Fall Down

Rivers and Robots are one of my favourite discoveries from last year.  I love their creative, indie-inspired approach to worship music.  Their new video is a brilliant take on the “lyric video” idea.

If you like this then you’ll be glad to know they are giving their newest album away on Come & Live!

One of the band, Jonathan, wrote a great post on creativity recently.  It’s well worth a read.

Fragile and Foolish

foolishness notegraphyI’d dearly love to be a big success.  I’d like to make a splash and be noticed,  to make an impact.  I’ve been reminded that God probably has other plans.

Recently a number of different events have reminded me how fragile,  how small and how foolish God’s projects seem.  They can be lost,  or broken, or forgotten quite easily.  They often seem to rely on people like me or like you having good days,  remembering to take responsibility,  not being afraid to state the obvious,  sound stupid or upset a few people.

I’m encouraged that when I look at the stories of Jesus, and of the exploits of his first few followers,  things seem to have been exactly the same. Weakness,  vulnerability,  foolishness were the hallmarks of God’s movement then just as now.

Perhaps we’re more in danger when we try to be sensible or sensational than when we acknowledge frailty.  Perhaps being weak and foolish,  and yet somehow being used by God is exactly what He wants us to be.

In case you are interested,  the bible verse picture was made using Notegraphy.

Keeping Going

Missional Communities Blog

IMG_20150123_110245An essential part of the journey of a disciple and a leader is the point at which they realize the vision God has called them to is impossible,  it can’t be done.   Unless we allow ourselves to go through that period of disillusionment any project we develop or community we lead will be built on optimism and charisma.

“Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”  John 12:24

Jesus’ words were pointing to his own death and resurrection, but they also reveal to us the pattern we should expect in following the vision God has given us.  As the missionary Hudson Taylor is reported to have said:

“There are three stages to every great work of God; first it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.”*

These moments of…

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Night of Prayer

We’re about to embark on another night of prayer at Kairos.  People will be gathering at different times throughout the night to worship and pray.  This is all part of our Feast Weekend, a yearly chance to celebrate what God has done this year as well as listen, discuss, and anticipate what is coming next.

I’m getting excited,  I love nights of prayer.
I like them because functionally they help move us on.  Prayer works and time praying, I am sure, will lead to breakthrough.

I like them because they echo what Christians have done for centuries,  in communities, monasteries, churches and homes,  give up sleep to spend time with Jesus.

But most of all I love them because they are fun.  The feeling when you get up in the middle of the night and are really groggy but then come into this warm, vibrant room , creative room (we do prayer nights in the 24-7 room) where others are seeking God is just brilliant.  In my experience at these times God always shows up.

So I’m getting excited.  Of course there’s also a bit of nerves and reluctance:  Will people turn up? Wouldn’t it be a better idea to stay in bed?  I’m not going to listen to those nags.  I’m going to be expectant.

As I’ve been getting the prayer room ready I’ve found myself thinking of Ps 63 a lot.
God you are my God… Earnestly I seek you… I think of you through the watches of the night…

(picture comes from R3 on tumblr)

I’ve also found myself reminded of the prayer supposedly written by Francis Drake:  Disturb Us Lord.

Both these prayers connect with a theme that God a seems to keep bringing up at Kairos right now:
“There’s more!”

Kairos people,  hope you come and have as much fun as I’m anticipating.
Come along any time between 8am and 8pm.

I’m bored

When you have the same conversation with a few different people you start to take a bit of notice. Recently I’ve had a few Groundhog Day style discussions about boredom. Friends: brilliant, faithful, trying-to-follow-Jesus people, thinking of opting out of aspects of church life because… well frankly because they are dull (apologies if you think I’m talking about you, I probably am but not just about you).

What do we do with boredom? I find myself drawn immediately to 2 conflicting directions.

Tendancy 1:  Get over it! There is a disturbing grouchy-old-man part of my character that wants to say “Your bored? Tough! Everyone is bored in church sometimes.  The rest of the world is frying your brain with sensation and communication so the effort you need to put in to connect with God in church is good for you.  Learn to deal with being bored and maybe you’ll turn out to be a better person for it. ” While I recognise some truth in this,  it probably isn’t a very helpful response.

