Archive for the ‘Leadership/Ministry Training’ Category

Here’s a bit of the silver (skipping) fox on “The Mission”. Always worth a punt.


The pendulum’s swung, says author, speaker, and activist JR Woodward. Bigger is no longer better in the church world – and Woodward is predicting that the real energy for God’s work in the local church will come from smaller, intentional communities who are immersed in spiritual practices that energize and inspire.

Click here to listen to an interview on this topic (as usual I don’t endorse everything said!).

Here are some resources from the Geneva Push 2011 Conference. As with all things, this is not a wholehearted recommendation for all of the content. But it is worth a perusal. Click here.

A great little article from the Gospel Coalition site on this topic. Click here.

We had a great service at Niddrie last week with the induction of four elders, including Andy Constable, as our Assistant Pastor. Our elders each have different responsibilities.

  1. Derek Laidlaw is the elder responsible for members care.
  2. Craig Beattie is the elder responsible for member care.
  3. Marc Surtees is the chair of the elders and responsible for administration. He also has oversight of our teaching material and oversees, with Mez, our 20Schemes project.
  4. Andy Constable is responsible for the leadership of our Ministry team.
  5. I am responsible for the overall preaching/teaching ministry of the church, the pastoral oversight of the elders, the training and development of young leaders and the missionary support and development of our 20Schemes project (as a church we are/will be supporting church planters in England, India & Brasil).

Here is a clip from Andy’s induction in which he shares how he arrived at Niddrie.

Facebook is a great way for you to build and maintain relationships with people both inside your church and in your community. But Facebook is not without its risks. Every time you post something, you risk hurting, offending or distancing yourself from people. So here are 18 things you want to avoid doing on Facebook …

I have been thinking about this topic recently and came across this helpful post. Read it in full here. Good advice for all of us in this multi-media age.

I recently spent a couple of days away with our Ministry Team in order to discuss polices, have some concentrated teaching and enjoy a bit of fun and fellowship. We try to do it every year in order to welcome any new faces into the fold. This year there were 13 people and their families present. This is our largest year to date and includes people across all levels of our current structure. Present were:

  1. Ministry Team Members (5). These are senior people who have been with the team 4 years or more and are committed to us long-term.
  2. Ministry Apprentices (3). These are people who receive a small stipend to pay for their ongoing training and development.
  3. Intensive Disciples (4). These are four men who are newly converted and live at JRH. They must give me 1-2 years clean living and follow a discipleship programme before they can progress onto our MA programme.
  4. Church Planting Apprentice (1). This is a young man who has moved to one of our local housing schemes as part of our ’20schemes’ initiative.

As many of you know, one of the chief rationales behind our 20schemes initiative is to draw in church planters, women’s workers and ministry apprentices either from the UK or the USA (in fact from anywhere!) with the long-term objective of training and developing local leaders in these areas. It is our 10-15 year plan to see this happening. The question of whether this approach will work remains to be seen but we feel that our attempt is better than no attempt at all. This means, of course, that cultural outsiders (those born outside of housing schemes) will dominate the early years of 20schemes. However, I remain largely untroubled after sitting back and observing events at our NCC weekend away trip.

For the first time in our history we observed that the number of cultural insiders (those raised in a scheme or council estate) and indigenous converts (those from Niddrie itself) has surpassed the original team of cultural outsiders. So, we currently have 5 cultural outsiders, 1 international (raised in a poor part of Brasil), 4 cultural insiders and 3 indigenous Niddrons. We are 5 years into our experiment to grow more local leaders and I hope that in 5 years time that will translate into positions of real leadership in our church and others connected to 20 schemes. It gives me real hope that the Lord can and will raise a generation of leaders from the most unlikeliest place in this country – the schemes – to bring the gospel to this land and to build healthy Christ centred churches. We are praising the Lord that He would choose weak and foolish people like ourselves to shame the wise and strong in our nation. Please continue to pray for us. Please continue to pray for the growth, strengthening and development of gospel centred churches in Scotland’s poorest areas.

At Niddrie we will be launching a new church planting initiative within the next month. We are calling it “20Schemes” and further details will follow. We are launching this project in partnership with a church in Kentucky called Bardstown Christian Fellowship, itself planted by a Scotsman, Matthew Spandler-Davison. We are also benefitting hugely from the support, partnership and advice of the 9Marks organisation and Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Just this week they promoted “20Schemes” at their annual Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Conference in front of almost 2000 people, in North Carolina.

The aim of 20Schemes is to revitalise and/or plant 20 gospel churches in 20 Scottish housing schemes in the next 10 years. We want to recruit 20 planters to train 20 church leaders, 20 women to train 20 female gospel workers and 20 ministry apprentices to each make 20 disciples. Our aim is big and bold and, ultimately, is about finding a long-term way to grow indigenous leaders in places we would never think possible.

