Thank You Jesus

Esther’s Epic Bible Project

A couple of months ago we got word that 18-year old Esther from Southport wanted to hand out Bibles to every single student in her College this Easter, and that she was working out ways of raising money to make it work. Now, we could stop right there and the story would worth telling…a young Christian decides to give of her own time, prayers, and MONEY (!) so that all her peers in college can have access to the word of God. Amazing!

But that’s not it…shortly after we found out how many people actually go to her college, and realised she wouldn’t just need a few hundred of the NTs (which, again, would still be a story worth telling), but that she was going to need 1700 of the things! That led to some quick sums on a calculator and the realisation that she would need to raise £4250 to be able to pull the project off! FOUR THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY pounds! In a couple of months! On her own! R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

We all admired her optimism and started to pray, but £4250 in a couple of months. Really?!

Well, those months have now passed and the day has arrived, and this morning, a few of our Teamers piled the Bibles (all 1700 of them!) and themselves into a couple of cars and left for Southport, where they’re currently attaching notes and ribbons, highlighting verses, and helping Esther get ready for the mammoth mass-distribution. One of our Teamers sent through the above picture just a few minutes ago, and I just had to post it.

So far around 350 thousand of these NTs have been produced in 8 languages and handed out in over 10 countries by young people like Esther, but to my knowledge, this is the biggest 1-person Bible Project in NG history, and it deserves a shoutout. What’s more, Esther even wants to raise another £750 so she can give 300 more of the things to all the staff and teachers at her college, totalling £5000 worth of fundraising, all on her own. If you want to make a donation and help her hit the 5K, send me an email at brad@newgeneration.co.uk, and please say a prayer for her as she puts her faith on the line and opens herself up for potential mockery and critique from people in the college, and pray that every Bible achieves what God intended and that people can meet Jesus through it’s pages.

To get some Bibles for your school, college or uni, go to our Everyone Needs a Bible site.

#FF – Steven Furtick

I decided to take the week-end Twitter trend Follow Friday and extend it to the blog, posting some spotlights and links to some of the stuff I read on my Flipboard app. There’ll be a mix covering church & ministry, art & design blogs, media & marketing, music & skateboarding, and maybe the odd travel blog or Apple log.

First up, Steven Furtick from Elevation Church, Charlotte. Steven is just 31 yeas old. Steven and a handful of couples planted a church just 5 years ago in a city they hardly knew. Steven and those couples have now grown that church to a multi-site ministry drawing thousands with an interactive online service running every hour on the hour and plans to go global with international sites and campuses in the pipeline.

The guy may be young, but he’s doing some great stuff, and regularly posts good stuff for church leaders and members alike over on his blog at www.stevefurtick.com. Definitely worth a look.

You can also log on to the Elevation Experience at www.elevationexperience.com.

Groeschel Gets Weird

I stumbled across this short interview/promo video for Craig Groeschel’s new book Weird – Because Normal Isn’t Working on Michael Hyatt’s site, and I can say, if the content of the book is as good as the ideas and insights in the video, then I’m looking forward to reading it. Check the video here.

A Few Words on Criticism

In this electronic age of instant messaging, and immediate reacting, it seems every blogger and his budgie (including me!) think they have the right to sling digital mud at anyone who’s not in their network, totally overlooking the fact that, as Christians, we’re all part of the same network, and we’re told to believe the best and love on each other like we love ourselves. I’m not talking about debating doctrine or wrestling with theology (things we should encourage and engage with), but about spiteful slander, where the thing gets personal. In some cases over the last few weeks and months I’ve seen some posts and tweets that were just downright nasty. In other cases, it seems people are simply surprised that someone looks like an eye or an earlobe and another like a big toe or a bicep, when that’s actually the whole point.

Anyway, before I run away on a rant, I thought that rather than addressing a particular person’s prideful posts, taunting tweets or sermon slams, I’d dedicate a few lines to the topic of criticism itself…

In my years attending church, I’ve been in settings where you can’t say a word because the pastor always knows best and it’s dishonourable to discuss or doubt, and I’ve been in others where the whole code and culture is critique-based and riddled with cynicism. At New Generation, we’re doing what we can (and I’m sure we’re failing too at times) to help build  where honour is a valued virtue and respect for leaders and elders is expected, but we’re also trying to instil in our organisation practices promoting accountability and transparency, and always make sure we lead with an open door, so that questions can be asked and discussions had.

