The Leadership Journey Podcast Season 2, Episode 25: Lucas Parks, part 2

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Lucas Parks, pastor of Village Church in Belfast is back this week, continuing his story. You can catch up with part one of our conversation here.

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?

 

THE LEADERSHIP JOURNEY PODCAST, SEASON 2, EPISODE 21: CHARLES MCMULLEN, part 2

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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?

THE LEADERSHIP JOURNEY PODCAST, SEASON 2, EPISODE 20: Charles McMullen

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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?

THE LEADERSHIP JOURNEY PODCAST SEASON 2, EPISODE 16: RUSSELL BIRNEY PART 3

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This week we wrap up the conversation with Russell Birney. If you have missed the first two parts, you can catch up with them here and here.

In this week’s episode Russell talks about the process of leading change (be aware that people have different attitudes to change), and about some of the biggest challenges he faced in leadership.

He also has advice about retirement, and shares his main lessons on spiritual leadership:

  1. The importance of a consistent walk with God;
  2. Making sure your personal priorities are in order: beware of the cost of ‘success’!
  3. Be accountable to someone who will pray for you and strengthen you;
  4. Dispense with the idea of status!

And here is James Lawrence’s visual representation of how people respond to change (from his book, Growing Leaders):

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A question for leaders:

  • Are there issues which you believe to be ‘red lines’, where people need to be challenged?

Next week’s guest is Roz Stirling, director of Cleopas Ministries.

 

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

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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?

The Leadership Journey Podcast, Season 2, Episode 9: Clive Atkinson (part 2)

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This week there’s more from Clive Atkinson from All Saints Church in Vevey (if you missed part one, you can catch it here).

Following his training in Dublin, Clive served his time as a curate in North Belfast followed by his first incumbency in West Belfast, in an ‘interface’ part of the city (listen for the account of the exploding bread van!).

From Belfast, he moved to his current church in Switzerland, and describes some of the challenges around the move.

He describes some of the ways he sensed God calling him to move (including the Sunday when he made his first visit to All Saints – a Sunday when there just happened to be a Northern Irish preacher in the pulpit!).

He discusses the ‘vertical’ learning curve that awaited him in arriving in Vevey – a learning curve that has continued throughout his time there. As well as the challenge of living in a new culture and parenting their children through a French-speaking school system, there was the challenge of leading a church full of strong leaders. He shares some of the ways he felt he was able to build a team, including the importance of emphasising relationships.

We also discuss some of the factors that contribute to a leader staying fresh – with particular reference to life in a ‘revolving door’ type church: Clive mentions some of the factors that have been helpful to him.

I asked him what advice he would give to a young 22 year old version of himself, heading out in training and his leadership journey. Here is the summary:

  • Leadership is a long term journey, so be patient, expect to change and to grow.
  • Your highest calling is to Jesus (not necessarily to his church), so never short-change your devotional life.
  • The Lord is faithful: trust him!
  • The Lord loves the Church more than you do!

For your reflection:

  • Clive talked about the sense that God was speaking to both him and his wife in relation to their move overseas: how important do you think it is for a leader and their spouse to be on the same page in discerning God’s call?
  • The move to Switzerland had implications for Clive and Yvonne’s young family: how can churches and agencies support families who move overseas, with the particular challenges that brings?
  • What are some of the ways you have found to be effective in building a team?
  • As you listen to Clive talk about some of the factors that have helped keep him fresh along the way, what are some of the things you have in place to help you? Should you be putting some things in place?

Next week the guest on the podcast is Edwin Ewart, principal of the Irish Baptist College.

 

A biblical picture of leadership

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The past few decades have seen a significant increase in interest in the subject of leadership, both generally and within the Church. So much so that it’s tempting to paraphrase Ecclesiastes: ‘Of the making of books (and articles) on leadership, there is no end!’

The range of resources available means that Christians face a challenge in knowing how to navigate the subject. On the one hand, we can become so infatuated with the most recent trend in management or entrepreneurship that we end up unwittingly relegating the Bible to the sidelines, while on the other hand, we might bury our heads in the sand with regard to the challenges of 21st century leadership or the wisdom that might be gleaned from some of the best leadership thinkers. In fact, we might prefer to ignore the subject altogether, perhaps even dismiss it as unspiritual!

It’s the first of those temptations – ignoring the voice of Scripture – that I hope to address in this article, suggesting three biblical themes that might provide a framework for fruitful reflection on leadership.

