Report on Weekend Manoeuvres

It was good to visit Solihull Presbyterian Church with the family yesterday and lead their worship service. The church planter, Al Lutz and his wife Julie, are back in the US for a couple of weeks, so I was asked to lead some time ago. The plant (rather like that of my friends Gareth and David in Belper) is at that slightly unstable stage where there are less than 20 people meeting and the group could vary quite a bit week to week. Nevertheless, we had a good time of worship together, followed by a picnic lunch afterwards. There are some good people there.

In the evening I was back at Derwent to continue the series in Philippians at chapter 3. There were some tricky questions afterwards over coffee. It was funny. Though I was prepared to preach, I was not prepared for the questions! However humbling this may have been I am glad that there were some who were thinking and wanted go further and think about what it means to know Christ in practice.

Report on Weekend Manoeuvres

Evangelical (R)evolution in the Kirk?

It is the Church of Scotland GA this week. Lig Duncan has been keeping track on Ref21. I have been thinking how funny how it is that you get info on the goings on of a Scottish church from an American! However, this has been remedied by David Shedden. (I have pinched his title for this post.)

Yesterday was the debate over whether the blessing or not of same-sex unions by clergy should be allowed under liberty of conscience. The decision was defered for a year while presbyteries debate the issue. David is quite optimistic that evangelicals are finally beginning to affect decisions. For David, the only question is what kind of evangelicalism will the Church of Scotland hold to in 15 years time.

I’m not sure I share his optimism, but it is refreshing, nonetheless.

(HT: Irish Reformation)

Evangelical (R)evolution in the Kirk?

A Story from a Past Existence

When I worked for Rolls-Royce, one of my jobs used to be one of the ‘suits’ that went to one of the the universities to find out how these lazy academics were spending our precious research budget. It was a bit disorienting at first. I used to be one of those long-haired hippy types myself. I would arrive at the lab at mid-day, follow my nose, leave at midnight and not care about plans too much. Now I had become a tidy-haired ‘suit’ who wanted to know about milestones, spend profiles and, maybe if there was time, results of the research.

This was met with two kinds of response. The senior staff, who realised that they need money from somewhere, had learned to schmooze a bit. Only occasionally would the veneer crack and tough words were exchanged. But mostly schmoozing was the order of the day. There were never any ‘problems’ (my word), only ‘opportunities’ (their word). I became bilingual.

The other response to my visits came from the young students. They did most of the research donkey work. They enjoyed it. It was great fun, climbing around rigs, playing with high tech kit, using fast computers. As part of their training, they also got to present their findings at our ‘suit’ meetings, usually with long hair and wearing some ill-matching old tie.

Now, the trouble is that after lunch (which was a real schmooze-fest) I really wanted presentations that were punchy, to the point, quick. Otherwise, the insides of my eyelids became much more interesting to look at.

Roll up the student. “How long have I got?”.

“Twenty minutes.”

“OK. I’ve only got about 30 slides.”

Quick mental calculation: using R-R rule of thumb of 4 minutes per slide means 2 hour presentation coming up.

After about half an hour one/I had to start asking pointy questions to get the student to get to the point and get it over with.

The problem was a simple one. The student had spent hours poring over his hundreds of wiggly voltage traces trying to work out the meaning of each blip. With each one he had formed a personal bond of love and friendship. So choosing which wiggly line to present to the ‘suits’ was heart wrenching – like choosing which few children of your many should be taken on an outing this month. Because the student loved them all he wanted to bring them all.

The problem for me was the student lost sight of the main point and often couldn’t tell me what I needed to hear. As I result I was bored and irritated.

Now, what’s the point of this ramble? Well, in the best tradition of isn’t-that-just-like-life boring (now that I think about it) illustration, this all sounds like sermon preparation and delivery. Some preachers are schmoozers telling people what they want to hear to keep them happy. Others are like inexperienced students telling congregations everything they have found out. But neither have a clear idea of the message that must be told.

You can tell I have finished all my essays, can’t you?

A Story from a Past Existence

Freebie Book

Being a Scotsman, I like the idea of something for (almost) nothing. So, a few weeks ago I signed up for Mark Driscoll’s great blogger giveaway, where he offered to send out a free advance copy of his new book, Confessions of a Reformission Rev. to the 1st 75 people to sign up. I was one of the 75.

It finally arrived today. As I mentioned before, I find Driscoll and Mars Hill interesting. There are some things I really like, though some I really don’t. Whatever you say, it is not dull. I’m looking forward to reading the story.