I’ve been on the receiving end of a fair few jabs in my years leading, both in church and at New Generation, and to be honest, a lot of the comments made have probably been more than justified. I can be a jerk at times, and nobody likes working for a jerk. But, there’s also been plenty of times when it’s just been some obnoxious 18-year old who’s just left home and never had another job who thinks we’re doing it all wrong. Usually they’ve “had a revelation from the Lord” whilst reading the latest book and want to “lovingly” point us in the right direction and get the organisation back on track. This is one of the perks attached to working with college graduates with no real work/life-experience.

Anyway, here are a few things I’ve read and heard others say about handling criticism that I think are helpful:

  1. Make your critics your coaches: this means valuing criticism (whether it was meant well or not) and learning from criticism (whether it is accurate and true or not).
  2. Respond to the content, not the tone: this means you unwrap the points raised and suggestions made, keeping the contents and throwing away the wrapping, which is often bad attitudes etc.
  3. Don’t be paranoid: even if it feels like it’s you against the world, it’s not. Don’t take everything so personally!
  4. Give it time: don’t respond immediately, whether it be to an email, phone call or straight up confrontation…where possible, give it a few days and it’ll be easier to distinguish between the wrapping and the contents, and to decide whether the contents are worth keeping or not. (I’m definitely still trying to master this one!)
  5. It’s part of the package: if you’ve been commended and praised for doing something well, you will also be criticised and slandered. You can’t have the one without the other, so get used to it and don’t be surprised by it. Neither the praise or the criticism should be the basis for your identity, but who you are in Christ. (Easier said than done, right?!)
  6. Remember God: it’s easy to slip into evaluating everything from a human perspective and forget that God is in the mix and that He understands. Not only that, but He’s been there Himself.

What do you do with criticism? Ignore, hit back or handle? How?

God + Money

I found this in an old journal the other day…

On the 4th of April 2002 I asked God for money whilst on a break at Bible School. Less than 5 minutes later I returned to my chair only to find an envelope that said “To Brad, I love you in Christ, be blessed”. Inside was 150 SEK.

It may seem like a small amount or a petty answer to prayer, but over the course of that year, I was given a total of 20K SEK, and 50 036K the year before. That’s about £6500 in 2 years.

It got me thinking about my level of expectation. I remember that back then, as a relatively new Christian, I was naively expectant that God would simply take care of me when I quit my well-paying job and left my cheap apartment in Örebro to move cities and attend Bible school for 2 years. I really felt that God had called me to make the move, and figured he’d foot the bill too. But it’s so easy to move on from this sort of simple trust and start to take everything into your own hands, in an attempt to take responsibility and move towards maturity, and those are things I still strive for and will continue to stand by, but a story like this stirs me to believe God for the unexpected again, and to both challenge my own level of generosity towards others and trust in God’s provision for me.

Right now we’re seeing some amazing growth at New Generation UK, with 2 new bases running this year and more people engaging with our online resources, our training days, bringing us to youth groups and conferences to deliver content and turning to us for help in starting CUs and school groups. We feel God’s urging us to respond and to give them everything we’ve got, and to trust him for provision, but we’re splitting at the seams and struggling to go beyond 350 schools simply due to finance for travel costs and resources. This is why we’ve launched our Change a School for a Fiver campaign, and whilst we’re working hard to find other avenues of income, individual sponsors are invaluable as a source of support for us, and I’m asking any of you who feel compelled to give towards the work we’re doing. We really believe it’s good soil, and we hear stories every week about young people who have been impacted by our organisation. If you think you can give to a good cause, be it a one-off sum or a monthly standing order of just £5, all contributions are hugely appreciated and will make a massive difference.

Click here for more info.

Thanks.

Love & Theology

I’ve recently started studying a bit of theology in a more structured environment, something that’s been stimulating and thought-provoking. For as long as I can remember I’ve been an avid online reader of Bible-based blogs and theological threads on all kinds of sites from Relevant to the Resurgence, to the Gospel Coalition and various social networks, and I’ve always been one to jump on the “latest” books and look for new means and methods, opinions and interpretations on all things faith-related. It’s about the only thing I can talk about at any great length with real passion (just ask my poor wife!) and  I love banging on about the Bible, church-building, Christian ministry, theology, and the like for as long as the listeners will let me. It’s what makes me tick.

