Backyard Missionary 10 Years On

Warning – long rambling, reflective post ahead…

Way back 10 years ago in September of 2003, after a nomadic 6 months of travelling, while waiting for our new home to be built, we finally moved house into the new estate of ‘Brighton’, where the developer’s tagline was ‘Its what a community should be.’ (Its wasn’t…)

We went there with 4 other families from our previous church to ‘start over’ – to re-imagine church and to see ourselves as missionaries in the western world. We set out with our tanks full of missionary zeal and enthusiasm, completely unaware of what the next 7 years would hold, but convinced that God had called us and that we would discover ways of being God’s people that resonated better with Australian people than what was on offer around us.

Its the ideal way to start any venture – full of conviction, enthusiasm and vision, even if we were a little short on realism… That said, there aren’t many ‘realists’ who set out to start new things as the vision and optimism has been kicked out of them by the stuff of life.

It was 6 months earlier that this blog began. It was a way of staying in touch with folks from our previous church, but in the end I don’t think any of them read it… However I rediscovered my love of writing and so things kept rolling on here.

Just two years previous I had changed roles at Lesmurdie Baptist and gone from being youth pastor to team leader. It was a significant transition both for me and for the church and in it I wanted to lead the church towards being involved in church planting. Most people liked the theory of this, but neither them nor me had counted on it being such a disruption to our lives.

You can read about the journey to Brighton and all that went with it elsewhere in this blog, but my reason for writing here is more to reflect on where we are 10 years on.

The ‘Upstream’ years were amazing years. In the scheme of things very little went to plan. At times it was humbling and even humiliating not to be able to do what I had thought I would be able to do. And yes I use the word ‘I’ intentionally because I think that was part of the problem. I think others in the team were much more content to let God do what he wanted and how he wanted, but I had some ideas and I wanted him to pull his finger out and make them work for me. He wasn’t compliant. I didn’t think much of him for that.

In short I was not the success I had thought I would have been and in the end we closed Upstream as some of the team moved away and our core crew had reduced to just a couple of families. As we closed it, we joined with Quinns Baptist, where Danelle and I took up the role of being team leaders.

The missional energy that had formed us in those 7 years was still there, but some of the passion had wilted for me. I was convinced intellectually of some things, but my heart had grown weary of toiling away for what seemed like little result. We didn’t seem to make a difference like I thought we would and I was weary from the effort it had taken. In theory mission to the west sounded great. In reality I was tired and struggling to admit it.

So we moved to leading an established church – a dysfunctional established church with two factions on a collision course. We ended up being the catalyst for that collision to take place sooner rather than later and so our entry back into established church world was everything we had dreaded. Politics and power plays were the order of the day and we quickly found ourselves wondering just what we were doing there. As much as we could discern God’s voice he seemed to be saying ‘stay there’.

Thanks God.

So we did and things have changed significantly. I love our church now and I am happy to be there, in fact I find it hard to ever envisage leaving. Who would have thought?…

But what of the ‘backyard missionary’? What of the original sense of calling that took us here? We still live in the same region and mix it up with some of the same crew, albeit in different ways.

I have questioned at times whether this blog needs a new title. I have wondered whether I am still that person who began writing it 10 years ago and the truth is I am not.

You’d hope that though wouldn’t you? If you hadn’t changed significantly in your forties then you’d be wondering ‘why not?’

When I read the title ‘backyard missionary’ now I read it with a whole different energy to what I did 10 years ago. Back then I felt I was someone who had stuff to say that needed to be heard and often my blog was a soapbox. To be fair some of that stuff did need to be both said and heard. But some of it was just pontificating in the absence of any real experience.

At times in the last few years I have had to work hard at not becoming either cynical or indifferent. When you realise that changing the world is not down to you then its tempting to cruise – to just roll along and go with the flow because you can’t really change anything anyway. I’ve felt like that at times. Helpless and hopeless are too strong words, but perplexed and disturbed fit well. The western world feels like a hard place to do Christian mission. And then I wonder if its the western world, or if it’s me?… Us?… The fact that so many of us have our priorities arse-about, and we wonder why we seem impotent.

A big reason for setting out on the journey 10 years ago was my critique of the church I was leading and its lack of missional energy. I now a lead a church that is probably less effective or intentional missionally than the one I left.

I sometimes wonder ‘what’s with that?’

In all of this my understanding of what God is asking of me has shifted. I no longer devote myself to full time Christian work. I have an ordinary job. My own business. While I didn’t set out to get here its been one of the better developments in my life. I can’t imagine ever being a full time minister again in a local church. I wonder what people do who are full time…

In this space 10 years on mission has become much more integrated and relaxed. I don’t feel the need to pursue people the way I once did. I guess that has both an upside and a downside. I want to listen more to God and the way he is leading and be less driven. I find that a hard line to walk because the other side of the line often feels like laziness.

I get the feeling who I am is probably more attractive to a person looking on than I was 10 years ago. I’m not sure what that is, but I sense it has something to do with having less of an agenda – less of a drive to convert – its less about ‘me’ maybe?

In this space I sometimes wonder if I have become one of the people I despised. If I am now the preoccupied, self obsessed middle class westerner who talks a much better game than he plays. I wish I had that same zeal and urgency that burned so strongly 10 years ago, but I don’t. And I can’t summon it up. It just feels odd. False. Wrong.

Or maybe I judged those people harshly and incorrectly. Maybe there is stuff you only learn as you get older?…

And maybe passion and vitality manifests in many different ways?…

The Survival Camp

On Friday I walked into the staffroom at Quinns College to say g’day to some of the staff and recognised an old face – ‘Mrs S’- a woman who I taught with in my second year of teaching, a brilliant teacher and a wonderful woman from whom I learnt a huge amount about teaching. It was great to see her and as we chatted she reminded me of my days teaching English at Kingsway and our infamous ‘Survival Camp’.

In my second year of teaching I somehow found myself with a year 11 English class and one of our texts was Goldings ‘Lord of the Flies’, a real classic.

I was lying in bed one night pondering what we could do to really get the kids into the story – to actually help them connect with it and get its significance… and I began to wonder…

What if we were able to dump the entire class on an island for a weekend, scatter some food around and let nature take its course?…

What if we created our own ‘Lord of the Flies’ simulation?…

What if we let them experience it rather than just read about it?…

Wouldn’t that help them get into the story far better than ‘Brodie’s Notes’?!…

Just a bit…

I didn’t sleep much that night as my mind was racing and I couldn’t wait to put it to the other staff and see who was ‘in’. My brain was buzzing with all sorts of wild ideas that would make English a little more interesting… In case you are wondering if I am joking, remember this is 20 years ago before the ‘fun police’ declared any risky experiences off limits.

