Friday, August 31, 2012

The Peach and the Coconut

As many of you know I've spent the last two years working on a book, which we've called The Peach and the Coconut. It's an attempt to describe the culture of the church we want to build, trying to think through a whole range of issues from how do we do Sunday's, how we handle money, what do we think about sex and whole range of other issues. I'm hoping that is going to be a helpful guide as we look to grow as a community.

We're going to be giving everyone who is a part of Kerith a copy of the book on the 9th September (copies will be also given away over the following two Sundays to anyone who can't make the 9th). The only condition is that if you take a copy I'd love you to actually read it, rather than have it just gather dust on a shelf :) If you can give me some feedback then your reward in heaven will be even bigger! The book will also be available in audio and Kindle versions, and will be available to buy from both the church resources area and from Amazon.

Although a number of people outside Kerith are interested in the book (we even sold a load of copies at the One event I've just come back from) the intended audience is us as a church. We'll encourage everyone thinking of joining us to read it and digest what it says as part of them understanding who we are and what we believe.

This Sunday we're starting a Peach and Coconut series getting ready giving away the book the following Sunday - I'm really looking forward to it - hope to see you there.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Yesterday (Tuesday) Catrina and I got back from the One Event (formerly know as Grapevine) where we've been over the weekend. It was an outstanding event, with speakers including Jeff Lucas, Debbie Wright from Trent Vineyard, Stuart Bell from Lincoln and Andrew Wilson from Eastbourne (who will be with us on Sunday 14th October). There was also a Nigerian pastor called Dr William Kumuyi who has 120,000 members in his church in Lagos, and over 1 million across the rest of Nigeria :)

I had the privilege of speaking in a main session, and in a couple of seminars. It's not something I've done before - it was good to get out of my comfort zones although scary too! Thank you to everyone who was praying for me - I think I did OK :)

I haven't been to a Bible week since the days when we used to go to Stoneleigh Bible week every year. I have to say that I really enjoyed the whole experience. Not only the meetings and getting to worship in a setting with thousands of others, but also extended time to get to know people better and build relationships. A couple of other Kerith families came along too and also had a great time, particularly appreciating the quality of the children's work.

I am wondering whether we should think about a larger group of us going to One next year. Not in a "we must all go to this Bible week" sort of way, but in a much freer "if you're up for it why don't a number of us go to this" way. I'd be really interested in any thoughts on that.

Getting back marks the end of a fairly crazy summer for me. I've been away more than I've been home, so I'm looking forward to settling into some sort of routine, and really looking forward to being back in church on Sunday and seeing everyone again. We start a peach and coconut series on Sunday, ahead of launching the book where everyone will get a free copy on the 9th. I'm excited - hope you are too!



Monday, August 20, 2012

Big Church Night In

Many of you will have heard of the Big Church Day Out, a three day Christian music festival (for want of a better description), which is the brainchild of Tim Jupp who was the keyboard player with Delirious? This year over 25,000 people attended, including a number of people from Kerith.

I've got to know Tim over the last couple of years (he's a great guy) and he recently asked whether we'd be willing to host a variant of the event, called the Big Church Night In. This is going to take place at the Kerith Centre on Wednesday 28th November, and will feature Matt Redman and Rend Collective.

I guess Matt Redman will be a familiar name to most of us, but Rend Collective may be a bit more of an unknown quantity. As you may guess from the photo above they're quite a quirky group, with a strong Nothern Ireland folk influence (John Mitchell will love them!). They played at RockNations this year and the youth thought they were brilliant - you can catch a beautifully filmed video of them here.

I wouldn't normally mention an event like this until nearer the time, but it is a ticketed event and from what Tim has told me tickets are selling quickly. I therefore wanted to make sure all from Kerith got to hear about it early so that none of us miss out. You can find more details and can book your tickets here - I hope you can be there for what should be a great evening.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Introverts in the Church

I wonder if you're an introvert or an extrovert? If you don't know, here are three characteristics you can use to work out which you are:

Energy source: introverts recharge themselves by getting away on their own, or with one or two very close friends - being with lots of other people drains them. Extroverts on the other hand derive energy from being around other people - silence or inactivity drains them.

Processing: Introverts need time and space to think, and will often have their best thoughts long after a meeting has finished. Extroverts tend to enjoy thinking out loud, and will develop their ideas in a group discussion.

