The Leadership Journey Podcast – Season Two, Episode Three: Philip Emerson (part 3)

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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:

  1. Give God everything
  2. Don’t go alone
  3. 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?

The Leadership Journey Podcast – Season Two, episode Two: Philip Emerson (part 2)

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Phil Emerson is the guest once again on this week’s episode of the podcast (you can listen to part one of his story here).

This week Phil talks about some of the challenging personal circumstances he has had to navigate and how, through some of these, God has given him a heart for the people of his town.

He also recounts the story of a dramatic experience of God’s love, and talks about some of the remarkable growth experienced by his church as well as sharing some of the story of how God provided for them.


For your own reflection:

  • How has God used difficult circumstances in your life to prepare you for leadership?
  • Why is it important that leaders (and others) have an assurance of God’s love?

Leadership refreshment: a course for leaders

News on a 6 part course for Christian leaders: get in touch if you’d like to know more.


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‘Refreshing your Leadership’ is a six-part course intended for groups of Christian leaders. It is designed primarily with church or mission/ministry leaders in mind (though it can be adapted to Christians leading in other fields). Ideally there should be at least 5 people in the group. The group could consist of a church leadership team, the staff or leadership team of a mission, a local group of pastors and ministers, or a gathering of missionaries.

Who leads the course?

The course is led by Dr Alan Wilson. Alan is a visiting lecturer at the Irish Baptist College in Moira, an associate tutor at Belfast Bible College, and part of the adjunct faculty of the Irish Bible Institute in Dublin. He has over 20 years of pastoral experience in Northern Ireland and Switzerland. His doctoral workexplored the theme of ‘crucible’ experiences in shaping Christian leaders.

How will the course run?

The material is organised in 6 sessions (ideally of two hours each, though they can be condensed) and there is flexibility in how these might be arranged. For example it would be possible to run the course over a series of weekday evenings, as an intensive weekend event or as a series of day retreats for a team.

As well as the teaching content, the course allows time and space for personal reflection, not least the opportunity for leaders to reflect on their own leadership journeys.

How much will the course cost?

The cost will depend on the size of the group and the group’s ability to pay: suggested donation is between £450-800, plus travel costs.

What does the course cover?

Part One: The Leader’s Journey (Moses)

The first two sessions will explore the concept of a leadership journey and we will be making use of the story of Moses as a template to help us explore our own stories.

  • Introducing the story of Moses. Moses is one of the most significant figures in Scripture’s story line, and his own story is one of the most dramatic in the Bible: it is rich in insights into how God works with a leader.
  • Introducing the concept of the leadership journey timeline. The narrative of Moses’ life falls neatly into three distinct: formative years, exile years, and leadership years. The course encourages leaders to reflect on their own leadership timeline, highlighting ways in which they have been shaped and lessons they have learned along the way.
  • The leader’s formative years. The first stage of Moses’ life helps us to reflect on the people who have influenced our development, and to think about key decisions that have shaped the direction of our lives.
  • The leader in exile. While the biblical text gives us few details about the middle stage of Moses’ life, it is a stage that opens up the theme of exile or wilderness when the leader’s aspirations and the reality of their actual circumstances are quite different.

Part two: The Leader’s Journey, continued

  • The leader’s calling. This session looks at the debate between Moses and the Lord: when Moses is finally called to lead the Hebrews (what he wanted to do 40 years previously), he has decided he’d rather stay in obscurity and leave the work to someone else: what excuses do leaders offer to avoid God’s call?
  • Leadership challenges. Moses’ experience reminds us that strategic spiritual leadership is no easy task. In this session we explore some of the tough challenges that confront Moses and other leaders.
  • Leadership opportunities. While the leader has to face challenges, spiritual leadership also brings great privileges: we will think about the importance of a leader being secure in the love of God.

Part Three: The Leader’s Task (Nehemiah)

In sessions three and four, the focus is on the leader’s task and we will be using the story of Nehemiah and the rebuilding of Jerusalem to structure our thinking as well as referring to more general leadership ideas.

  • Introducing Nehemiah and his times. This session sets the scene and reflects on the important theme of living in exile. As Nehemiah prays for Jerusalem, we ask what it means for a leader to pray ‘Your kingdom come’.
  • The leader’s vision. What was happening in Jerusalem was so wrong that Nehemiah knew it had to be put right. As he prayed, God put a plan in his heart. What does it mean for a leader to have a God-given vision?

