Saturday, May 18, 2013

This Culture of Honour: Is Reflecting Jesus

Many things challenged and impressed me at the HTB Leadership Conference this past week.

  • All the speakers came for FREE. Including Patrick Lencioni, Bill Hybels & Steven Furtick from the states. Each one of them have diaries that are busting with opportunities that pay big bucks I am sure. But also the host of other speakers who gave their time for free to invest into 1000's of lives.
  • The incredible stories of people who had faced unbelievable challenges and also presented challenges to society. But Jesus had found them through Alpha.
  • A new insight to the depth of spirituality and passion for Jesus in the established church through an Archbishop and a Cardinal.
  • The lack of "slickness" in the event. I don't mean a lack of hard work or professionalism. But for example ordinary people just stood up and shared their story in their own words. Raw, uncomplicated, unpolished and unscripted. The authenticity roared through more than any fancy lit music backed video could. (Not that I don;t like video but its NOT the only way!)
But for me the moment that gave me the biggest insight into the ethos behind the conference was shared by Nicky Gumbel on the last night.

The Albert Hall has a few hundred seat which are owned by debenture holders. For any event these seats must be released by or bought back from the holders before any event can use them.

A number of seats of these type are in the Royal Box. So HTB wrote to her Majesty asking if she would release the box for use at the conference. The reply came back that the palace would be happy to release the seats for "our most distinguished guests".

Now call me cynical but my experience in church life that many denominations and well known churches would "honour" speakers, friends and family with this seat of honour.

HTB said they had placed their most distinguished guests in the box. Ex offenders & homeless!

Tony Morgan recently wrote an article about how the culture of honour that seems to be a little twisted in the church of today is hurting us. I believe the HTB team's view of honour reflected a little bit of Jesus!  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bill Hybels: Party or Vomit?

Session 2 at the HTB Leadership Conference was hosted by Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Church. I have heard Bill talk many times and much of what he shared I have heard him talk about before. (Doing it is another matter) However listening to Bill is never a head knowledge thing it is always a heart thing which touches my deep rooted emotions.

The passion that runs inside him for the church and lost people oozes out of every pore in his body. So listening to this inspirational man is no mere intellectual process of gathering information it is a passionate emotional exchange of the Holy Spirit.

Here are a few of the notes I jotted down which don't even begin to explain the expanse of what I learned.
  • The church of Jesus deserves to be FED and LED well.
  • "I believe the most important ingredient in leading well is VISION." 
  • Vision is a picture of the future that produces passion in people.
  • The job of a leader is to spend time on your knees to understand where God wants to take you and then humbly take people there. 
  • Our job as leaders is to take people from HERE to THERE.
  • I have found no matter how well I describe THERE people like to stay HERE. It's comfortable & familiar. THERE means change and people fear change.
  • I have discovered that it is better to describe HERE. How bad HERE is. What will happen if we stay HERE and let the pressure build.
  • In the gap between HERE & THERE the most dangerous time for vision is in the middle. After the hope of the start and before the first glimpse of the finishing line. The middle where the the hard graft is done.
  • Leading, keeping and developing a fantastic team is one of our most important tasks. Leaders never want to achieve a God given dream alone.
  • In recruiting your team look for four things: 1. Character 2. Competence 3. Chemistry / Culture 5. Calling 
  • If you are unsure if a person should be on your team, imagine you get a text from them today saying I quit. Is your first reaction to party or to vomit?
Watch his session below. Jump to 2 hrs 47 min:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Surprised by the Arcbishop

Had a fantastic day at the HTB Leadership Conference in the Royal Albert Hall yesterday. It was a day of great teaching and not a few surprises. First up was Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury. Head of the Church of England.

The "established" church does not carry much positive press and my own opinion, based on my own ignorance, has not been stellar. So hearing from the Archbishop left me questioning some of my views. Here are some of the points from his interview with Nicky Gumbel.

