Friday music: Happy

A few months ago, on Facebook, I started posting videos of Happy. One video a week on a Friday afternoon, just to make the time pass – and because it’s just the right time to feel happy for the weekend.

I’m going to keep the Friday music videos going for a bit longer on this blog, eventually moving on from Pharrell Williams. But, for now, just to get going. Happy Friday afternoon everyone.

The bit that’s missing from the Christmas adverts

It’s that time of year again, when shops try to sell you stuff without actually showing products. Instead they tell you a nice heartwarming tale and remind you that it’s the message of the season. John Lewis have tried it with a penguin (not anywhere near as good as previous years I think) and now Sainsbury’s are using their partnership with the Royal British Legion to repackage Christmas in the trenches.

It’s a great story, and yes there’s poetic licence – this is an advert not a documentary – but it still does something warm and fuzzy and encourages a little moisture to appear around the tear ducts.

The ‘making of the advert’ is worth a watch too. Illustrating that there was an ambition to be as accurate as possible in retelling the Christmas story from the trenches.

At the close of the story behind our ad video, the narrator says…

There’s a great hope for future peace, when two great nations, hating each other as foes have seldom hated, should on Christmas day, and for all that the word implies, lay down their arms, exchange smokes and wish each other happiness.

It’s packaged as though someone is reading it from a diary of one of the soldiers that were there. I wonder if that’s really what it is, or if it’s a 21st century reflection on what may have been thought at the time?

In a post-Christian nation are you able to suggest that two warring armies may have been able to lay down arms for a few hours because they recognised that Christmas marks the arrival of the ‘Prince of Peace‘ on earth. Certainly there were records of soldiers singing Christmas carols and lighting candles. Did faith have an impact on the actions of those soldiers?

Global Leadership Summit at Gold Hill

Three years ago I went to my first Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit (GLS). I was supposed to go along to two days but because of a family tragedy I only made the first day. Still, it was a brilliant event and I promised to go back.

Three years later and I’ve now been to my second GLS. It was equally brilliant to the first one. Once again, I only made the first day, but it was planned this time.

Thoughts on event organisation

GLS at Gold HillThe Summit is held at Willow Creek Community Church outside of Chicago, USA. The content is then recorded, packaged and distributed to over 90 countries. Each location runs as its own event with the speaker programme appearing on the screen.

The first event I attended in Southampton was more participatory than this session at Gold Hill. In Southampton we sang with the band and were encouraged to clap each video (sounds strange but you get into it). After each session we were encouraged to gather into small groups (even those of us that had come on our own) to process what had been presented.

Gold Hill had a band, but we watched them as much as we joined in and clapping the videos only started to happen in the afternoon. Those that had come in groups were not encouraged to welcome those who had come on their own, so one of the things I appreciated about this event was missing.

The programme

We saw five speakers during the course of the day. These are my reflections on what they had to say.

Bill Hybels talked about leadership challenges.

He started by sharing how Willow Creek had engaged a outside firm to measure the engagement of their staff team. The results were above average, 50% engagement. But there was also a comment from one team member, claiming their experience was like being a ‘Grunt’ that hurt the church leadership. That wasn’t the working culture they wanted.

As an Exec team they wanted to change the culture. In order to do this they had to own the change. It couldn’t be outsourced to a personnel dept.

Along with this is the belief that managers should be trained. Even those to whom the skill comes naturally. If you have responsibility for people you should be trained to full fill tan responsibility well.

Twice a year they meet to discuss staff performance (review). At this point they ask what traits should ‘stop’, what things should ‘start’ and what needs to ‘continue’.

There is also an intention to resolve relational conflict. This can be tough and draining, but needs to be done.

On the question of developing emerging leaders, five steps were noted.

  • Put them in high challenging roles
  • Assign them to a short term task force
  • Real time feedback
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Classroom teaching

Carly Fiorina spoke on the challenge of Defining Leadership

She said a lot of things that made me think. A few of them include:

  • The highest calling of leadership is to unlock the potential of others
  • Management is the production of acceptable results within known constraints and conditions; leadership changes the conditions
  • Leaders are made, not born
  • A love of God makes leadership easier

She also gave a framework for leading and changing conditions.

leadership frameworkIt’s then up to the leader to consider each of these areas and decide if they are working well, or whether they could be improved.


Susan Cain
talked about The Power of Introverts

The basics of what Susan said at the GLS can be seen in her TED talk (currently 9 million views and growing).

