As you will hear in the podcast, Ruth is passionate about issues of justice and poverty: this passion is a thread that runs through her various professional roles. Here is a link to Eco Church, mentioned by Ruth in our conversation.
The guest on the next episode of the podcast, in two weeks, will be John Dickinson, recently retired minister of Carnmoney Church.
This week the podcast returns after a gap of 4 months – largely down to the host having had a heart attack in October! The guest on this episode is Jude Cairns. Jude is the Chief executive of Love for Life, a Christian charity that aims to equip young people so they are able to make good choices about relationships and sex.
Jude has previously worked for Youth for Christ, and Habitat for Humanity. She has been in her current role for 9 years and her work involves leading a team 12 people.
In the course of our conversation she talks about her desire to ‘make things better’ – a driver of leadership, the experience of living overseas for a year and the defining moment of losing her father to illness. She also talks about the influence of the Arrow Leadership programme and shares some of the things she has learned about leadership along the way.
For your own reflection:
1 – Do you think the Church in the West needs to be more courageous in its witness?
2 – What would you say are the main things you have learned about leadership?
In our conversation Peter talks about the influence of his father, Norman. At the time of posting this, Norman is in rehab following a serious stroke suffered in August. The most recent news is that he has been making a remarkable recovery. He is able to walk with assistance and able to chat with people. There is still a road to travel, but progress has been encouraging.
He talks about the concept of calling (listen out for his non-traditional take on this) and traces his story through his professional academic study and his work, which has included time with the Jubilee Centre in England.
Peter includes some of other people who have influenced him along the way and our conversation also includes issues such as sabbath and technology. He also talks about the work of the Evangelical Alliance and his passion for connecting faith with the public square.
He shares his key leadership learning:
Understand who you are
Have a rich understanding of the God story
Be in rooms with leaders who are better than you
Beware of leaving a generational gap
Recognise the loneliness of leadership
If you would like to know more about the public leadership initiative that Peter mentions, you can read about it here.
This week’s guest on the podcast is Stephen Cave. Stephen is Senior Vice President for Translation with Biblica (The International Bible Society). He has also served as a Baptist pastor in Northern Ireland and has had leadership roles with the Evangelical Alliance where he is a member of the UK board.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for someone involved in the work of Biblica, one of his strong ministry passions is his desire to help people engage with the Bible: another is his heart for the wider Church.
In our conversation we talk about his early relationship with the Bible, the role of some people who were key influencers, how his faith was affected by an experience of tragic loss, and how his leadership journey has allowed him to combine his ministry passions.
Along the way he discusses some of his convictions about leadership, including the idea that a leader is someone who is prepared to have a tough conversation.
As you listen to the conversation, you might like to reflect on some of these questions:
1 – As a leader, how easy is it for you to delegate responsibility to others? What might prevent you from doing more of this? 2 – As you listen to Stephen talking about foundational ministry passions, can you identify the things that are key in your calling? 3 – How do you experience God speaking to you? 4 – How easy it it for you to have ‘tough conversations’ with people in your church or organisation?
I’m making a couple of changes to the podcast:
Each interview will be one episode rather than two (or occasionally three), previously.
Rather than a new episode every week, I’ll be aiming for two per month.
While you can always listen to the podcast via this blog, remember that you can also subscribe via Apple Podcasts or Castbox: just search for The Leadership Journey Podcast. Subscription costs nothing and you will get each new episode arriving automatically on your phone/tablet. New episodes will appear on Friday afternoons – hopefully in time for some weekend listening.
The guest on the next episode will be Peter Lynas from the Evangelical Alliance.
This week’s podcast was recorded with an audience (and live-streamed) at New Horizon in Coleraine.
My guest is Gilbert Lennox, who was responsible for the Bible teaching each morning at New Horizon. Gilbert’s initial career path took him into teaching, but after a number of years left school teaching and devote himself to church leadership and Bible teaching. He was involved in founding Glenabbey Church just outside Belfast, a church that celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2018. Although he has retired from his staff position in Glenabbey, Gilbert is still involved in the teaching ministry of the church.
