Monday, October 30, 2006

5 essential requirments for long term success in ministry

A friend of mine is studying with Hillsongs in Australia. He sent me an email with this question: "What you believe to be 5 essential requirments for long term success in ministry?" And he asked me to give him my answers.

Clearly, he can't just pinch it off Google.

So I had a bit of a think, and came up with the following. Comments please, and better ideas welcome. I'm in this for the long haul, and if you guys can help me (and Chris in Oz) I'd be grateful too!

1) Worship Jesus with all your heart, mind, soul and strength; do it daily and privately as well as weekly and publicly. Make it the core of who you are and be no-one and nothing without it.

2) Live a life of integrity that means people can tell number 1 is happening. It's hard and a real challenge, but without this, number 1 isn't happening. Jesus' litmus test for if people are loving God is: are they loving their neighbour?

3) Do what it takes to keep the passion real. Doing the stuff but losing the passion is every minister's experience and nightmare. It happens. Face it and beat it. Being with Jesus is more than doing his work.

4) Obedience. Obedience. Obedience. Obedience. Obedience. Obedience. Obedience.

5) Enjoy! Laugh a lot! Serving God is a blast! Richard Wurmbrand danced for joy in his cell in communist Rumania not cos he was crazy, and not to annoy his guards, but cos he loved Jesus, and even in the midst of persecution was genuinely filled with joy. So - don't look so miserable. God is good. Enjoy! Laugh! Glory!

What do you think?

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Best Worship Service Ever

OK, that's probably overstating things. I mean, Solomon's Temple opening jamboree has to be pretty high. It is concievable that the Last Supper might make it on the list too, as well as Pentecost or something from Revelation 4 and 5. I guess somewhere in heaven a group of Palestinian shepherds will have their own angel choir story too.

But - having said all that - I have just experienced at least two of the best worship services I have ever been a part of. We've just finished our latest 24 hour worship event here. And the whole thing was amazing, even given the terrible cold I have been suffering. Actually, that added to it in a strange way: it made the dynamic of "sacrifice" a bit more real, it cost a bit more, and that probably deepened everything.

Last night at 10pm we had a jazz service. Dan on bass, Ed on piano, George on drums, Stephen on alto, and me singing. As a jazz service, I think the best we've done. Good, flowing worship, really relaxed, and with a great spiritual energy which we haven't always achieved. In part, this was cos I made sure that people stood and sang (sometimes they just sit and listen), but in part it was cos the Lord and I have been walking a strange path in my personal worship times recently. "Singing in the Spirit" is a good charismatic practice; but scat singing in the Spirit is a bit more unusual, and that's been a part of my life with God for a bit, and last night I let rip a bit. Glorious. A tremendous freeing of the soul. One member of church (Jill) said afterwards that she had never seen me so animated! And actually I felt it too.

This morning we had our confirmation service as the last part of the 24 hour event. It was an amazing service - full of praise and worship and the sense of the presence of the Spirit. Now some of you may feel that this is surely only to be expected. Well, I don't think I have ever experienced a service like this in Wales, not even in Aberystwyth. The relaxed presence of God was palpable. The music was stunning (thanks to Kirsty for some amazing string arrangements in both hymns and songs) and all the musicians working with me (George, Ed, Paddy, Dan, Kirsty and her strings) were on top form. The whole church was filled with the Spirit. It was pure joy.

Maybe it comes from being so in love with my church here; but I have had many wonderful worship experiences in other places and still when I got home I sat here and prayed - "Thank you Lord - that was the best worship service ever!"

And regular readers (the three of you) may remember a thing I wrote in August about courage. As I looked out at a congregation made up of our own folk and many visitors, I was aware of some not liking what we were doing. But I was not dis-couraged; the Lord renewed my courage to be faithful to the call he has placed upon me, and as I felt that spiritual en-couraging my spirit soared.

