Edinburgh, 1910

Mission, friendship and my new role

It’s a well used quote. At the 1910 World Missionary Convention in Edinburgh, V.S. Azariah, one of the few non-Western delegates in attendance, said to the gathering,

Through all the ages to come the Indian Church will rise up in gratitude to attest the heroism and self-denying labours of the missionary body. You have given your goods to feed the poor. You have given your bodies to be burned. We also ask for love. Give us friends.

One of the things that excites me about the way that the Wycliffe Global Alliance seeks to work is that it’s through alliances of friends (agencies that are networked together) rather than through a power structure. My new role will be to help those agencies to work together by creating channels of communication and ensuring that every agency, regardless of size, language or location, can have a voice.

It won’t always be easy and it won’t always be the quickest way to work but it should mean that we put God and each other before ourselves – that has to be a good starting point.

Phil, Tany and Amy 2015

This is us… can you help?


Faced with the challenge of introducing ourselves, the role I am about to move into with the Wycliffe Global Alliance and the support we need to raise, I thought a little video may be a nice way to say hi.

So that’s what we are doing, what can you do to help? You could pray, you could give or you could pass it on (or all three!)

Pray – You can sign up to receive our monthly prayer updates and our longer, but less frequent, newsletter online,

Give – You can give to support us in this work via your local Wycliffe office. If you are a UK resident you can give securely online through the Wycliffe website.

Pass it on – You may not be able to pray or give, but you may know someone – or a group of people – that can. Could you pass this post onto them? It may be an individual, or it could be your church leadership or mission group, that are looking for ways to contribute to the Bible translation movement and what God is doing around the world.

What working with more than 100 organisations looks like

I’ve mentioned that my new role will involve working with over 100 organisations – it’s about 120 at the moment, and growing! – but what does that really mean? How do you work with so many different groups of people in so many different places?

The truth is, what I am going to do wouldn’t have been possible twenty years ago. Back then, just as I was going to university, email wasn’t common and people shared computers. Today I can connect with thousands of colleagues around the world straight from my desk. I don’t even have to stick to using email, I can video chat on Skype or Google and have an almost normal conversation with someone on the other side of the world.

Working on the roofThat’s what I’m going to be doing most of the time too. Sitting at a desk, sending email and talking to people. It doesn’t sound very exciting or mission like but the truth is there wouldn’t be as much Bible translation happening if it weren’t for a group of leaders, managers, strategists and administrators using their gifts to enable others to fulfill their calling – a good deal of which is done from sitting at a computer in an office, a spare room or on a hotel roof.

Having said all that, the people I have spoken to have been asking, ‘Will you travel more in this new role’? And the answer is yes, possibly, though the truth is we don’t yet know how frequently. There is a lot that can be accomplished electronically and for a whole bunch of reasons (family, cost, environment) I’ll try to do what I can without jumping on a plane. But when all is said and done, there are some things that are better to do face to face.

The following video gives an illustration of how we connect so many different organisations and enable outcomes to happen. While there are technological ways of doing this it’s actually much better when you are all in a room together. Keep your eyes peeled and you may even see me in a couple of the shots.

Phil, Tany and Amy 2015

Why I’m giving up my job for one without a salary!

In February 2009 I joined Wycliffe Bible Translators to work as the Director of Communications in the UK. I was inspired by the vision of reaching 7,000 languages groups around the world with the Bible. During a week’s visit to investigate whether the job was the right one for me I learnt a lot about language and the practicalities of mission, but was most impacted by a short video of a guy called George Cowan talking about the need for Bible Translation.

This year I’m going to change jobs again and take up a role with another Wycliffe organisation, the Wycliffe Global Alliance as their Director of Public Media. One of the most significant changes that I’m going to have to get used to is that the new role doesn’t come with a salary!

There is a history of Christian missionaries being ‘paid’ by the church to go and serve around the world. By paid I really mean that their needs were provided for by supporters in their home country who understood that the Christian message was good news for every person – regardless of where you lived – and they wanted to share it. Not that everyone was cut out for the life of an overseas missionary, but together a church community could club together and provide the means necessary to send someone to another part of the world to invite people to follow Jesus.

