The Leadership Journey Podcast Season 2, Episode 15: Russell Birney part 2

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Russell Birney is back this week, continuing his story (you can listen to the first part here).

In this part of the interview Russell talks about his ministry in three of the four churches where he has served, starting with two years in Carrickfergus where he was somewhat pitched in at the deep end before moving on to the challenging environment of Newry where people were feeling the weight of the Troubles: he stayed in Newry for 9 years.

He then spent over 20 years in High Kirk, Ballymena, where he faced the challenge of bringing change to a church whose previous minister had been there for 36 years.

In this context he talks about key influencers that helped shape his thinking about and his excitement for the Church: David Watson in York, and Ray Stedman in California. (You can still pick up copies of David Watson’s book, I believe in the Church).

Questions for your own reflection:

  • Have you any examples of being pitched in at the deep end in leadership? What happened and what did you learn?
  • Russell talks about his view of the importance of pastoral visitation: if you are in church leadership, how do you react to Russell’s view? What is your own practice?

The Leadership Journey Podcast Season 2, Episode 14: Russell Birney

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The guest in the first episode of the podcast in 2019 is Russell Birney. Russell is a retired Presbyterian minister whose ministry spanned several decades and included over 20 years as minister of High Kirk in Ballymena. He is a former moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

In this first part our our conversation we talk about Russell growing up in Fermanagh, about his experience of coming to faith (it was not a straightforward journey), and about the decision to pursue training for Presbyterian ministry.

Along the way we discuss mentoring and the value of having friends and people who speak into our lives.

Next week I’ll be talking to Russell about his ministry in several congregations, some of the challenges he faced, and some of the important things he was learning about ministry as well as conviction about the importance of the Church.

Here is this week’s episode:

 

The boy grew up: reflections on turning the page on another year

This is not restricted to leaders, but is relevant: something I wrote on how we can take a balanced audit of our lives as we approach a new year.

The other day we celebrated our grandson’s first birthday. He and I celebrated by jumping up and down quite energetically. That’s a lot of fun when you are one and someone else is doing most of the jumping and throwing you in the air: it’s a lot tougher when you’re almost 60 and you’re most […]

via The boy grew up: reflections on turning the page on another year — JS Alan Wilson

THE LEADERSHIP JOURNEY PODCAST, SEASON 2, EPISODE 13: DAVID DUNLOP (part 2)

David Dunlop

In this week’s episode we resume David Dunlop’s story.

David describes some significant conversations that took place while on sabbatical including how he was introduced to the programme of Arrow Leadership and their work on issues of character, calling and competence in leaders. Arrow proved to be a huge formative experience for David.

Another key encounter during his sabbatical was with someone who asked him what he was doing to guard his heart (see Proverbs 4:23). Such was the impact that this verse has become David’s life verse.

From there David goes on to talk about spiritual disciplines/holy habits and describes a number of practices including a rule of life that includes spiritual disciplines, self care, use of time, and silent retreats.

As a leader he recognises the importance of being aware of perceived expectations and avoiding becoming proud when he’s praised and crushed when he is criticised. He also talks about the role of other people in his life, including the importance of his wife in helping him to guard his heart.

David also talks about his journey as a (reluctant, not unwilling) leader in Windsor – not least in his preaching ministry. We also talk about team and how David has experienced that in Windsor Baptist.

He also gets the opportunity to speak to a young version of himself and shares advice he would give which includes this: ‘If you want to be in leadership for a short time, knock yourself out’, and the advice to hold some things lightly.

 



If you would like to know more about the Arrow Leadership course you can find out more on their websites: the international site is here, and the Irish site is here.

And you can find out more about Windsor Baptist Church here.

Here are some of the books and authors mentioned in the podcast:

Carson Pue: Mentoring Leaders;

James Lawrence: Growing Leaders;

Mark Buchanan: Your God is too Safe,

Mark Buchanan: The Rest of God;

Burns, Chapman and Guthrie: Resilient Ministry.