1 – The Bible and leaders

The importance of human leaders is implied by the array of leaders that God uses across the pages of both Old and New Testaments. Considerable space is given to many of their stories: from Joseph, in ‘secular’ leadership in Egypt, through Moses and the Exodus, Joshua in the Promised Land, judges, like Deborah or Gideon, kings like David or Solomon, governors like Nehemiah, all the way through to the Lord Jesus himself and those who followed him.

Despite the shortcomings of many of these leaders, many of them were agents of significant work among God’s people. How would the Hebrews have left Egypt and negotiated the wilderness without the leadership of Moses? How would post-exile Jerusalem have been rebuilt without the leadership of Nehemiah (even though he could not have achieved it by himself)?

While we need to be careful not to treat some parts of Scripture as little more than leadership handbooks from which we can glean ‘leadership principles’, many of the stories have a great deal to teach us about the challenges and responsibilities of spiritual leadership. We also need to recognise that few of the biblical leaders left legacies of unmitigated success. Moses failed to make it to the Promised Land. Samson’s story was a confusing mix of faith and recklessness. Many of the kings ‘did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord’.

Scripture’s portrayal of these leaders is so honest about their flaws that, even if it’s too much to say that human leadership is a necessary evil, we might be tempted to think of it as a dangerous necessity!

2 – The call to character

Scripture cautions about the traps of leadership. In the Old Testament Deuteronomy 17 warns the king against accumulating horses (a sign of military power), accumulating wives (perhaps as a way of cementing political alliances, but a potential gateway to idolatry), and accumulating silver and gold (material wealth). By any other reckoning, these three things would probably have been markers of success in the ancient world: who wouldn’t admire a leader with great military power, international influence, and personal wealth?

In fact, Israel had one such leader: Solomon. Solomon’s wealth set him at the top of the ‘Rich List’; he had 12000 horsemen (along with horses from Egypt); in his household were 700 wives and 300 concubines. But the trappings of apparent success carried the seeds of the destruction of Solomon’s leadership. He ended his life an idolater and the kingdom was subsequently torn from his family. How many Christian leaders have crashed their leadership on the rocks of money, sex, and power?

It’s no surprise that the New Testament sets so much store on the kind of people who were to lead local congregations. The instructions for appointing elders/overseers in the Pastoral Epistles prioritise personal character over spectacular gifting (though gifting is part of the picture). Similarly Peter (1 Peter 5) challenges the heart motivations of elders, warning them that spiritual leadership is not intended as a path to wealth or personal power.

3 – Biblical pictures

Derek Tidball, in his book Builders and Fools, encourages Christian leaders to think about their role less in terms of the latest leadership trend and more in terms of some of the pictures the Bible itself gives to describe ministerial leadership. When we do this, there is plenty of material!

Among the pictures from which we might draw, there are kings and warriors, prophets and sages, builders and pilots, and there are shepherds and servants.

‘Shepherd’ is perhaps the dominant metaphor for leadership in both Old and New Testaments. In the OT, God (already the Shepherd of his people) delegates the task of shepherding to kings and other leaders. Sadly, they often prove to be unfaithful and are denounced by the prophets who promise that God himself will step in. Messianic prophecy looks ahead to a coming King who will emerge from Bethlehem and shepherd his people. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the welfare of his sheep, and in turn he delegates the task of shepherding his flock to his followers. Elders are told to ‘shepherd’ the flock.

If 21st century Church leadership is to be biblical, it needs to take proper account of the implications of the shepherding motif, with its call for leaders who are marked by both compassion and courage.

Finally, leaders are servants. The term ‘servant leadership’ has become familiar in general discussions of leadership, but it was Jesus who challenged his disciples to look less at the powerful models of contemporary leadership on display in the Roman Empire, and learn the lessons of servanthood. In contrast to the domineering styles of the culture around them, Jesus’ disciples had to understand that the radically different values of the kingdom of God included a radically different vision of what it meant to be number one: whoever would be first would have to be the slave of all.

Christian leadership follows in the footsteps of Jesus. In fact, we do well to remember that the call to follow precedes the call to lead: our leadership is validated when it flows from our followership. Following in the footsteps of Jesus, biblical leadership exists, not for its own advancement, but for the good of those in its care, for the glory of God, and the advancement of his kingdom.