  • Nicky: What was in your mind when you were being appointed and prayed for as head of the Church of England? Justin: Its not about me, it's all about Jesus.
  • Asked about his conversion he said: "Nicky you were a very disruptive influence in my non christian life" 
  • My first experience at church was staggeringly boring so it just shows me that God is bigger than this. 
  • Someone took the time to explain the cross to me.
  • He spent three summers smuggling Bibles into the old communist block. With up to 1000 Bible hidden in a secret compartment in his vehicle.
  • Leadership lesson: As was given responsibility very early & expected to get on with it 
  • Leadership lesson: Its fun to work with great team 
  • Everyone has a christian vocation its not the preserve of the professional clergy.
  • You know it is natural for churches to grow.
  • The extraordinary thing about Jesus is that he never says get into the right place and I will meet you there. He says I am with you and I will take you to the right place. 
  • The quick fix to the quieting of the spirit in your life? Prolonged prayer & fasting.
  • If Jesus isn't at the centre of the church we are just rotary with a pointy roof. 
  • Fear is dealt with by grace. 
  • It's not what we are but who God is. 
  • We are what we are before God & nothing else - Murray M'Chenye 
  • The cathedral should be a safe place to do risky things for Jesus.
  • We need to be a risk taking church. There is absolute security in Christ but no safety. 
  • We cannot live for our cause to win we must live for His cause to win. 
  • Take up our cross, bear the hurts, and repay in love 

1. Have a passion to do what you do. ( if you haven't got the passion stop)
2. Have compassion ( for the people you work with if not you are a bully)
3. Have empathy ( take care of people) sympathy & empathy are different. Empathy means you are involved
4. Have courage ( courage is not the absence of fear it is the management of fear)

Saturday, May 11, 2013


30 Years ago today I bunked off of a meeting at Bible College and headed off to a friends house in Retford to watch my beloved Dons.

Exiled in England far from the North East none of my friends understood any of the Doric words I was shouting at the TV for the rest of the night. Barred from attending the Gothenburg night in person because of some crazy college rule. For which I am still searching for the grace to forgive after 3 decades:).

But the piece below describes better than I could ever do the emotions of the night of glory, joy & even unexpected sadness.

GOTHENBURG, 1983: the time and the place, like the memories they evoke, are etched on the consciousness of a city, written through its recent history as though they were the message on a stick of granite rock.

Aberdeen, a band of upstarts from the north-east of Scotland, had come, seen and conquered no lesser a name than the incomparable Real Madrid in the final of the European Cup-Winners' Cup. Had anyone been fool enough to sleep through the drama, they wouldn't dare to have dreamt it.

The surviving images, resistant to the rub of time, are an indelible tribute to what was a momentous triumph. John Hewitt's extra-time winner, Alex Ferguson's stumble and fall as the coaching staff burst from the dugout, and Willie Miller's pose with the cup, an emperor before his people. All have run through the years like the ink from a tear-stained postcard. 

They won't forget that night in Sweden, when the Gods smiled down on 13,000 Aberdonians, and grown men cried in the rain. Not this week the 30th anniversary of an achievement they will never repeat. While details are blurred by the years, the most memorable moments have new definition.

The world has changed since May 11, 1983, when 12 home-grown players and a shipyard worker's son from Govan had the audacity to mess with the cognoscenti. Aberdeen are a shadow of their former selves, the Cup-Winners' Cup is defunct and Ferguson has long since departed the Scottish scene, knighted for his services to football, a behemoth to rank alongside the legends of Busby, Shankly and Stein.

Leighton, Rougvie, McMaster, Cooper, McLeish, Miller, Strachan, Simpson, McGhee, Black, Weir and Hewitt.

Their contact may be limited now, but in those days they were friends, their relationship strengthened by a shared adventure. Their other victims in 1983 were Sion, Dinamo Tirane, Lech Poznan, Bayern Munich and Waterschei. The team left no-one in any doubt as to the extent of their abilities.