Depth or Breadth: Introverts tend to have a small number of very deep relationships, struggle with small talk and don't enjoy meeting new people. Extroverts tend to have a larger number of friends, many of whom they won't actually know that well, and love meeting new people

All of these are generalisations, but can be helpful in understanding oursleves. I have to admit to being a bit of a mixture of introvert and extrovert. I'm definitely recharged by being on my own, and find chatting to dozens of different people on a Sunday drains me of energy. However, I also love to think out loud and enjoy doing things like questions and answer sessions, which is more extrovert behaviour. My Myers-Briggs results always have me as an extrovert (I'm an ENTP for anyone who is interested), but I definitely relate to lots of the introverted traits.

All that to say that I was recently lent a book by Leon Johnson looking at how introverts fit into church life. The basic premise of the book is that most churches are designed for extroverts. Everything from Sunday meetings (with little space for quiet or contemplation) to small groups (where we expect people to share their lives in front of relative strangers) mitigate against inteoverts expressing who they really are.

I found the whole book fascinating and challenging in a number of ways:

  • How do we continue to move away from a "one size fits all" strategy for small groups, acknowledging all sorts of diversity in what different people need from a small group
  • How do we make more space for contemplation and silence in a Sunday gathering
  • How do I personally make sure I don't get drained by spending all my time with people
  • How do we recognise that introverts have as much to bring as extroverts in leadership, but may need things to be structured differently to get the best out of them
I'd really encourage both introverts and extroverts to get a copy and read it, as even if you're not an introvert it will give you a bunch of insights into some of the people around you and why they behave the way they do (they don't just want to be on their own because they don't like you!). You can buy it as a physical book here, or on kindle here.

If you do read it I'd love to hear your reflections (immediately from the extroverts, or two weeks later from the introverts!).


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Willow Bonuses

Two more things from the Willow GLS, which sadly you won't get to experience at the Bracknell version. Not this year anyway!

The first is the band Gungor. They did lots of the musical interludes, as well as doing as mini concert during the lunch break. Jacob and Alice have raved about them since they played at RockNations last year, but I hadn't really got into their music until now. Their musical style is very eclectic with a cello, organ, glockenspiel and banjo amongst the things they play - a bit like Mumford and Sons but with some other stuff thrown in. Take a look at a couple of their videos here and here.

Secondly a beat boxing cello player called Kevin Olusola. Take a look here, and just bear in mind that every sound you hear comes from either the cello or Kevin's mouth :)

Finally, as a non Willow bonus extra, I thought you might enjoy this video, done by John Burke's son Justin. I'm sure some of our youngsters can do something similar! Incidentally Zak and I went sailing with John and Justin on the lake you can see in the background of the video - happy memories :)

Hope you enjoy these.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Willow Reflections

I've now been back from the US for a couple of days now, and am just about over the jet lag enough to put together some coherent thoughts on this years Leadership Summit.

Overall it was an amazing event. Getting to hear speakers of the quality of Bill Hybels, Condoleezza Rice, Jim Collins, John Ortberg, Craig Groeschel and Parick Lencioni speak one after another is quite breathtaking, and leaves you feeling you need a two day retreat after each talk to process it! It's actually quite exhausting being bombarded with so much information, wisdom and inspiration! I know that much of it will influence the direction we are going in over the next few years, especially with regard to multisite, social justice and being a multi-generational church.

Also just being on the Willow campus is always inspiring, reminding me again of the bigness of what God can do when people step out in their faith. I know that the Kerith Centre has a similar impact on many people who walk into it for the first time, but to sit in Willow's 7,200 seat auditorium, set in 220 acres of land, knowing that the event we're part of will by this time next year have been seen by over 160,000 leaders is incredibly inspiring. I wish you could all go there one day!

It's also great to go there and catch up with old friends, as well as making some new ones. Spending time with people like Ian Galloway from Newcastle, James Galloway from Stoke on Trent, David Shearman from Nottingham, Major General Tim Cross who is speaking at the Alpha Supper, Jeff Lockyer who leads a great church in Canada, some of the guys from Nigeria who years ago came to Bracknell to learn about running the GLS and now run events all over Africa, Gary Schwammlein from Willow US, Catrina spending time with Shauna Niequist, me seeing her husband Aaron again, Will Salmon from Willow in the UK - all great people doing some amazing things for God.

It was also really good to be there for the first time with our Senior Leadership team. I know that God strengthened us as a team, both relationally and in terms of where we sense God is saying about the various ministries we lead. On a personal note it was also great to have Catrina there, and for our son Zak to be exposed to Willow and the summit for the very first time.