Once we get over Gilbert’s reticence to describe himself as a leader, we talk about some of the early influences on his life, growing up in Armagh: not only were his parents ‘profound believers’ but there were opportunities to encounter various people along the way – not least Professor David Gooding, who has been an influence for decades: starting a Bible study in an old henhouse became an impetus for regular study with David Gooding
Gilbert taught in school for 15 years before he sensed God calling him to move more fully into church work. As sometimes happens with new callings, his move from school to church was severely tested.
He talks about some of what has helped him to be resilient in ministry: specifically, the part played by his wife, and having a bedrock of Scripture.
Reflecting on leadership, he notes that Jesus talked about what it is not! ‘Leadership [is] a partnership with God and with others.’
His advice to his 20 year old self includes the need not to take himself too seriously and the realisation that you can’t fix everything (though you can help).
The time you spend in Scripture is never wasted.
For your own reflection:
Gilbert discusses a couple of significant mentor figures in his life: what people can you identify in your own life and how would you respond to the challenge of being a mentor to others?
Gilbert talks about the importance of *learning* to be content: are you learning this?
Especially if you are involved in any way in theological education (either as student or teacher) – how do you respond to what Gilbert says about the possibility of theology getting in the way of our knowledge of God through the Bible?
How do you respond to Gilbert’s challenge to the thinking where we are often keen to use labels in church leadership?
Barry Forde is back on the podcast this week. Barry is the Anglican and Methodist chaplain at Queen’s University in Belfast. If you missed the first part of the conversation with Barry, you can catch up here.
For your reflection:
1 – What do you make of the idea that a leader is ‘someone with a magnet in their heart and a compass in their head’? How important is it for a leader to be ‘personable’, as Barry describes it?
2 – ‘Hold the present responsibly and the future lightly’: how do you respond to Barry’s idea of being alive to opportunities in the present rather than attempting to anticipate 5 years hence?
The series of talks on leadership by Eugene Peterson can be purchased here, and
Here is more information about the book on Irish preaching to which Barry has contributed a chapter.
The podcast will be taking a few weeks off, but we plan to be back in August.
This week’s episode continues the story of Ken Clarke’s leadership journey. Ken (who recently celebrated the 49th anniversary of his 21st birthday) is one of the most respected Christian leaders in Northern Ireland and further afield. Ken has served the Church in several roles, including as a local church minister and as a bishop.
Among other things, Ken shares these four important pieces of advice for leaders:
And there are these four key pieces of advice:
Don’t be a maverick: think team!
Remember that team members have different capacities;
Have soul friends;
Guard your heart (Proverbs 4:23).
Next week the podcast goes international when the guest will be Sladjan Milenkovic a young Serbian leader. He is the director of HUB (Christian Trust Belgrade) which includes a small Bible school which I have had the opportunity to visit over the past few years. He has a wonderful story to tell, and the interview also throws some light into a part of the world that is easily overlooked by many evangelicals.
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!
Over the next two weeks the guest on the podcast is Dave Linton. Dave is the founder of the social enterprise, Madlug (Make A Difference Luggage). Madlug aims to help give dignity to children who find themselves in the care system. The idea is simple: for every bag purchased, a bag is given to a child in care. Dave’s vision and passion for Madlug came with the realisation that when children moved within the care system, their belongings were transported in an undignified way as they were put into black bin bags.
This week we hear a bit about Madlug but we also hear about Dave’s own leadership journey. Next week the focus will be in more detail on the story of Madlug.
In the interview Dave talks about his own childhood and how the early loss of his father planted some of the seeds for Madlug. He talks about the influence of his grandparents and life as a young person attending church. Dave’s journey has seen him work in several settings both in Northern Ireland and elsewhere and a good deal of his time has been spent in youth ministry. Along the way he talks about the key influence of Capernwray and Arrow Leadership.
Check back for more detail on the Madlug story next week, and in the meantime if you’d like purchase your own Madlug bag, and in so doing help give dignity to a child in the care system, you can visit the Madlug site, where you can choose from a range of bags.