That methodology has survived to this day in many mission organisations. They all do it a little bit differently, but at the heart of it the principle remains the same – home based supporters give financially (and prayerfully) to individuals to enable them to reach other parts of the world with the message of the Bible. The majority of people who work with Wycliffe are paid (supported) in this way.

I have been invited to take up a role that will support the work of Wycliffe Bible Translators around the world. The job has a global focus as I will take responsibility for the Wycliffe Global Alliance’s public communications. Through this I will be supporting Bible translation and the personnel of over 100 organisations around the globe – mostly from home in Oxfordshire.

But I can’t do it alone.

Before I can start in the role I need to ensure that our full financial support is in place, and that can only happen through the loving support of friends, family members and churches. People that hopefully care both about us and also want to see people around the world have access to the Bible – God’s message of love to this world – in a language that they can understand.

If you think you would like to join our support team – whether in prayer, through financial gifts (regardless of how small or large) or maybe by linking us to other means of support – please get in touch.

If you would like to give in support of our work, you can do so securely online as a one-off or regular gift through the Wycliffe website.

I’ll write more about the job I’m taking up, the work of Wycliffe, how I became involved, etc, over the next few weeks.

More about Wycliffe Bible Translators

Wycliffe Global Alliance leadership forum

A new job

If you’ve not been getting our newsletter (why not? sign up here) you probably won’t know that after six and a half years as Director of Marketing and Communications for Wycliffe Bible Translators in the UK I’m preparing to change jobs. At some point this autumn I’ll be joining the Wycliffe Global Alliance as their Director of Public Media.

For those that don’t know, globally there are around 120 Wycliffe organisations that are united in their vision to see the Bible translated for every language group that needs it. It is over 400 years since the King James Bible first became available to speakers of the English language yet in 2015 the complete Bible only exists in a little over 530 languages. That’s just a drop in the ocean when you consider that there are almost 7,000 living languages in use around the world.

Each Wycliffe organisation is independent (so Wycliffe Bible Translators in the UK is a completely independent organisation) but they are also interdependent, knowing that the only possible way of reaching all the language groups that need it is through partnership and a united effort.

Linking all these organisations together is the Wycliffe Global Alliance, a small team that provides advice, consultancy, direction and support to a growing number of organisations.

I’ll be joining the communications team with responsibility for managing the Alliance’s communications channels and resourcing and equipping the various national Wycliffe organisations with the tools and skills needed to talk about the global Bible translation movement.

The reason that I can’t talk precisely about a start date for the new job is because I have to raise financial support first. Wycliffe is a mission organisation and, as such, the majority of roles are unpaid. Instead personnel are supported by family, friends and churches that love them and have a vision for Bible translation. Before I can start in the new role I have to ensure we have enough regular financial support to provide for my family. If you’d like to find out about supporting me, you can get in touch online.

If you’d like to give, either as a one-off payment or through regular monthly donations, you can do that securely through the Wycliffe website.

You can also find out more about the Wycliffe Global Alliance on their website.

Friends in God's Mission

Reflections on leadership on a global scale

I work for an organisation called Wycliffe Bible Translators and while my current role is mostly UK focused (I’m due to join the Wycliffe Global Alliance, our international partners, later this year) the truth is everything we do has a global impact. Whether that’s because we are praying for or providing financial support for particular projects, or we are training and sending personnel to support work in particular locations, what we do from our office in the UK can have ripples of impact in the lives and work of people in many different locations.

It’s not so much about getting things wrong and the ripples causing problems for others (though that does happen occasionally) or success that brings its own pressures, instead it’s about sharing in something and recognising the value of each individual, culture and organisation.

Table groupsLast month I was able to spend a week with a group of leaders from around the world. We were a properly global group with representatives from Brazil, Costa Rica, the Caribbean, Germany, Norway, Singapore, Papua New Guinea, Kenya, Benin the United States… you get the picture. Plus we were a real mix of ages and genders at different stages of this leadership journey.