I was thinking Lancelin island would be the go. We’d paddle them across on surfboards or hire a boat and we’d stay there for an entire weekend. As staff we’d have food, beds and all we needed but the students would be ‘shipwrecked’ and would have to fend for themselves…

Of course Lancelin is a bird sanctuary so we had to drop that idea straight away – but the idea still had currency. So we finished up heading up to a Tuart Forest somewhere in the Cervantes region. I don’t think I could find it again today if my life depended on it, but it was a great spot. With 20 kids, and a couple of staff we headed off to ‘do English’.

The students weren’t allowed to bring anything but the clothes they were standing in. No matches, no knives, no toilet paper… No food.

Nothing… not a cracker…

We managed to get to the Tuart Forest after a fun drive and as teachers we set off hiding fruit and veg in the forest. The deal was ‘Whatever you find you can eat… if you don’t find you don’t eat’. Or you need to learn to negotiate and ask others for help.

We did leave some matches lying around, a knife and a tarp. It was ‘finders keepers’ when it came to the stuff. Some got lucky. Others did it tough for the 2 days.

We released a couple of live chickens which were caught, killed and eaten by the students. They were promptly vomited back up the next day… I’m guessing their cleaning procedures weren’t world class. Fortunately things didn’t degenerate quite like they did in Golding’s novel, but it was a taste of what those kids experienced when they landed on the island.

The following year we did the same down at Conto’s Springs. The picture above is of the Conto’s area. We stopped the cars at the top of the cliffs and as staff we made our way down and scattered the food among the dunes. Then we let the kids go and they either ran straight thru the bush to get to the bottom – a bit of a dangerous route, or they ran the 2ks down the track to the bottom. Either way the fittest got the food and the least fit – those who were used to eating a lot – discovered that they were going to be enjoying an enforced diet.

These blokes got the lion’s share…

Anna didn’t…

Other’s managed to negotiate…

It was another successful camp, but with some real tension and conflict at times. It needed some better debriefing than I was able to do at the time, but again the kids entered the world of the novel rather than just imagining it.

There is no way in the world any school would let us run a camp like this these days. The physical dangers, psychological dangers and the risk of litigation just wouldn’t be worth the risk. Which is very sad in my opinion. The ‘fun police’ have won the day and I reckon we’re poorer for it.

Any time I see those students and we get talking about school days do you reckon they remember Survival Camp?…

School days can be pretty damn humdrum, so some wacky experiences like that make it a little more memorable and who knows maybe they even learnt something…

I know I had fun!…

Orthodoxy and heretics like Calvin?

Jarrod McKenna

Jarrod McKenna’s Wednesday’s with Gandhi:

“Today I rebel against orthodox Christianity, as I am convinced that it has distorted the message of Jesus.  He was an Asiatic whose message was delivered through many media, and when it had the backing of a Roman emperor it became an imperialist faith as it remains to this day.”

Mohandas Gandhi, (May 30, 1936) from “Mohandas Gandhi: Essential Writings” by John Dear, p. 79

I’d like to start this post not just with a quote from Gandhi, but a quote from 3 others:

Quote 1.

“Whoever shall now contend that it is unjust to put heretics and blasphemers to death will knowingly and willingly incur their very guilt.”

Quote 2.

“Anyone who can be proved to be a seditious person is an outlaw before God and the emperor; and whoever is the first to put him to death does right and well. For if a man is in open rebellion, everyone is both his judge and the executioner; just as when a fire starts, the first man who can put it out is the best man to do the job.”

Quote 3.

“If what I’m saying about the centrality of Calvary-looking love is right, we need a major paradigm shift on how we view orthodoxy – which in turn should effect who we see as the “heroes” of orthodoxy.”

If the words of this last quote were written and acted on in the 16th century the writer could expect a second baptism of the involuntary variety where you never come up for air again.  These aren’t the words of some dreadlocked, kingdom-fuelled, commune starting, dumpster diving, fringe-dwelling, freegan, (eco)activist, permaculturalist wanta-be  (but thanks for reading my posts anyway ;)) but of Charismatic-Evangelical megachurch pastor, and theologian, Dr. Gregory Boyd.

So what his problem?

Well… quote 1 and 2 were written in the 16th century.  Not by some crazed peasants fuelled by a violent feudal variety of liberation theology on some crazed apocalyptic crack (but enough about Münster). Rather from the two men that many evangelicals consider the golden boys of the Reformation:

  • Quote 1: John Calvin (after the execution of Servetus for preaching a non-Trinitarian understanding of God )
  • Quote 2: Martin Luther (in a pamphlet one historian described as “boldly encouraging the slaughter of peasants” who held agendas other than that of the Elector of Saxony)

Now Dr. Boyd and I aren’t arguing for a reactionary “they sinned so I’m going to discount their whole work”. There are too much faults in my own life to be able to even want to argue something like that (!!) and there is also too much richness in the work of these brilliant men. On that logic we also have to discount the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, John H. Yoder, Gandhi and… well… everyone except Jesus! 😉 That kind of dismissive approach shows little spiritual maturity and a lack of hard work in coming to terms with, and removing the logs from, our own eyes in our own contexts.

So from a deep desire to first remove our own logs and then assist the church in doing likewise, this recovering sinner would like to raise some questions regarding the bench marks for orthodoxy. Why is it that the litmus test for orthodoxy for many evangelicals has been frozen in the 16th century in the thought of brilliant men who never the less had theologies that made it possible to disobey Christ’s commands to put away the sword, love our neighbour and even enemies like God has loved us (ie. not drowning, beheading or burning those who disagree with us). In particular questions about the bench mark of “orthodoxy” being systems of theology which fail to preach Christ crucified in ways that keep Christ central for atonement AND discipleship.  That have found approaches to preaching Christ crucified in ways that have failed to bear fruits that look like the church refusing to crucify others!! That have failed to continue reforming to an extent that we no longer perpetuate a history of Christianity that looks like the patterns of this world and nothing like the Christ who rejects the sword and goes the way of the cross trusting only in the faithfulness and sovereignty of a God who hears the cry of those in captivity.

