Welcome! It's wonderful to see you here!

I'm a passionate writer - and therefore spend most of my time writing thriller novels. But I also live an interesting life in the nations. This blog is here for that aspect of my life - our life - I live with my wonderful wife and two daughters.

I believe in encouragement. I live for obedience. I believe in learning from our experiences, and this blog exists for both of those, and more.

So that you stay connected, getting every new update, please add your email address to receive all updates directly, or follow the RSS feed.

I was part of the leadership team in St Petersburg, Russia - which planted Hope Church in 2009.(www.hopechurchstpetersburg.com).
In March 2012 Hope Church sent my family to plant into Tallinn, the Capital of Estonia. I therefore lead this small but growing church plant team. Here is the website for Hope Tallinn (www.hopetallinn.ee)

For details on our journey here, read the series called Adventures of Faith which is linked for you on the right hand column, just below. That details our original journey to Russia and then onto Tallinn 4 years later.

Author for fiction novels - Cherry Picking (2012), The Last Prophet (2015), The Tablet (2015) and The Shadow Man (2016) are available on all major bookselling sites. Please visit: www.timheathbooks.com

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Monday, May 23, 2011

The Ten Biggest Influences in my life: Number 1....

I've been running through the top ten people to have influenced my life most (up to now!) this last week and wanted to recap here who has made the list so far;


You can click on the links above, if you haven't read them already, to see why they made an impact. The order of these nine does not really make much difference. In their own place, for the things they did in my life, they have all helped shape me into who I am today, and where I am today!

That cannot be said for the last person on this list, who is miles ahead, out of sight, on their own as the truly super number 1!

That person is Jesus Christ.

Three of the people on the list I have never met - Brother Andrew, Hudson Taylor and Jim Elliot. And the 10th placed man I was only a baby and do not even know his name.

But their impact on my life, through their prayers or stories written about them have all made an impact.

And how much more so with Jesus. An undisputed historical figure (no legitimate historian denies this), with so much written about him and quoted from him in the Bible, but being who he say's he is, that is God, He has so much impact in my life now and has always had so much impact.

Do you think it's strange that I can say Jesus still talks to us? Can God be that close? Maybe you think I'm crazy.

Well, if in other areas you think I make sense, if in other areas I'm in my right mind, you have to accept that I could be right about this one too - Jesus is who He say's he is - the one, the only God and not only did he die in my (and your!) place, he's now risen, victorious and awaiting to come back, just as the Bible say's, one day (and this day ONLY known by the Father, not by any American preachers!!!!) - and when he does come back, that will be it. No second chances, no Christians disappearing. We'll all see him - and for many, this will be the worst day of their lives. They will have realised they got it wrong. They gambled that the millions and millions of Christians around the world, the millions of Bibles, the stories of miracles - they gambled this was all somehow wrong, or not for them. Maybe they put their trust in others things or other religions. None of these things will help them on the day Jesus does return in glory. So you have been warned.

I am a rational, intelligent person - and I know the Bible is 100% true, that it's events actually all happened, and there will be a day when all that we see around us is no more. You have been warned, and if you are reading this it means you still have time - you still have a chance to ask Jesus into your heart. You still have time!

You see, Jesus has made the biggest influence in my life, not because it's what I've been taught to say, or because it seems cool, but because he ACTUALLY has made the biggest impact. I've seen God heal me - miracles happening in my body after friends have prayed in the name of Jesus and laid their hands on me. It instantly got better. Just as the Bible says. I've also prayed for others in Jesus' name and they have got better. I want to prayer for more and more, and see more get better, more healings, more miracles. But it's real.

What isn't real is thinking Jesus is anything less than the one true God, the only God - and still the only God today. Not replaced by anyone, or anything, not any less than he ever has been or ever will be. Not irrelevant and not untrue.

If that were so, you'd have made God in your own image. The Bible is clear on this one. There is nothing that's complicated about it. You just need to read it to know what it says.

Jesus impacted the lives of all the nine people I've already written about - and they impacted mine. Jesus has a plan for my life (and yours) - and it's the best adventure I've ever been on and ever will be on.

Some think that following Jesus is boring and for people that have no other option. I have options. If you know me, you'll know that to be true. I now live in Russia, in St Petersburg. I'm involved in the nations. The last few years have seen us in Spain, Egypt, Finland, Estonia, Russia, France, Ireland. This next year its looking like Estonia, Finland, Denmark, Estonia, USA, Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Sweden, Russia and England. Boring? All this is because of Jesus - and ONLY because of Jesus.