For your own reflection:

  • What are you doing to guard your heart?
  • Do you follow any kind of rule of life?
  • If your leadership involves preaching, how do you ensure that you allow the Scripture to speak?
  • Are you clear about who you are as a leader, without needing to try to be someone you are not?
  • What is your rule of thumb about what can be held lightly and what needs to be held firmly?

Exploring your leadership journey

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I’m working (again) with the story of Moses and ways in which it provides us with a paradigm to explore the concept of a leadership journey.

Here are some themes you might like to explore:

Key stages

For Moses, there were three stages (formative, exile, leadership), delineated by both geography and the nature of what he was doing. Think, for example, about places you have lived, stages of education, jobs, training or changes in family.

Turning points

These are hinge points that move you from one stage of your journey to another. In Moses’ life, being found out for the killing of the Egyptian propelled him rapidly into the second (exile) stage of his life.

Defining moments

These may not be unlike the turning points, but are other moments that help define your primary identity and your sense of mission.

Important people

Each season of Moses’ life included the involvement of important people: from his mother and sister in the formative years, his wife and father-in-law in the exile years, to Joshua in the leadership years. It’s worth reflecting on the people whose influence has contributed to who and where you are today.

Crucial decisions

Leaders need to be decision-makers and some of the decisions have major significance in shaping their journey. What major life-shaping decisions have you taken? Have there been times when you have had to draw a line in the sand over some issue?

Times of testing

Christian leaders never graduated from the tests and temptations that everyone else faces, but they often have to face a new, or intensified set of tests. Much of Moses’ leadership phase was marked by tests and challenges. What are some of the seasons of testing (both personal and in terms of your leadership) that you have faced?

Notable successes

It can be tricky to talk about ’success’ in Christian leadership. However, are there times you can see that God has been working through you (Moses had the Red Sea!) and there is evidence of fruit?

Regrettable failures

Leadership is not always going to be an unbroken series of success stories. The reality is that leaders fail – both in terms of their leadership and, sadly, in their personal lives. What have been some of your failures and what have you been able to learn from them?

Life lessons

What have you been learning along the way in terms of God, yourself, the nature and challenge of leadership?

THE LEADERSHIP JOURNEY PODCAST, SEASON 2, EPISODE 12: David Dunlop

David Dunlop

This week’s guest is David Dunlop, pastor of Windsor Baptist Church in South Belfast (yes, another South Belfast Baptist Church) – a diverse church which can count 15-18 nationalities on a Sunday. He has just celebrated his tenth anniversary as pastor of the church (and not so long ago, his 50th birthday).

David describes how he came to faith in Christ as a child, so beginning a journey that has continued (with some bumps in the road) for over 40 years. He describes a stage of ‘going through the motions’ in terms of church, and reaching a point of recommitment at 18 – not least through involvement in an event that many Northern Irish Christians (of a certain age) will remember: Mannafest.

In terms of early influence he describes the example of the pastor of the church where he grew up (though David had no pastoral aspirations at that time) and some teachers he knew at school.

In his early 20s he was given the opportunity (along with his wife) to lead the church youth group. He talks about one of the key lessons from his work with young people – the importance of building trust and earning the right to speak: something he believes was ‘caught, not taught’. They underwent training  on a youth ministry course with Oasis Trust in London.

At the end of the training, there was an opportunity for both David and his wife to work as the youth pastoral team in their home church in Ballynahinch – where they served for 13 years (though their roles changed after 8 years). David describes the enjoyment of working in a team, but the highlight was working with the young people and the privilege of journeying with them through various stages of growth and development.

He also talks about the journey of moving from Ballynahinch to Windsor Baptist (despite having resolved that he would never be a pastor). His experience of ‘calling’ is a little different from how others have experienced it!

For your own reflection:

How do you respond to David’s thoughts and experience in the lead up to moving to Windsor Baptist? Does this challenge what you have tended to think in terms of ‘the call’? What about the role of other people in helping us to discern in our decision-making?