In a thrilling demonstration of guts and guile, they set about their opponents from the start, Eric Black striking the bar with a portentous volley in the opening exchanges before putting Aberdeen ahead in the 18th minute. Although Juanito equalised from the spot 10 minutes later, Alex McLeish's short passback having forced Jim Leighton into a foul, the advancement of Peter Weir into a more dangerous position subjected Real to an uneasy second half. Their survival into extra time was merely delaying the inevitable. Substitute John Hewitt's header, a bent-kneed collapse at the ball, was followed by the most helpless of celebrations, drenched as he was by rain, sweat and tears.

When Real were awarded a free-kick in injury time, reserve goalkeeper Bryan Gunn, sitting next to Ferguson in the dugout, sunk to his knees and said: "Dear God, please let them miss it." Which, of course, they did. After the unthinkable euphoria of the final whistle, the trophy presentation and the parade of honour, the players retired to the dressing-room.

While the team were living it up in one section of the changing area, there was another room for the staff, where Ferguson was joined by backroom colleagues and club directors, including chairman Dick Donald. "I will always remember what it was like. When Dick came down, it was almost eerie, everything was so quiet. He was crying. He hugged me, and he was not the type of person to be demonstrative like that. He was the old school. He would usually just come up to me and say, 'well done Mr Ferguson, your Boys were good'. But he loved that club. That night ... it was his greatest moment." 

There are those who insist that the quarter-final defeat of Bayern Munich was a greater achievement. After a scoreless first leg in Germany, Aberdeen found themselves 2-1 down with half an hour left. Ferguson controversially replaced Neil Simpson with Hewitt and Stuart Kennedy with John McMaster, a gamble that turned out to be a masterstroke.

The now fabled free-kick, a deliberate mix-up between Strachan and McMaster, led to McLeish's headed equaliser. Then, just as he would in the final, Hewitt grabbed a sensational winner. "It was, and still is, Pittodrie's greatest night," says Ferguson. "We had 10 minutes to go, as well as time added on, with a midfield who couldn't tackle, and a front three who couldn't defend. But we were hanging on because, in Willie Miller and Alex McLeish, we had the two best centre-halves in Britain. The ball was like a magnet to Miller that night.

"In terms of leadership and determination, he was Aberdeen's best player at the time. He was the Roy Keane, the Bryan Robson if you like. But the key to everything was the team. Strachan was fantastic during that period, and when Weir was on song, they were a great team. They had a good balance, a real strength about them."

The Bayern Munich match reminds Ferguson that, however low a period it was in the history of Real Madrid, Aberdeen's achievement was huge. "The Cup-Winners' Cup was a competition won by teams who could maybe have a golden spell for two or three games, but I am proud to think back and say that we beat Bayern Munich, who had Rummenigge, Breitner, Augenthaler, some famous names. Without question in my mind, I am satisfied that it was a trophy to be proud of winning."

The triumph was tinged by sadness in at least two respects. One was Stuart Kennedy's confinement to the bench in the final. The injury he had picked up against Waterschei, his last competitive appearance for the club, forced the popular full-back to retire from football at the age of 29.

The other, altogether more tragic, blow was the death of a young Aberdeen fan, Philip Goodbrand, who collapsed at the match and never recovered. "I had a few friends who were with him when he was passed down through the crowd," says Ferguson. "It was terrible. We knew the young lad because he used to come to training. It was a great sadness. When you see what is happening over the next week or two, can you imagine what his family must be thinking?"

Joy has a disturbing capacity to exacerbate pain. Birthdays, wedding days, Christmas, the occasions that are supposed to be our happiest, can be a torment for those who are trying to forget. Anniversaries, for some, just won't go away, returning time and again to demand that we celebrate what is no longer there. For others, they are a comfort.

Few of those old enough to have understood Aberdeen's glory in Gothenburg will not remember where they were and what they were doing that night. Events such as these are the furniture of life, the moments that make us who we are. They may all be in the past, but for as long as there are anniversaries, they will also be in the future.

Stand Free