Pastor Boyd suggests 16th century magisterial reformer John Calvin of the “worst heresy imaginable” in killing those who were in error. Greg’s argument:

“The New Testament defines agape love by pointing us to Jesus Christ (I Jn 3:16). To love someone is treat them like Jesus has treated you — dying for you while you were yet a sinner… Now follow me: If love [not a sentimental ideal but incarnate in Jesus] is to be placed above all else, if everything else is to be considered worthless apart from love and if everything hangs on fulfilling this one law, how can we avoid the conclusion that refusing to love even our enemies is the worst heresy imaginable? To miss this all important point renders whatever other truth we may possess worthless.”  

I wonder if one of the biggest heresies in the church today is a clever trick where by we keep the centrality of the cross in our understanding of atonement yet have created systems where the cross-shaped love of Jesus is not central to how we understand issues of power, of how we get things done, how we do conflict, how we relate to enemies, our way of being in the world (ie. following Jesus or “discipleship”). And I wonder how any theological system which is blind to this can be considered fully “orthodox”. For surely right belief leads to right practice?  And maybe it’s not until we start to practice what Christ commands of us that we can start to understand our belief. For doctrines (not a popular word but important none the less) such as the Trinity aren’t just boxes to tick but profound realities of who God is to be expressed in our lives.  So it seems that not just Servetus but Calvin was also in error regarding how he understood the Trinity because it didn’t express itself in refusing to kill his enemy because of the kenotic, self giving love, love that is seen in the Holy Trinity.

I recently wrote to our blogging mate Andrew Jones (aka tall skinny kiwi) regarding discussions of the Reformation:

Mate I was thinking the reformation conversation seems very ‘Magisterial-centric’ (did I just invest a word?). I don’t understand why we let Calvin or Luther set the bar for “orthodoxy”. What about the radical wing of the reformation that insisted orthodoxy lay in the witness of the early church and were therefore willing to die but not kill for Christ? I feel embarrassed that the conversation gets so nasty. While we don’t kill our brothers and sisters today over difference (in doctrine… we might still kill them in difference of nationality if asked by our nations in war) we still don’t think loving each other means not attacking each other. Why is that? What about Jesus’ Lordship in this area? If we really think each others in error should there not be tears in prayer for one another not ‘virtual burnings’. I think the church is still in need of a savour who rejects violence, and I think we have one in Jesus. Surely these conversations can be opportunities to for the church to journey deeper in the process of sanctification, of ‘divination’ as the Orthodox have put it, in become more Christ-like. If we can’t love our sisters and brother well how are we going to love our enemies?

Today there is a direct correlation between the theology of these 16th century magisterial reformers and evangelical leaders in the U.S. like James Dobson and Don Carson who actively oppose other evangelical leaders in actions like the ‘Evangelical Climate Initiative’ to prophetically confront the biggest ecological disaster in human history.  This is the same group that reject much of the work of who I think is one of the most promising thinkers on a ‘Jesus shaped orthodoxy’, N.T. Wright. They do this on the basis that his scholarship challenges some of the ways the Magisterial Reformers have taught us to read the Bible in light of their argy-bargy in the 16th century. And while gifted communicators Mark Driscol are able to use these Reformers to critique some of the stuff that passes for Christianity today such as the “success, self help and saved by rapture” nonsense, until we can let Christ be central to our critique we will not recover the dynamic faith and faithfulness of the early church which challenges the practice of these reformers (and our) comfort with violence.

But I’m not holding Gandhi up as a theological alternative. Gandhi was far from Christian orthodoxy in his beliefs and though I think conversation with his life is incredibly fruitful for discussing the log in our eye as westerners who claim to follow Christ, I have never held him up as providing a theological framework for deepening ourselves in the biblical narrative. Yet the “orthodoxy” which Gandhi rejected I think is no orthodoxy at all. An orthodoxy with an “imperialist faith”, that plays the chaplain to the kingdoms of this world that crucified our Lord is not “orthodox’’ (lit. “Right believe”) but a dangerous heresy. (for those interested here’s a link I put to a short 2min interview with Dr. Cornel West on this subject and photos of our Peace Tree ‘commun(e)ity’ and our initial response to the recent gang killing on our streets). 

So this plea for a Jesus-shaped orthodoxy will not be found in out arguing each other but out living (out witnessing! 🙂 ) each other. We remember the only way we can deepen in orthodoxy is by prayerfully seeking to do so in a way that reflects the way of Christ, after the likeness of the mutual love of the Triune God who is fully revealed in Jesus of Nazareth. In the love we see in the cross and the power we see in the Resurrection. We must learn to engage in ways where we deepen our journey of discipleship. Where we become more aware of our own desperate need for God’s transforming grace that lead us on the exodus journey out of our own captivity to the cycles of domination that can never witness to what God has started in Jesus, the kingdom of God.

ABC’s Radio National did an interview with me and others on parts of the Reformation traditions which insisted that following Christ means living Christ-like lives where we drop our weapons that we may pick up our cross: Here’s the link if interested

and an article on the “emerging peace church movement” and an orthodoxy in keeping with the witness of the early church: click here

When God Shows Up… Final II


There was one other important thing I meant to write but forgot.

So here it is…

On a purely sociological level youth ministry is a hell of a lot easier than adult ministry. Take a bunch of young people at an impressionable stage of life, invite them into an environment of energy and vibrance, have them connect with older influential, charismatic leaders who take an interest in their lives and it isn’t that hard to see them ‘sign up’.

When you are a pastor among young people you work among a more vulnerable group and you also have some degree of power / influence over them that you don’t have to the same degree with adults. I have always said that on a purely pragmatic level that if you have a bunch of young people in a room with the right vibe, music and ambience then a complete pagan could preach an evangelistic message and get the hands in the air. Its much tougher with life hardened skeptical middle aged adults!

I remember preaching several times at LBC about how we ought to see more people coming to faith in the adult section of the church – and it was true – we were pretty lame on that front – but I had no idea how much harder it was to do mission among adults. I wish I had been kinder to the people I was preaching at because while we did need some rocking, I didn’t have any idea of life in their worlds.

Now I do. It is a completely different ball game and one that has caused me to question plenty of times whether I am really up for it.

Adults are not attracted to our funky environments and they are not so easily influenced by charismatic leaders and preachers. They don’t have the same desire to impress people in authority, and they are much more able to just walk away.

