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?