(This is a slightly edited version of an article written for Insight – the magazine of the Association of Baptist Churches in Ireland – part of a special section the magazine is running on leadership.)

The Leadership Journey Podcast – Season Two, episode One: Philip Emerson

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After a break over the summer, the Leadership Journey Podcast is back this week. The guest on the first three episodes of this new season is Philip Emerson. Philip is one of the lead pastors at Emmanuel Church in Lurgan, a church that was birthed in his living room over 20 years ago.

In this first episode Phil talks about growing up around the shore of Lough Neagh where he came to faith as a child and quickly developed a love for God and a zeal to serve him and tell other people about him. He discusses some of the people who most influenced him and some of the factors in the development of his leadership.

On a practical note, he shares how he has learned leadership through the years by intentionally seeking out the counsel and wisdom of more experienced leaders.

AND… have you ever heard anyone say that their duck’s a swan? Listen carefully!


For your own reflection:

  • Do you think leaders are born or made?
  • How intentional are you about learning from leaders who are farther along the path of leadership (and may be much stronger leaders) than you?

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 (22): Ken Clarke (part 1)

 

bishopkenclarkeThis week’s guest on the podcast is one of the best known and most popular leaders in the Northern Irish evangelical church: Ken (Fanta) Clarke. Ken has served (and continues to serve) in a number of roles through the years, including time spent in South America as a missionary, local church leadership on both sides of the Irish border, his role as Bishop in the Church of Ireland, and his current role as mission director for SAMS UK and Ireland (South American Mission Society).

In this episode he talks about some of the events and people who helped form him for leadership. He discusses his definition of a leader as someone with a compass in their head and a magnet in their heart and underlines his belief in the potential impact of one godly life.

As you listen:

  • Who are some of the people who have helped shape you in your leadership?
  • Are you seeking to make the most of whatever calling you have to influence others?

The Leadership Journey Podcast (18) Paul Reid (part 2)

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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:

  1. 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?
  2. Have you thought through a theology of prayer and healing?
  3. ‘There is no small print in the message of God’s love and grace’: how do you respond to what Paul says about grace?
  4. 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.

You can subscribe (for free) to the podcast here.

And here is this week’s episode:

 

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The Leadership Journey Podcast (17): Paul Reid

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This week’s guest on the podcast is Paul Reid who, along with his wife Priscilla, led Christian Fellowship Church in Belfast for over twenty years.

Paul talks about coming to faith in his teens and his early upbringing in a Brethren Assembly. He and Priscilla left this to start a house fellowship and their group eventually became CFC in East Belfast.

He talks about the influence of Spring Harvest – both in his sense of call to leadership and in his experience of the Holy Spirit, and of several notable Christian leaders, including Terry Virgo and Roger Forster.

He also discusses the controversial ‘shepherding’ movement and the reason why he and his fellow leaders felt they needed to resign from their leadership roles.

Some questions as you listen:

  • Paul talks about some key turning points in the early years of his life and ministry: what events and seasons do you look back on as being formative in your own journey?
  • What do you think about the idea of leaders admitting to their followers that they have got something wrong? Is this a sign of strength? How can leaders distinguish between a conviction that they need to persevere in a course of action and a sense that they need to retrace their steps?

Part 2 of Paul’s interview will available after Easter – this will include discussion of several other controversial issues that Paul’s journey has seen him tackle; and there will be a 3rd part, in which Paul will talk about some of what he has learned about leadership and what advice he would give young leaders.

The Leadership Journey Podcast 13: Harold Miller (2)

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This week’s episode continues the interview with Bishop Harold Miller (you can catch up with part one here).

Harold talks about his season of theological education (and the influence of Michael Green) and how God led him into the various stages of his ministry. He also talks about his vision for leadership and his strong aversion to sectarianism.

Watch out for mention of leaders’ ‘Popeye moments’ and for a remarkable story about tossing a coin, as well as a moving quotation from Helen Roseveare.

As you listen and reflect on your own leadership journey:

  • How has God led you into the various places where you have led?
  • What are you passionate to see changed?

The Leadership Journey Podcast 12: Harold Miller

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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?

THE LEADERSHIP JOURNEY PODCAST 10: Alistair Bill (part 1)

 

revd-alistair-bill-saintfield-road-presbyterianAlistair 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.

Remember that you can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, where you can also catch up with previous episodes, including interviews with Derek Tidball and David McClay.

Here is this week’s interview: