Hang Around Great Leaders to Become a Great Leader

I have been blessed to have just spent a week in NZ at a New Wine Leaders retreat. It was a reminder of the blessings of being able to spend time with great leaders. No matter what sphere you exist in, if you can spend time with people who have achieved great things, you will get hugely enriched from the interactions. I was with Mark Bailey from Trinity Cheltenham in the UK, Mike Norris from St Paul’s Auckland and Dave MacGreggor from Grace Vineyard Christchurch. All of them high capacity leaders who have made a big impact for the kingdom in their cities and increasingly their nations. There were so many little pearls of wisdom, insights and great laughs along the way. Here is what hanging out with great leaders will do…

1. Increase your vision! Mixing with leaders who you admire will give you a bigger vision for what can be achieved. While I admired the high capacity for work and gifts in each of these men, it also was encouraging to hear how through ordinary men and women, persisting for the kingdom, great things can be done. While it is easy to sit back and think that the big things are out of reach, it was huge to see how these leaders had stuck to their core values. They also spoke of constantly expanding and sharing the vision God had given them with their people.

2. Give you an honest perspective! A really great leader will be honest about how difficult it can be along the journey to success. Often from the outside we get the sugar-coated version of what it is like in a history changing church or business. When you spend time with great leaders you realise that the challenges are the same for most people. It is also refreshing to hear great leaders talk about their own failings and insecurities. Hopefully you can see something of yourself in the great leaders you hang out with.

3. Call you on! One thing that Mark Bailey accredited the great success of Trinity to, was his persistence and longevity in his calling. The big things we may dream of may not be achievable in 2 years but they may over 10 or 20 years. It was a huge encouragement to see how these great leaders have kept on despite all the criticisms and set backs leaders face. Think Steve Jobs being sacked by the company he started… But great leaders persevere because they know, that they know, that they know, what they are called to do.

If you get a chance to spend time with people you admire who have achieved great things in your sphere – take it. And soak it all up!

Leading a Response after Sermons

When I was 21 I lived for a year in South Africa and Kenya. I was blessed to be asked to do quite a bit of open air preaching. The expectation was that after my message I would ask people to respond by making a decision to follow Jesus. Hence about half way through the sermon I would begin to get a sickening feeling in my stomach… the end is approaching… I am going to have to ask people to respond… what if no one comes forward… this could look very stupid.

Graciously, God would often draw people to respond, but what was most helpful was a Kenyan friend of mine who took me aside. He basically encouraged me that it was the Gospel that is powerful, it is God through his Holy Spirit that will convict people, so all we needed to do was preach faithfully and then relax. It is God who draws out a response in people! It was a great relief to hear this and I actually found myself growing in confidence in my ministry… because it was no longer about me.

When I moved to London I ended up at a great church called St Paul’s Hammersmith. It was an Anglican church that had come alive in the things of the Spirit. Again I experienced great times of ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit. After each message an opportunity was given for people to respond to the Word of God by coming forward to be prayed for. I loved it! The journey I have been on since has been in discovering the value of response and the power of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Last Sunday at Manly Life we looked at Ezekiel 37 and the valley of the dry bones. God promises that he will breathe His Spirit into us and we will live. At the end of the sermon it was obvious that we needed an opportunity for people to respond. For those without hope or life, to come forward and be prayed for. It allows God to take what has been said and then move powerfully in the lives of those being prayed for. Over half the church probably came forward for prayer and we are hearing great testimonies of what God did and is doing in his people.

Here are some keys…

– Without an opportunity for response and prayer a lot of our preaching can just end up being information. But information with response can lead to transformation. It allows God to minister prophetically into peoples lives, and to meet them where they are.

– Often when we have a ministry time we will see God move powerfully in the life of the responder. These visible manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s power are often a sign that God is doing something new or powerful in a person. Other times we just see a sense of peace enter the person (think Jesus appearing to his disciples after his death, saying peace be with you and breathing his Holy Spirit on them).

– We need to trust God that he will move as he promises to, in the lives of those who respond. We simply ask the Holy Spirit to come and minister. We don’t need to whip it up or be all emotional… In the words of John Wimber, we can be naturally supernatural. “God we ask you to come and fill x with your Spirit.” Then shut up… and let God move! If you are saying a lot, often that can be a sign that you don’t trust God to move. Come Holy Spirit…

– Responses can be defining moments in a persons life. God loves a decision, he loves an act of faith, he loves a heart responding to him. God will use that! Never underestimate the power of putting a stake in the ground. Faith in God is a choice, it is an action, it is a response.

