January 2007


I’ve said I want to challenge the assumptions the C of E has about how to do church, particularly with reference to releasing the emerging church.

First on my hit list is paying people.

When we think about beginning a new project, we set out from the foundational belief – almost credal – that you have to have paid staff from day one. I’ve been told by a leading C of E thinker on fresh expressions that, to pioneer a new project successfully, you need two full-time paid staff. I frequently meet with people who tell me about their vision for a fresh expression of church, only for it to transpire that the reason they are sharing their passion is because they want me to pay for it!

But does this need to be the case?
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The news that Manchester (my home town) has been ‘awarded’ the first of the UK’s super casinos is surely bad news.  Gambling turnover has soared from £7 billion in 2001 to £50 billion in 2005.  That ought to worry any government, but apparently not ours.  Why is this?

Government research published in April 2006 explains why.  The researchers conclude that deregulation will lead to “more money generated in the gambling sector than any other”.  The increase will create jobs and inward investment.  What is less clear is what the human cost to this epidemic will be?
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I’m not going to pretend that the world of blogging is one I’ve been exploring for a long time. Although I did think of starting to blog about a year ago, it was by accident (literally) that I set up a blog and I have only been blogging “properly” for the last month.

Technorati has this great quotation by one Matt: “55 million blogs… some of them have to be good.” I have only begun to explore the blogosphere but here are a few blogs from the Christian scene that I have spent some time at.

In the Christian scene, there’s a huge amount out there coming out of the emerging church. Blogs that have interested me here go from the local, with my friend and colleague, Paul Roberts, blogging on this subject amongst others, to the global, with Alan Hirsch in Australia saying some interesting things. One of the most popular hubs for the alternative worship community is Jonny Baker’s blog.

There also seem to be a lot of chaplains blogging out there. I’ve enjoyed checking out Maggi Dawn’s stuff (not just because she has linked to me).

Dave Walker at Cartoon Church commented in response to me starting to blog that the C of E as an institution has been fairly “anti-blogging”. I have no idea about that. It’s more likely that a lot of us in the C of E are clueless about new technology and how to use it. I for one am still a beginner. What I do know is that it’s a great way of sharing and cross-pollenating ideas.

A lot of what I have learnt over the years about change management has been gleaned from what I would describe as “secular” material, for want of a better term. I have no problem with this but, as a Christian leader, I also ask myself whether there are any distinctives that my faith would bring to this subject.

Given that most of us are not committed to change for change’s sake, we’ve got to reflect on why we are called to change and secondly what we are called to change to.
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The English cricket team are going through a very bad time. The most recent overnight surrender points to a lack of self-belief. Two years ago, we celebrated victory in an epic Ashes confrontation. Today we wonder where it has all gone. The BBC commentary team were clear in their assessment of the top order batters’ performance: they got out to poor shot selection, rather than to the Aussie bowlers.

You can deploy all the usual excuses: it’s the captain; it’s the coach; it’s the loss of some key players; it’s the poor preparation; it’s allowing WAGs to be around, undermining the team’s focus etc. However, they’re good players, so what’s gone wrong?
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I’m often asked to address the subject of change and how it can be managed.  Yesterday, at the Christian Resources Exhibition in Exeter, I addressed a group of over 100 bright-eyed and motivated people (all the more amazing as it was in the after lunch graveyard slot!) on the subject of leading for change.  I am interested, though not surprised, that this subject always creates an audience, not least in voluntary and non-profit organisations.

Consequently, I plan to do some posts on the subject of change and how it can be managed.  Obviously, this will relate to churches, but it will also have some value for anyone who is tasked with overseeing change wherever they are.  Here goes…

The first thing is obvious, but often missed by leaders who are introducing change.  Ask yourself this question, “As I seek to lead change, what am I modelling in my own life about an openness to change?” It’s “practise what you preach” stuff.
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“Can we expect emerging churches to emerge in an institutional context?” I asked this question in a post a couple of weeks ago and have been asking it of myself, my colleagues and practitioners in the emerging church movement for some time.

My answer to the question would be “probably not”. Some people in the institution would say the same. What I find interesting is that we say one thing and do another. When you’ve been immersed in an institution, it takes major resolve to identify and challenge the way we do things – our culture. And, as Mark Greene memorably told our clergy conference last year, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. When our institutional culture dominates, we default to a one-size-fits-all approach to inherited and emerging church alike and deal out all our traditional forms of accountability, training and support (financial, pastoral etc) to the emerging church.
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