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?
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?
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?
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?
This week, Edwin Ewart, principal of Irish Baptist College, continues his story (you can catch up with part one of the interview here).
We talk about Edwin’s ministry path, with pastorates in several Baptist churches, starting with Letterkenny, in Donegal, then Belfast (Mountpottinger) and Coleraine, before his move to the Baptist College.
As principal, doesn’t see himself as pen-pushing principal (though there is admin to be done), but his greatest joy in the work is its teaching. We discuss some of the challenges faced by Bible Colleges (Edwin is part of the Association of Bible College principals), including the tension between the residential model and the in-service model of training (IBC has a couple of ministry placements – one local and one cross-cultural) as part of the course).
Along the way we discuss preaching (how long should a sermon series run?), the old pastoral chestnut of the extent to which the pastor/minister should have friends in the congregation, and how easy it is to be sure of the will of God in terms of a ministry calling – not least in the context of trying to determine when it’s time to move to a new situation.
We also talk about books: Edwin shares some of the influential books he has read and some of the things he has learned along the way.
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.
Sir Nigel Hamilton, former head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service is back this week (if you missed the first part of Sir Nigel’s story, you can catch up here).
In this week’s episode Nigel talks about how Christian leaders can live out their values in their workplace, and talks some more about his career path, a path which ran in parallel with some significant events in the history of Northern Ireland. He talks about the power of leadership moments, including what might be considered relatively simple gestures as a way of establishing an organisational culture. He also discusses the inspiration of biblical characters such as Joseph and Daniel (and the relevance of Psalm 71:18 in his current season of life).
A few years after retirement from the Civil Service, Nigel underwent significant surgery, and he talks about the significance of Stuart Townend’s song, There is a Hope, and how it helped him to share his faith with fellow patients.
Among other things, he talks about his involvement with New Irish Arts and their recent Greater Love presentation.
His top leadership lessons (and he feels that the Church could do better in terms of leadership):
Have a clear understanding of what you are aiming for
How will you go from where you are to where you are going to go?
Be aware of the role of each individual
The importance of a value base
Listen to the podcast:
For your own leadership reflection:
What steps can you take to develop the culture of your organisation?
Which biblical characters have you found to be particularly relevant in your leadership journey?
Next week the podcast takes something of an international turn as the guest is Clive Atkinson, chaplain of All Saints Church in Vevey, Switzerland.
This week Phil Emerson, from Emmanuel Church in Lurgan is the guest on the podcast one more time.
If you’ve missed the first two episodes, you can get them here (part one) and here (part two).
In this week’s episode, Phil talks about the devastating loss of his first wife – one of a series of losses experienced in his church family around the same time, and the questions about healing that are raised when people are not healed.
He also talks about his wider ministry and some of the challenges and opportunities that come at this season in life and leadership.
And he shares these three pieces of advice for younger leaders:
Give God everything
Don’t go alone
Get around godly mentors
For your own reflection:
What have been some of the things that have most struck you from Phil’s story of his leadership journey?
What’s your reaction to the three pieces of advice Phil shares in this episode?
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 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’s guest on the podcast is Ken McBride: Ken retired last year after over 35 years as a minister in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. For most of that time he was minister of Orangefield Presbyterian, in East Belfast.
Ken talks about his childhood faith (‘I gave the little I knew of myself to the little I knew of God, and it’s been a constant journey ever since’) and some of the seeds of leadership that appeared through his involvement with a band who were engaged in music and apologetics. He also discusses how God used the most famous verse in the Bible to lead him out of a period of doubt in his twenties.
Perhaps surprisingly for someone who would go on to spend so much time in church leadership, Ken was initially resistant to work in the institution of the church, though he was inspired to be involved in ministry. Along the way he has learned to allow God to bring him into his plans, rather than the other way around: as a self-confessed talker, he had to learn to listen!
For your own reflection:
Do you tend to ask God to bless your plans more than you ask him to tell him his plans?