Thursday, August 25, 2011

INvest in Yourself

We're kicking off an exciting new initiative in September called INvest. One of the things I've had on my heart for a while has been to find a place where people can get a deeper level of Biblical knowledge and understanding, not so that we can be full of information but so that we can grow in our relationship with God and be more effective for Him. INvest is hopefully going to be the place where that can happen.

The idea is to take the material which gets taught in a year at Kerith Academy, and present the same material over two years on a Wednesday evening. People can sign up for it on a term by term basis, so if for some reason you have to skip a term you should be able to cover the same material two years later.

There are a load more details on the website here, including details on how to register. Please take a look and think whether this might be a next step for you as you look to grow in Christ. Note also that this is open to people outside of Kerith, if you think it might do you good then sign up and come and join in the fun!

Simon.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bill Hybels - Leading with Grace

One of the speakers at this years Summit, Howard Schultz who is the CEO of Starbucks, pulled out at the last minute under pressure from a gay advocacy group. This all happened in the week leading up to the Summit. At the Summit Bill had to get up and explain why Howard wasn't coming and how we should respond.

I really want to encourage you to watch what Bill had to say, which you can see here.

On so many levels what Bills says represents a remarkable example of leadership, and I could write multiple blogs analysing leadership lessons to learn from it. For me it was one of the highlights of the conference. In my mind the biggest takeaway was the way Bill handled the issues of grace and truth, or as we might describe it being peachy. Being welcoming to everyone at the same time as being very clear about what we believe and what the Bible teaches. Just brilliant.

Although we won't be hearing Howard at the GLS in October, I do encourage you to read his book Onward. I read it in preparation for the Summit and got an awful lot out of it, as Howard explains how Starbucks lost it's soul, the core of what it was about, and the painful steps they had to take to rediscover it. Also go and buy a Starbucks coffee - do you really need an excuse!

Finally to let you know that Patrick Lencioni replaced Howard at the last minute. He's a leadership guru and gave one of the funniest and most instructive Summit talks I have ever heard! We'll be hearing Patrick's talk in October.

Simon.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Proud of our Young People

At a time when so many negative things are being said about the young people in our nation (although I note that less than 25% of those in trouble for rioting are under 18), I thought you'd like to see something positive.

Many of you will know that our youngsters have just got back from Rocknations in Bradford, where by all accounts they had an amazing time (you can see some highlights here). When they go up there they stay in a hotel, and I must admit that a part of me wonders quite what goes on with dozens of very excited youngsters in that sort of environment. Well after this years stay this feedback was sent from the hotel manager to Lorraine Wade, who organised the hotel and was with the young people:


Good Afternoon Lorraine


I hope you are well, I just wanted to send you a quick email and thank you for choosing the Midland Hotel again this year. Michela and Hannah told me what a lovely group you had and they were not wrong at all, right from the beginning to the end the Kids were very polite, well mannered and are a credit to you, their parents and the ALCC.


(The head housekeeper has informed me that the bedrooms were not damaged in any way).


If I can be of service to you in anyway please do not hesitate to contact me, and hopefully we can look forward to being of service to you next year.

I love getting that sort of feedback! It makes me very proud of our youngsters, and all of the team who went up there to support and look after them. I hope it makes you proud too.

Simon.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bill Hybels - Being Approachable

One of my observations on many church leaders is how unapproachable they can appear to be. I've seen it in both large and small churches, where the leader only appears in the meeting once it has started, and then disappears as soon as it's all over. Either that or they're so busy chatting to all their friends that nobody else gets a look in. I'm sure there are a variety of reasons for it. Some leaders are probably natural introverts and so just don't enjoy talking to lots of people. Others are bound by traditions about praying before the meeting starts, or processing in as part of the meeting. Still others I'm sure have been so hurt by people's comments in the past that they want to avoid any possibility of being hurt again.

