Month: July 2014

Why I’m doing Tough Mudder

This post is gonna be a bit all over the shop, so let me give you the headline first, then try to unpack it a bit:

I am doing Tough Mudder On 16th August in order to raise much-needed support for persecuted Christians in Iraq – and I want your support!

nx_MiGVN_400x400As many of you will be aware from recent news reports, there is a militant Islamic group called ISIS who are currently unleashing hell in Iraq and Syria. Christians are being raped, beheaded and executed by ISIS (and it’s not only Christians either). Last weekend it was reported that Christians in the city of Mosul had their homes tagged by militants with the Arabic letter ‘n’ – which stands for ‘Nasrani’ – Christian). They were then given an ultimatum: convert to Islam, pay an extortionate tax…or die. Many have since fled, but the terror and misery continues for countless Christians across the region. (Please read this article to get a grasp on the scale of the crisis).

So what can be done to help?

There are people in the region who are providing aid, including Open Doors. Open Doors are an outstanding Christian ministry who work on the ground with persecuted Christians, including many of those who have been displaced in Iraq. I want to raise a load of money to assist Open Doors in their work, and I’m going to do it by doing Tough Mudder.


“So what is Tough Mudder?’ I hear you ask. Well, in a nut-shell, Tough Mudder – a 12 mile assault course that involves ice cold water, fire, electricity, tunnels, walls, heights…and LOTS of mud! It makes the bold claim of probably being the toughest event on planet earth (which is obviously ridiculous, because EVERYONE knows that getting 4 kids to church on time on a Sunday morning is the toughest event on planet earth!) However, it’s probably fair to say that for an out-of-shape 37 year old pastor with severely arthritic ankles (that I’ve just been told need surgery) – it still looks flippin’ hard:

About half a year ago the Fight Club guys talked me into signing up for Tough Mudder. However, about 3 months ago I twisted both my ankles on a training run and was unable to run for a couple of months. I saw the doctor who told me that I probably need further surgery on my ankle, so I decided to knock Tough Mudder on the head.

But then I heard about Iraq – and that changed my mind!

Despite what it might look like, I know my heart and I promise that doing Tough Mudder is not a macho thing, neither is it a mid-life crisis.


In all honesty I don’t even know if my body will hold up to the challenge, but if it raises money for my persecuted brothers and sisters in Iraq then I’m willing to give it a flippin’ good crack!!

But I need YOU to make it worth my while.

The target I have set is £1000, so please visit my JustGiving page and sponsor me if you possibly can – whether it’s £1, £10, or £1,000 – every bit will help.

Thanks and God bless you.



If I was going to plant again… (Part 1)


It’s almost 7 years since my family and I moved to Trevethin to plant Hill City Church – and it’s been a roller coaster of a ride! In many ways the church that I now lead looks very different to the church that I dreamed of as a young inexperienced, arrogant gospel ranter.

That’s not a bad thing by the way!

However, for various reasons I’ve been thinking a lot recently about leadership and church planting, not least because I am being increasingly asked about it by other pastors and church planters. And what I have concluded is this – if I was going to plant again…I would do a lot of things very differently! So I’ve decided to write a series of blog posts to expound on this further. Please know that I am not writing these posts from a place of guilt or regret – I have repented much and received much grace for the many mistakes I have made. Rather, the purpose of these posts is to share some of the hard lessons I’ve learned along the way, in the hope that it might help others to not make the same mistakes!

This series will by no means be an exhaustive list, but for what it’s worth…

if I was going to plant again…

1. I wouldn’t do it on my own!

I think the only reason that God allowed me and Michelle to start a church on our own (it was 5 months until ANYONE else joined us!) was so that I could tell others what a STUPID idea it is! If I’m being honest, I know that my motive was a dangerous combination of pride and fear. Pride – because I honestly thought I could do it alone. Fear – because I couldn’t face the thought of the church plant failing! I honestly went into the church plant with a mindset than if it was just the 2 of us, then barring death or divorce the church could only grow!

I have since come to realise that the New Testament model of church planting is missional teams, not maverick hot-heads. Jesus never sent His disciples out in anything less than pairs, and it seems that more often than not Paul was either on mission with, or in jail with at least one other brother!

God graciously didn’t allow me to blow up or die alone in the trenches, but going it alone was neither wise or godly and I definitely wouldn’t do it again!