Life with Jesus is the only life I could ever have wished for. I turned my back on a multi million pound career in the London Equity market to move to Manchester and follow God's adventure in my life - I did a voluntary year that year. Yet God blessed me. God gave me all the things I was praying for, but didn't have in London. A wife, a family, a home and so much more.

You see it's those that ignore Jesus that live the lie - and also miss living life to the fall!

God has now put around me, both locally and in many nations, people I am blessed to know - Hansie, Dave, Slava & Oleg - the great team mates I have here in St Petersburg. I'm getting to know people all around the world - America, Canada, Brazil, Ireland, Northern Europe, France, Russia etc etc. Wonderful people, blessed people.

Jesus really is who he says he is and who the Bible says he is. I didn't have to have blind faith when I first accepted him - no, it's more because of the reality of it all that allows my faith in things to grow.

Jesus - you have had your hand on my life from a young age - and I love the plan you designed for me. Help me to continue to bring glory to your name. Thank you for this life - this adventure. Thank you for sending us to the nations!

If you've been reading this and you don't have this kind of relationship with Jesus, something that is living and real - something that's two way, then I urge you to pray, to talk to someone you know who loves Jesus, to find a great local church or to drop me a line and I'll get you in contact with a great local church. It'll be the best thing you ever did, and it'll take away that guilt you carry around.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for commenting. I love the fact that the nations are reading this. And I'm here for the nations, because that's what Jesus said to me. God bless you all.

The Ten Biggest Influences in my life: 2 - Jim Elliot

Like Hudson Taylor (Number 3 on the list), reading about the life, and death of Jim Elliot, 40 years before my time on earth began, had a big impact on me.

There was a time when I too thought I would die on the mission field at a young age - that changed when I met Rachel, and now I'm not as young as I was then and also know God has got other things for me. But my heart is still the same - God is God. To live is Christ, to die is gain!

Many will remember the words - "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose". Life. Jim knew this and lived it.

He would have prayed for the Auca Indians salvation - at what ever cost - and he would have meant it. His death, tragic as it was, opened up the road to salvation for many in that savage tribe, so that years later, the children of those five men murdered on the beach in the jungle could actually baptize the same people responsible for the massacre.

He was only a young man when he was killed. He left a wife and daughter. But God works all things for good for those that love him. Might there have been another way? Maybe, we don't really know. And what would Jim had said. Asked if by not dying they could still have seen a little impact made for the gospel I think he would have come back and said - "Let it be as it was. I want them all reached for the Kingdom!"

What also happened all around the world is more prayer was given for mission, more finance given and more people went. Because five men were killed.

I look forward to seeing Jim Elliot in heaven. I look forward to thanking him for the example he set. I look forward to seeing the reward he is given, the crowns and treasures for living a life that didn't shy away from anything, even death.

He is an example to us all. Our cosy, comfortable lives, our creature comforts. Our material possessions and holidays and wanting more and more, bigger and better.

In the depths of an Ecuadorian jungle, on a sandy river bank, this man bleed to death. He'd left everything to reach these lost people. He only had love and friendship to share with them. And yet they killed him. But his death made the Indians ask questions, to seek a better way of living. Ultimately it led them to the good news of the free gospel of the salvation and forgiveness of sins that Jesus made available for us. And this brings me nicely to my number 1......

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The Ten Biggest Influences in my life: 3 - Hudson Taylor

The next two people on my list are two great hero's of the faith for me. Number three has to be Hudson Taylor.

There were a few missionary books I read growing up that really captivated me, and certainly a few about Hudson were amongst them.

He was a man in a very different time to me - an English man who went to China. China then was this long lost place - his first trip took 6 months to get there by boat, and they nearly sunk before they'd even passed Ireland from their Liverpool exit.

Today, we are a 3 hour 30 minute flight from the UK - and have Skype, emails and the like to stay in touch - even when letters and packages are sent, it's something like up to a month.

Not so in Hudson's day - letters would take months to go one way - twice that if you were waiting for a reply! When he wanted to propose to his first wife who was with him in China, he had to write to her parents in England and then wait months and months for their reply. I couldn't imagine that wait!

