH AND! Isn’t it time that a Holy Church rediscovers the ethical responsibility of her calling?

Like a ‘city on a hill,’ God’s people/his Church must serve as beacons of hope – standing in solidarity with those whom God would stand with; with those who ‘cannot speak up for themselves.’ A church in alliance with oppressive powers or a church that fails to challenge an unjust status quo is a church that deserves to lose its’ credibility. Worse, it will be a church that is failing to be church on God’s terms and on that basis God may pass his judgement. That, for me, is a sobering thought.

Scribbles from my journal way back when…

 

Photo on 31-05-2016 at 10.50

I was imbibing a lovely cup of tea on Mersea Island yesterday whilst browsing through an old personal journal. The journal predated ministerial training and at the time that I wrote my musings I had no idea that one day I would end up as a Baptist Minister. As a woman in an F.I.E.C church at the time, no one had ever suggested it, or most probably even thought about it! As I read these journal ramblings with hindsight however, they remind me precisely why some form of church related ministry was perhaps inevitable and why being a faithful minister was never going to be an easy ride….

I plan to post a few more quotes from old journals over the next week or so. These will primarily be a reminder to myself of the way I sense that God has been leading me over the years and remind me why I do what I do. If they are helpful ‘pondering fuel’ for anyone else, then that’s great too. They are nothing particularly clever or even original, but just thoughts that seemed worth thinking at the time.

So, here are the first three of my musings from just a couple of pages from a journal way back when….

  • ‘What could God do if all who occupied leadership positions empowered others as their primary calling rather than simply exercising their own gifts?’ (If I were writing this today, I would write exactly the same, except that I would stress that a leaders primary calling, even before empowering others, is to worship God!’

 

  •  ‘I want to be a permission giver. Permission givers are ambitious for those working around them and are not intimidated by those more able than themselves. What will that require of me?’

 

  • ‘How can I empower emerging leaders and be ambitious for them? Can mentoring play a rôle? What does that look like in my secular context? What might that look like in a church context? 

Ear-wigs & Leaders!

EARWIGS-poster

A couple of weeks ago, I was ear-wigging on a conversation about an upcoming leadership role within a big church organisation.

‘They should have this background or that experience; they must have this qualification or that competency, along with a firm grasp of X, Y and Z’ came the people’s replies….

All suggestions were carefully recorded and many of them were very good.

One of the few woman in the group chipped in….

’I think we should be looking for a person of godly character.’ 

 ‘But, that will leave us in danger of appointing someone who is just too nice.’ said one of the men and the woman’s comment was swiftly ignored.

Well, the woman had been silly to suggest it. Of course, someone nice would never work out in that role! It was a role that would require someone prepared to ruffle a few feathers from time to time; it would require someone with the courage to speak honestly and challenge where challenge is required; it would require someone willing to take the people of God right outside their comfort zones………………….and someone of godly character couldn’t do that, could they?

I mean, Jesus would never have ruffled any feathers or posed a threat to the status quo would he? He was just too nice….it was being so nice and inoffensive that led him to the cross, wasn’t it?

Godly character and being nice are not the same! How did we come to domestic our faith so much that being anything other than ‘nice’ might affect our polite sensibilities? In so doing, we have often rendered ourselves potentially incapable of leading anything more revolutionary than a jumble sale or a tea party!

When it comes to leadership, a person’s competencies determine what that person can do. Their commitment determines what they will seek to do and their character determines what they will do.

Of course we need people of character and, specifically, of godly character!

Maxwell states that ‘Leadership is not something you do, it’s something you are….being must precede doing….to achieve greater results you must be a person of great character.’ (The 21 Most Powerful Minutes In a Leaders Day, Page 99)

Amen Maxwell! I don’t always agree with you, but leadership character perhaps now matters more than ever! As society increasingly rejects authority based on position, the church needs to offer the highest form of authority…an authority that comes from the transforming power of God working in and through a person/s – a power that gives an integrity and authenticity to all a leader is and does.

Yes….of course, all leaders are flawed, but leaders must be committed to becoming more and more conformed to the image of Jesus Christ and dedicated to a much ‘higher calling’ than ‘people pleasing’ will ever be. That will be costly!

What about skills and competency? I am sure that when the Apostle Paul gave instructions to Paul and Titus to appoint of the basis of character, he was not suggesting that competence was unimportant! Indeed he almost certainly assumed that appointments would be made on the basis of a certain level of skill.  So, of course skills and competency are necessary, but a commitment to Christ led character development is a far better predictor of potential spiritual leadership ability than skill level.

Whilst skilful leaders are highly desirable, competency without character will eventually be undermined. The price of appointing on the basis of skills or gifting or even experience rather than character will always be too great, particularly in Christian leadership.

Final thoughts: I could go on about the core of a leaders life being one of love and integrity….about how that foundation is the wellspring that gives rise to empathy; lack of blame; humility; emotional mastery; accountability, confidence in Christ and calling; courage to take risks and the focus on the whole picture, but I’ll save that for another time.

I could also talk more about the high cost of leadership and the fact that many leaders will need to go through periods of trial, testing, broken-ness and personal sacrifice before they really start to realise their God given potential, but again I’ll leave that for another posting.

Finally, I sincerely hope that the people upon who I was ear-wigging make the right appointment….a man or woman who will probably spend a lot of time on their knees before they even accept such an appointment and then, who if they sense themselves called, will make themselves utterly available for God to work in and through in whatever way he chooses!

Imagine the impact on the Church, society, the nations and the powers and principalities if Christian leaders and those who follow them submitted themselves to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in this way!

Ladies, gentlemen, boys and girls – we have a responsibility! 

So, you want to be great for God?

A New Year thought that I believe really matters…for me at least! Over the past year, I have heard a number of people say that they want to give their lives to achieve great and significant things for God. That’s probably very worthy. However, it could potentially smack of wanting to be promoted to a position of importance in the Kingdom of God. Surely, the greatest, most significant thing that any of us can do is to humble ourselves before the Lord, seeking to be totally available and obedient to Him. That will help to ensure that our desires are Christ centred, not ‘us centred.’

The Methodist Covenant Prayer reads:

I am no longer my own, but yours.

Put me to what you will,

Rank me with whom you will;

Put me to doing, put me to suffering;

let me be employed for you

Or laid aside for you, exalted for you

Or brought low for you;

Let me be full, let me be empty,

Let me have all things,

Let me have nothing;

I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things

To your pleasure and disposal.

And now glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours.

So be it.

And the covenant now made on earth

Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

It’s not an easy prayer to pray, but it is a prayer of deep humility and a prayer of utter abandonment to God….and isn’t that where we should be? Whether we may be laid aside or exalted…..God is still God and His love for us does not differ one iota whether we are busy doing things for him or whether the most we can manage is to just let ourselves be ‘beloved of the Lord’!

Certainly, we can be sure that when God is looking around for those to whom he can entrust leadership, he will be looking first and foremost for those who are both available and obedient.