Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The blog now arriving at Bermondsey

Dear Reader, with my move to Bermondsey, this sadly must by my last Redhill Thought. Thank you for reading - now please join me at my new blog bermondseyvicar.blogspot.com

Monday, 3 December 2012

Why I have been blogging

I started this blog on 1st November 2008 for a bit of fun. It has remained a bit of hobby - something that I don't do in work time, but as a leisure activity, and something that I have really enjoyed doing

Not long after it started I came across an article on the Desiring God website by Abraham Piper giving 'six reasons why pastors should blog.'

I had already begun the blog so its not why I started, but Abraham's six reasons are perhaps why I have continued. Soon this blog is to be replaced by a new one (bermondseyvicar.blogspot.com), but here the six reasons that have in part been the inspiration of redhillthoughts:

Pastors should blog…

1. …to write.

If you’re a pastor, you probably already know the value writing has for thinking. Through writing, you delve into new ideas and new insights. If you strive to write well, you will at the same time be striving to think well.

Then when you share new ideas and new insights, readers can come along with you wherever your good writing and good thinking bring you.

There is no better way to simply and quickly share your writing than by maintaining a blog. And if you’re serious about your blog, it will help you not only in your thinking, but in your discipline as well, as people begin to regularly expect quality insight from you.

2. …to teach.

Most pastors I’ve run into love to talk. Many of them laugh at themselves about how long-winded they’re sometimes tempted to be.

Enter Blog.

Here is where a pastor has an outlet for whatever he didn’t get to say on Sunday. Your blog is where you can pass on that perfect analogy you only just thought of; that hilarious yet meaningful story you couldn’t connect to your text no matter how hard you tried; that last point you skipped over even though you needed it to complete your 8-point acrostic sermon that almost spelled HUMILITY.
And more than just a catch-all for sermon spill-over, a blog is a perfect place for those 30-second nuggets of truth that come in your devotions or while you’re reading the newspaper. You may never write a full-fledged article about these brief insights or preach a whole sermon, but via your blog, your people can still learn from them just like you did.

3. …to recommend.

With every counseling session or after-service conversation, a pastor is recommending something. Sometimes it’s a book or a charity. Maybe it’s a bed-and-breakfast for that couple he can tell really needs to get away. And sometimes it’s simply Jesus.

With a blog, you can recommend something to hundreds of people instead of just a few. Some recommendations may be specific to certain people, but that seems like it would be rare. It’s more likely to be the case that if one man asks you whether you know of any good help for a pornography addiction, then dozens of other men out there also need to know, but aren’t asking.

Blog it.

Recommendation, however, is more than pointing people to helpful things. It’s a tone of voice, an overall aura that good blogs cultivate.

Blogs are not generally good places to be didactic. Rather, they’re ideal for suggesting and commending. I’ve learned, after I write, to go back and cut those lines that sound like commands or even overbearing suggestions, no matter how right they may be. Because if it’s true for my audience, it’s true for me, so why not word it in such a way that I’m the weak one, rather than them?

People want to know that their pastor knows he is an ordinary, imperfect human being. They want to know that you’re recommending things that have helped you in your own weakness. If you say, “When I struggled with weight-loss, I did such-and-such,” it will come across very differently than if you say, “Do such-and-such if you’re over-weight…”

If you use your blog to encourage people through suggesting and commending everything from local restaurants to Jesus Christ, it will complement the biblical authority that you rightly assume when you stand behind the pulpit.

4. …to interact.

There are a lot of ways for a pastor to keep his finger on the pulse of his people. A blog is by no means necessary in this regard. However, it does add a helpful new way to stay abreast of people’s opinions and questions.

Who knows what sermon series might arise after a pastor hears some surprising feedback about one of his 30-second-nuggets-of-truth?

5. …to develop an eye for what is meaningful.

For good or ill, most committed bloggers live with the constant question in their mind: Is this bloggable? This could become a neurosis, but I’ll put a positive spin on it: It nurtures a habit of looking for insight and wisdom and value in every situation, no matter how mundane.

If you live life looking for what is worthwhile in every little thing, you will see more of what God has to teach you. And the more he teaches you, the more you can teach others. As you begin to be inspired and to collect ideas, you will find that the new things you’ve seen and learned enrich far more of your life than just your blog.

6. …to be known.

This is where I see the greatest advantage for blogging pastors.

Your people hear you teach a lot; it’s probably the main way that most of them know you. You preach on Sundays, teach on Wednesdays, give messages at weddings, funerals, youth events, retreats, etc.
This is good—it’s your job. But it’s not all you are. Not that you need to be told this, but you are far more than your ideas. Ideas are a crucial part of your identity, but still just a part.

You’re a husband and a father. You’re some people’s friend and other people’s enemy. Maybe you love the Nittany Lions. Maybe you hate fruity salad. Maybe you struggle to pray. Maybe listening to the kids’ choir last weekend was—to your surprise—the most moving worship experience you’ve ever had.

These are the things that make you the man that leads your church. They’re the windows into your personality that perhaps stay shuttered when you’re teaching the Bible. Sometimes your people need to look in—not all the way in, and not into every room—but your people need some access to you as a person. A blog is one way to help them.

You can’t be everybody’s friend, and keeping a blog is not a way of pretending that you can. It’s simply a way for your people to know you as a human being, even if you can’t know them back. This is valuable, not because you’re so extraordinary, but because leadership is more than the words you say. If you practice the kind of holiness that your people expect of you, then your life itself opened before them is good leadership—even when you fail.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Tottenham gospel

To St Ann's, Tottenham, a lively growing multi-cultural church with five congregations, including one on the Broadwater Farm estate. We were there for the 11am service which included the baptism of no less than six children together with a meaty advent sermon by the associate vicar. Excellent.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

A few of my favourite things

As December 4th rapidly approaches, the day I become the new vicar of St James and St Anne, Bermondsey and the day I officially cease to be the vicar of Holy Trinity, Redhill, I have been thinking of the many, many things that I have liked, appreciated and loved about Holy Trinity.

Here are just a few of my favourite Holy Trinity things:

  • I love the palpable sense of quiet concentration that pervades the church as the Scriptures are read each week. I love the way the readings are introduced with the words 'hear the word of the Lord' and I love the way the congregation appear to be really listening, recognising it for what it is. Speak Lord, your servants are listening. 
  • I love the non-showy, utterly faithful and reliable servant-hearted way a thousand and one tasks are done around the church by so many people
  • I love the way the congregation really does welcome newcomers
  • I love the way a group of people, by nature rather conservative and cautious, have been so open to change for the sake of the Gospel
  • I love the people who go out of their way to be encouraging to others
  • I love the sheer eccentricity of some of ourmost treasured members. Thank you for being you..
  • I love the thousand and one kindnesses, cards sent, cakes made, people helped, that pervade Holy Trinity church life
For these and many other reasons we thank God - and we shall never forget you.

One more favourite thing - my colleagues

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Reaching the unreached

The contributors of this book have two things in common: they are all members of the reaching the unreached network and they are all involved in 'growing churches in working class and deprived areas' in the UK.

As such it is an unusual book but a truly excellent book, and for me, on the eve of my move to Bermondsey, a very timely read.

Particular strengths of the book? Their analysis of working class culture. Their exposition of the aspects of the Gospel that speak most powerfully to working class people. Their honesty about the sheer toughness of the work they are involved in, with the setbacks, disappointments, and failures that are an inevitable part of the story. Their analysis of the realities of non-book culture. The human stories and testimonies with which the book is laced.

Highly recommended.