Lucas Parks is the guest on this week’s episode of the podcast. Lucas is pastor of Village Church in East Belfast, and is country director for the Acts 29 Church planting network in Ireland.
In this first part of our conversation (part two is next week), Lucas gives an update on his health (he’s recently come through a gruelling season of treatment for throat cancer) and talks about how someone who grew up between County Armagh and the US, came to be planting a church in Belfast.
He talks about some of the people who influenced him in his Christian life, including a youth pastor who noticed leadership potential and encouraged him to develop in ministry.
*That saying we couldn’t quite remember:
If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.
For your reflection:
What do you think of the discussion of relational leadership? Are you a naturally relational leader?
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?
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?
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?
Brendan Healy from Mullingar is back this week. In the first part of our conversation Brendan talked about the beginnings of his military career, and about the remarkable story of coming to faith in Christ.
In this part of our conversation Brendan talks about ways in which leaders in various settings (like Church or military) can learn from each other. One example, drawn from the military, is the emphasis put on training for transformation: Brendan suggests that churches need to make discipleship a more serious enterprise.
We also discuss the difference between leading from position and leading from who we are: church leaders are less likely to wear their authority on their epaulettes! Brendan suggests that the great challenge for Christian leaders will be to influence people through character and authenticity.
Brendan also talks about the church of which he is a part in Mullingar, and the roles he has played in its work: along the way, there are some interesting observations in relation to religious and cultural identity!
He also talks about people who have influenced him along the way, and shares some of the main lessons he has learned.
For your reflection:
What are some of the spheres of leadership you think Christians would do well to learn from? Are there any cautions?
As a leader, do you have a plan for helping to develop other people? Does your church or organisation take training and discipleship seriously?
PS – in the background you will hear some of the staff of Irish Bible Institute (where we recorded the podcast) having a bit of a laugh!
Next week the guest on the podcast will be Charles McMullan, current Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.
This week’s guest is Brendan Healy. Brendan is a retired Lt Colonel with the Irish Defence Forces. He lives in Mullingar, in the centre of Ireland, where he has played an influential role in Mullingar Christian Fellowship.
In this first part of our conversation talks about growing up in a traditional Catholic family in the West of Ireland, and his early desire to serve God as he felt his heart stirring towards Christianity. His parents were a big influence on him in terms of leadership as a way of making a contribution, and kindness.
Brendan had originally wanted to be in the police (after abandoning the idea of the priesthood), but accidentally (!) found himself joining the officer training programme for the Irish Defence Forces – he describes some of the demands of military discipline.
His sense of wanting to serve God had faded until someone he knew had had an experience of God and invited Brendan to a Christian event (the ‘craziest’ event he had ever attended). However as he explored more listened to a challenge from a priest who had been invited to speak at a mission, he came to the point of accepting Christ: his life was immediately transformed.
Remarkably, several of Brendan’s military colleagues also came to a transformational Christian experience: eventually they discovered that a group of women had been praying regularly for Irish Army officers, and this was the answer to their prayers.
He talks about the change from being a military leader to being a Christian military leader and describes some of the places where he was tasked with leading, including Lebanon and Jerusalem, as well as some of the leadership lessons he learned along the way.
He makes the point that military leadership goes beyond simply giving orders, but involves taking responsibility for the people in the leader’s charge.
(Irish Bible Institute, where we recorded the podcast, has a buzz about it on a Wednesday morning: you will hear some of the atmosphere in the background!)
Roz Stirling of Cleopas Ministries is back this week. She picks up her story from part one, talking about her work with the youth and children’s department in the Presbyterian Church, and how she went about helping the Church to engage with the changes in youth culture.
She also talks about her sense of call and about a life-changing retreat she she experienced in the US where she realised she was ministering out of her own sense of what was right and wrong rather than from a deep walk with God: this experience was the genesis of Cleopas, even though Cleopas was not developed for some years.
The beginnings of Cleopas brought new challenges as Roz became ill: she talks about how her illness removed her sense of self-sufficiency – developing a high sense of value, but a low sense of importance.
She also talks about the challenge of singleness, and the loss of her dream of motherhood, and challenges the Church about the need for a theology of singleness (and careful practice).
She highlights the following challenges for leaders:
Character: we need to know our weaknesses and seek God’s power for character transformation.
Be honest with yourself!
Enjoy God through and through! Our relationship with God must be central: are the rivers of living water flowing through you?
Questions for your reflection:
What are some of today’s challenges in connecting the unchanging gospel with a changing culture?
Would you say that you are driven or that you lead from the fulness of a rich relationship with God?