Category Archives: books

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Learning from women about leadership

I know it’s a little ironic, but I have been asked to lead a seminar about women in leadership. Full disclosure, I am not and never have been a woman.

I have decided to take the opportunity and to look for ways that women’s voices can be heard in the seminar. I am also hoping to co-chair the seminar with a woman. I decided to do the seminar because I believe in the conference that asked me to speak – they have a brilliant heart and a wonderful vision and also because I believe passionately that we need to empower women to lead at every level.

I didn’t always believe this; as a teenager a proofext from 1 Tim 2.11 was all I needed to close down the debate. I have learnt a lot about biblical hermeneutics and reading scripture in its canonical and cultural context since then. So I am leading this seminar from the perspective of someone who is absolutely committed to the infallibility of scripture and to women in leadership in the church.

I really want to include as many women’s voices in my seminar as possible and so I would  love your help. I have had some terrific responses when I asked the question on twitter.

I found the responses very moving and challenging (see below to read all of them) . Here are my reflections on the tweets I’d love to know your views – I am of course open to suggestion and correction. 

Three things I have learned so far…

1. Leadership Humility

I was struck by the gracious and humble tone of the advice. So many of the contributors encouraged patience and kindness towards those who opposed or rejected women’s leadership. I wish I could see more of this evidenced from people on both sides of the debate when they write about this subject – perhaps it is there but I have been reading the wrong stuff. Wherever we stand on this debate we need to approach this subject with grace and humility.  We are family together and  scripture calls us to be exemplary in the way we handle disputes and debates among us.  For those of us that oppose women in leadership we  need to recognise that the tone and language used to express your views can crush someone who is trying to follow God’s call on their lives to use their gifts. Leadership is often lonely and isolating and attacking someone’s honest and faithful response to God’s call is a dangerous thing to do. This is not just a theological issue : someone’s call to leadership is linked directly to their sense of identity. Similarly for those of us who support women in leadership we need to recognise that for those that don’t agree with us – this is often a question of conscience  for those who oppose us. It is a dangerous thing to ask another Christian to act against their conscience and we act carefully as we seek to persuade someone to change their minds. I was moved by the maturity and generosity of those who offered comment on my twitter question as they encouraged other women to be patient and gracious with those that stood against them.

2. Leadership Integrity

I found this tweet and many of the others like it very enlightening.  There were a lot of calls to be authentic, to be true to whom God has made you to be. I found these words encouraging as it is vital for all leaders to understand the right balance between knowing whom God has made us to be and how we live into that calling with the ongoing challenge of resisting the sin in our lives. 

 

Too often we overemphasise sin to the exclusion of our God given identity or we overemphasise our identity to the exclusion of the sin in our lives. Now some people will say we should find our identity in Christ and not in the role we have received from him and I do understand that. But the New Testament knows about the intertwining of call and identity – Paul writes:

” For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”

1 Corinthians 9:16ff

I was moved by so many of the tweets that emphasised the need to be true to yourself in light of the opposition that so many women have faced to taking on leadership roles. It seems that many for many women leaders their identity has been challenged or dare I say oppressed by those that stood against their sense of call as leaders. I remember as a twenty something having a strong sense of call on my life to be an evangelist and a leader in my church telling me I should leave it aside and become a school teacher. I found it crushing that call on my life was being doubted how much worse it must feel to have large groups of the church oppose so vehemently so many womens’ sense of call on their lives to lead.

3. Leadership and Accountability

There were a lot of tweets that emphasised the need for support and accountability. For me that is where groups like Sophia Network have been so helpful . I loved the tone of Rachel’s comment:

I know that when I have felt isolated and criticised I have sometimes responded by  stopping listening to anyone’s advice or critique and to assume that I am always right – to become self-righteous. Rachel’s tweet is rich with wisdom encouraging us to find genuine friends both male and female to speak truth into our lives. Rachel; who has been a family friend since I was a teenager, is a terrific leader and   models the humility this tweet suggests.

You can read all of  the responses below:

(Photo was adapted with text but taken from JustArd’s lovely Flickr account)

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Spirit of Paradox

It is not every day you get to meet someone who has helped to start a genuine movement of change and restoration.  So you can imagine my excitement when it came to spending time with David and Mary Pytches – the couple who helped to birth both New Wine and Soul Survivor.

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David and Mary returned to the UK with four young daughters after serving as cross cultural missionaries in Chile.  Unsure what God wanted them to do they looked for a base in Chorleywood, which offered education facilities for the girls.  David was hoping to learn how to run a parish from the Vicar, but the Vicar was about to leave and David was offered the incumbency.  David speaks about his sense of inadequacy and eventually set up a daily early morning prayer meeting.   From this time saw an increasing number of people added to the church.   Mary recounts how they faithfully retained the liturgy at the same time as being open to the Holy Spirit.