So – to all youth pastors – next time you are tempted to see your adults as abject failures on the mission front, stop a moment and remember where you are working. Remember the kind of people you work amongst.

See how you go connecting with and sharing the gospel with anyone over 30 and then when you have been a little humbled go back and say whatever you like.

I gaurantee you will speak with much more grace!

When God Shows Up… Final

There’s a certain theology that seems to say that if we can do all the right things then God will show up in powerful ways. That was the essence of what Charles Finney was on about in his book on revival. I wish it were so easy… I wish all we had to do was confess sin, get right with God and pray like crazy.

Sadly life is a little more complex than that and God a bit harder to manipulate. The further I go along the more I realise there is no formula for a ‘successful’ ministry. But still we look for one…

Its a little bit depressing for those of us who are achievement oriented to say that there is no list of ‘5 keys to seeing God work’, but I think that’s the truth. So all those ‘how to’ books we have bought over the years are worthless… No, not really, but perhaps we have been more technique and success oriented than God is. And maybe if we’re honest that’s more about us and our ‘glory’ than it is about him, or is that just me?…

After several years of exciting and vibrant youth ministry we were now on the other side of the curve. We could feel it, but the question that we couldn’t get on top of was ‘how do we get back to where we were?‘ There’s an old proverb that says ‘when your only tool is a hammer don’t be surprised if every problem starts to look like a nail.’

We had a very good ‘hammer’ and we knew how to use it, but the problem was no longer ‘a nail’. We weren’t fixing what was broken and it was disconcerting. We hadn’t been here before and none of us really knew what to do or how to cope with a decline. For a long time the youth ministry had been the flagship of the church – the area we held up as our crowning glory – but now it was struggling.

There were some very solid competent leaders in place and in many ways we had an excellent team of people in all areas, but the chemistry had changed. Its hard to describe, but if you were there you would have felt it.

One of the significant changes was that in 3 or 4 years we had all got a little older. Now that would seem obvious, but I’m not sure we paid enough attention to that fact. As we got older we began to lose the strong focus we had on high schoolers and we mellowed in musical style and service format. This zany bunch of high schoolers and teenagers were now becoming young adults. Some even got married and a few started to breed. Kids started to show up on Sunday nights – not the 13 year old variety, but the poo and spew variety. Life was shifting for all of us and I am sure that was a factor in the change.

On a personal level my dis-ease with youth ministry continued to grow and I was aware that my number was up. The ‘old north wind’ (see Chocolat) was blowing again and it was time to resign and find a new path. During the first 3 or 4 months of the year I became increasingly aware that my heart was shifting and I was having to work harder to do the things that used to be my passion. I had spoken with the youth staff and the pastoral team and around May I made the decision to give it away at the end of the year.

All I knew for sure was that my time in youth ministry at LBC was over, but I didn’t know what the future held. As I began to explore, I saw myself looking at youth ministry roles elsewhere as well as senior pastor roles. This was a huge shift for me to even be considering a non youth role. Our denominational youth worker job also came vacant at the same time and I was encouraged to apply, but it just didn’t feel right.

Alongside the changes in youth ministry, as a church we were looking for a new pastoral team leader (senior pastor). As we moved towards being a ‘Willow Creek’ style of church Garth Wootton who was the senior pastor acknowledged that while he was a brilliant pastor and teacher, he found it hard to think in terms of vision and strategy and was not that kind of a leader. He actually initiated a process of finding someone who could take his role and allow him to be free to do what he did well. There are few people around with Garthy’s humility and it was the action of a very secure man to voluntarily offer to ‘step aside’.

Over a period of 2 years we had been working towards finding that person to lead the church but without any success. Initially we had explored a re-shuffle in the current staff team, but I didn’t see myself in that role and I/we didn’t feel the other pastor was appropriate for the job either. In the middle of the year the associate pastor resigned and moved on. As a leadership team we felt this was right thing for him to do but he had made some strong connections in the youth scene and his departure also left an impact.

Around the middle of the year my name started to get seriously mentioned as a possible pastoral team leader. Up until I actually resigned it never really seemed to be a valid option to me. I felt my strength was in working with young people and I wasn’t interested in a job with big people, but now I was actually considering other possibilities, and this one seemed to be striking a chord.

It took me a while to get my head around what such a shift would even mean, but it began to stir feelings of enthusiasm in me again, partly because it was a new challenge, but also because it meant Danelle and I could stay and be with a bunch of people we really had grown to love and enjoy.

In accepting that challenge my focus changed and while I knew I needed to finish the year well with the youth my eyes had moved to a different horizon and I was in caretaker mode from around August onwards.

At this point the youth scene was stable, with around 100 Sunday night regulars, but the old energy had disappeared. Baptisms were no longer celebrated with party poppers, streamers and loud cheering, in fact I don’t think we had that many baptisms that year at all. Everyone noticed the drop in numbers, but no-one knew what to make of it.

As a youth staff we were working out some of the challenges that the future held and I seemed to be gifted at mis-communicating with one of our team in particular. Around the middle of the year Debbie resigned and went back to being a volunteer and then at the start of 2001 Melanie resigned just as the new youth pastor arrived. Greg soldiered on as a high schools worker, but he had been an integral part of the ‘good times’ and I think he felt the strain of this different period.

In 5 years we had moved from being a struggling group of young people with little sense of vision or purpose, to be being a rapidly spreading epidemic of young Christians, to what was now a well organised and structured machine with all the processes and procedures in place that are typical of such a group.

Its a familiar pattern and it seems almost every group that catalyses and grows follows this pattern. It raises the very serious question of ‘how do you organise a movement without killing it?’

One big shift that occured was a move from high involvement (probably 80% of those present serving in some way) to low involvement – maybe only 20-30% serving while others came to ‘be served’. As the value of ‘excellence’ was embraced only a few could rise to the standards that were set, hence the rest had to cheer from the sidelines. (I never liked excellence much as a value, but then mediocrity just didn’t grab me a whole heap either and it seemed we just defaulted to excellence as the standard of the era.)

Some people had burnt out, others were just weary of the same old same old while the faithful core kept plodding on, because that’s what you do… Some went to check out other churches – the kind were ‘God was really moving’, and some just continued to wander away.

Even as I write this I can sense the energy waning, the desire to end this story because it is now less than inspiring. But – and this is important – this is real life

– this is where most of life is lived and while we were blessed to see God do some whacky stuff in our community we also needed to just get on with the everyday of being faithful to the calling.