Part Four: The Leader’s Task, continued

  • The leader’s team. While the role of the leader is important, leaders’ effectiveness is limited if they are not surrounded by a team who will join them in the vision and plan. Nehemiah’s story is the story of a host of otherwise largely unknown people who rolled up they sleeves to rebuild Jerusalem.
  • The leader’s resilience. Nehemiah’s leadership takes place against the backdrop of opponents who attempt to hinder the rebuilding task. What are some of the issues leaders face – both in terms of their work and personally – where perseverance and resilience are called for?

Part Three: The Leader’s Model (Jesus)

In sessions five and six we reflect on the life and teaching of Jesus as they relate to our thinking on leadership. It’s been pointed out that there is a lot more in the gospels about a call to follow than about a call to lead!

  • Jesus, the Leader. Biblically, leadership starts with God and in this session we will explore how Jesus led, focussing on the concept (which has become popular in general leadership thinking) of servant leadership.
  • The leader’s testing. Again we turn to some of the challenges that leaders face. This time we reflect on what we might learn from Jesus’ testing in the desert: what happens when leaders are tempted to go it alone relying on their abilities more than on God, or when they are tempted to take short cuts?

Part Six: The Leader’s Model, continued

  • The leader’s life. In this session we will focus on Jesus’ teaching in John 15 where he talks about the disciples’ relationship to him (‘abide in me’), their relationship with each other (‘love one another’), and to to the world (as witnesses).
  • The leader’s call to follow. For all the talk in this course about leadership, leaders need to remember that their primary calling is not to lead but to follow. We’ll explore Jesus’ conversation with Peter in John 21 and think about what it means for leaders to be faithful followers.

THE LEADERSHIP JOURNEY PODCAST (29): Helen Warnock (part one)

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This week’s guest is Helen Warnock. Helen has worked in Northern Ireland with Youth for Christ and with Scripture Union. Since December 2016 she has been Principal of Belfast Bible College in Dunmurry.

In this first part of her interview Helen talks about the kind of work she has been doing in her first 18 months at BBC – a college that is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. She talks about some of the early indicators of leadership (organising street concerts as a child in her local housing estate!) and the family heritage of Christian faith.

She describes her years with YFC, when for part of the time she was responsible for a major monthly youth event in Belfast, how she decided to move to Scripture Union (where she became the first director who was not a Presbyterian minister, and where the first three years represented a steep learning curve), and her more recent move to BBC.

Along the way there is an opportunity to reflect on discerning God’s leading, both personally and for organisations, some thoughts on how a 150 year old organisation can remain as relevant today as it was in the past, and discussion of the role of friends in helping to keep her on course.


For your own reflection:

  • Helen talks about ways in which experiences on mission teams helped to form some of her priorities: reflect on ways some of your own early experiences of mission or ministry have contributed to where you are today.
  • In the interview we discuss seasons of events and how to know when it is time to stop and event (even when it has previously been successful): have you any experience of events that may have run longer than they should, or others that have been stopped prematurely?
  • Do you have space in your leadership to be a ‘thinking practitioner’?
  • Do you have friends who can speak to you in the way Helen describes her conversations with her friends?

For more on Belfast Bible College, visit their website – in particular you might like to find out more about the new MA that is being launched this year.

In fairness to other Bible colleges where I am also involved, I should mention Irish Bible Institute, and its MA, as well as the Irish Baptist College and its MA: I find myself in the odd, but privileged place of having input into all three MA programmes!

The Leadership Journey Podcast (27): Malcolm Duncan, part two

maxresdefaultThis week Malcolm Duncan is back on the podcast: Malcolm is Senior Pastor of Dundonald Elim Church in East Belfast.

In this week’s episode, we talk about some of the biblical concepts around the theme of leadership, including a quick overview of five powerful metaphors from the book of Jude:

  • Clouds without rain
  • Hidden reefs
  • Wandering stars
  • Waves of the sea
  • Trees without fruit

For more on the five metaphors from Jude, see Walter Wright’s excellent book,  Relational Leadership.

Malcolm also shares very personally about the experience of sensing God’s call to return to Northern Ireland.

Remember – you can follow Malcolm’s ‘niteblessing’ – a prayer for each evening – via his Twitter page – @malcolmjduncan, or on his Facebook page – RevMalcolmDuncan.

For your own reflection:

  • What leadership pictures do you tend to default to when you try to think about your leadership?
  • Have you ever experienced a powerful sense of God leading you to change direction in your life?

The Leadership Journey Podcast (25): Ken McBride (part 2)

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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?