Hudson Taylor was one of those men that got on and did it. I remember a statistic he'd use from his time that said out of every 100 people that said they'd 'go to the mission field', only 1 person ever actually made it. That challenged me. I think the stats are at least the same today.

Hudson Taylor was part of the few that first started going to China and then to the interior, and even dressing like the locals. He knew suffering and hardship, death and sorrow. He was such a man of faith.

It is because of people like Hudson Taylor that I shudder when I hear myself being referred to as a missionary. He was a missionary - I'm just a normal Christian! It is also because of people like Hudson Taylor that China today is sending thousands of missionary's out - his heart helped change a nation.

Hudson was misunderstood by those around him, even maybe looked down upon because he dared to dress un-English and make himself look like a Chinese man. I relate very much to the being misunderstood! Maybe it comes with 'our' sort of lifestyles. Maybe we do have something in common.

Quite simply Hudson Taylor is a superb role model and wonderful example of a Man of God. And for that, and his impact on my own life, I honour him.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

The Ten Biggest Influences in my life: 4 - Andy Davies

I first came across Andy at Stoneleigh 1999 - and if you've read any of the other entries today, you'll have understood that that particular week had quite an impact on my life.

Two years before Gerald Coates (No 9 on the list) had brought a prophetic word about my distant future. It had left me amazed but kind of waiting it out, looking forward to the many years time when things would 'happen'.

Andy was involved in Revive that year - working with Matthew Hosier (No 8 on the list). The encounter two years previously had clearly left a huge impact on me, so that during this week I went to the seminar that Andy was doing on the prophetic. Little was I to understand that our lives were about to be a lot more intertwined.

Not long into the ministry/open floor time at the end of Andy's seminar, he came darting over to me and said "You had a prophecy over you a couple of years ago, didn't you" - erm "Yes". It was about your future, wasn't it" - erm, "YES!" He then went onto state that while that was great and exciting, God didn't want me to wait for things to happen but get on with them now, stepping out in gifts now. Wow! The second major word of knowledge over my life. A few minutes after this I remember bringing my first prophetic word, over a girl about to move to Holland. As I started to bring it, she started crying, saying it was bringing comfort to her as she was nervous about the move.

That was the starting point of me stepping out in spiritual gifts. It was exciting and continues to surprise me every single time. I love the way God shares things! I want to keep moving in these more and more, for God's glory.

By the following Stoneleigh, I had already made one visit up to Manchester, staying with Andy for one night in Oldham as they were yet to move down to Stockport. This was in preparation to me doing the year team in Stockport from September 2000. At the Stoneleigh just before that team, Andy (OK, knowing me a little but still not fully) brought another word over me, one that now is really starting to become a reality.

You see, following the events of the year before, I went away and tried to teach myself Russian at home - and didn't do very well with it. The thought of living out my days in one nation, in Russia, didn't seem to get on with me. What Andy therefore brought in 2000 had another big impact - he simply said he saw many flags under my feet - it was nations, not only one nation! NATIONS!

At the start of this year I was reflecting on the things I know God has called me to - they come down to three things - Salvation, Russia and the nations.

The nations are really opening up (you'll have to watch this space on this one...) Andy's word, and confidence to bring that over me, was the catalyst for this knowledge I have as to what God has confirmed to me.

Moving to Stockport in Sept 2000 was a big move but was amazing to get to work with such a guy as Andy Davies. And to be around people like Colin Baron (No 5 on the list) was also a great learning experience. I am a better man for having made that move - it was also God's plan for me, so that helped!

My earliest memory of that year, and summed up the year for me really, was when Andy said we were going to be launching a daytime home group 'together' for a number of elderly people in the church. Great I thought. I planned it and the Wednesday came. Andy couldn't make the first one, so I went and did it on my own. The next week he was also unavailable....I don't think I bothered to check with him by the third week, I'd got it....I was to lead it on my own.....Doing the year team with Andy, in Stockport, meant I got to do loads of stuff. It was a great learning experience.

When Andy married me & Rachel in the September 2001 I had not quite known him a year, but already there was this amazing connection. I still remember fondly Andy telling me he used to pray for me as his son. That meant the world. And for that, I honour you.

When he moved to Cardiff it was personally a very hard move. We wondered if we were to be in Cardiff too, but the connection was more relational than geographical.

