Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Cold reality!

Last week Carol opened up her ipad to discover she had been hacked. A number of friends had sent urgent messages of warning.  Frantically we changed the password.  Four days later, on Sunday morning before leaving for church Carol checked again.  This time a warning blared in block capitals - FRAUD.  Carol's air miles card had mysteriously been used back in the US to make some extravagant purchases, included a Gucci purchase of $3,400.  We say mysterious because the card was safely in her purse...yet was making waves a couple of thousand miles away.

It took 50 minutes (and made us late for the morning service) as Carol contacted the card suppliers and went through all the security rigmarole.  She wondered if the hacking a few days earlier had opened the way for this fraud?  The card clerk thought it might be so!  Later still she discovered that her main email account was refusing to send any messages.  As a great greeter of others and sender of cheery notes (including some lengthy ones!) she found herself unable to contact the world. Help!

Monday was a vital repair day.  Our pastor, Ron Day, who is an IT expert as well (what a good combination!) invited us at 10:30 to have coffee while he worked on it.  At 12:00 noon he admitted it was beyond him.  Carol and I marveled at the way he and Gill were so gracious on a Bank Holiday Monday.  This truly was Christian grace.  But it meant very lengthy afternoon calls to Apple (in Belfast) was sorted.

Carol commented in exasperation about how many rotten people there are who just hack into stuff, cheat and steal, spoil and add complications to life. Yes, it's an unpleasant lesson.  I have a colleague whose refrain whenever there is trouble runs: 'It's because of sin...and there's a lot of it about'.  Yes!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Collaboration and accountability

Over coffee, a business entrepreneur was talking to me after church yesterday.  He asked about my next event and (of course) I mentioned the New Kind of Preacher Forum with its theme 'collaboration'. (Carol tells me it tends to crop up in conversation with increasing urgency!) He questioned whether this concerned preachers working with others.  When I replied 'yes' he smiled. His next comment was most revealing. 'I have often been amazed that compared with the business world with its high accountability the church has such low accountability. It seems that people in church leadership just don't feel the need to be accountable to anyone.  Perhaps it's because they find it difficult to accept constructive criticism. Some churches seem to suffer from a lot of fear and defensiveness!'   I hasten to add this was not directed at our own church - he made it clear that it was a general observation gained over many years in different churches.

I guess the immediate defense preachers and other leaders would make is that their accountability is to God. True - that is the ultimate accountability!  Some preachers I know have a Spiritual Director who helps make this much more than a pious claim.

However, it was the link he made between   collaboration and accountability that really struck me.  I hadn't really thought about the ways in which working with others, being open to their insights and views, inevitably brings a measure of accountability which working solo can totally avoid.

For example, in sermon preparation, collaboration not only exposes the amount and quality of work a preacher is doing with the text and their spiritual and theological depth but also their willingness to listen and discern what God may be saying through others.  I conclude there is even more need to highlight collaboration! 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Next event

Back from Canada I have been plunged into preparation for my next major happening - the annual Forum for the New Kind of Preacher Program.  Scheduled for October 1st at Northern Seminary in Lombard its theme will be COLLABORATION. Advertising has gone out inviting all preachers everywhere!  Speakers are lined up, including one who will describe how collaboration works in their ministry. I am speaking a couple of times and rounding it off, in hopes that the forum will spawn some new peer learning groups among preachers for the next two years.

Collaboration is both gloriously adventurous and seriously threatening. Gloriously adventurous because it brings the best out of us when we are willing to work together, giving our best to a common purpose rather than caught up in competition and rivalry. It continues to amaze me how Jesus - the most complete human being there has ever been - chose to work with disciples who became friends in spite of their flaws, and who he deemed as so necessary to his mission.

But for many preachers I admit the sound of collaboration is seriously threatening.  It is so easy when you open up to someone else's insights and experiences to feel less secure - especially when you are preparing sermons.  There are so many reasons to ride ahead as lone rangers!

I believe that part of God's challenge on October 1st.  will push  preachers to see past the reasons (and defences) for working solo and open hearts and minds to working with others as never before.  I shall keep you in the picture as it develops.