– Don’t be afraid of coming forward time and time again. Often if we don’t see God move like we hoped for, we lose that hope. But like the persistent widow, we need to personally be responding time and time again. Seek first the Kingdom, ask, seek, knock, open the door, reach out to touch his robe, come in the dark of night, confess simple prayers of faith… Go after God!

– Finally I would say try and build in a culture of response in your lives and ministry. I take my hat off to the Hillsong’s, and C3’s of this world. They are always giving people an opportunity to respond to the Gospel. There is a reason these churches have experienced huge growth for the kingdom. They give opportunities for people to respond, and then create space and believe God will move.

Bless your ministry and please keep praying for Manly Life!

Manly Life Update and Progress

Victoria and I are so thrilled with the progress of Manly Life. Just 5 weeks ago the church launched publicly in Manly and the response has been wonderful. For those who live afar or who have been praying for our new church community I thought I would give an update on how things are going.

From Crowd to Community…

Around two thirds of the 100 or so people now coming regularly to Manly Life are people Victoria and I had never met a few months ago. This means that we are in the process of shifting from being a crowd to a community. Everyone in one sense is new to Manly Life. One of the things that has been of greatest encouragement is how friendly and inclusive new people keep on saying the church community is. Building a strong culture of welcome and hospitality is a big challenge though! Lots of our community only get to church every 2nd or 3rd week. It means building a sense of community and continuity is difficult. Despite this new friendships are blooming, people are slowly getting more involved in different ministries and the values we dream of are becoming a reality!

Strong Identity Forming…

I am biased but the things that I believe in and care about in a church community are taking shape. Just last night Chez Robbins preached a cracker of a sermon, there was good ministry time, people stayed around for a BBQ, the worship was full of the presence of God. Alpha has shifted us too, out of the building and into the community (The Space Bar in Manly). People seeking friendship and the truth are coming along and enjoying a glass of wine, listening to the Gospel and then speaking their minds. A stake is being put in the ground about who we are as a church.

It Takes Time…

With all of these fantastic things happening, the reality too is that it just takes time! For this wonderful new church to be strong and viable into the future there are some big things we are still praying for and working towards. Some of the big markers of commitment to a church is giving and serving. Both of these areas have room for growth! Planting a new church is a big step of faith for the all involved and often people wait a while to see what emerges before they really get stuck in with serving and giving. So pray with us that the finances will improve and the gifts that God has placed in people will increasingly be released into the life of the church.

Please do keep praying for Victoria and I, the leadership team and the formation of this exciting new church. There is so much to give thanks for. To God be the glory…

Manly Life Church Launch Service (with photos)

On Sunday we launched a new church for the Northern Beaches with a bang! It was awesome to see so many people gather for the beginning of this new community. It was great to see old friends, and meet new faces.

One of the things you hope for in leading a new church is that the right ingredients will be there for the Gospel to be proclaimed and lived out. On Sunday it was great to see a community worshipping, together, welcoming one another and eating together. The good news of Jesus was preached and people responded for prayer ministry. We saw the Spirit move in those gathered. In other words our hopes and prayers were answered!

I was reminded of the power of the Gospel once again. The sermon was on Luke 4:18-21 and Jesus mission of bringing freedom, healing and forgiveness into the world. In Jesus we don’t just meet ideas about God and his plan for his creation, but we meet God and see his plan for the world in action. I was struck by this being a story that invites us, to not only come for forgiveness and a new start, but also to find purpose as we join in with Jesus mission. It really is good news.

There is now some exciting times ahead as our new church community begins to do life together. We will form our unique identity over time as we worship, pray, share and grow together. While we have a great culture already developing, it is as we walk this journey together that our true shape and mission will emerge.

Finally, a big thank you to everyone in the core team for making this adventure so enjoyable. We are all blessed as we all play our role in seeing this church get established and see God’s kingdom come to our area. We are deeply hopeful, mainly because we follow a Christ who is deeply faithful and powerful today!

