THE LEADERSHIP JOURNEY PODCAST (28): MALCOLM DUNCAN, PART Three

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Malcolm Duncan, Senior Pastor of Dundonald Elim Church, is back for a third week.

He talks about some of the impressions of the Northern Ireland he has returned to. He suggests that there is a lot of hope (‘if you see cranes in a city, it’s a sign of hope’), while there is also a degree of uncertainty.

We discuss the theme of exile: how do we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? Malcolm suggests that here is a difference between a church that sings and a church that shouts and he argues that we need to spend more energy telling the Church to get its house in order than telling the world to get its house in order.

He offers some ideas on how the Church needs to respond to the secularisation of society: the Church in Northern Ireland needs to be a hopeful community and a source of hope that could flow beyond these shores.

He reflects on some of the early Irish missionaries and how they went about their work and wonders where the big story tellers are at a time when we may have been guilty of overly dissecting the gospel. Cultivate a bigger vision of the gospel by cultivating a smaller vision of its reality – which means looking for ‘the green seeds of hope’ in your community.

He talks about how he feeds his mind and soul and shares at some length about how he approaches Scripture.

He also talks about the ‘niteblessings’ which you can follow on his social media platforms: @MalcomJDuncan on Twitter and InstagramRevMalcolmDuncan on Facebook – and watch out for the upcoming book!

Towards the end of the podcast, he shares some of the most important things he has learned in leadership:

  1. You cannot be a good leader unless you are a good follower.
  2. There is always more to learn (‘I understand God less than I have ever understood him, but I love him more than I have ever loved him’).
  3. Leadership is as much about learning to trust God as it is about leading other people (‘I do not need to understand God in order to trust him’).
  4. God is good and his love endures forever (‘I have learned the gift of suffering’).
  5. ‘I have nothing to prove!’

Listeners of a certain age will catch the reference to Larry Norman!


 

Here is the podcast:


For your reflection:

  • How can the Church learn to sing more than it shouts?
  • What does it mean for the Church to be an alternative community on the edges of society?
  • Have you a big vision of the gospel?
  • What might it mean to find God at work in your community, as Malcolm describes it?
  • How do you feed your mind and soul?
  • Have you developed a pattern of engaging with Scripture?

8 things Christian leaders can learn about ministry from Moses

Yesterday I had been invited to a gathering of a dozen or so Baptist pastors: I shared some things I’ve learned about leadership, framing them with the story of Moses.

Here is a little summary of my thinking:

1 – We don’t get there by ourselves.

Moses’ survival, his eventual faith in God, and his leadership of God’s people would not have been possible had not been for the faith of his parents, the compassion of Pharaoh’s daughter, and the ingenuity of his sister.

Nor do we get there by ourselves. Whether it is the faith, example and witness of our family, the faithfulness of teachers, or the investment of mentors, we don’t get far on our own.

2 – God can meet us in deserts.

For Moses, the middle years of his life represented the loss of his vision and passion. Exile in Midian was not what he was expecting when he attempted to rescue the Hebrew slaves at 40.

Many leaders find themselves in wilderness experiences at various points in their ministry. Whether it is a wilderness of stress and burnout, a wilderness of failure, or a wilderness of illness or spiritual crisis, wilderness by definition is a hard place. But God can meet us there, as he did Moses.

3 – We need to know that God loves us.

At a time of great crisis (see Exodus 32,33), Moses hears from God. The text says that ‘the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend’. Not only did God promise that his presence would be with Moses, but he told him that he had found favour in his sight and that he knew him by name.

Believing that God loves us might seem like spiritual ABCs, but from time to time we need to be reminded: as Henri Nouwen would say, to hear the voice that calls us the beloved.

4 – Ministry is meant to be shared.

Two incidents in Moses’ life are pertinent. The first is when his father in law sees how much Moses’ style of leadership had become a bottleneck and was threatening to wear out both Moses and the people. The second comes later when Moses is complaining about the heavy load of responsibility and God responds by pouring his Spirit on seventy elders. Two people were not part of the main group and Joshua, perhaps anxious to protect the leadership of his mentor, urges Moses to stop them from prophesying. Moses’ responds that he wishes all the Lord’s people were prophets.

Control-freakery is not a sign of healthy leadership. Leaders need to learn the paradox of power: the leader’s power is not diminished when it is given away to others! Ministry is meant to be shared.

5 – We need to learn to handle criticism.

Criticism was a frequent theme of Moses’ life, whether it was about what the people were eating and drinking, or whether it was their complaint (in fact his siblings’) that Moses had got ahead of himself in terms of self-importance.

At times leaders are lightening rods and find themselves attracting any negativity in the air. At times it feels personal (perhaps at times it is!) and can be hard to take. But making it about ourselves and our honour is likely to make it worse.

While criticism may be painful and while a pervading negativity can be toxic in a church or organisation (and may need to be dealt with), we do well to remember the thoughts of a leadership scholar who has suggested that the most successful leaders are liable to be those with the least compliant followers! Without critique, we remain unaware of our weaknesses and areas where growth is needed.

6 – We are never the finished article.

Moses’ character had a streak of anger: witness his reaction to injustice or his smashing of the stone tablets. Yet he is later described as ‘the meekest man on earth’! You’d think that time had sufficiently moderated his character flaw and that his anger issues had been resolved. Until the provocation of the people eventually gets to him and he disobediently strikes the rock.

