Served for 21 years as pastor in two churches - one in Switzerland and one in Northern Ireland. Recently completed a Doctor of Ministry degree which explored the significance of 'crucible' experiences in shaping Christian leaders. Part time teacher at various Bible Colleges in Ireland.
Married to Pauline; two daughters; two sons in law; two grandchildren. Irrational attachment to Everton FC.
This week’s episode is a bit different from the usual format.
A few days ago I spoke at a men’s breakfast that was run by Westlake Church in Lausanne, Switzerland: it’s a church that I was involved with in its early development almost 15 years ago. I spoke from the story of Moses, with an overview of some of the elements of his leadership journey. In the famous words of DL Moody, Moses spent forty years thinking he was somebody, 40 years learning he was nobody, and 40 years discovering what God can do with a nobody.
Instead of an interview with a leader, this week’s podcast is an edited version of my talk, which was called ‘Finding yourself in your story’. As you listen, take time to reflect on some of the things that have become part of your own leadership journey.
Here are a few things to think about:
What have been some of the key stages of your journey?
Who have been the major influencers?
What defining moments have shaped you?
How would you describe your sense of calling, or vocation?
We start our conversation this week with a discussion of ‘how to plant a church’, and what that looked like in the story of Village Church (we talk about the question of why plant a church in Belfast), including the recent development of a new church plant in South Belfast.
Among other things, Lucas talks about the Acts 29 church planting network, and about what it takes to maintain a team, and some of the defining moments in his leadership journey.
He shares very personally, and powerfully about his recent illness and the challenge of going through a tough season of treatment. He talks about how God came close to him, and about some of the lessons he learned through the experience.
For your reflection:
Part of our conversation is on the subject of church planting and the question of whether certain places (like Belfast, which has a lot of churches) really need new churches: what are your thoughts on this? Are new churches a means of revitalising the Church generally?
Lucas talks about his view that it’s better to plant churches than to grow churches to be as large as possible: do you agree? What or why not?
If you are leading a team, how much are you investing in ‘relational capital’?
Reflect on a time when you went through a particular crisis: what were some of the things you learned through it?
Lucas Parks is the guest on this week’s episode of the podcast. Lucas is pastor of Village Church in East Belfast, and is country director for the Acts 29 Church planting network in Ireland.
In this first part of our conversation (part two is next week), Lucas gives an update on his health (he’s recently come through a gruelling season of treatment for throat cancer) and talks about how someone who grew up between County Armagh and the US, came to be planting a church in Belfast.
He talks about some of the people who influenced him in his Christian life, including a youth pastor who noticed leadership potential and encouraged him to develop in ministry.
*That saying we couldn’t quite remember:
If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.
For your reflection:
What do you think of the discussion of relational leadership? Are you a naturally relational leader?
This week Rick Hill continues his story, chronicling his move to church-based youth ministry, in Carnmoney Church. He talks about the part played by a couple of his bosses – Helen Warnock in his time with Scripture Union, and John Dickinson, at Carnmoney.
After five years in Carnmoney Rick was appointed to his current role. This was a move away from a focus on one local congregation to working across the wider denomination in a specific area. At the same time he has continued to contribute to the life of his local church (he is part of the eldership team in a new church plant).
He talks about some of the challenges of leading as a young person in an environment where leaders tend to be older, including learning how to begin about appropriate change.
During the conversation we talk about some of the ways generations may lead differently. Rick describes how he values consistency and commitment: leadership is who he is rather than what he does.
Among some of the leadership ideas Rick discusses are the idea that influence is greater than authority and proximity trumps distance. Both of these elements point to the importance of relationship to leadership. He also talks about the value of leading out of vulnerability.
Younger leaders face the challenge of balance as they seek to hold together a range of commitments and the challenge of knowing how to deconstruct what needs to be deconstructed (in terms of traditionalism), without neglecting to build.
In the final part of the conversation he talks about some of his ambitions as he looks ahead.
For your own reflection:
From what Rick shares about a more relational approach to leadership, what are some of the implications for your leadership?
If you are a younger leader, how do you think that older leaders could help you in your journey?
Rick Hill is the guest on the podcast over the next two weeks. Rick is the Discipleship Officer for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Rick is probably the youngest person I’ve interviewed on the podcast (and probably also the tallest!).
In this first part of our conversation Rick describes some of what is involved in his role as Discipleship Officer for PCI, and we go back to the beginning of his story when he talks about the influence of his parents, and about the weekend when both he and a classmate committed their lives to Christ.
He talks also about his early sense that he would somehow be involved in some kind of vocational ministry – an early desire to serve God. This desire influenced his study path (he studied at Belfast Bible College, where we recorded the interview), and he eventually found himself working with Scripture Union where he had responsibility to engage with Bible groups in secondary schools across the country. It was a formative time, helping him to learn how to handle the Bible in ways that were relevant to young people.
For your own reflection:
What do you think of Rick’s description of shifting the emphasis from trying to get people into church to equipping disciples who will be sent out from church?
If you are a leader, what do you think about what Rick says about giving permission to younger people to run with their vision?
This week Charles McMullan, current Moderator of the Presbyterian Church is back on the podcast. We pick up the story with his arrival as minister of Legacurry Presbyterian Church near Lisburn, where his eight years represented a season of growth in the church.
He talks about his growing openness to the person and work of the Holy Spirit and the ensuing change in his ministry and then his eventual (dramatic) call to West Church in Bangor, where he followed the ministry of David Bailie who had pioneered a new church plant and had spent some 40 years pastoring the church. Charles describes ministry in a place where there is a deep spirituality and a joy of life.
He talks about the importance of relationships in helping to maintain the momentum in West, staying fresh, without falling into a rut. A large church, like an ocean liner, can continue on course for some time after losing its power!
In talking about what he would say to his 28 year old self he talks about the twin convictions of the unconditional love of God and the sense that, even though he wants to give his best, God’s work cannot depend on him: know that you’re loved, but don’t take yourself too seriously!
In the final part of the interview Charles talks about his experience as Moderator and how it has encouraged him in his thinking about Church, and his passion to see renewal for the traditional Church.
Here are a couple of questions for reflection:
‘God has always worked in me according to my personality.’ How do you respond to this statement that Charles makes about his experience of God?
As a church leader, how can you maintain continuity with the past while keeping the church fresh?
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?