It’s time to launch a new church!

It’s launch week at Manly Life Church and we are full of hope!

Launching a new church is about lots of things but primarily it is about Jesus – and his ongoing story of liberating the world from its bondage to decay. Now that may sound grandiose, but it is the essential claim of Jesus, of his church and of our new community. We plant new churches because we want to be a part of that story as it unfolds around the world today. Is Jesus irrelevant, weak, boring? Not the Jesus that I know.

In Luke 4 Jesus announces what he has come to do by reading an ancient prophets scroll. He says, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” It says he then rolled up the scroll and proclaimed, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” That is was his mission, that is his mission, that is our mission. Where Jesus is, there is freedom.

Join us this Sunday as we launch the new church for the Manly region of Sydney. We will be kicking off at 5pm at 275 Pittwater Rd, Manly. There is parking at the Manly Seniors Centre and in surrounding streets.

Come, help us continue the Jesus story.

5 Weeks til launch, 5 reasons to be excited!

With under 5 weeks until the public launch of Manly Life Church, here are my 5 reasons to be hopeful and excited for this new church;

1. We know our God and he is faithful! He has revealed himself in Jesus and throughout history. Our God is full of love, breathes new life on the broken, and moves in every generation of his people who are up for the adventure of faith.

2. A community of extraordinary people are already gathering! I could tell you something amazing about each of the 50 or so people who have come to Manly Life in our pre-launch meetings. Not that they are perfect, but they are all shaped by grace, generosity and the life Jesus gives.

3. We have heroes in the faith cheering us on! We have had support from local churches and friends around the world. It means a lot to be a part of a broader community who have modelled church and life together well.

4. What we are called to is clear! If in our meetings, our lives and our life together we can love God and love each other – it’ll turn out great. Faith, hope, love and the greatest of these is love.

5. Have you met my wife? Enough said – she is amazing!

A new shape for church

What are the best experiences you have ever had being a part of a church? For me some would include being in trafalgar square and seeing Mike Pilavachi lead hundreds to Jesus, being in a little township church in South Africa and being filled with the Spirit, being invited to lunch in London on Christmas day after church and recently seeing a church gather to pray for a sick mum who gets healed. The interesting thing for me is that often they match the experience of the early church. Acts 2:41-47 in the Message;

“That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.”

There is potential with a new church plant to re-imagine how we gather together as a church. We can do things differently, not for the sake of it, but to more effectively be the people of God.

Life in the early church would have been an amazing community to have been a part of. Many had followed Jesus only to see him crucified. But now he has been seen to conquer death and breath his Spirit on the church. After a knockout sermon from Peter, 3,000 decide to follow Jesus and the result is incredible. As Jim Wallis from Sojourners states;

“The message of the Kingdom became more than an idea. A new human society had sprung up, and it looked a lot like the new order to which Jesus pointed. Here love was given daily expression; reconciliation was actually occurring. People were no longer divided into Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female. In this community the weak were protected, the stranger welcomed. People were healed and the poor and dispossessed were cared for and found justice. Everything was shared and joy abounded, and ordinary lives were filled with praise. Something was happening among the Christians that no one could deny.”

As Leslie Newbigin points out, the credibility of the Gospel was people who believed it and lived it. Jesus did not write a book but formed a community.

Based on Acts 2:42-47 and the elements in the gathered believers time together, how could we re-imagine being a church community? In other words not revert to the default option of church as it is commonly done, but make a shift to something more dynamic, more engaging, more participatory? Something worth investing your life in?

One thing you could derive from the passage is that Sunday’s matter – or at the least gathering matters. There is something special that happens when believers get together – the presence of God is there, community gets built, people get prayed for, truths and revelations are taught and shared, collective worship occurs.

The shift for me is how do we shape our gatherings so that what is important has space and time! In other words how do you shape our time so that someone can get prayed for and healed. How do you meet so that there are real times of eating together and sharing amongst our community? How do you allow all the gifts that are insides each member of our community to be expressed?

So here is an idea… Inspired by the gatherings of the first believers. Doing things differently because we want more…

Two parts to our time together each week

  • One that is shared as a whole community
  • One part that allows for us to engage, participate, share, move around.

