This week, a previous guest on the podcast, has a special birthday. Bishop Ken (Fanta) Clarke is celebrating the 50th anniversary of turning 20! It’s about a year since I posted a couple of podcasts featuring his story. Here again is part one, with part two coming next week. Beyond that watch for some new episodes.
Happy birthday, Ken – and God bless you in the new decade ahead!
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?
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?
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.
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?
Trevor Ramsey is back this week continuing his story.
In this podcast episode he talks about his involvement in the foundational years of Greenisland Baptist – a season that brought with it some life-shaping personal moments, including his journey through grief after the painful loss of his first wife, Sheila. He goes on to talk about a new phase in his life, both personally (in marrying Maggie) and in terms of his leadership, as he responds to the invitation of the elders of Newtownbreda Baptist Church to become their Senior Pastor.
In the final part of the podcast Trevor describes some of the most important lessons leaders need to be aware of, including the need to lead from a full heart and the significance of humility.
If you would like to find out more about the church where Trevor pastors, you could visit their website – and you can even catch some of the preaching that’s been part of the current themed series Trevor talks about in the podcast.
For your reflection:
Which of the lessons Trevor highlights strikes you most? Is there something you think you could do in response?
In this week’s episode of the podcast Trevor talks about coming to faith in Christ as a teenager and some of the early influences on him as a young Christian. He talks about his decision to pursue his sense of call by resigning from his job to study at Belfast Bible College, and about his subsequent time as pastor of Limerick Baptist Church in the Irish Republic, including what God taught him the evening no one turned up for the evening service!
For your own reflection:
Think about what Trevor says about discerning the call of God: have you experienced the elements he talks about?
Trevor talks about realising that what God wanted to do in him mattered more than what God wanted to do through him: have you seen this to be true in your own leadership?
The 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?
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?
This week Paul Reid is back on the podcast. If you missed the first part of his story, you can catch up with it here. This week’s episode picks up Paul’s story from his appointment as pastor of CFC in Belfast.
Among the things Paul discusses during the podcast are issues of church autonomy and his approach to remaining open to outside voices; the influence of John Wimber and his own emphasis on a message of grace; his – and CFC’s experience of the Toronto Blessing; and how he has sought to maintain a balance of Word and Spirit in his ministry.
As you listen to the podcast, here are some things to think about:
If you are a church leader – especially if you are in an autonomous church set-up, how do you and your church keep your leadership open and accountable to others?
Have you thought through a theology of prayer and healing?
‘There is no small print in the message of God’s love and grace’: how do you respond to what Paul says about grace?
If you are a church leader, how have you gone about ensuring that your ministry is about both Word and Spirit?
In next week’s podcast, Paul will be reflecting on some of what he has learned through the course of his leadership journey.
The guest this week is Harold Miller, Bishop of Down and Dromore in the Church of Ireland.
In this first part of his interview Harold talks about his conversion experience and the early stages of his growth as a leader while involved in the Christian Union at Trinity College, Dublin (his years there coincided with a remarkable batch of future leaders and missionaries).
He also talks about the role of an Anglican Bishop and the importance of leaders having other people around them.
Here are some questions for you to reflect on as you listen to Harold’s interview:
Harold mentions a number of key mentors: what mentors are helping to shape you, and are you building into the lives of other, younger leaders?
Harold talks about ‘holes in the cheese’: as you think about your own church tradition, where are some of the gaps?
Alistair Bill has been minister of Saintfield Road Presbyterian Church in Belfast for almost 24 years. In this week’s podcast – the first part of a two-part interview – Alistair talks about his early years, including how he came to faith through the ministry of Arthur Blessitt (remember him carrying his cross around Northern Ireland in 1972, and the smiley face stickers? – he is now into his 50th year of carrying the cross!) and how he began to sense God’s call into vocational ministry.
In part 2 of the interview (next week) Alistair talks about his years of ministry in Greystones, Monaghan, and his current church – Saintfield Road: he also shares some of the important leadership lessons he has picked up along the way.