The questions/criticisms I am getting in some quarters are :

Why go to America? Why not recruit and train people from this country? Haven’t we moved past this approach to cross cultural mission?  Surely, we should be recruiting home grown men for this endeavour?

My answer? Show me some home grown men with the cojones to plant and/or revitalise churches in housing schemes. I am all for recruiting and developing home grown people. In fact, our first planting intern in West Pilton is a Scotsman, but the sad reality is that there is a dearth of Christian men in our country willing to give their lives to this kind of ministry.

Many of the men I know who are at Bible colleges and/or on local church internships, whilst sympathetic to the cause, have no intention of going into housing schemes. They want to be youth workers, or pastoral assistants or missionaries but they certainly don’t want to be any of those things in areas of urban deprivation (not in Scotland anyway). Why is that? I think there are a several reasons: firstly, many churches and gospel ministries in these places are dying, often with aging congregations holding on to history and past glories, unwilling to change. In a world of options men would prefer to go elsewhere or plant their own church rather than have to deal with that kind of political battle. Secondly, almost every man I have spoken to recently about our ministry, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, have pointed to ‘family responsibilities’ as the reason they can’t seriously consider our kind of ministry. Thirdly, I think there is a problem with how middle class churches and institutions are training people. We have more seminars and conferences than ever before. We have more churches who are training leaders than ever before. Yet, still this shortfall. The problem, I fear, is in the fact that we lack the courage to take risks at local church level. Churches want the perfect CV, the perfect candidate and the perfect answers to theological questions (or not as the case may be). The pond we are fishing in here is never going to produce that (certainly not at the outset). Local men are not going to handle 40 hour a week lectures on Exegesis and Hermeneutics. They are not going to be polished speakers or have the finesse of fine apologetics. Unless I’m reading my Bible wrong, the early disciples weren’t University graduates either. They were common men with a love for the Lord, supernaturally endowed with the spiritual gifts necessary to build the church.

In all the talk of biblical manhood and being manly it seems that growing a beard and going to a manly type conference is as near as we are getting to encouraging entry into housing scheme ministry. Everybody agrees to its necessity and are wishing me lots of luck in what we are trying to do but that’s about it. Therefore, we need a new approach in how we tackle the problem of planting in our specific field. Scrap that, we need an approach full stop. Our aim here is to generate, at least initially, outside interest in order to stimulate inside growth and momentum. If we have to go the states and other countries then we will. It is better than sitting here wringing our hands at the dearth of young men wanting to step out in faith. We are certainly starting down a risky road. But I think it is necessary. I think that such is the problem in our country at this moment in history that, in God’s providence, we have little choice but to take these steps. I think we are not going to see local men taking responsibility unless we put steps in ourselves to ensure future growth and development. I think it is going to be a long, drawn out painful process. I think it is going to be a lot of growing on the job. I think it is going to be intuitive, a lot of making it up as we go along and maybe a few painful mistakes along the way.

Back to my original question: Where are all the men? Pray for us as we not only seek to answer that question but provide solutions that are both God honouring and sustainable. Superficially, it will look like a lot of outsiders coming in, but underneath we are working on a long-term, sustainable strategy to grow truly indigenous planters, women’s workers and ministry apprentices. But we need more than a good plan and a well worked strategy. We need God’s favour.

Our current church membership stands at about 55, with another 15 or so waiting in the wings to be baptised. We have a Sunday attendance of anywhere between 70 and 100 (I suspect that’s roughly the same number of urinals found at any Mars Hill Church). By any description we are a small church. Yet, as of October 2012, we will have, at varying levels, 13 people being trained and/or discipled full-time in various capacities.

  • We have 4 young men being intensely discipled for a year in ‘James Ramsay House’ our discipleship home for new believers. All of these men will study with Porterbrook Scotland as part of other responsibilities. They will serve in our local cafe, at local clubs, in the church and begin to play a positive role in their local community.
  • We will have 3 paid interns who receive a stipend in order to train and develop skills, either for a future in full-time Christian ministry, or for roles as full-time Christians in the workplace.They, too will be doing theological training.
  • We have a full-time Ministry Team, including myself, of 5 people: Pastor, Youth Worker, Cafe Manager & Pastoral Worker, Assistant Pastor and Women’s Worker & Administrator. This team, too, receive on-going training every Friday morning on a variety of topics and books.
  • Finally, we have recently employed our first church planting trainee who will also be studying the Porterbrook material as well as a specialised reading list (focusing particularly on ecclesiology in the early months).