Observing other leaders made watching Bill Hybels all the more remarkable. When we go to the Willow Creek Leadership Summit in Chicago (which is on a Thursday and Friday) we normally stay over and go to either their Saturday night or one of the two Sunday morning weekend services. Usually after the Summit it seems Bill doesn't preach (it's been Henry Cloud the last three years we've been), although he does anchor the meeting. But the remarkable thing is what happens at the end. Bill will stand at the front of the auditorium, and a line forms of people wanting to have a chat with him. When it starts the line extends all the way to the back of the auditorium (which is a long way in an auditorium which seats over 7,000 people), and Bill stays there until he's chatted to and prayed with everyone in the line. There is someone there making sure nobody takes too much of Bill's time, but basically anyone who wants to can  spend a few minutes talking to him. Watching the line you see Bill chatting to people, laughing with them, crying with them, holding hands with a family group as they pray together, just amazing. And he stays there until he's seen everyone in the line. Sometimes when we've been there that has been over an hour after the meeting finished. And all this off the back of two days of the Leadership Summit, one of the most exhausting events I can imagine any leader having to host, and when he's leading a church with over 28,000 people attending across its five locations.

I've seen the same thing in other leaders I admire. I remember Mahesh Chavda coming to the Kerith Centre. He wasn't well, but at the end of the meeting he stayed until every last person who wanted it had been prayed for. I've seen the same spirit in people like Canon Andrew White and Michael and Esther Ross-Watson. Inspiring.

Now I realise that at the end of our meetings there are very few people who want to chat to me! I have no illusions of grandeur in that respect. But it has made me resolve as a leader that I always want to be approachable. That anyone who comes to Kerith and wants to have a chat with me, or for me to pray with them, can do that. So please do come and chat with me on a Sunday if there's anything you'd like to talk about, good news you'd like to share or you'd like me to pray for you. And if you ever feel that I'm becoming unapproachable just remind me of this blog, and the example of Bill.

Simon.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bill Hybels - Observing Leaders #1

It was the apostle Paul who wrote to the church in Corinth "I urge you to imitate me". Although Paul saw himself as the "chief of sinners", he also realised that there was much that the Corinthians could benefit from by watching how he lived his life and copying him.

One of my favourite pastimes is people watching. Many times it will be in a coffee shop or, my favourite, an airport arrivals lounge, trying to guess peoples life stories. Although interesting I'm not sure how much I ever gain from doing this. But I know that I have learnt huge amounts by watching other leaders, by observing what they do and don't do, and how they handle certain situations. Ben Davies in particular has sown huge amounts into my leadership, simply through being able to observe him leading week in week out over 18 years.

But of all the leaders I've observed, I'd have to say that Bill Hybels is the one who has impacted me the most. Now Bill Hybels has no idea who I am. I have been introduced to him on a couple of occasions, but if I met him tomorrow he'd have no idea what my name is, where I'm from or what I do. Yet observing him lead at events like the Leadership Summit, at Willow on a Sunday, when he's come over the the UK and even seeing him on DVD and CD have had a profound impact on how I lead Kerith.

I want to write about a couple of those observations on Bill Hybels leadership in forthcoming blogs, but for now I just want to encourage you to be an observer of leaders. Church leaders, political leaders, business leaders, parents leading their children, people leading clubs. There is so much we can learn from what other people do. Some things which will be good, which you want to copy, and some things which you'll resolve never to do in your leadership (and we're all leaders in one way or another in life).

Happy leader watching!

Simon.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Summit Reflections (and a competition)

Well the GLS 2011in Chicago is now over, and Catrina and some of the others are out shopping, so I've got a chance to write a few reflections on this years Leadership Summit.

First of it's been a huge privilege to be here again. For me the trip out here is a massive time of being refreshed, hearing from God and receiving faith and vision for the next season of life at Kerith. This years Summit has been one of the best and I sense so much has spoken into where we are going - I can't wait for loads of you to get to see it in October. I never take it for granted the gift that it is to be here, and just hope that I can make it an investment which will be repaid over and over again in the life of the church in the coming year.

