Well it's been a while since the last post and it isn't because not much has happened, quite the opposite. Let me mention some of the highlights now and over the next few weeks I hope to pick up on some of the detail.... so, what's been really good?
Attending a day seminar with Dallas Willard. This guy is one of the leading writers on spiritual formation (how we become more like Jesus) in our day. He loves Jesus and when he's not writing books he's a professor of philosophy at a state university in the USA. A very bright guy who said some extremely useful stuff - much of it I have to say went over my head. I got the impression that if you asked an awkward question he could just prove your non-existence! Glad he's on our team though...
Reading Adrian Warnock's book Raised with Christ. Great to think for a bit about how the resurrection impacts everything. Previously I'd had a far too narrow understanding of its implications but this book has really helped me to see I'd missed quite a lot!
Listening to a guy who used to be a senior manager with John Lewis and is now Director of Hospitality and Welcoming at Birmingham Cathedral. He was leading a day for the Baptist Union on welcoming and integrating newcomers to church. Some really helpful stuff not least the sobering statistic that in a survey conducted for the C of E 92% of all the people who go to church for the first time never return because they don't feel welcome........exactly!
Spending the day with Mark Mitchell in Chester. Mark runs three car dealerships with an annual turnover of £35million, he's got 100 staff (with the lowest turnover in the business) and is one of the most successful operators in the industry. He also loves Jesus and runs his business accordingly. It was quite amazing to see him in action, to sit in on meetings, to meet some of his managers and to have the opportunity of asking a multitude of questions. I hope to write more about this visit but suffice it to say that the overwhelming impression was that Mark was a Pastor to his people - staff and clients.
Visiting St Mary's, Upton (Wirral) for their monthly "Sundays at 7" service. For the last 6 years the pretty ordinary, traditional church has run an incredible monthly event to strengthen believers and reach seekers. The format is simple; glass of wine, special guest (this month they had Henry Olonga, the international cricketer) who is interviewed, presentational music and high, high quality everything (sound, video, lighting, publicity). It's so simple and very effective.
Meeting Andy Hawthorne, CEO of The Message Trust in Manchester. The work this organisation does is truly transformational as they take the gospel to the most difficult to reach young people and the toughest housing estates in the city. Again this was another opportunity to quiz a Christian leader about vision, faith, and leadership.
Spending time with Graeme Skinner, the vicar of St Mary's, Upton, and asking about his experience of leading a local church. He's a wise man who's leadership has changed in recent years through an experience of significant loss.
Having lunch with Russ Lowman, a full time elder with Church Central, an NFI church in Birmingham. Again, great to be able to talk church leadership and share some best practice. They're doing some great stuff in the city and it was really useful to hear some of the story.
Receiving regular spiritual direction from David Hugget. He's helping me to reflect on some of the issues raised as I visit places, read books and meet people. I'm really grateful to him.
Enjoying a week with the family during half term. Two sets of friends came to visit plus we had a day on the Island.
So hopefully that gives you a bit of a taster. Much food for thought!! Please pray I continue to keep attentive during this privileged season.