Tendancy 2: Let me entertain you!  Initially more attractive,  but probably just as damaging is the desire to cure boredom with pizazz! Perhaps if we find the right combination better songs,  a funnier joke,  some more relevant references, a livelier delivery, then at least people won’t be bored in our church.  We can just keep the tricks coming and keep the audience engaged.

Ultimately neither approach works, because neither treat boredom as an opportunity for discipleship.  If that just sounds like a slightly repackaged version of tendancy 1 then remember the opportunity goes both ways.  If your bored in the church I’m part of then you and I probably both need to to learn and grow.

The approach to discipleship I find most helpful is about getting the right calibration of invitation and challenge. Boredom is a symptom of low invitation and low challenge (this is an idea unpacked more in the book “Building a Discipleship Culture.“)   Approaching the issue with that in mind reframes the tendencies I see in my response.  The desire to entertain,  has within it kernals of an impulse to extend invitation – to make things as attractive and welcoming as possible.  The desire to say “get over it” is challenge.

A discipleship approach to boredom extends invitation and challenge, but if it just flits between “get over it” and “let me entertain you” then it doesn’t really deal with the issue.  Both approaches assume that I am in charge and you are at the receiving end of what I do… you are the audience I’m trying to entertain or the target of my efforts to teach and train.

So to a better response to boredom: Participate!  Move from being a either a consumer or pupil towards belonging and contributing.  This approach requires aspects of invitation (to feel welcomed and like space has been made for you) and challenge (to get involved and make things better,  to stay engaged even in the bits that aren’t designed with you as the target demographic, to commit to a group for the long term).

To be honest, probably just like you, I get bored in church.  It can be dull in so many different ways, (it can also be amazing).  Learning to approach this as a discipleship issue will help churches, and people, become more effective.

Do you lead a church/small group/missional community leader.  How do you spot bored people and use invitation and challenge to help them become participants?

Are you bored in church?  What are the opportunities around you to increase your participation?

The image with this post is by Adam Jones and was found on wikipedia.

Midsummer-ish update

I remember our first summer in Deal, especially getting to the point where we had done a whole year there, being a bit of a turning point.  It feels that way again:  there is just something significant about doing a whole cycle of seasons in one place that helps me feel like I know what is happening.  It may be an illusion,  but its a nice one.  

We’ve been a year in Harrogate,  and its been a great time. A whole years worth of “what have I been up to”  would make for a very long post.  But here are a three little highlights from over the Summer so far.

Ordination as Priest

This happened on 30th June at Kairos,  it felt like a big deal.  I’ve kind of been on this journey towards becoming an anglican priest for around a decade or more.  The service itself was very significant – felt God’s presence very strongly.    Since then I’ve led one communion service,  got another couple over the weekend,  and enjoyed saying “bless you” and knowing that it’s a fully caffeinated blessing I am offering.

Ben Askew 006

I got well and truly anointed,  here is a picture of me covered in oil next to Bishop James – who ordained me.

Tour de France

A really fun weekend.  In case there are any non-yorkshire dwellers reading,  the county kind of went nuts for a weekend. We went down and watched the bikes going by and enjoyed the atmosphere.  It was really fun,  there is something really incredible about being in the middle of big crowds in the town where you live.  Good times.

2014-06-28 15.27.022014-07-05 16.42.582014-06-28 15.34.25


One of the things I’ve been doing this term is running an Alpha course that is now coming to an end. It’s been so good to work with a team and journey with a little group of people as they journey towards faith in God.  We’ve seen God do some really good things in people’s lives.   I actually used to be a little bit of an alpha cynic – mainly due to my own issues – but the more of these I’m involved in the more I love them.  Such a good, simple way of helping people explore faith. There have been some recent tweaks to the course that I think make it really compatible with a missional community setup like the one we have here.

I really like the work on promotion and publicity they’re doing too,  like this video:

Now H and I are trying to get a few jobs done before the end of the school term and slow down into some rest time over the summer.