Andy is one of those people that if you spend 5 minutes with, suddenly everything is possible! I love talking with Andy!!

What makes me laugh was his 3 year plans.....I must have been on one of his various three year plans for about the 6 years we were together in Stockport for....but that too is great!

Andy is full of energy. There is never a situation he doesn't give himself too, and yet has a wonderful family with five children. His energy is amazing!

I was deeply moved when Andy said that during his recovery from a serious illness he'd had a few years back as a result of a car crash he'd had some years before, he'd written a list of people he'd like to work with - and had written my name. I don't know how that list looks today, but he's on my list as well. And with what is about to happen over the next few years, with the nations opening up, I couldn't think of anyone better than Andy to get involved in things. So I guess I'll just have to see what happens from our conversations in the future.

But Andy, I write this to honour you and not to embarrass you. You are a great role model and the guys in Cardiff, in Wales, in the UK are blessed to have you with them, as well as those nations you already work into.

You are a great guy (maybe not the best written communicator in the world but you make up for that a thousand times when we meet face to face, which ultimately, is the best form of communication anyway!!) May God bless you richly and your wonderful family my friend.

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The Ten Biggest Influences in my life: 5 - Colin Baron

I first properly came across Colin Baron once I'd moved to Manchester - which was through God saying Russia, via Manchester to me in a vision at Stoneleigh 1999.

Colin was 'Mr Manchester' back then - he lived and oozed the vision of 20 churches in England's 3rd city.

Back then, all the churches shared a common office, and being on the year team, I too had a desk there. So it was here that I got to see the man behind the curtain, so to speak. And what I saw was very impressive.

This was a man who had international responsibilities. This was a platform speaker, and yet this was a man that got on with things, getting his hands dirty.

Two particular things stand out for me. Once, there was something that needed to be done under the floor at the office building. The floor was a raised floor so it was possible to get down and go under the floor. I think that a cable needed to be put under the floor for some reason. Somehow it was me and Colin that were there to do this. Here was Colin - International Speaker and Apostle - here was me, young year-teamer. But it was Colin who went ahead and got down there, doing what needed to be done. I remember him saying next time it could be me, but (thankfully) there wasn't a next time! But I remember that. I respect that! And I think that has rubbed off on me as well a little.

A second story I remember was a car journey from Manchester to Swindon, where I was driving Colin down for a meeting with some leaders there. It gave me time with Colin, and he also needed to get down there. It was on this journey, in the February of that year team (it ran from Sept-July) that Colin started asking if there was a lady in my life - and I shared about Rachel, another girl on the year team (and now my wife of nearly ten years!) but stated that we couldn't get together on the year because of the rule - to which he replied "What rule?".

Long story short, and having understood that in our situation it was a godly relationship, we were able to get engaged a month later, while still on the year project, and then were married just 6 months after this conversation in the car.

So that too was quite a conversation!

We have got to know Colin a lot more since, able to call him one of our good friends in Manchester. I chatted with Colin a bit ahead of coming to Russia - he has also visited probably at least three times since we were here within his role with New Frontiers. Back then, Colin said he'd be the hardest person to talk to me - as it proved....one particular lunchtime when we seemed to hit loggerheads and he said he wasn't able to help me because of the way I was talking. He helped me change - though I can say everything I said actually happened as well, so we were both right! I needed to allow people to speak into my vision (which is what Colin was training me - and I've certainly had conversations with others since, like Colin did with me then!), but also remember that the vision God has given me I am not to compromise, because what God promises, He will do.

So Colin - you have been influential and will continue to be. You are one of those guys that it's good to be around. You ask the things others don't, and see things the way others don't. And for that, I honour you!

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The Ten Biggest Influences in my life: 6 - Brother Andrew

This is the first of my hero's that I've never actually met - but their life, their story, their faith has shaped my own so very much and has influenced the way I approach situations, and especially the way I've lived my life.

I make reading the book God's Smuggler annual reading - so relevant for our lives here in Russia, where without the faith for finance, we couldn't live at all.

Brother Andrew was a Dutchman, growing up during the Second World War in a small, poor dutch village. Later he was a man who took Bibles into countries behind the 'Iron Curtain' - countries closed off to the West, and especially to Christianity. He would hide the Bibles in different places, but then trusted God to hid them for him and open boxes on the car seats were not spotted at the check points. He also drove around a VW Beetle that lasted for many more tens of thousands of miles than it should have done.

