Why Simply Church?
In a nutshell, what has led you to this point? I am passionate about the local church. When it works right it is the place where people can encounter God, grow strong in their faith and be inspired to change the world. But it doesn’t always work right. Sometimes a church experience can be disappointing. People don’t encounter God, their faith gets weaker and their ambitions to change the world disappear with one too many committee meetings. What started as a group of people loving God, loving each other and changing the community around them, often becomes complicated and unhealthy. I wrote the book because it doesn’t have to be this way. Church should be the life centre of our Christian faith, where we gather with our brothers and sisters and get inspired, once again, that God can use us in our ordinary everyday. What an adventure we can experience together.
What does ‘church’ mean to you?
Church was never meant to be about a building or a denomination, nor a type of religion or rules and definitely not a rota about who will be arranging the flowers this Sunday. The church in the Book of Acts was a vibrant community of Jesus followers. Passionately loving God, endeavouring to copy the way Jesus lived, even if it means losing their lives, and putting all their energy into telling the world about a new way to live.
Did you always want to be/know you were going to be a church leader?
My Dad was a church leader. So, the last thing I ever wanted to be was a church leader (sorry Dad!) but I remember a significant moment when I was a teenager, on the day that I was baptised. God spoke to me about His church and gave me a love for His people. It gave me a real sense of calling and purpose for all that I do today and gives me great motivation to lead the local church as well as I can and see those that are ‘planted in the house of the Lord to flourish’
Why do you think the Church is so important? What do you think the world would be like without church?
The church is incredible. Throughout history the church has had an enormous impact on society, although admittedly not always for good. Christians inspired by their local church community have created schools, hospitals and orphanages. The church has challenged and changed the laws of the land and spoken up on behalf of the poor and marginalised across every nation. Every day millions of ‘church-goers’ (a terrible word that should be deleted from the dictionary), disguise themselves as police and politicians, nurses and nursery nurses, architects and artists, delivery drivers and dog walkers, baristas and barristers, they all change the world, encouraged and motivated by their local church, to be the best them that God created and see their world transformed one smile at a time, one kind word, a gentle email, a listening ear or simply washing up all the cups in the office without a fuss.
Why are vision and mission so important to churches?
If you don’t know what you are doing you can spend a lot of time not doing very much. Jesus gave his followers the Great Commission and until we hear otherwise, I guess that is still the mission. To go into all the world, preach good news and make disciples. Otherwise it is like keeping a favourite mug for use as a plant pot because the handle is broken. It looks pretty, but it is not fulfilling its original purpose. If the church forgets its mission, then we lose our purpose and may simply become a monument or decoration for your local high street, simply reminding passers by of what we used to be.
What’s your favourite thing about Jesus?
That after 2000 years we are still amazed by his teaching. After generations of theologians and cynics, trying to unravel the mysteries of every red letter word in the Bible, we have still not fully understood this man who was God. He seemed to know what to do in every situation. When to stay quiet and when to speak up. When to ask a question and when to tell a story. When to challenge the status quo and when to respect the traditions of the society he was part of. A beautiful mystery that I love to explore and have never grown tired of.
What’s the most challenging thing about church leadership?
Fulfilling other peoples expectations, including my own. I once heard someone say that the ideal church leader is 25 years old with 35 years preaching experience. The bar is set high, higher than is realistic. We expect our church leaders to have time for everyone, to be available for a coffee at the drop of a hat, but also to be hard working. Busy preparing the Sunday sermon, praying for the sick, visiting the poor, feeding the hungry, writing a blog, raising funds for the new church building project, inviting newcomers round for lunch, hosting meetings in their home in the evening to discuss next years Carol Service while still being a perfect example of a parent and a spouse. But if it is a calling on your life it is the most rewarding thing you could ever do. To serve Gods people, to lead them, care for them, shepherd them and feed them. What a privilege.
What would you say is the biggest challenge facing the church of today?
Me, you, us. We live in a world that aspires to be comfortable. To earn just enough money to have the latest need that we have recently seen advertised. The western church is competing for comfort. We offer great coffee, comfortable seats at a service time that suits, but what happened to daily taking up your cross and following Jesus? The message of the church can sometimes look like ‘come to us and we will look after all your needs and make you feel great’ but Jesus never said that. He said give up all you have and come follow me. But discomfort doesn’t sell very well so we keep that in the small print when you sign up to join.
What do you think the Early Church did right that we’ve since stopped doing?
Feasting with Joy – I love the fact that when the Early Church shared communion and ate together in their homes they did it with Joy! They loved hanging out together and eating together. Regularly. But when I say to friends, ‘let’s have a meal together’, we all get out our phones and try to find a suitable date, which typically will be in about three weeks time. We need more eating together in the church and we need more Joy. The church has some pretty shocking brand awareness. The church is deemed by non-members as boring and dull and the last place they would want to be seen dead in (which is kind of ironic if you think about if for long enough!). We need to change the optics on how the world sees the church – a vibrant community, that regularly feasts together with joy, while participating in the most exciting mission possible at the direct request of God himself, the architect of creation. Oooh, now that is exciting!