So obviously it all has to begin with a big welcome, coffee, the joy of being together

  • We might then move into our together time… Worship and ministry, the scriptures read and taught, news and testimony from around the community.
  • So the first 50 minutes or so of the gathering is spent in praise, in seeking the presence of God, in sharing the stories from within our community, in listening to the Word of God and teaching.

After this is hopefully where it then gets more interesting, a bit different, hopefully more engaging, more dynamic…

As the teaching ends the offer of different options for the community is presented…

  • Some might stay in the main space for more worship and time with God
  • Others go to prayer rooms for prayer ministry, healing, someone to listen to them. Genuine seeking of God, prayers for healing and restoration…
  • Others mighty go to communal space for fellowship and a meal. Game of bocce, building community…
  • One week some might have a space to discuss justice and compassion. Support the Micah Challenge, organise Christmas shoe boxes, support children overseas. Others might plan a community act of kindness.
  • Another space is dedicated to a gift exchange board. People are encouraged to share things to give away – both goods and services.
  • In another room there is a space for confession to an elder in the church.
  • A seminar is offered – A short message or teaching on different areas is given by a member of the church. Maybe on how to read the bible better, improving your prayer life, lifestyle stuff like health, diet, exercise. An expert on finances or relationship tips… you get the idea!
  • And of course have the kids involved for most stuff. Yes a space for them to hang out and have fun and be taught, but also ensure they are a part of the community.

I want to take the approach that people are mature, are looking for more, and wanting a richer diet when they gather. While it might take a little more effort and engagement, it will be a more valuable time

So time together, and then time to engage, expressions of kingdom life, of the things that made the first Spirit filled believers life together come alive… What elements can you think of? Could you lead or participate in?

Let me leave you with this… church can either be a noun or a verb… Either it is the name of something we attend and listen to or it is something that we do, we participate in, play an active role in. My guess is that if we can make a bit of a shift and Christ is honoured in that, then this whole thing could become a whole lot more exciting.


Bill Hybels on Church Planting

ImageA good article on church planting here by Bill Hybels from Willow Creek in Chicago.


Good insight here… Bill; “I think [church planting] is inherently messy. I think it’s inherently confusing. I think it’s inherently complex. We can help, and council, and bless each other, but one of the toughest things I’ve ever been through is the first five or ten years of planting Willow,”

Good thoughts on managing priority of the family too.

My friend Jamie Freeman who has recently planted H3O in Dee Why said as much recently too – a hard road! But ultimately a good thing to spend your life on.


What a great joy to have the Manly Life Church team plus some supporters come last night for our first evening of worship in our new venue. I think I would be echoing a fair bit of sentiment last night to say that this new church has huge potential.

  • Firstly we serve a great God whose kingdom is being established throughout the world. Woody Allen once said 80% of success is just showing up. I sometimes think that building a great church is mainly just putting your hand up and saying to God “here I am” and “let your kingdom come”
  • The venue is brilliant. I love the fact that we share it with so many different community groups. I love the big hall for our services, the adjacent hall and outdoor area for kids ministry, the big kitchen, break out rooms, parking, undercover eating area with tables and chairs… even the synthetic lawn bowls green. I can imagine what a fully alive church would look like on a Sunday. The worship and teaching, the prayer ministry, the hanging out after for a meal, building community, loving one another!
  • People, people, people! God is gathering a community together to serve him, love one another and reach the lost. Every individual loved by God, brimming with potential and gifts. What a great group.

The Apostle Paul calls himself the refuse of the world, he says the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. Your kingdom come!

Church Planting

Matthew 13:31-32 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.”

I am convinced that Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed provides more clarity into church planting than any 300 page instruction book. Of course Jesus was the smartest man who ever lived, so he only needed 54 words. According to Jesus what we do is;

  • Take the kingdom of heaven; its power, its values, it grace, the freedom and plant it in a community (a field)
  • We sow it into that community through living it out, proclaiming it, demonstrating it and inviting people into it
  • When the church is a reflection of the kingdom of God and not the world, its growth is inevitable (“when it grows”, not if it grows)
  • In that community it becomes a tree, a place of refuge and rest for all peoples

Simple really, in every generation, in every place, plant a church that embodies the kingdom Jesus came to inaugurate and it will grow into a community where people find peace with God and restoration. If we are seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness I think we can relax a bit about everything else.

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