Normally at the Summit there will be at least a couple of "not so good" speakers. This year there was an incredible consistency across them all, so much so that when we had the meeting this morning to start to try and decide which ones we show in the UK and which ones we drop we had a really tough time finding anyone to leave out. Yet in there was an incredible variety. From the mayor of Newark to Egypt's equivalent of Mother Theresa, very few names I'd ever heard of before but across the board messages which spoke so clearly and powerfully. I'm not going to give the game away as to any of their content, you'll have to wait until October for that. But there were two themes stuck out for me. First of all humility, the call to live your life for others, regardless of the personal cost or sacrifice. And then a call to action, to get on and at do something to try and make a difference in the world we live in.

It's also inspiring just to be around Willow. To sit in their 7,000 seat auditorium, to see thousands and thousands of people gathering to be better leaders and to think that there is no reason that all of this isn't possible for the UK - God is the same everywhere. I'm also inspired every year by Bill Hybels and his leadership. There was one particularly tricky issue he had to deal with this year, which I'll write about in a future blog. He dealt with is with such grace and wisdom that it was quite breathtaking, and incredibly instructional for me.

Finally it's been great to be here with a team. We've had a number of Kerith folk who've never been here before, friends from other churches in Bracknell, and from Lithuania and Soweto, all of whom have heard from God in different ways unique to each one of us.

So to the competition I mentioned in the title. At the Summit they showed a video of declarations, filmed from around the world (it may actually get used as the part of the opener for the GLS we host in October). They did the filming by sending portable flip cameras to 20 different nations, one of which came to us in Bracknell. Colin Boyle did a brilliant job of thinking of creative ways of getting people to make their declarations, many of which made it onto the video. There is a book from one of the speakers at the Summit for the person who can name the most Kerith people on the video - send your answers here. Just a bit of fun - please don't take it too seriously!

I really want to encourage for you to come to the GLS in October, either in Bracknell or somewhere else around the world. If you're part of Kerith register at reception for a special Kerith rate, otherwise take a look at the Willow site to find the location closest to you.

Simon.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Thoughts on the Riots

Several people have asked if I'd blog on my thoughts on the UK riots. I don't know how to do it briefly, so this is going to be quite a long post, but please persevere as I think you'll find this helpful. Also to say that much of this has been shaped by Tom Wright's book Surprised by Hope, which I'm reading at the moment, and is one of the most thought provoking books I've read in a long time.

So here are my thoughts.

1. We shouldn't be surprised
There is a prevailing world view which says that the world is inevitably progressing to be a better and better place. This was characterised by the enlightenment in the 19th century, fuelled by the ideas of Darwinian evolution and is propped up by every politician who tells us "vote for me and I'll fix it all". The idea is that the combination of education, scientific advance and the right political systems will lead us to a place where we can eradicate every problem in the world. The problem with that world view is that it can't explain, and has no solution to, the problem of evil in the world today. If we're on this curve of progress then why is there so much evil going on.
You only have to open a newspaper today to see that things aren't getting better. Riots on the streets of the UK; chaos on the world stock markets; civil war in Libya, Afghanistan and Syria; famine in Somalia; the list just goes on.
So let's not be surprised when we read about evil things going on. And lets be clear that what we are seeing on the streets of the UK is evil. Whatever the initial catalyst might have been, the violence, theft and destruction we have seen isn't rooted in any sort of protest movement or reaction to what is happening in the country, at it's root it is evil. Jesus told us that the devil comes to steal, kill and destroy, so don't be shocked when what we see on our streets is people stealing, killing and destroying. Some commentators will tell us there are all sorts of socio-economic explanations for the riots (some of which may be true), but behind it all there is evil, and as people living in a fallen world we mustn't be surprised, shocked or confused when evil things happen.