She encouraged us to think about our working environments and whether they were geared up for extroverts or introverts, and whether this was matching the needs of the people in that environment. Do we need to make adjustments?

She also commented that the development of ideas are often best produced out of solitary time, rather than group work.

Consider how many times you’ve been asked to brainstorm as a group. Susan’s argument, evidenced by the science, was that we would do better to have more time working in solitude.

Should we try…

  • Ending constant group work
  • Forget networking, focus on service
  • Restore quiet to our culture
  • Rethink what makes a ‘natural’ leader

Ivan Satyavarata spoke on the Power Paradox

He put it like this, ‘A leader must be able to wield power in order to lead effectively. On the other hand, she or he must, at the same time, be genuinely meek, vulnerable and even powerless’.

The three areas he focussed on were,

Knowledge – do we hold on to knowledge to protect our power or share it freely?

People – do we love and empower them without using the relationship to manipulate or control them?

Kingdom – do we confront evil, even being patient and resolute when it seems unconquerable?


I came away inspired and challenged, which I guess was the point. The GLS is certainly one of the best leadership events I’ve been to and I wish I had the money to invest in more of the resources they proved.

That said – Bill Hybels puts classroom teaching in the mix of how you train and develop leaders, but it’s not his number one pick. You could sit in talk after talk and make endless notes but it wouldn’t make you a good leader. The essence is actually doing something, leading, gaining experience and learning from what you do.

Time to stop blogging and get on

Pray for our world

The news isn’t good. A struggling ceasefire in Gaza, ongoing tension in Ukraine, trouble spots across Africa (DRC, Kenya, Nigeria…). Then, finally the news from northern Iraq made it out of the papers and into the mainstream news – at least as far as Newsnight.

If you don’t have six minutes to spare just watch the last 20 seconds of the interview with Canon Andrew Wright.

And our response?

Cameron on Iraq


HT: Cranmer

Where ever you look the news coming out of this part of the world is terrible. Time to both pray and call on the government to do more than sit back and watch.

We have had people’s heads chopped off. We are having people convert. We are even having children slaughtered and cut in half.

- White speaking on Newsnight. 

The Yazidi wish to inform you that tomorrow they will be killed with their families. Actually, it may not be tomorrow. The 40,000 members of Iraq’s most ancient sectwho are currently huddling on the side of Mount Sinjar, might have a bit longer. If they stay there it will apparently take a few days, maybe a few weeks, before they die of thirst, malnutrition and sickness. If they don’t, their deaths at the hands of the butchers of Isis who have surrounded them will be quicker. Though not that quick.

Five hundred of their number have died in the last week alone, 40 of them children. Unfortunately the Yazidi don’t appear to have had access to iPhones, so you won’t have seen the harrowing images of their dead.

- Dan Hodges, Telegraph

Resources: Focused prayer, kingdom results

Any genuinely honest Christian will tell you that prayer is hard work. Even with discipline and years of practice there are still days when praying is difficult.

It doesn’t help when you’re not sure how to pray about a particular situation, difficult enough when you’re praying about something that’s happening just down the road, incredibly tough when you’re trying to get your head around something taking place on the other side of the world.

Focused prayer, kingdom results - a prayer resource from Wycliffe Bible Translators

Focused prayer, kingdom results – a prayer resource from Wycliffe Bible Translators

So my wonderful colleagues in the UK office of Wycliffe Bible Translators have produced this handy pack to help individuals an groups pray for Bible translation.

Pray powerful, informed and expectant prayers for the world, for mission and for Bible translation, with Wycliffe Bible Translators’ brand new prayer pack Focused prayer, kingdom results. This pack gives creative ideas to help you pray for the world, whether at a prayer meeting or around the kitchen table.

So whether you’re looking for something to get a mission focus into your home group, church prayer meeting or personal quiet time prayers, here’s a way to do it. The guide is free to download from the Wycliffe website.

What does your future hold?

This week, Wycliffe USA published a new video highlighting the need for people with very different skills in the Bible translation process. I don’t just mean that there’s a difference between translators, consultants, typesetters and printers, though there is. I mean the need for IT professionals, accountants, pilots, managers, administrators and someone who can make the tea. It’s good, take a look below.

So why is it worthy of a blog post here?

Well, I head up the communications team for Wycliffe Bible Translators in the UK. We have the wonderful job of telling the church in the UK about the amazing things that God is doing around the world. It’s an exciting job. It’s a pretty varied job too.

It’s also a vital job. People don’t pray for, give to or join organisations or projects that they have never heard of. If we stop talking about Wycliffe Bible Translators, eventually people will stop giving money and then the projects will stop and when they stop there’s nothing left to pray for… I guess the last one out can turn the lights off.

