Thought of the day

Oval Station Thought of the Day

Oval Station Thought of the Day – secretlondon123

This month’s Future First from Brierly consultancy carries an article called Attitudes to Church and Clergy in Britain. In it, Clive Field, says,

‘In a recent article, based on public opinion polls, I examined the attitudes of British adults to Church and clergy since the 1960s, with reference to their perceived influence and degree of confidence or trust in them.’

He then goes on to share an interesting array of statistics of which one segment deserves mention.

Adequacy of answers given by the Church to modern problems

According to the research the church only adequately answers people’s spiritual needs 51% of the time. Problems and needs of the individual and problems of family life are only answered adequately 27% and 26% of the time and social problems facing our country only 20%.

I’m not sure the numbers alone tell us anything significant but there’s certainly an implication that church leaders aren’t able to communicate what the Bible has to say to modern British society. Though, I expect there’s also some research to be done into how many respondents didn’t receive the message they wanted from the church so gave a negative answer.

However, I think Christians have a responsibility to think through the various issues faced by society today and ask what the Bible has to say about it. We also have a responsibility to help others think through these things.

So, two resources to recommend.

1) Go on the LICC Toolbox course and learn how to engage with modern culture as a Christian. If you live near London you have no excuse not to.

2) Have a look at some of the material produced by Focus over the past few years, especially the video series that questions science and faith. A new series on the question of why God allows suffering is coming up – see a trailer below.

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