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?
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?
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.
Among the early influences, Edwin talks about his involvement in a Baptist youth fellowship and the influence of the church pastor, an early mentor. He also talks about some of his first steps into preaching – delivering epilogues alongside a music group.
He describes the formative influence of his involvement with the Christian Union during his time at university. University years were formative – not least in that it was here that he met his wife, but also because of a significant group of friends.
The opportunity to be involved in speaking that had begun to shape his thinking in terms of a sense of call to vocational ministry, and his pastor gave him strong encouragement to pursue theological training. We discuss the opportunity for leaders to encourage people in this way.
After studying at IBC and entering pastoral ministry, Edwin maintained his contact with the college as a visiting teacher before eventually joining the staff full time.
We talk about the challenge for Bible College students to maintain both an academic approach and a devotional approach.
For your own reflection:
As you listen to Edwin talk about the influence of his pastor, what are some of the things you have noticed about mentors?
Would you describe yourself as a reader? What are some of the books that have most helped you?
Would you agree with what Edwin quotes from Charles Spurgeon in relation to the importance of earnestness in preaching?
What do you make of Edwin’s advice to approach the devotional life with both discipline and variety?
You can find out more about the Irish Baptist College – including the opportunities for study they offer – on their website.
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?
This week the podcast takes something of an international turn as the guest is Clive Atkinson, chaplain of All Saints Anglican Church in Switzerland. Clive is originally from Northern Ireland (he and I attended the same secondary school, though a few years apart), and has been living in Switzerland for over 15 years.
All Saints Church is a vibrant expat church, part of the Intercontinental Church Society, serving the English-speaking community around Vevey in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. While the church is anglican, various denominations and nationalities are part of the community.
In this first part of our conversation Clive talks about the early influences on his life, growing up in Northern Ireland and his coming to faith as a teenager and the formative years at university where he had some ‘deep end’ leadership opportunities with the Christian Union. He also talks about some of the people who had a big influence on his life, including Harold Miller – a previous guest on the podcast.
In talking about the life of the church, Clive describes the way they have a vision that involves being intentional about sending people out into their regular jobs – referencing the work of LICC.
Next week, Clive will go on to talk more about the journey of ministry and how he came to be in Vevey.
For your own reflection:
Can you name people who have had an influence in your life in the way Clive discusses the role of Harold Miller? Are you in a position to speak into the lives of people you mentor?
Clive talks about the work of LICC and their emphasis on whole life discipleship: for those of you in church leadership, is there something you can learn from the way Clive’s church has adopted the idea of ‘this time tomorrow’ and their vision of sending people out into their Monday to Friday work?
By the way – here is that photo we talked about!
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