Beware, lest character flaws you thought were things of the past come back to bite you: avoid the arrogance of thinking you are the finished article!

7 – We must not get in the way of Jesus.

In the mysteries of biblical typology, Paul claims that the rock that followed the Israelites in the desert was Christ. Which suggests to me a picture of Moses getting himself in the way of an encounter between Christ (the rock from which water flowed) and the people.

Leaders have personalities and these are simply part of who we are. But people need more than our personalities: they need living water, and that comes from Christ, not us. Let’s not get in the way by drawing attention to ourselves.

8 – We need to prepare the next generation.

Moses would not make it to the Promised Land, and he knew the people would need a new leader. So he prayed for one (Numbers 27). In answer, God gave him Joshua (though the ultimate answer to the problem of sheep without a shepherd was a greater Joshua!) and Moses commissioned him.

Leaders come and go but the work goes on and calls for new leaders. What are we doing to pray for them and prepare them to pick up the baton?

The Leadership Journey Podcast (27): Malcolm Duncan, part two

maxresdefaultThis week Malcolm Duncan is back on the podcast: Malcolm is Senior Pastor of Dundonald Elim Church in East Belfast.

In this week’s episode, we talk about some of the biblical concepts around the theme of leadership, including a quick overview of five powerful metaphors from the book of Jude:

  • Clouds without rain
  • Hidden reefs
  • Wandering stars
  • Waves of the sea
  • Trees without fruit

For more on the five metaphors from Jude, see Walter Wright’s excellent book,  Relational Leadership.

Malcolm also shares very personally about the experience of sensing God’s call to return to Northern Ireland.

Remember – you can follow Malcolm’s ‘niteblessing’ – a prayer for each evening – via his Twitter page – @malcolmjduncan, or on his Facebook page – RevMalcolmDuncan.

For your own reflection:

  • What leadership pictures do you tend to default to when you try to think about your leadership?
  • Have you ever experienced a powerful sense of God leading you to change direction in your life?

The Leadership Journey Podcast (26): Malcolm Duncan (part one)

 

9ey7xfrc_400x400The guest this week (for the next three weeks, in fact) is Malcom Duncan. After spending the past thirty years away from Northern Ireland, where he grew up, Malcolm has recently taken up the role of Senior Pastor in Dundonald Elim Church in East Belfast. Previously – most recently – he was Senior Pastor of Gold Hill Baptist Church in England. Malcolm is well known as a conference speaker at events such as Spring Harvest and New Horizon.

In this week’s podcast, Malcolm talks about returning to the country he left three decades ago, he talks about his dramatic conversion experience at sixteen (which he believes also constituted his call to Christian ministry), and he shares some of his thoughts on leadership and mentoring.

Questions for reflection:

  • As you listen to Malcolm describe his conversion experience, reflect on how you came to faith? Was it a dramatic experience, or was it more gradual? Someone has suggested that some conversions are more ‘Emmaus Road’ than they are ‘Damascus Road’.
  • What do you think of Malcolm’s rationale for team leadership? Do you have a theological foundation for your own leadership model?
  • Do you have a Timothy and/or a Paul figure in your life?
  • ‘You cannot lead people you don’t love’: what do you make of this comment?

You can catch also Malcolm’s ‘nite blessing’ – a prayer for each evening – via his Twitter page – @malcolmjduncan, or on his Facebook page – RevMalcolmDuncan.

The Leadership Journey Podcast (25): Ken McBride (part 2)

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This week Ken McBride is back on the podcast. In this episode he talks about his move from rural Northern Ireland to Orangefield Presbyterian Church in East Belfast, where he stayed for 32 years. Among other things, he talks about how he changed the culture in the church to enable every member ministry and discusses some of the influences on his thinking.

He also talks about the changing face of denominationalism in Northern Ireland (‘we can’t afford the luxury of inter-denominational fighting’).

He discusses the important subject of resilience, highlighting several of the lessons he has learned about this along the way – not least the realisation that he works for ‘an audience of One’, a commitment to regular Bible reading and prayer, and team ministry.

  • As a church leader, how can you help your church to retain what is good while being sensitive to new emphases that the Holy Spirit may want to bring? How easy is it to do ‘what’s right’ without worrying about the label?
  • How do you think leaders can cultivate a resilience that will enable them to serve over the long haul?
  • How do you find the balance between staying true to a course of action while remaining humble enough to admit you could be wrong?
  • Are you part of a leadership team? How are you cultivating the sense of team?

The Leadership Journey Podcast (24): Ken McBride (part 1)

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This week’s guest on the podcast is Ken McBride: Ken retired last year after over 35 years as a minister in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. For most of that time he was minister of Orangefield Presbyterian, in East Belfast.

Ken talks about his childhood faith (‘I gave the little I knew of myself to the little I knew of God, and it’s been a constant journey ever since’) and some of the seeds of leadership that appeared through his involvement with a band who were engaged in music and apologetics. He also discusses how God used the most famous verse in the Bible to lead him out of a period of doubt in his twenties.

Perhaps surprisingly for someone who would go on to spend so much time in church leadership, Ken was initially resistant to work in the institution of the church, though he was inspired to be involved in ministry. Along the way he has learned to allow God to bring him into his plans, rather than the other way around: as a self-confessed talker, he had to learn to listen!

For your own reflection:

Do you tend to ask God to bless your plans more than you ask him to tell him his plans?