2. But we should have hope
The opposite to the 'progress' world view is one which says that this world is doomed and as Christians we should just be sitting it out waiting for heaven, where everything will be fixed. We need to realise that Jesus didn't just die on the cross so that we could go to heaven when we die, but so that we could be a force for redemption in the world to day.
We need to remember that when Jesus was raised from the dead, He wasn't resurrected into heaven but onto earth with a physical body, as a sign that what He had won on the cross wasn't just for some future heaven but is for right here, right now. That's what is so powerful about Jesus teaching us to pray "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven". The promise of Jesus is for some of heaven now.
So as we see the riots on the streets, we mustn't just give up and retreat into our Christian huddle, hoping somehow we'll survive and make it to heaven. No, Jesus has called us to be salt and light, to be a force for transformation in the world we live in.
And let's not make the mistake of getting down on all young people. For every young person smashing a window there are thousands who aren't. I look at our own Kerith youngsters who in the last twelve months have raised over £15,000 for the girls dormitory in Serenje. I look at many of the youngsters we have reached over the last 2 years, who have come from challenging family backgrounds but with God's help are really turning their lives around. Young people who are working hard training to be lawyers, teachers, scientists, plumbers, mechanics and many other things so that they can make a positive difference in the world they live in.

3. We have the solution
I'm currently in Chicago attending the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. I know that over the next few days I will hear Bill Hybels say "The church is the hope of the world". And I believe it. As the church we have this only message in the world today which can change a human heart. That Jesus died on the cross and was raised from the dead so that we could be reconciled to God, and then could become his hands and his feet in the world we live in. No political ideology, no educational system, no social action programme can do that. They can change the outside, but only the gospel can take hearts of stone and turn them to hearts of flesh.
So let's be confident in the gospel. As you see those pictures of young people rioting on the streets, know that it's a life changing encounter with a God who loves them more than they will ever know that they need. To give them hope, to give them purpose, to give them the sense of belonging many of them will have never known, to begin to rebuild their messed up broken lives, to give them a moral framework to live their lives by, to begin to break free from the control of the devil.

4. Let's pray
Here's my challenge for this week. Every time you see or read about news of the riots, stop and pray. If we spent as much time praying as we've spent hearing about and talking about the rioting it would make a huge difference - God the God who answers prayer. So let's be praying for the police as they try and restore law and order to our streets. Be praying for the fire-fighters, doctors, nurses and others dealing with the fall out from the riots. Let's be praying for our politicians, even though they don't have the ultimate solution that they will make good decisions and have Godly wisdo. Let's be praying for all those affected by the riots, people who have lost homes, businesses, possessions, are in hospital or have lost family members or friends. Let's be praying for the rioters, that God would speak to them and get hold of them, convicting them of how wrong what they're doing is and changing them. And let's be praying for all the churches in the affected areas. For the leaders in those churches to rise up in their communities, to lead the way in speaking hope into those situations. For the people in those churches as they speak to their neighbours and speak hope into situations which for many must seem hopeless.

And let's be asking God for revival in our nation. For such a move of God that we would truly see social transformation on a national scale, as has happened in the past and can happen again.

5. And let's act
But prayer alone is not enough, we must also act. It's prayer and action in unison which brings God's breakthrough in a situation - if we really believe the church is the hope of the world that means us actually doing stuff. There will be much debate over the next few months on the cause of the riots and how to stop them happening again - I believe that the church, truly being the church as the body of Christ in the world today, is the most powerful possible catalyst for change in those communities.

Now the reality is that already the churches in the communities affected by the riots will already be rising up and making a huge difference on the ground. It probably won't ever make it onto the TV screens or into the newspapers, but we know that across London it will be churches which are at the forefront of dealing with the human fallout of all that has gone on. And that it is the churches that will continue to be there, long after the politicians and political commentators have moved on to the 'next thing'. If you know someone in a church in one of the affected areas why not give them a ring, see how they are doing and if there is anything practical you could do to help them.

But there is clearly much more for the church to do if it is truly to make the impact Jesus intended it to make. I can only speak for Kerith where we need to continue to invest heavily in the young people in our community. Running events like LIFE on a Friday night which reach out to all young people, not just those from a Christian background. Resourcing the youth team, headed up by Liam Parker, in all our work with schools and the police, and all the discipleship and mentoring programmes they run. Expanding the reach of the Kerith Academy as a training resource. Parenting courses to help parents navigate the complexity of bringing up children. Increasing what we do nationally by taking LIFE to other locations, and resourcing youth workers in other churches. And internationally continuing to support things such as  the youth camps in Albania, 1,700 children being supported through school in Serenje and getting the girls dormitory out there finished. If you are part of Kerith then please get behind these initiatives and look to get practically involved with them.