Learning that John Wimber was coming to York David suggested that he call in on Chorleywood on the way.  It was an unforgettable weekend.   Despite very different ecclesiologicol backgrounds John and David hit it off and became close friends.   And soon David was helping John to find organisers for the UK conferences.

I enjoyed being able to tell David how grafeful I was for the Brighton Conference in 1986, where a friend of mine came to faith.  He later stood up in our class at our rough and ready comprehensive school and shared his new found faith in Jesus.  This was Steven Whittington – a key influence in my becoming a Christian.   It was great to learn about a young youth worker from a Baptist church where had run an open youth club, until the local teenagers rampaged the church.  The youth worker was Mike Pillavachi, who later became the youth worker at Chorleywood.

David and I had this opportunity to meet after he had read my book “Paradoxology” -  Why Christianity was never meant to be simple.  David explained to me that it was the title that grabbed him as he had reflected for many years on the paradoxes of scripture which we tend to brush under the carpet, which means our Bible teaching has no real integrity.   David reminded me of Charles Simeon, a great evangelical clergyman and bible teacher who had said

“The truth is not in the middle, and not in one extreme; but in both extremes.”

Mary commented on how we tend to cut God down to our size but ‘wouldn’t we rather have a big God’.   Interestingly we talked a lot about the liturgy undergirding our spirituality and both Paradox and Liturgy are things that James K.A. Smith has been arguing for recently.  Sadly many churches seem to opt either for intimacy with God or depth of teaching when there doesn’t need to be a choice.   Depth of true teaching should help us develop intimacy with God and our intimacy with God should drive us towards deeper teaching – it should be a virtuous circle.

David has kindly written a commendation for the reprint of ‘Paradoxology’ which is out soon.  It has some typos and corrections added thanks to those of you who spotted my errors.  The book will be even better  because of you.   David says:  “I have been looking for a book like this for the last fifty years and am so delighted to have found it.”

I came away from David and Mary greatly encouraged.  They are rare people who have experienced so much of God and done so much in His name, and in their seniority are still keen to bless others.

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A sofa-isticated faith

With a major row brewing in the church on the assisted suicide bill in the House of Lords, the Evangelical Alliance is encouraging people to pose this and other difficult and seemingly contradictory questions about Christianity. Dr Krish Kandiah, executive director of churches in mission, is tackling the most difficult questions that one can possibly raise about Christianity in the next week when he invites questioners to join him on the ‘paradoxology sofa’.

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“The issue of assisted suicide is engaging widespread debate on Twitter and in the pages of the national press. Rather than avoid these tough questions I want to encourage people to bring out their most perplexing queries and questions and have confidence to talk about them rather than hiding them away,” he said.

 

“Other tough questions being discussed are why God seems to sanction genocide in the Old Testament, why is there so much suffering in the world? Is God an egomaniac that he wants everyone to worship him? Is God racist that he chose the Jews to be his people? Rather than discouraging awkward questions I will be actively discussing them at Keswick.”
These are being discussed during week two of the Keswick Convention (19-25 July), where the his ‘Paradoxology sofa’ has been set up to engage people during his seminar series based on his new book Paradoxology: Why Christianity was never meant to be simple.(Published by Hodder).
He will be sporting a ‘Paradoxology sofa’ (whose upholstery matches the cover of the book) complete with matching cushions (which are printed with quotes of reviewers!). A prize is being offered for the best questions or paradox raised in a photo competition.
“It’s a bit of fun to help Christians begin to sit up and engage with some serious questions. I believe that Christianity is true and so we do not need to fear any questions but we do need to be on our guard against over simplistic answers,” he added.
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IF YOU WANT TO TAKE PART IN OUR LITTLE COMPETITION SIMPLY Tweet a picture of yourself with your question and use the hashtag #paradoxology. The best picture / question will be sent a book bundle including a copy of Paradoxology.
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Simple Simon Says… Make Disciples

Francis Chan certainly has a direct way of challenging the way we go about fulfilling the mission Christ commissioned his church to complete.

Francis Chan – Making Disciples from Verge Network on Vimeo.

Of course the challenge is what does disciple making actually look like. I have been thinking about this for a while now, see the suite of resources we have collated here.

I have been thinking on how we create disciples that are not just clones of celebrity church leaders or so fragile that their faith falls apart during transition – let along tragedy. See my article for Christianity Today’s leadership blog.

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A matter of perspective

I couldn’t believe these amazing street art photos from: justsomething.co

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Its an amazing skill, lining everything up so that from just the right angle these 2D pictures suddenly take on a whole new dimension. It reminded me of the opening lines of a Tale of Two Cities “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” was the French revolution the best thing to have happened to France – it depended who you were and where you stood. That got me thinking about  the most significant crisis in human history – was it a disaster or deliverance? The Cross of Jesus is either the lowest point in history or the highest point – it just depends where you stand…

Take a listen to a 2 minute little taster from the Cross Paradox which is taken from Paradoxology my new book which tries to bring a new perspective on some of the  most challenging parts of the Bible.