Now, many of these people were gambles when we took them on. Some have not even completed High School, some have been addicts and criminals their whole adult lives, some have suspect temperaments and some, in the early days, had no clue as to the inner workings of a housing scheme. I have no doubt that the majority of them would not be considered as training material in most churches I know. The leadership here at NCC, without doubt, are taking many risks. Now, to be fair, some of these risks have come back to bite us. We’ve seen our fair share of failures. In fact, I would put the failure rate at around the 50% mark. But, we have seen spectacular successes too. Therefore, we believe that our risky policy is worthwhile and will, ultimately, reap enduring benefits for the church and the gospel witness here in Niddrie and our surrounding schemes.

If we are really going to raise indigenous leaders in these areas then we are going to have to take giant, faith filled risks with local converts. Textbooks and theoretical debates are all well and good but we have to begin putting principles into practice if we want to pass the baton on to faithful men and women. For example, in Niddrie one of our newest interns has been saved less than 6 months and yet has shown an incredible theological aptitude to go alongside their youthful evangelistic zeal. (I can already hear the sharp intake of breath as some people read this). How can we justify this? What about character? What about maturity? Great questions. In fact, the right questions. But let me ask you a question: How can we teach and even gauge these things in our area of ministry without a practical context into which character and maturity can develop? The next generation of leaders are not going to ‘catch’ Godliness and maturity from the pulpit and a midweek Bible study alone. They’re going to do it by being thrown into the deep end of Christian service very early on in their Christian walk. Brilliant. So, how have we come to this stage in our ministry here at Niddrie? Is it because I am such a genius and wonderful forward thinker? Sadly, no. Let me tell you how we have arrived at this point in our ministry.

This year I went away to think and pray for a day and I began to wonder why so many of our new converts weren’t reaching out to their friends and family with the gospel of the Lord Jesus. They loved Jesus and God was certainly at work in their lives. They came to all the Bible studies, sometimes up to 4 a week. They attended the Sunday services. They were excited about their faith, they were being discipled and mentored and yet there was a lack of dynamism, taking responsibility for new ministry ideas and a lack of active, participation in community outreach. They just seem to come and take. Don’t get me wrong, they were growing at remarkable rates in terms of biblical knowledge but we weren’t seeing leaders rise to the fore. It was all one way traffic. Obviously, the reasons behind this are long and complex but one thing, particularly, began to trouble me. What if we were over discipling (in the wrong information giving sense) our new believers? What if we were encouraging this passive, consumerist Christianity? Upon further reflection I came to a stark conclusion.

We were guilty of paternalistic discipleship. Much of conservative evangelical church culture operates with a 1 Timothy 3 type mantra that goes something like this: ‘We shouldn’t spiritually promote people too soon.’ Now, of course, there is great wisdom in that. That particular brand of conservatism, though, is even more manifest if the new believer in question comes from a criminal background or has an ‘interesting’ testimony or is a ‘trophy of grace’. The reaction in middle class churches, in my experience,  to these converts is to leave them on the sidelines and wheel them out for the odd testimony events. I am not saying they’re not cared for or discipled but I have met very few men currently in ministry from my background in the UK. There are some but we are very few. Now I know this, and so the response in Niddrie has been to ensure that we quickly team up our new believers with a mentor and ensure they quickly get hooked up with a regular Bible study and become a part of community life. Because of the high level of unemployment here it is not unusual to have people at 2 or 3 Bible studies a week outside of Sunday services.

The problem was, as I saw it, that we had begun to molly coddle them to such an extent that they had, inadvertently, learned to become consumers like many Sunday attenders (across the church as a whole – I am not referring just to NCC here). I began to fear that we were over discipling our new people. We over studied with them. We over protected them. Instead of letting them fly we bought, quite innocently, into the lie that they were too weak, too ill educated or too young to be let loose on their own. Worse yet, because of the victim mentality in housing schemes, this in turn played into their sense of entitlement and crippling over dependence. Therefore, instead of serving, evangelising and contributing they were taking their treasure, digging a deep hole, locking it up in a box and keeping that beautiful gift to themselves. The truly terrible thing about this was that we who were trying so hard to help them, were actually providing the shovel, the box  and guarding the key for them as well! I decided that we needed to prayerfully and wisely give our new believers opportunities to fly if we were going to see them really grow, blossom and mature into future leaders. It was a painful thing to reflect that our feted, thought out, missional, intentional, gospel centred approach to discipleship was actually contributing to the stunted growth and leadership development of our community. It wasn’t that too much discipleship was hurting our people, it was too much of the wrong type discipleship. As a result of this reflection, we have made some slight tweaks this year. One of them is to push people out more quickly into levels of responsibility and service no matter how insignificant it may seem. More than that, we are teaching our new believers more quickly not just the facts of the faith but how to actually share it, conduct a simple Bible study and lead a person to the Lord. We are, in effect, taking the training wheels off more quickly and trusting that God, by His Spirit, will help them to grow and mature in a more rounded way.

I will let you know how it goes.

I am away for a few days so I will not be personally posting until some time next week. I found this small article recently and thought it may be worth further reflection.