Having said that, it saddens me to see the petty nature of much of what’s written online when it comes to these topics. It seems every blogger and his budgie think they have the right to sling digital mud at anyone who’s not in their network or happens to have a different opinion to their own. Rather than giving people the benefit of the doubt, and being willing to engage with and listen to those with opinions that oppose our own, it’s all about scoring points and putting people down. It makes me sad. We have so much to learn from one another, and it’s not about us always being right and everyone else always being wrong, but about each member building up the body with what he’s best at and bringing the things that God has given him so that together we can be a wholesome whole.

I was listening to a podcast from my brother’s church in Sydney recently and his pastor Hans, said something that grabbed me. He said: “All the theology in the world doesn’t mean jack if you use it to win arguments & wound people. The question we should be asking is…when I walk away from that person, will they say ‘I am loved by him’ or will they feel wounded? You can have great theoretical theology but no compassion, like Job’s friends at certain points in the book, and your theology will do nothing but damage for the lack of love.” (Brad’s paraphrase)

Food for thought.

A Fortunate Life

At the beginning of the year, I vowed to read less books and to try to apply more from the few I do read…the idea being that instead of simply ploughing through one after the other, simply to be able to say I’ve read it and maybe get a few useful quotes, I’d try to re-read some significant books and find ways to implement the teaching and apply it to my life. Basically, I don’t want to read more faster, but less slower…in an attempt to really engage with the texts and grow through what I read.

The 5 books I’m focusing on are:

  1. Rework Jason Fried & David Heinemeier hanson
  2. The Art of Possibility The Zanders
  3. Leaders Who Last Dave Kraft
  4. Church Planter Darrin Patrick
  5. Doctrine Mark Driscoll

I can recommend them all.

With that said, my Dad recently sent me a huge package of treats from Down Under, including everything from the all-important Aussie sweets and mandatory macadamia nuts to clothes to a calendar full of photos (just to make me homesick!), and….2 books! I figured I’d let myself off the hook and break my vow, since both of them are novels and I could use a good relaxing tale to take my mind of all the attempts at application of the others heavy stuff.

So, I decided to start with A Fortunate Life, and I just have to say, if you think you have it tough, you have to read this book! It’s the incredible tale of a man named A. B. Facey, who, growing up in Western Australia in the early 1900s, overcame all odds and endured one of the hardest lives I’ve heard of, all with an attitude of grace and gratitude. This guy was abandoned by parents, separated from siblings and lost other loved ones, all in his first few years. He was working 14 hour days long before his teens, was shot at and beaten with a horse whip by people he was living with, and slept on a mattress for the first time somewhere around his 10th birthday. I’m only half way way in, but it’s proving to be a great book, and I’ve not reached either of the world wars and all that they’re likely to entail yet, but it’s already put my supposed pains and complaints to shame and got me thinking about my attitude when I think times are tough.

Thanks Dad!

A Good Day

Today’s a good day because…

  1. My 7-month old today son Leon almost cracked his face in half smiling when I walked through the door after work.
  2. I got news my visa should be ready in time for my 1st Russia trip in 3 years.
  3. iPad 2 came out. Not to mention it’s nifty new pal Smart Case. (Not trivial!)
  4. I got to talk for an hour with my brother down under.
  5. Flannel released the new Basic vid. (I know it’s pretty trivial, but it’s also pretty incredible.)
  6. I’ve lived in my charming house on The Avenue for 1 year.

…amongst other things of course…like having an amazing wife, a great job, and a nice collection of Paraguayan Yerba Mate cups.

Back to Church(?)

The other week I started on a series I’m doing over the next weeks (and possibly months) on perceptions of the Church outside of its walls. The idea is to focus on young people, and my motivation comes mainly from stats and surveys that point to an under 30s exodus from the Church over recent years/decades.

I’ve had some great input and ideas, comments and conversations on the subject with people both in person and online, and have put together a few questions I plan to pose to some passers by downtown sometime soon in search of some fresh perspectives and perhaps some pointers to help us hold up that mirror and see where the spots are.

Before I do that, I thought I’d post an article that puts another slant on the stats and doomsday declarations that church and young people are soon to be no more, found over at the Gospel Coalition…a site that’s certainly been getting it’s fair share of hits over the last week, but we’ll leave that for another post.

Let’s hope that they’re right about this one at least…

Beware of the Over-Hyped Stat