When you’ve lived on adrenalin and seen rapid fire growth it is difficult to be content with a different season of ministry where there is little to cheer about and God seems less evident..

I began writing this because I sense that most of life is extraordinarily un-extraordinary. As much as I would love to be part of another LBC like period, I am now willing to accept that whether it comes or not we are simply called to be the people of God here and now and be true to that.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about a lifetime of the ordinary. I don’t enjoy mundane, run of the millness and I do love being part of something that is igniting and spreading faster than we can contain it. I’d like to be there again, but despite all the books on the subject, I just don’t think I/we can make it happen.

I will always be grateful for those years as in my life where I was in the thick of something crazy and wild and wonderful. The last few years have helped me see that it was very little to do with me and my ‘gift of leadership’ and much more to do with just being there when ‘God showed up’. Humbling hey?

So, that’s it…

There’s much more that could be said and many people who I would love to mention as the characters and heroes of that period, but truth is it was God’s

divx wonderland

318 camera digital hp photosmart uk

doomsday dvd over the hedge divx show. It always has been and always will be – we are his assistants and sometimes its good to be reminded that the world doesn’t need us as much as we sometimes think!

This story began with me listening to Deb Hirsch sharing the story of South Melbourne and asking the question ‘Does God still do that kind of stuff today?’ The answer of course is ‘yes – he does.’ But there’s definitely no recipe and no formula that ambitious pastors can follow to generate their own revival!

Maybe one day I’ll take the time to write about how I moved from youth pastor to team leader to church planter all in the space of 14 months, but that’s definitely another story…

When God Shows Up… Part V

It was late 1999 when I first realised I was losing it.

A group of young people had made a pilgrimage to the Planetshakers conference over east and came back breathing fire. They were going to take the world… I remember a prayer meeting they held the night after they returned. I went to it somewhat awkwardly because I hadn’t gone to Planetshakers and I knew I wouldn’t be able to share their experience. After some group prayer they called me out for prayer as their leader and told me that whatever my vision was they were right behind it. They would support me 100% in whatever I chose to do and wherever I chose to lead.

That was very scary, partly due to the level of unquestioning devotion they displayed, but also because I actually had no vision. I was losing interest and losing passion for the youth scene. I couldn’t say that though, could I?… I thanked them for their prayers and wondered where it was all headed. Something was up…

In a world where vision was everything I didn’t have one. And I didn’t know how to ‘get one’. I felt like something of a fraud because now I needed to lead people and inspire them to keep going somewhere, but I didn’t know where.

That was the same year I was part of the team organising the Youth Together, a big citywide worship event. I found that a tough team to be on as I was the guy from the smallest church and somehow, while a few of the guys treated me well, (hello Bergs) I also felt the dis-interest of some of the big church players. I didn’t like being a pleb and whether it was me or them I dunno, but that’s what I felt. I was the ‘little guy’ and I didn’t like it much. (Which incidentally has shaped a lot of how I respond to so called ‘little guys’ these days.)

I remember the night of the event. After 12 months of planning and lots of $$$ I was reluctantly walking out the door and said to Danelle ‘do you reckon I should take a folding chair?…’ That was the first clue my own time in youth ministry was coming to an end!

When I got there I was offered the special front row seat and all the crap that goes with those kind of conferences. Outwardly I politely refused, but inwardly I vomited, and then spent the evening sitting right at the back of the venue chatting with Grant the youth pastor from the Forrestfield church. Neither of us really wanted to be there. As I drove home that night I was aware again that my heart was shifting.

Meanwhile back at the ranch…

That shift was showing up in the youth scene. We had systems in place, so the machine would grind on, but the heart was seeping out of it. As well as tensions in the youth leadership there were struggles in the church leadership as a whole. For a two year period from 1997-1998 we seemed to be in the perfect church, the perfect youth ladership team and the perfect pastoral team. It really felt like that. None of us were ever

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moving on. I always said that if I ever left LBC it would be to plant a church because there was simply no-where else that could come close to that community.

Somehow that seemingly perfect community came unstuck…

I didn’t realise how much it would shift a relationship when a person moved from volunteer worker to paid staff member. In appointing 3 part time youth staff there was now an accountability factor based on $$$$ that morphed our friendships somewhat. When a volunteer does a job you are often thankful for anything you get. When a staff member is employed to do a job you expect quality work – and I tend to have high expectations. So it wasn’t acceptable to cruise any more. We were doing an important job and it needed to be done well. (I still believe if you want to work in that expression of church and get paid $$ then that’s the deal.) But not everyone performed at a high standard consistently and it led to tension.

I have intentionally not singled people out any key players in our youth scene as there were many and I would hate to neglect anyone. But I will mention Debbie (not her real name) here because without her I don’t think we would have ever got to this point. While we were friends, we never became really close in that sense. The relationship was more like one I have had in the past as a coach with athletes who have been outstanding performers. There is a comaraderie that comes from the adventure we have been on together (at Forge we would call it ‘communitas’) and we definitely had that. We went thru good and bad together and formed a mutual respect and bond that was very special and valuable.

Debbie was one of the originals, one of the dis-enchanted crew who were there when we arrived, an amazingly gifted singer and a very creative thinker. I would regularly sit in meetings with her and as she would share ideas I would swallow hard and say ‘yes…’ all the time thinking ‘this is madness…’

In developing the evening service Debbie became the key leader, the point guard who ‘made things happen’. At 19 years old she carried a fair bit of responsibility and for the most part she managed it very well. However in getting the job done she sometimes walked over a few people, sometimes told people they weren’t up to scratch and sometimes found herself quite wounded from parents and young people who got mad at her because of that.

She was surprisingly resilient, regularly taking hits that would have floored people twice her age but occasionally it would all get to her and we’d spend time mopping up. Most people never saw the side of her that got wounded, but I saw it regularly and felt for her. They only ever saw her as the tough-nut worship leader who sought excellence and didn’t like incompetence.

Debbie was also the kind of person who needed to be told things bluntly if she were to really hear them. Hinting didn’t work. I liked that about her because I don’t like dancing around issues either. I remember well that song with the words ‘the windows of heaven are opening’ that repeats several times in the chorus. It was a song she used often and I think we repeated it so many times one night – 15 times? 20 times? I was about to stand up and yell ‘I think the windows are open now! Can we please sing another song!?’ Needless to say we ‘talked’ about that on Monday.