Finally to see our hosts Mark and Nanci Arnold again. Mark and Nanci have been our host for the past six years of going to the summit and this year they just excelled themselves in the way they looked after us all - thank you!

So here's my encouragement. You may not have had the privilege of coming out to Chicago to hear the GLS live, but you can get to see it in the comfort of the Kerith Centre, without having to go on an 8 hour flight and put up with being jet lagged for a week afterwards! In many ways I think it's actually a better event when we run it. Not because we're better than Willow, but because:

  • We filter out the not so great speakers :)
  • There is more worship (we only sang two songs in Chicago)
  • There is more time to process what each speaker has said after their session
  • The tea and coffee are free
  • The queues for the toilets are shorter (even for the girls!)
  • Lots of other reasons I can't think of right now!
So please put the 5th and 6th October in your diary, and plan to be there. We'll announce the Kerith special rate and how to book at the beginning of September. I guarantee you won't regret being there!


Monday, August 6, 2012

Gateway Reflections

Zak and I have been here in Austin Texas since Tuesday, visiting a bunch of people in Gateway Church (lead by our good friend John Burke), as well as having some brilliant father son time. Tomorrow we fly up to Chicago for the leadership summit, so I thought before we go I'd write some thoughts on our visit.

First off I love Austin as a city. The people are incredibly friendly, the city moto which is "Keep Austin Weird" resonates with me in terms of us being in the culture but still being who God made us to be, and the weather (it's been at least 100F every day we've been here) suits me down to the ground :)

Secondly Gateway is a great church, and one we can learn lots from. Their ethos and culture are so similar to ours, and they are wrestling with many of the issues we are. We've learnt lots from people here about how they do multisite, how they are restructuring small groups, how they are using the Internet, how they are developing kids works and how at the end of the day it's about seeing the Spirit of God move rather than just getting the structure right. Very encouraging. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone in the church who has made the time to see us - we really appreciate it.

Thirdly I'm reminded that we are all part of the family of Christ, regardless of where we live in the world. Whether it's in rural Serenje or downtown Austin I realise the Christ followers I meet are my brothers and sisters, my spiritual family. We've encountered incredible generosity from everyone we've met, whether it's Karin Harper who lent us her beautiful apartment overlooking the downtown lake, Todd and Lisa O'Brien who lent us their green VW beetle to drive around in, John Burke and his son who took us out sailing or just the people in church on Sunday who were so welcoming to us, it is such a privilege to be part of this family of believers. It was also great meeting up with Andy and Ilona Varey who used to be in the youth group when Catrina and I were involved in leading it, but now live out in Austin with their three girls.

Fourthly I want to emcourage parents make time to be with your children. I've loved hanging out with Zak. We've been kayaking together, swimming in lakes, getting lost around Austin, discussing life, meeting leaders and generally building relationship. Maybe for you it won't be going on a ministry trip with your children - well find what you can do then make the time to build that relationship now - you'll never regret it :)

Finally I'm encouraged to keep praying audacious prayers. Several years ago I met with the elders on a Thursday morning, and for some reason one of them asked "which church leaders would you like to meet up with?". Top of my list was John Burke, so we prayed that somehow God would open a door for me to get to know him. The following Sunday Todd and Lisa O'Brien walked through the doors of the Kerith Centre for the first time - talking to them I was amazed to find they helped John to plant Gateway, and it was as a result of them coming of us that John came to Kerith and know we're here.

Keep praying your prayers and dreaming your dreams.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

America Bound

This morning (Wednesday) I'm flying out to Austin Texas with my eldest son Zak. We're going out to visit Gateway Church, lead by our good friend John Burke who wrote the book "No Perfect People Allowed" which has been so influential on us as a church. I'm hoping to see up close how they do church, and to meet with a number of their key leaders. We're being looked after by Todd and Lisa O'Brien who were part of Kerith for a number of years, and who I'm really looking forward to seeing again. I'm also hoping to meet up with Andy and Ilona Varey who many of you will know, and who have recently moved go Austin.

Then next Tuesday we fly up to Chicago to meet up with Catrina and some of our other key leaders for the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. We then fly back to the UK late on Sunday night.

I hope to be able to blog and tweet regularly whilst we're out there to keep you all involved. Please be praying for us, not only that we will be blessed but that we'll also be a blessing to all those we get to meet up with.