So let's not be surprised, let's not give up hope, but let's realise that Jesus is the answer. And let that drive us to pray and to act, that we truly might see some of heaven on earth, which is what our world so desperately needs.

Simon.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Chicago Bound

I'm sat in Heathrow terminal 3 waiting for our flight to Chicago for the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. At the airport are me and Catrina, Ben Davies, Lydia Harris-Lane, Ruth Buxton, Chris Mooney and Trevor & Cat Meardon from the Warfield churches. We've just met up with Tebogo who flew in from South Africa this morning - it will be great to spend some time with him. Out in Chicago we'll be joined by Craig & Susannah Mills and Saulius and some others from Lithuania. Plus Sean & Liz Green and a Reading Family Church gang will be out there too. Perhaps next year we should just charter a couple of jumbos and we can all go :)

I'll blog and tweet over the next few days on what we're up to, and what you all have to look forward to when we all get to see the GLS in October.

Simon.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fourth Birthday

Four years ago this week I first started blogging (you can read my very first blog here). Back then I had no  idea whether it was something I'd carry on, and whether anyone would actually be interested in reading my random musings. Four years and 669 posts later it's felt like quite a journey - if nothing else for me it's been a great way for me to journal some of my thoughts, and hopefully keep people up to date with all that is going on in Kerith.

I've always tried to write the blog primarily for people who are part of the Kerith community, but it's fascinating to see where else it gets read. The top ten places it is read (with the UK representing about 80% of the readers) are:


  1. United Kingdom
  2. United States
  3. Philippines
  4. Netherlands
  5. Germany
  6. Russia
  7. Canada
  8. Ukraine
  9. South Korea
  10. Japan
I'd love to hear any comments you have on the blog. Things I'd be interested in are:

  • What do you enjoy about the blog?
  • What do you wish I never mentioned again?
  • Is there anything else you'd like me to write about?
  • If you're reading it from somewhere other than the UK I'd love to know what you make of it.
  • Anything else you'd like to say

I look forward to hearing from you all :)

Simon.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Technology Sabbath Challenge

In September and October I'm going to share some thoughts on Sabbath, and the importance of rediscovering Sabbath if we are going to do life well. Part of that will be on how we relate to technology, meaning email, text, Facebook, twitter et al, when it comes to Sabbath.

So here's the Sabbath challenge I'm going to be taking for the next week, whilst I'm on holiday with the family. To take a technology Sabbath. That means no blogs, no tweets, no texting, no checking or sending email, no looking at Facebook. It sounds scary to even say it!

But I've had too many holidays where I never really relaxed because I was still in touch with all that was going on at work, whether that was church or BlueArc. Too many holidays where I've watched kids pestering parents to stop looking at their mobile phones and play with them in the pool. Too many times that I've fallen for the lie that I was so important that the world couldn't carry on without my input and intervention for just a handful of days.

I will be taking my Kindle with some new books on it, and will be taking my iPhone for the odd game of Angry Birds and Bible reading, but nothing which involves contact with the outside world!

If you're going away this summer I want to encourage you to take a technology Sabbath too. If you do I'd love to hear how it goes.

One final thing before I 'log off' for a week. Sola is preaching next Sunday - I'll be praying for him to powerfully bring the presence of God in all be brings.

Simon.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Finance Prayer Meetings

Just to let you know that that the finance prayer meeting will carry on through August on Thursdays from 6-7am. All of the August meetings will be in the K2 lounge, hopefully from September we'll be back praying in the newly refurbished Kerith Centre reception!

The leaders for the next five weeks will be as follows:

Aug 4th - Ben Davies
Aug 11th - Jon Hulme
Aug 18th - Me
Aug 25th - Me
Sep 1st - Ben Davies

It was so exciting to see the work in progress on reception on Sunday - it's going to look great and make such a difference when it's all done.

Let's pray for the building work to continue to go well, and for money to continue to come in throughout August.

Simon.