It was a great day. It was a great morning. It was certainly one of the best worship services I have ever known. And now - Lord, bless this church. Grow this church. May we see this again – and indeed I dare ask that may what we saw today pale by comparison with what you are going on to do here.

You can find photos of the day and a more formal write up on our church web site here.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


It's back! Our second twenty four hour worship time happens at the end of next week - October 14 and 15. We are having more trad hymns, more contemporary praise, our artist Cas Smith is coming, our jazz quintet will be leading us, there will be Taize and Psalms and Poems and lots of Scripture. All of St Mark's Gospel will be read out through the day, and at midnight we will have "Revelations in Music" - all of Revelations (bar chs 2-3) with music from time to time interspersing the really exciting bits! There will be new songs, and a creative hour to write something for the final hour - our confirmation sservice with Bishop David Yeoman. Prayer time and African songs and classical music and Kidz praise. Click here for more info and for our poster.

And if you are nearby, come and join in!

Our job is to worship God; his job is to grow the church.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Sometimes I just love my church

It's true!

When I was at the end of my second curacy, I am afraid I hated Sundays. The pressure that was placed on me by different people requiring different (and indeed mutually exclusive) things was so intense. I stopped sleeping on Saturdays as the pressure grew overnight in anticipation.

But now - I love Sundays. I love my church. I love the traditional folk at 8am, the families at 11am, the space and time to be more relaxed at our 6pm service.

Yesterday was Harvest, and we thought about our generous God. This was helped enormously by an experience I had on Saturday, and I think you might enjoy the story.

So here I am, in my study, preparing a sermon on generosity. In the morning, I've had a text from two of our musicians, Andy and Esther, saying they are free to play (they normally do on the first Sunday of the month) and I've left an answerphone message saying - great! Plus, would Esther like to help lead some of the service? Then I get a phone call from Andy. They sing in a choir loosely attached to a Cardiff church, and the woman who runs the choir has asked them (fairly strongly, I suspect) to go to their church as it is Harvest Festival there. Andy sounds fed up, and says he wants to be with us but they feel like they have to help Gauri. I say, of course you must go, don't worry, see you in the evening.

Then as I put down the phone, I grind my teeth and start to fume at the injustice of it! It's our Harvest too! These are key people for us! Not only are they 1/3 of our musicians, they are a fabulous young couple, and if there are visitors at the service, I want them to see young people at the front! Perhaps I should ring Gauri and let her know that this isn't on. Perhaps I should ring Andy and Esther and convey to them the strength of my feelings. And I am slightly aware of the irony of preparing a sermon on generosity whilst feeling quite selfish about these lovely people, but only slightly.

Instead, I call Kirsty to check she and Dan are playing. And Matthew, Dan's son, who is improving all the time as a guitarist. They are. I tell her about the problem with Esther and Andy. She sympathises. We grind teeth together. We agree to leave it, cos they are probably feeling bad.

I sit at my desk. I stare at the phone. I make a decision, and pick it up, dialling Andy and Esther's number. Gloriously, it is engaged!

And just gently, I feel the Lord's smile, and I hear him say: "You know, sometimes generosity has to hurt to be generosity." If it's easy, if I don't miss it, it probably isn't being generous to give it. The cross is a place of pain and giving - the ultimate generous act from the completely giving God. And suddenly, I get the profundity and the humour of the whole thing. I get the point. I get that I have been given an opportunity to be generous as I prepare this sermon, and I very nearly totally blew it. But for the grace (ie generosity!) of God.

Anyway. We had a great day. The Lord blessed us. There are one or two people just moving into faith for the first time, and seeing them alive with Jesus was a total joy. We are giving to Soteria Trust's Soteria College in Ibadan Nigeria as our Harvest offering, and Naomi had prepared a phenomenal power point presentation about it. I think our folk will really give well to it. And (a bit shamefaced, true, but there you go) I really enjoyed preaching about the generous God who calls us to be generous too.

How was Andy and Esther's morning? You'll have to ask them...