You can listen to the 3 other recordings here from the Premier Christian Radio Thought of the Day series I did here. (1) (2) (3)

For more Premier Thought of the Day material by other speakers check here.

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Paradoxological Thought for the Day #4

There’s been a lot of debate recently about which books should be included in the English Literature syllabus. “To Kill a Mocking Bird” is out and so is “The Grapes of Wrath” as they are not English enough. What is often missing in these debates is the way that English literature has been shaped by the Bible. So many of the key tropes and themes in our literature have been shaped and formed by the biblical narrative. For young people to fully grasp English literature they need biblical literacy too.

In today’s thought for the day take a listen to my reflections on one of the all time classics of English literature (even though it is based on the French Revolution.)
This is a taster for a chapter called “The Cross Paradox – how God wins when he loses” in Paradoxology. I hope you enjoy it.

You can access more of Premier Christian Radio Thought of the Days by a whole range of speakers here. 

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Paradoxological Thought for the Day #3

People grow up quickly.
Looking at the actors from Harry Potter on the first day of filming and then again on the last day is a strange experience. We all watched Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint grow up in front of us. We feel older and wiser as we recognise this fact but we also wonder where the time went.

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If you are a believer I wonder how long it has been since you became a Christian?  I look back on the last 27 years since a friend of mine helped me to become a follower of Jesus and wonder where the time went. I’d love to be more mature in my faith by now – I ought to be more mature by now…

I am trying to take some deliberate steps to grow in my faith and by God’s grace I hope as I grow I will be able to help others. My book Paradoxology tells a little a bit of the story. Listen in to today’s excerpt to see what I mean.

You can also click to  listen to Day 1 and Day 2.

 

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Paradoxologial Thought for the Day #2

I love the strapline for the latest Adidas World Cup advertising campaign: “All in or Nothing.” It reminds me of my secondary school PE teacher. I wrote about him recently in a Christianity Today online article.

“I loved the way he wanted my rough comprehensive school in Brighton to have a rugby (for U.S. readers: think American Football but without the body armor and helmets) team that could take on the well-to-do public schools in our area. I was virtually blind without my glasses on, but I could run fast, and was given the role of winger. Our coach drilled us to fully commit to a tackle: hit the runner with all our might, grab on to their legs, and hold on for dear life. A half-hearted tackle would certainly end up with a boot in the face—so we needed to go “all in or not in at all,” he said.”

It was that mindset that challenged me to write Paradoxology, where I try to go “All In” by tackling the most difficult parts of the Bible that I could find: genocide, predestination, child sacrifice etc. I wanted to show Christians there’s no part of the Bible that is off limits. But the book also challenges us to go all in with our thinking about God, our living for him and our love for him.

Here’s part 2 of my Paradoxological Thoughts for the day. (click here to listen to part 1) based on my book Paradoxology. 

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A Paradoxological Thought for the Day #1

My new book Paradoxology: Why Christianity was never meant to be simple  is aimed to help you think more deeply about the big questions of life and faith.

As a little audio taster of paradoxology I am pleased to be able to bring you (courtesy of Premier Christian Radio) a daily paradoxological thought for the next 5 days.  Each is about 2 minutes long and gives you a little insight into the heart off the book. The story you are about to hear is about as sad as it gets… (come back tomorrow for the next in the series).

In case you haven’t seen it here is the mini movie we made.

 

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Paradox Radio

Looking forward to talking on BBC local radio stations tomorrow morning about the Judas Paradox – one of the chapters from my new book Paradoxology: why christianity was never meant to be simple.

Here’s the running order:

If you are up early tune in. Some of the BBC local radio sunday programmes encourage people to phone in and engage in the discussion – so feel free to give your station a call.

0700 GUERNSEY
0708 MERSEYSIDE
0715 SOLENT
0722 BERKSHIRE
0738 CAMBRIDGE
0745 DERBY
0752 LIECESTER
0808 NORFOLK
0815 JERSEY
0822 HEREFORD & WORCESTER
0830 CORNWALL
0852 ULSTER

I’m zooming over from the Word Alive event in Prestatyn Pontins to the be in the Liverpool studios of Radio Merseyside. Please pray for safe travel but also this will be a genuine opportunity to talk meaningfully about the good news of Christianity on the radio.

I will be talking about the paradox of Judas; here’s a little snippet from Paradoxology that introduces the themes:

I have been wrestling with the question of Judas since the very first time I read the story for myself. His name has become a byword for betrayal. Was he intrinsically evil, or did the devil make him do it? Even more controversially, did God plan for Judas to betray Jesus? Was Judas born for damnation? Was his future already mapped out when he was an embryo? While he was a toddler learning to walk and talk, was his fate already decided – was it predetermined that he would betray the Son of God? Is Judas a tragic hero of the providence of God, a man to be pitied more than any other, or is he the master villain of the gospel story? Had God pre-programmed him as the robot assassin of the Son of God? If he had no choices, was Judas truly human?

In short: was Judas pushed – or did he jump?