One of my fondest memories of Debbie’s audacity was on a summer’s evening when we were having an outdoors baptism. We wandered around the front of the church wondering where we would put the stage. It wasn’t an area well set up for outdoor gigs. As we surveyed the place Debbie looked up… ‘What about the roof?…’

‘The what?…’ I said.

We all laughed but she was deadly serious. ‘Yeah! Its perfect for a stage! I’ll go up and have a look.’ So Debbie climbed onto the flat roof of the church offices and jumped up and down to show us how strong it was.

Who could argue with that?

And so it was decided after much discussion (ok – maybe 30 seconds) that it was a wild idea and one we ought to pursue if only for that reason alone! So the musos, sound guys and singers all carted their gear up onto the roof and began to rehearse. The looks from passing motorists were worth the effort alone. It was another one of those crazy ‘Debbie’ ideas that leaves a fond memory and brings a smirk every time I think of it. Of course ‘PR’ who worked for Occupational Health and Safety at the time couldn’t come to church that night because what we were doing broke every rule in the book!

Debbie walked the whole journey from floundering Sunday night service to rockin party mode to this new stage where she was now an employee of this beast we had created. I not only admired her ability to pull stuff together. I admired her willingness to learn and to grow as a disciple. She

was going thru her own life struggles that she would share with me and when I called her to make a choice as to who she was going to follow – as to what she was going to give her life to – she always made the tough choices.

Debbie – if you ever read this then you know who you are, and maybe you too look back on this time with some questions or some disappointment. But they were great times too weren’t they?! Thanks for the support you always gave me and for your bold leadership that at times landed you in trouble and at times left you beaten up and wondering why people could be so nasty. As I look back I remember you as one my all time favourite people!

Its a shame that year was one of our toughest… but more about that later

(And well spotted Deano for noticing that the last post was numbered part IIII instead of part IV I guess i would have discovered eventually… maybe at Part IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII….!)

When God Shows Up… Part IIII

As 1998 went on we began to realise that for some reason we were on a roll…

The 70 or 80 Sunday night regulars at the start of the year grew to 130 by December and we had a vibe on Sunday nights that I had never experienced in church before. It was a high energy, vibrant space and the word was getting around both the local school (and other churches) that it was the place to be.

The crew who co-ordinated Sunday nights were doing an excellent job. The music was loud and raw and the atmosphere was such that if you stuffed things it up it didn’t matter a whole heap. Around this time I discovered I had a gift in script writing and we began to add dramas to our services. The young people loved them and I would often write a series of scripts so they would have to come back next week to find out ‘what happens next’.

It was the year Tabor college began their Year in the Son program and we supplied all 3 students! We started an internship program and these guys slotted into that. Suddenly this messy, chaotic youth ministry that began with a ‘let’s have a go’ attitude was exploding and we had to think about how to manage it. It was a new stage of growth.

Jeff & Mark Russell arrived in late May and hit the ground running. Mark’s flight got in at 11.00pm and after we got home I spent until 1.00am briefing him on what he was to do while in Perth. The following day he rolled up to our first all night prayer meeting – literally – all night – and one of the most memorable parts of our time at LBC. The following day we welcomed Mark & Jeff, I preached an evangelistic message and around 20 young people responded. We’d seen people respond before but there was definitely some new energy around this time.

It was incredibly exciting to be right in the thick of it. I remember Mark preaching a sermon during his stay that was entitled ‘For a time such as this’, a message that captured the mood of this wild period. He and Jeff had been sent to this church for a special time. These guys stayed and did some great work following up young people, developing new inititaives and helping some of our new Christians find their feet.

Occasionally I would feel God leading me to preach evangelistically and almost without fail a few new faces would be added to the kingdom. We baptised around 30 young people that year regularly holding baptismal parties in the church building complete with party poppers, streamers and loud raucous mates in attendance. On baptism nights it wasn’t uncommon to pack over 200 people into the building with a grand final type atmosphere pretty normal.

Around the local high school young people were sharing their faith and holding prayer meetings. These guys were going at it with all the passion and idealism of youth and it was making an impact!

As the numbers grew there was of course a need for structure and organisation to care for the new Christians. We somehow generated 30 small groups that year using anyone who was willing to lead and most young people slotted into those groups.

Other activities began to emerge. Adventure camps, misson trips and boxercise were among them. Suddenly we were more than a bunch of young people having a party. We had to become organised and efficient and we had to start putting processes in place to make sure we would keep things going. We established a ‘dream team’ of all the ‘ideas people’ who met regularly to imagine what the future could hold.

By the end of 1998 the growth was still going and we were wondering ‘where to next’? People often asked me ‘where do you think this is all headed?’ and I would tell them ‘I don’t know… I am making it up as I go. I just know that we are doing what we set out to do and there seems to be some sense of God at work that I have never encountered before’. I was going with the flow and hoping for the best!

On one level it was an amazing time as we tried to keep pace with this youth ministry that seemed to have a life of its own. However in that period of my life I was a highly driven workaholic, a trait that resulted in several conversations with Danelle essentially along the lines of ‘slow down or kiss me goodbye’. I didn’t hear her the first 3 times, but by the fourth she made it clear that if I wanted to be married to ministry then she wasn’t sticking around.

I didn’t really know how to slow down, but I did the best I could. I knew she was deadly serious and it scared me. I was out of control with work. It was the place I was getting heaps of kudos so I didn’t want to let that go. We seemed to get thru it, but I don’t remember how.

As 1999 started Jeff Russell returned for another 6 month stint and then later that year we added 3 youth staff to our team to help cope with the workload. As well as the 3 part timers we had 5 or 6 interns and a whole bunch of volunteers.

Over the first half of 1999 the evening services continued to expand and in June of that year we decided to divide the Sunday night gig in two and run a young adults service at 5.00pm and a high schoolers service at 7.30pm. The young adults was a little more laid back and the high school was a punk/grunge style of music. The high schoolers were led by a band of dedicated young guys who were great musos but who somehow seemed to lose the volume control on their amps! We told them we wanted it loud, and they obviously heard us because it was deafening. We had balloons bursting from the noise, neighbours complaining and even high schoolers walking out because they couldn’t handle it.

We had figured that if one service could handle 250 people then dividing it in two would allow for 500 young people. At our current rate of growth we were going to need the space so the two service option seemed the only way to go.