But in order to do this well we need to recruit people who understand the church scene in the UK and popular culture. Really, doing this kind of job isn’t suited to someone who is just back from 10 years in Uganda.

So, here’s the thing. If you’re part of a church in the UK, could you think if there’s anyone in your congregation (maybe even you) who loves the Lord and would love to serve him through world mission, but who is gifted in business or IT or management or finance. They could contribute so much more than you would ever think.

Drop me a line in the comments and I’ll get in touch. I’d love to talk some more. Oh, and these opportunities are global, so don’t feel as though you need to move to the UK.

Feeling powerless?

I had two nightmares last night! Or maybe they were bad dreams. I didn’t wake up as a result, though I wished I had, but I didn’t enjoy the subject matter.

It started with me running around in Israel or Palestine with Tany who was there to perform in a drama with some Christian mission or other. Around every corner there was death.

Then I moved. For some reason (it was a dream, why would I expect logic?) I was in Mosul. More death and destruction – then running, lots of running before… scenes that would be best left in my imagination if it weren’t for the fact that the slaughter of people because of their faith is happening every day.

Why, all of a sudden is this on my mind? Maybe something to do with the news, or Cranmer’s blog post from yesterday, mostly written by Cannon Andrew White, the Vicar of Baghdad,

ISIS/ISIL/The Islamic State is marking their homes. And it’s not for a passover.

Nor is it a smiley face. It is the circled Arabic letter ‘n’, signifying ‘Nasarah’ (Christian). Once thedhimmi occupants are so identified and labelled, they can more easily be taxed (jizya), forced to convert to Islam, harassed to leave or be summarily executed by the Islamic State which now owns their property.

Read full post


The ‘Nasarah’ is appearing on Facebook as a symbol of support for those being persecuted in Mosul.

Add to that the fact that I now know, have shared a meal with, or even been given a place to rest by people living in countries where officially there’s freedom of religion but the practice in some areas is completely different, and honestly I feel pretty desperate.

I feel desperate because persecuting someone for their faith (whatever faith that may be) is wrong. Attacking (which is a very nice word to use in light of some of the atrocious acts that are being carried out) men, women and children because they claim to follow another God is wrong. And yet there’s nothing I/we can do to ‘fix’ the situation.

I don’t even think politicians can ‘fix’ this. What can they do? Carpet bomb, or precision missile, the aggressors into submission? That only works until they get the bigger weapons and turn them on you. Plus it perpetuates the myth that violence can bring peace.

 All Everything I can do is pray for peace. Just like generations before have done. When it all seems lost, God hears and answers prayer.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.”

- 1 John 5:14-15

I can have a voice into the situation in Iraq, Israel and Palestine, Nigeria, Kenya, Sudan, Korea, Central African Republic… (the list is too long)! But I am not powerless. Instead I fear that I am lazy, self-centered and uncaring. If I wasn’t I’d be praying much more than I am.

More prayer resources and information on many different situations from Open Doors.

The Open Doors website, at is a brilliant place for prayer resources.

The Open Doors website, at is a brilliant place for prayer resources. 

A link between church growth and overseas mission?

Sorry to disappoint you if you’re reading this thinking that I’ve found a link, the title is a question not a statement.

Research Complete by Crystal Campbell (used under Creative Commons)

Research Complete by Crystal Campbell (used under Creative Commons)

I was discussing this with a colleague recently, the feeling that there is a link between living, thriving churches (which technically may not be the same thing as a growing church, but I suspect there’s some link) and a positive attitude to overseas mission.

You see, I think what has happened in the UK where the church attendance has generally been in decline, is that the focus has shifted from the world to the local area. Where having some world mission links were once a key part of any church ministry (including mission weekends and special services) as congregation numbers declined the focus became evangelism in the local area in an attempt to restore church numbers to a point where it would again be possible to support overseas mission.

The vision of the church that was once global (including the local community) became local only.

My gut feeling is that this actually does more harm than good. As the small local church that once felt it was a global player, that had a message of value to the world and a God that was at work everywhere, narrowed its focus to those in a five-mile radius of the front door.

This attitude means that, involvement in world mission is reduced to whether you can afford it. I personally don’t think that’s right. Prayer and encouragement cost little other than time, but are vitally important to those involved in mission.

The church also misses out on the wonderful stories of what God is doing around the world. When things are tough at home you need good news from other places to get you excited again. But, if you’ve dropped your world missions programme you’re missing out on all the stories from other parts of the world.