2. I wouldn’t be the guy who does everything

As I mentioned above I recognise that pride was a real problem. In the early stages I was the guy who did everything – the stuff you’d expect a planter to do like preaching, outreach, pastoral care, writing prayer letters etc., but also most of the other stuff too – making coffee, designing leaflets, setting up bank accounts etc. This was probably partly due to the fact that I was stupid enough to start with no other help (see above!) but also because I wanted to be wanted, or perhaps more truthfully – I needed to be needed! The root of this is pride.

One of the things that I find most compelling about Jesus is that He was committed to involving others in His ministry, like the time when His disciples were flapping because they were surrounded by 5000 hungry mouths. Jesus’ response: “you give them something to eat.” (Matthew 14 v 16) Sure, Jesus did the miracle, but He didn’t need to be the guy dishing out the loaves and fishes.

If Jesus didn’t need to be the guy who does everything, neither do I!

3. I’d be far more intentional in raising up leaders from the start

For several years the thought of releasing others into leadership didn’t even cross my mind. This was partly because I wanted to be the guy who does everything (see above) but also because I merely viewed others as a being a means to fulfilling my ministry, rather than seeing my ministry as existing to empower and equip others to be all that God has called them to be. How shameful! And how different to Jesus who, within a few verses of starting His ministry, was trekking down the beach calling others to follow Him on a mission to change the world (Matthew 4 v 18-19).

We are now seven (humbling) years into the Hill City adventure, and I am privileged to lead alongside 2 fantastic elders whose skill-sets and convictions make the church’s leadership far stronger than it ever would have been with just me at the helm. Similarly there are several other men and women in the church who are simply more gifted than I am and are now involved in serving in various leadership roles. I now see how vital the task of raising up leaders really is.

We’re getting there now…but we should have got there a lot sooner!

4. I’d place a much greater emphasis on prayer

At Hill City we have recently sought to ramp up the prayer life of the church. As the man who planted Hill City I was responsible for establishing the vision and values and setting the tone for the church. If I’m being brutally honest I don’t think I dug the foundations of prayer deep enough at Hill City in the formative stages. Rather than prioritising and persevering in the anonymous and unglamorous work of prayer, I was preoccupied with doing other ministry stuff that was tangible to others and that I thought would deliver immediate results. This was a prideful, stupid mistake.

In Mark 1 v 35-39 we see Jesus getting up early to pray before a busy day of ministry. His prayer life was such that His disciples were provoked to ask Him “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11 v 1) And as He contemplated the horrors of the cross in the shadows of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed (Mark 14 v 32). Incredibly, He was even praying as they crucified Him (Luke 23 v 34). After His ascension, Jesus’ disciples gathered to pray (Acts 1 v 14). The Holy Spirit came, the church started to grow and as persecution arose – the Apostles headed straight to a prayer meeting! (Acts 4 v 23-24)

If Jesus and the early Spirit-filled church needed to pray – how much more does a flawed little valley boy trying to plant a church?!

A prayer-less church is like a Ferrari without an engine. It might look good from the outside, but it ain’t going nowhere!


These are just some of the things I would do differently.

Stay tuned for If I was going to plant again… (Part 2)

Share your self-control story…


Ladies, I’m afraid this post is exclusively for the fellas…

Brothers,  but I need your help!

Last month I put the finishing touches to the manuscript for a book that I have been working on for the last year or so. Like my previous book, this one is again aimed at men and it addresses the issue of self-control. The title is “A Man’s Greatest Challenge: how to build self-control that lasts” and it set for release by The Good Book Company in September. As you’d expect, I’m really excited about the book and am praying that it will help and encourage men of all ages in their battle for self-control.

But here’s where I need your help. My editor thinks that it would be really good if we could supplement each of the chapters with real-life testimonies of men for whom self-control is / has been an issue. (By the way, this isn’t just a book about how blokes struggle with porn – it covers ALL aspects of self-control – anger, time management, finances, technology etc.) What we are looking for is men who would be willing to write 250-300 words of frank and honest testimony about their experience from just one of seven different angles of conquering self-control.

Could that be you?


Jesus was inclusive…wasn’t He?


“Jesus was inclusive!”

Man, I hear that a lot these days, both in conversation, and also on various blogs and social media sites.

It’s usually aimed at Christians who express concern about various issues that we sincerely feel contradict scripture (the most recent being the gay marriage debate). The playing of the ‘inclusivity card’ usually goes something like this:

“Who are you to question my lifestyle or the lifestyle of others? Jesus didn’t judge people. He was totally inclusive and He loved people whoever they were! You need to be more inclusive like Jesus”

The difficulty with this phrase, of course, is that while it is true, it is not the full picture. Having heard the phrase one time too many this week I have decided to write about the claim that Jesus was inclusive, and I essentially have 2 points to make: (more…)