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.