The condition is that I blog a review. Since I blog anyway about this kind of thing, that’s no problem. Since I don’t have much time at the moment (the hounds of college deadlines are snapping at my heals) I may blog a bit at a time, and wrap it all up at the end. We’ll see…

PS The weird thing about taking delivery of the book was that the FedEx guy spotted I am a ‘Dr.’ from my name on the package. After finding out I have PhD in physics, he started asking me hard physics questions! What’s worse, I was stumped! A FedEx guy!! You never know, do you?

Freebie Book


Just in passing, you may notice to the right I have a Flickr account. I’m not a great photographer or anything, but if you want to get an idea of what me and my lot get up to, that’s one place to go. Feel free to browse around. Flickr provides an RSS feed for each account, so if you use an aggregator you will be notified if I have added more pics. If you also have an account let me know, and if its OK with you, I will add you to my contacts list.

I don’t like to make all my pics available to the public, especially of my daughter. There are axe-murderers out there, y’know. So some of them are restricted access. But if I know you personally (i.e. have met you face-to-face), and (v. impt.) I like you, then get an account and I will add you to my Flickr contacts list as a ‘Friend’.

An honour indeed.


Oh, Flibbertygibbet!

I speak as one who is far away from the geographical centre of the debate, but I have been trying to get to grips with what the Federal Vision is all about. A recent development has been production of a document and a (pretty cool) website calling for charitable theological discourse in the matter. It is noticeable that much of the debate amongst bloggers has since shifted away from the central theological issues and on to the value of the document itself.

I find this annoying, but predictable. Asking for people to sign up for charitable theological discourse is like asking everyone to sign up for feeding the world. As soon as you do that, instead of getting on with feeding the world, everyone is concerned about who is really concerned to feed the world. In the end all it amounts to is some naff posturing and accusatory finger pointing.

Come on guys! Take the hint, be charitable, avoid ad hominems and conspiracy theories, scrap the silly (though cool) website and lets get back to the main point, eh?

Oh, Flibbertygibbet!

Church Survey UK

A contributor to the Genevanet list tipped us off regarding the Church Survey UK. It has been around for over a year, but it makes for fascinating reading about the reasons for the decline of the mainstream churches. The aim is flawed since it takes essentially a marketing approach to the problem:

The aim of this committee was simple. It was to investigate and examine exactly what it is that people are wanting from their church. Only when churches discover what ‘the people want’ and provide for those desires will church attendance become appealing.

The makeup of the survey committee was ecumenical. Nevertheless, it seems like it was an honest attempt to understand the problem at least.

It is clear that there is a massive disconnect between what is felt to be necessary by ‘laity’ and the ‘clergy’. Having read the first chapter, it is clear that there are many who are near-blind and desperately want to see clearly, while many of those who lead think they can see but are in fact blind.

There was an interesting comment about housegroups:

Housegroups … urged minsters to recognise the need for clear teaching in the form of apologetics. Replies indicated that house groups now form the backbone of many Irish and UK churches. Hundreds of groups revealed that the main reason for their popularity was not so much ‘fellowship’ as the teaching they provided.

Interesting. Housegroups seem to be a defence against bad teaching and leadership in many churches.

Worth downloading and pondering.

Church Survey UK

Bible Week in Derby Sermons

One of the hats I wear is to be a member of the organising committee for Bible Week in Derby (though I will soon remove it for good as I step down). This is a yearly event where we get a speaker to come in and give good quality Bible teaching over successive weekday evenings. This year there has been a great innovation: we have a website! It is pretty simple, set up by my good self. Have a look.

I have long wanted to make the messages more widely available than simply to those attending. Now I can do it. I have just put on mp3 files of the messages from the last two years.

In 2004 Andy Gemmill gave an excellent series of “Studies in Ephesians”. Andy is a minister at Beeston Evangelical Free Church in Nottingham.

In 2005 Edward Lobb spoke on the theme of “Christ the Fulfilment”. Shortly after Bible Week in Derby, Ed moved to Glasgow to become director of Cornhill Scotland. (If you want to hear more of Ed Lobb’s preaching you will find some recordings at the website of St. George’s-Tron Church of Scotland.)

You will find the Bible Week mp3 files of these series’ on this page. What’s more, they’re free! As I get time I will add sermons from previous years. I will notify readers on the Bible Week blog, so you can subscribe to that if you want to know when they are available.

Meanwhile, help yourself!

Bible Week in Derby Sermons

Work Out What God Works In

I preached on Philippians 2:12,13 a couple of Sundays ago at DFC. However, I have since discovered that Eric Alexander preached on the same topic at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia the week before. So, if you want to know how to really do it, go and listen.

(Which reminds me – here’s a vital question that has dogged me for the last couple of decades since James Boice came to the Tron when I was an undergrad – what happened to the other nine?)

Work Out What God Works In