Over the next two weeks the guest on the podcast is Charles McMullen, the current Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. His year as Moderator comes as he completes 20 years as minister of a local congregation in Bangor.
In this first part of the interview, Charles talks about his early years in County Tyrone and learning as a child to love Jesus. One of the key influencers in his life was one of his church ministers who effectively functioned as a kind of mentor to him.
After school Charles left Northern Ireland, first to study in Dublin (where the head of the German department became a mentor) and then in Oxford (where he read Modern European History). At Oxford he had the opportunity to meet a number of people from a range of church backgrounds. He mentions some of the work of an Oxford minister called Caryl Micklem: you can check out one of his books on prayer here.
After a season of feeling like a boat being tossed at sea, Charles surrendered to the sense of God calling him and after Oxford he began theological studies in Belfast. He then served as assistant minister in Lisburn before moving to lead the congregation in Legacurry, a rural congregation not far from there.
As you listen to Charles, here are a couple of things to reflect on:
Charles makes a point about reaching a place where he is sufficiently secure in his identity in Christ to be able to reach out to others and be enriched by them? Do you think we put up barriers out of insecurity?
Have you found it easier to discern God’s leading in retrospect?
Brendan Healy from Mullingar is back this week. In the first part of our conversation Brendan talked about the beginnings of his military career, and about the remarkable story of coming to faith in Christ.
In this part of our conversation Brendan talks about ways in which leaders in various settings (like Church or military) can learn from each other. One example, drawn from the military, is the emphasis put on training for transformation: Brendan suggests that churches need to make discipleship a more serious enterprise.
We also discuss the difference between leading from position and leading from who we are: church leaders are less likely to wear their authority on their epaulettes! Brendan suggests that the great challenge for Christian leaders will be to influence people through character and authenticity.
Brendan also talks about the church of which he is a part in Mullingar, and the roles he has played in its work: along the way, there are some interesting observations in relation to religious and cultural identity!
He also talks about people who have influenced him along the way, and shares some of the main lessons he has learned.
For your reflection:
What are some of the spheres of leadership you think Christians would do well to learn from? Are there any cautions?
As a leader, do you have a plan for helping to develop other people? Does your church or organisation take training and discipleship seriously?
PS – in the background you will hear some of the staff of Irish Bible Institute (where we recorded the podcast) having a bit of a laugh!
Next week the guest on the podcast will be Charles McMullan, current Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.
This week’s guest is Brendan Healy. Brendan is a retired Lt Colonel with the Irish Defence Forces. He lives in Mullingar, in the centre of Ireland, where he has played an influential role in Mullingar Christian Fellowship.
In this first part of our conversation talks about growing up in a traditional Catholic family in the West of Ireland, and his early desire to serve God as he felt his heart stirring towards Christianity. His parents were a big influence on him in terms of leadership as a way of making a contribution, and kindness.
Brendan had originally wanted to be in the police (after abandoning the idea of the priesthood), but accidentally (!) found himself joining the officer training programme for the Irish Defence Forces – he describes some of the demands of military discipline.
His sense of wanting to serve God had faded until someone he knew had had an experience of God and invited Brendan to a Christian event (the ‘craziest’ event he had ever attended). However as he explored more listened to a challenge from a priest who had been invited to speak at a mission, he came to the point of accepting Christ: his life was immediately transformed.
Remarkably, several of Brendan’s military colleagues also came to a transformational Christian experience: eventually they discovered that a group of women had been praying regularly for Irish Army officers, and this was the answer to their prayers.
He talks about the change from being a military leader to being a Christian military leader and describes some of the places where he was tasked with leading, including Lebanon and Jerusalem, as well as some of the leadership lessons he learned along the way.
He makes the point that military leadership goes beyond simply giving orders, but involves taking responsibility for the people in the leader’s charge.
(Irish Bible Institute, where we recorded the podcast, has a buzz about it on a Wednesday morning: you will hear some of the atmosphere in the background!)
Roz Stirling of Cleopas Ministries is back this week. She picks up her story from part one, talking about her work with the youth and children’s department in the Presbyterian Church, and how she went about helping the Church to engage with the changes in youth culture.
She also talks about her sense of call and about a life-changing retreat she she experienced in the US where she realised she was ministering out of her own sense of what was right and wrong rather than from a deep walk with God: this experience was the genesis of Cleopas, even though Cleopas was not developed for some years.
The beginnings of Cleopas brought new challenges as Roz became ill: she talks about how her illness removed her sense of self-sufficiency – developing a high sense of value, but a low sense of importance.
She also talks about the challenge of singleness, and the loss of her dream of motherhood, and challenges the Church about the need for a theology of singleness (and careful practice).
She highlights the following challenges for leaders:
Character: we need to know our weaknesses and seek God’s power for character transformation.
Be honest with yourself!
Enjoy God through and through! Our relationship with God must be central: are the rivers of living water flowing through you?
Questions for your reflection:
What are some of today’s challenges in connecting the unchanging gospel with a changing culture?
Would you say that you are driven or that you lead from the fulness of a rich relationship with God?