I think churches involved in some way with world mission are more exciting places to be. I think this excitement makes them more appealing to those investigating faith. As a result, I reckon these churches are growing compared to those without world mission playing a part in their programme.

But, I have no evidence of this. In fact, I don’t know of anyone that has researched this area. Maybe you do? Maybe you could point me to some research, or to a person that knows or something like that? Don’t tell me that you’ll do the research for £10,000 because I don’t have the money to pay you, but feel free to say that you are doing the research and need help and I’ll do my best to support you in it.

The other side of the story

In case you happen to miss it, an Australian betting site has produced a giant hot air balloon replica of Christ the Redeemer statue. They’ve obviously dressed it in a replica Socceroos shirt to keep in with the football theme and tagged it #KeepTheFaith.

Hot air balloon

Needless to say Twitter has kicked up a storm of praise and derision and it’s been pointed out that they probably wouldn’t dare to do a similar project using Mohammed or Buddha.

Of course, that was always the plan. No publicity is bad publicity and no doubt, in the eyes of their marketing department, they are rubbing their hands with glee at the amount of viral promotion they are getting from those arguing over the campaign. I’m sure the managers of the betting company were fully briefed and I doubt that they are all idiots, they would have weighed this up and decided that the potential benefits far outweighed any negative publicity they will receive.

And the response of Christians?

No doubt some feel that the image of Jesus should be protected in the same way that those of other faiths would choose. I’ll say now, I don’t. Jesus doesn’t need that kind of protection – I want to say that he’s bigger than that but it seems wrong when writing about a 30 metre tall statue and a giant balloon – and he doesn’t call us to step out in violence in his name (that happens too often anyway).

One of his disciples tried it once anyway. The night that Jesus was taken prisoner, Simon Peter took a sword and cut of the ear of one of the soldiers that had come to take him away. On the night that standing and fighting could have been justified, Jesus told his followers to put their swords away.

Instead I reckon this is a good time to talk about Jesus.

I see your statues (and giant inflatables), now let me tell you about Jesus. How he came from God to walk this earth and give us freedom from the things on earth that we choose to serve, like power and money. You don’t have to be a slave to betting because more money will only bring temporary relief (and you probably won’t win anyway).

Instead, you can find peace through Jesus. Freedom from living to please everyone on this earth and the desire to accumulate more wealth, possessions and status now. You can find freedom in knowing that eternity is sorted.

You may even find that you can enjoy football (soccer) for what it is, and not need more to be riding on the result in order to find your passion.

So no more hate. Let’s bring light and love and joy, instead of moaning and complaining – and enjoy the World Cup. For what it’s worth I hope Australia do well, if for no other reason I’ve got Australian friends and I’d like them to experience joy. Reaching the semi’s should be fine for them. I’m obviously planning on a Brazil v England final – not settled on penalties.

Social Media impact

A few week’s ago, my colleagues at Wycliffe Bible Translators in the UK, published a resource to help Sunday School teachers lead a class on mission. It’s called Kids on a Mission, you can find it here.

Of course, once you produce a resource like this you want people to use it, so promotion becomes an important aspect of what we do. The great thing about promoting a resource that’s available online is that it’s possible to see what is directing people towards a resource. Stats 1

The first bit of data shows that the Kids on a Mission page has been visited 126 times in the two weeks since it was first published. 70% of these people arrived and left fairly quickly, but a good proportion stayed (the average time being 3mins 5sec) and just under half of the visitors exited to other parts of our site.

Stats 2

Another bit or research shows that the top source of visits to this page have come from Social Media.

This shouldn’t be a big surprise as we’ve made a special effort to promote this one item.

Facebook post

It has been on Facebook since the first day on our website and others of us have pushed it on Twitter.

The significant spikes in hits all revolve around promotion on Social Media, specifically posts on Facebook. There’s the initial publication on 20th May, followed by a second smaller spike on 2nd June.

The 2nd June spike extends for longer because of ‘shares’ and an encouragement for colleagues to do the same.

On 3rd June I found the most recent Facebook post about the Kids on a Mission resource and I shared it, specifically naming friends that I thought would find the material useful. On 4th June, as part of a staff meeting, I encouraged colleagues to find the post and do the same thing. Some of them did, and the impact carried on. The 4th June, though not shown in the attached images, I’m pleased to say that the trend continued.

For a few days, the Kids on a Mission resource was the second most viewed page on our website, no doubt thanks to the impact of Social Media.