The most wonderful thing about this group was our openness with each other. We had all been nominated and invited to be there so we didn’t need to justify our reason for being part of the group. Maybe that simple fact removed the usual burden that comes with conferences – the need to impress – though that seems to be an ever decreasing part of our culture. Instead, there was an openness and honesty within the group that I’ve not experienced in events of this type before.

Praying togetherOver the five days we worked together, ate together, played together, prayed together (specifically for each participant) and celebrated who we are as people and as participants in global mission. It was fun, emotional and affirming – and quite challenging.

All of this has made summing it up and sharing it with others really difficult. I know that this is one of the most important events of my career.

  • It challenged me that it is OK to be called to leadership and that I should move beyond my current stance of being willing to serve others to equipping myself to lead well.
  • I’m excited by the current generation and the next generation of mission leaders within Wycliffe that have vision, enthusiasm and a desire to serve. I’m also excited by the kindness, generosity and love of this group.
  • I saw, probably for the first time, a group that worked really well together. Even when we disagreed, offended each other or simply got it wrong, we took action to repair the damage and showed understanding and love in listening and giving others the chance to make amends. We even showed understanding to the stage of realising that we just don’t see things in the same way – sometimes it’s OK to be different.
  • It reminded me of the importance of informed, directed prayer. This was the first event that I attended that asked delegates to form a specific prayer support team that would journey with them through the week. I did that, updating them through a Facebook group. I’m sure that, above all else, made the real difference.

Explaining all that to others that weren’t there is really difficult. The reason this gathering worked was because we were gathered together. Trying to give a report just doesn’t work, you needed to be there, but by having you there it would have been a different environment and that would change things.

Group workI hope in this rambling blog post you sense my joy in being part of this group and some of the excitement of what God was doing through that week. Of course, while I’ve already mentioned the centrality of prayer to this event, I recognise that it was God’s gracious answers to those prayers that made the difference.

Polling Station

Thankful that today I voted

This morning I was able to exercise my democratic freedom to vote for the national government and local councilors.

EUPOL Afghanistan: EUPOL's support to the Afghan Election Audit Process

EUPOL Afghanistan: EUPOL’s support to the Afghan Election Audit Process

I don’t really have a strong political view and see positives and negatives with all the parties, but I’m thankful that I was able to vote.

My vote was in secret and I’m reasonably assured that the ballot I cast will be counted accurately. I don’t feel the need to ask impartial observers to oversee the process.

When I got to the Polling Station there were no armed security guards and I didn’t feel that I was going to be attacked for exercising my right to vote.

Tonight the TV channels will waste hours of airtime talking about what may happen and tomorrow we will find out if anyone has managed to win this election by an outright majority. Regardless of the outcome I’m not expecting that in the days to come the army will be needed to quell rioting by supporters of any political party. In fact, even if a government cannot be formed straight away I expect that our armed forces will still work like normal, as will the police, hospitals and government departments.

In fact, with all parties trying to create their own version of moderate, I doubt that I will notice much change at all regardless of what combination of parties win. And for that I am surprisingly thankful.

Our political system and the parties that contend for our votes are not perfect. I would like things to be very different, but that does not mean that I don’t recognise that there are some things to be very grateful for.

John Finnemore at the Storytellers' Club

Comedy on the evolution of language

For the past few months I’ve been falling asleep to comedy shows on BBC’s iPlayer app. It started with Friday evening political satire and then progressed to sketch shows and sitcoms like Hut 33 (about codebreakers at Bletchley Park) and Cabin Pressure (about a fictitious airline) written by John Finnemore.

In my hunt for something fresh to listen to I found John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme, which is basically a sketch show. In the following example he highlights the way that language use changes over time.

Mike Frost: Live a questionable life

This is your primary evangelistic mission; live a questionable life.

Nobody is going to ask you about the hope that is in you; no one is going to respond with questions about who you are, or how you live, or what you’re doing, if you live just like all the other suburban middle class people in this country.

If you spend the same amount of money on a house as they spend, if you live in the same neighbourhood as they live in, if you take the same vacations that they take, if you renovate your kitchen in the same way that they do, if you have the same views that they have, live the same way that they live, if you spend money the same way that do, if you life looks exactly the same as theirs what would they possibly ask you about?

From: Exponential.org