We ran those two services for 6 months before as a youth staff we stopped, looked at each other and said ‘enough!’ In making the shift we lost the vibe of the big gig and subsequently lost many of those who loved the party atmosphere. One service was casual and laid back while the other was like a rock concert on steroids. The middle ground that had been our bread and butter was no more and people didn’t know where they belonged.

One of the top values we functioned with as a youth ministry was that of taking risks. ‘If you’re not making any mistakes its probably because you’re not trying anything new’ was one of my favourite sayings, but risks didn’t always pay off. We knew this was a risk and we were happy to take it, but we paid dearly for it.

As the year ended we pulled the crew back together, but something had changed. The energy that the group had propelling it along had diminished. Some of the new Christians had ‘changed their minds’ and there was tension between some of us in leadership that added to the confused and awkward dynamic.

We had a solid core of young people, but we knew something was different. We had come to expect growth as normal and we weren’t ready for things to take a downward curve. It was disorienting and disturbing.

What were we doing wrong?

What could we do to re-ignite the energy we had?

As I look back now I can see that for a short window of time we were blessed with an incredible experience of God at work. It was one of those rare ‘spontaneous combustion seasons’ where the Holy Spirit seemed to be at work in that hills community and I’m not sure we could have stopped him if we had wanted to.

But when the music stopped and the energy dipped we felt it. We longed for those times to return, but they never did quite like that.

The next two years were a different phase again…

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When God Shows Up… Part III

I never wanted to go to the hills.

I always told people that God could call me anywhere he liked so long as it was within a 3 km distance from the ocean!

So when a phone call came from the Lesmurdie Baptist church I laughed. ‘As if! As if I would go and live in the eastern hills so far from the surf…’

Danelle didn’t laugh.

At that time we were in the middle of infertility dramas and she was mad at God – she wasn’t even sure if she was going to keep going in her faith. But she showed interest in this absurd offer and funnily enough she convinced me to take it seriously.

We met the pastoral team at the Baptist Pastor’s conference in June 1995 and felt a real synergy. Danelle had a dramatic encounter with God at that time that also blew her back towards him. We felt this was right… God knows why… But we signed off after 14 years in Scarborough, sold the house we had built 11 months previously (because we thought we were there for the long term…) and moved to Lesmurdie Baptist Church.

In July of 1995 the young people had been on a camp where a large number (8 or 9) made significant recommitments to follow Jesus. I was asked to come immediately so that the momentum of those decisions wasn’t ‘lost’. I didn’t come. I needed a rest. And funnily enough by the time I got there the ‘camp decisions’ were little more than fond memories and many of those young people were in a very different place.

When we arrived in Jan 1996 we were welcomed by everyone, young and old and I could sense that this was going to be a happy place to bed down. I also sensed that to some I was the ‘messiah’.

The first year was horrible.

I still remember the first few Sunday’s standing up to preach on a Sunday night and watching a bunch of young people walk out and stand in the foyer to chat. I asked one of the other pastors what the deal was. ‘Oh they always do that…’

What the?…

That lasted a month before I had to say something. I am a very patient man… No one had ever called these guys on their rudeness so it was my first run in with them. At after church supper one night I suggested it might be a tad rude to leave while someone was speaking and asked them to cut it out. They didn’t like it… They let me know by their silence and sullenness. But they were nice enough to do as I asked.

We spent that year running a youth group and propping up a tired evening service, while I also got around and visited every family in the youth scene. I closed down a young adults home group because I believed they should have integrated with other adults – a decision that was not smart in retrospect and we started to get an idea of who our key leaders would be.

Our fortnightly leaders training meeting was probably the best part of the whole year as we got to know Graeme and Sharon Mason well, a couple who have since become two of our closest friends. Other leaders came and went and we even got so desperate as to call for volunteers from the pulpit. Note: never do this. Never ever do this! You always get the people who should never be in youth ministry.

As the year drew to an end we had got to know the young people, but even as a an optimist I found it hard to see where it was all headed. By and large the commitment level was low and the self centredness level was high.

We had been using the YMA strategy process and applying it to our youth scene and while there wasn’t much to get excited about we did have a plan and it did make some sense.

At the start of 1997 Graeme joined our staff one day a week and we went to the WCA conference in Sydney. It was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. As I listened to Bill Hybels I developed hope that church could be more than what it was at present. I began to dream of a bunch of young people more alive than I had ever seen before and for some reason I believed that it could happen. I was inspired and I was ready to do some inspiring.

I came back with a dream of re-vamping our Sunday night gig to make it a dedicated youth service. As I shared it with a few key people it seemed to strike a chord and so we set about shifting gears and (as best we knew how) turning it into a youth space. We invited all the older people to stay home and pray for us. That ruffled a few feathers, but within a 3 or 4 months it was a crew of 30 or 40 young people trying hard to figure out what the heck this thing was supposed to be.

Our early evenings still make us laugh!

But it was the genesis of something. Young people owned it. Young people drove it and it began to gain a little impetus – not much – but a little…

We knew we had started something

but we weren’t sure quite what.

Around the middle of that second year, just as we were throwing all of our energy into generating some momentum I was called by two other churches and asked if I would like to consider joining their staff. One was our biggest Baptist church in Perth and the caller was a guy who had been my mentor asking if I would like to join him and work alongside him with a view to taking over when he moved on. Wow… I have to say it was tempting. Another was a large Baptist church in Queensland who somehow got my name.

But somehow we just knew it was wrong to pursue those options. There was absolutely no sense of God leading us and while nothing had sparked yet at LBC we knew this was where we needed to keep working. We had started building teams and started to see some excitement in the young people about what could be. We had seen some shift from self centredness to service and I began to discover that I could lead and share ‘vision’ well. The young people were buying what I was saying and they were believing in what was happening.

As the year wore on a few more people came to join us. One or two young people became Christians and the following year I pulled out of theological study to go full time with the church. We had some tough talks with some of our leaders who were walking both sides of the fence and who needed to decide who they were going to serve.

Some young people left. Some re-newed their faith. Some parents got angry that their kids left and began a cold war with me. I drew some lines in the sand and to this day I am glad that I did.

I still remember an 18 year old guy listening to me asking what the heck they were doing here on a Sunday if they weren’t interested in following Jesus. He realised that night he didn’t know and walked out of the service never to return. I admired his honesty and while I don’t see him now, we did stay in touch and I get the sense that one day he will find his way again. He was much more up front than many others and I missed him.

As 1998 began we had gained some momentum. The PMS team (PM services) were an amazing group of creative young people who were up for trying anything. In fact I often found myself listening to their ideas, swallowing hard and saying ‘ok let’s do it’ all the while thinking ‘This is crazy!’

We began to experiment with different forms of church. Honestly it was nothing very radical, but the fact that it was ‘by youth and for youth’ made all the difference. I led but let them do almost anything they wanted. Knowing they genuinely owned it was a key in getting their ‘buy in’.

By the middle of the year it was as if one night we looked around and there were 70 or 80 young people regularly attending Sunday services. We had developed two youth groups with enough leaders for each group and the ‘plan’ seemed to be working.

At the same time we were struggling in some key relationships as friends and co-leaders suffered depression and found the going tough. We bore the the brunt of their struggle and it soured what was otherwise looking promising. Our two closest friends, Graeme and Sharon were going thru some difficult times and we just couldn’t seem to connect.

In May of that year a couple of US students arrived to give us a hand for 10 weeks. It was their vacation and they came to Perth as Southern Baptist Missionaries to give their holidays to helping us in youth ministry. We were a little skeptical as the last SBC missionary we had left half way thru his term when we discovered he was doing mission by day and visiting brothels at night.

But the Russell brothers (Mark & Jeff) were a different story. As these guys landed the youth scene had started to gain steam and two of the most dynamic energetic and passionate blokes I have ever met came to lend a hand.

The planets seemed to line up and suddenly things went nuts…

When God Shows Up… Part II

For those who aren’t likely to read the whole story here’s a quick snapshot of what has prompted me to start writing this.

As I was talking with a friend the other night I said:

‘At the moment I feel like a guy who spends a lot of his life trying to start a fire with two pieces of flint. I crack the flints together and try to generate a spark that might just ignite something nearby. Most of the time I can’t even see a spark, and a fire seems like a loooong way off, but without cracking those flints I know a fire will never start. Truth is I might crack the flints for years on end and see nothing at all combust, but trois 3 the escort download if I stop with the flints then its all over anyway.’

It was an image that stuck with me because as a missionary it feels very much like what I do each day – just ‘showing up’ and doing the stuff of life that fosters relationships.

During the LBC years I did much of that same ‘flint work’, but somehow something caught fire. Something began to burn and spread, such that it was way out of my control and definitely not down to me as an amazingly gifted leader!

People would come and ask me ‘how we did it’, and I’d tell them the things we did in our youth scene by way of activity and strategy, but I would always finish the conversation by saying, ‘the simple fact is I can’t explain it. It just feels like God has shown up and is doing something around here. And its great!’

Since then I wonder if I have come to expect those ‘God encounters’ as normal, because I am always disappointed if they don’t happen. I expect some bushfires start… I expect to see the Holy Spirit at work in wild ways.

The reality I imagine, is that most of life will be spent ‘cracking the flints’, sometimes with extreme results, and sometimes with nothing visible to report.

As I heard Deb’s story and as I have reflected on my own I wonder if they are abnormal. As wonderful as it is to be in the thick of some crazy times I wonder if we are to expect that sort of stuff everywhere we go.

Honestly… I think not.

I wish that weren’t true.

The tendency once something combusts is to put it down to ‘what the church was doing right.’ (and then package it, market and flog it the way), but I am increasingly believing that the church has much less to do with what transpires and much more of it is simply attributable to the grace of God.

I am very wary of that being a cop out. It could be a reason not to work hard and diligently. But I wonder if most of life is spent just ‘cracking the flints’ and leaving the resultant fire to the Holy Spirit.

Yes – I realise you can crack flints skilfully, or you can be lousy at it, but starting a bush fire… that’s another whole deal isn’t it?…

When God Shows Up… Part I

A few weeks back at our Forge

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download it s a mad mad mad mad world intensive I was listening to Deb Hirsch tell the story of how she and her friends from the punk/gay/druggie scene were all involved in a wild move of God amongst their community.

After taking the family Bible to a stint in prison, ‘George’ the local drug dealer came out a changed man, all fired up and passionate about Jesus. He set off spreading the good news of his new faith to all in his network and as he did, God was at work radically changing these folk’s lives. It was both an hilarious and inspirational story of gutsy crazy, messy faith from people who certainly didn’t fit the churchy stereotypes of the time.

As I listened to Deb I found myself wondering… does that kind of stuff still happen today? Does God still show up in wild and wonderful ways and transform a bunch of people in such a way that there can be no doubt it was him?

And if he does is there anything we can do to make it happen? Can we set the climate? Can we create the environment?

I remember reading an old Charles Finney book entitled (something like) ‘How to Start a Revival‘ and just thinking it wasn’t quite as cut and dried as Charles made it sound…

I was reflecting on this today as I was out walking and it took me back again to my days as a youth pastor at Lesmurdie Baptist when the youth ministry expanded rapidly and young people were becoming Christians at an incredible rate. We started with 20 or 30 young people who were fairly unmotivated and seemed to attend church mostly as a social event, but within two years there were over 250 regularly involved with the Sunday night service and a heap more connected to the different aspects of the youth scene.

That little core group that I almost lost hope with, had changed dramatically in their own outlook and something had happened to spark what I can only describe as a move of God.

In many ways they were similar wild and wonderful times, but I tend to look back on those years thru a rather pessimistic lens at times – a ‘where are they now?’ lens. And while I think that’s a really important question, as I walked along the beach today I felt God getting in my face about my perspective.

He seemed to be asking ‘why do you downplay the LBC years and sometimes speak of them as less than significant?’. I sensed God asking why I don’t remember them with greater fondness, because they certainly were wonderful years with some amazing transformation occuring in all of our lives.

In many ways the LBC years (1996-2002) were my first foray into church planting as I got handed the evening service and was asked to turn it into a youth gig.

So as I was praying this morning I thought I’d take a little space on here to tell some of that story because it was definitely a time when God was at work and those were years that I should celebrate more than I do. I felt he was asking me to look back and see him at work in all that transpired.

So for as long as I feel is needed I’ll be sharing some of that story on here. I hope it doesn’t come across as self indulgent, because its not intended that way.

If you’re an old LBC’er then you might find it valuable to share this journey also. And if you were there at the time then feel free to contribute in the comments section and add to the story as appropriate. You might even want to pass the page on to others who can chip in and make sure the story gets told correctly!