He believed in the Royal Way - God's way for providing everything that you needed for your journey. He made a point of never asking any church for anything - and would often refuse the request to take an offering, stating that if they were stirred by God after the meeting, they would find a way to get the money to him.

He was a man of great faith. I would love to move more in the faith displayed by this great hero of mine - Brother Andrew. I honour you for your life of service, hardwork, but most of all - faith.

If you've not read the book God's Smuggler - I hugely recommend it (we lent out our copy and don't know where it has gone...!)

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The Ten Biggest Influences in my life: 7 - David Devenish

I wonder if in time David will move up the list as I get more and more influenced by his life, his witness and his input that I'm exposed to by being in Russia.

But this man up to now has already had a great impact - not only here on the ground in Russia, where he lived for a few months in our first year and has also visited many times since, speaking to large crowds or just a few of us, but he was also influential in my earlier days too - and especially when I first encountered him properly, which was at that Stoneleigh Bible Week I made reference to from 1999 in my last entry.

Not only had he preached the greatest most powerful preach I remember (Ezekiel 37 - Valley of Dry Bones - if you were there, you'll know what I mean!), it was also in response to the things he said that I went forward, moved by the thought of the nations, but not knowing what that meant - and then, ever so powerfully and clearly, God gave me that vision of the map of Russia which brought me here...in the end. He got me thinking about the nations. He stirred me. And his prophetic gift inspired me to press through, to step out myself and to have a go. This was also especially true after this week following a word from another huge influencer in my life, who is yet to appear on this list...but will soon.

So David has had an impact & influence on my life. I love his hunger to keep going, to reach nations and plant churches. It's infectious! But for his involvement in that week, and since, maybe my life would be rather different now. So for that, I honour you!

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The Ten Biggest Influences in my life: 8 - Matthew Hosier

Matt Hosier, as he was to me then, was one of my leaders at Sidcup Community Church (as it also was then!) as well as part of the team that led Revive at Stoneleigh Bible Week (as it used to be......but is also no more).

Stoneleigh 1999 had been a very big week for me. It had been my first Stoneleigh and that week probably had seen the biggest impact any week has ever had in my life. It also first put me in contact with two other Top Tenner's, yet to feature in this list.

After all that happened then, I returned to Sidcup, working in London as I did then, but talking things through with this then much younger guy called Matt. I shared what had happened that week. I shared how God had called me to Russia (and 11 years on, I am typing this in St Petersburg, having nearly been here for 3 years already!). I also shared how God had first said I should go to Manchester and do something called the Frontier Year Project (as it was then!!!)

I think it was clear I was going to do the Year Project, but maybe doing it at Sidcup seemed easier for me. But Matt knew a guy, part of the team at Revive named Andy Davies (I think he now also is officially an Andrew, though will always remain an Andy to me!!). Andy was just moving within Manchester to another part, in Stockport.

And so the connection was made with me and Manchester, and a year later, off I went.

I think I was only a part of Sidcup church for about a year and eight months, and didn't have loads of contact with Matt. But that helping me in the right direction, being that important part of the puzzle that got me to where I am sitting today, which itself is just the first step in a much bigger plan (watch this space!) means that Matt had a significant influence in my life, and for that, I honour you!

And I'll call you Matthew if you'd prefer, from now on....lol...

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The Ten Biggest Influences in my life: 9 - Gerald Coates

I've only actually been in one meeting where Gerald Coates was speaking, and of that, there was only about a four minute prayer that personally connected the two of us, but for what it opened up and how it made me more aware of the gifts of the Spirit, it means it's had an impact on my life.

I was 17 years old and at a large meeting in Bromley, Kent. It was 1997. Up to this point, I had been very aware of some of the gifts of the Spirit - I spoke in tongues, that was normal, as I'd grown up as a young child aware of this gift. I'm sure I was aware of the other gifts, but I don't think I was particular switched onto them. That all changed this night.

At the end of the meeting a great crowd of us went forward to receive prayer, maybe to respond to something. I can't really remember, but I was at the front somewhere, maybe about 6 rows of people back....it was a BIG crowd!

Gerald then brought two personal prophecies that night over the people standing in front of him - and one of those was over me! He said a few things about my life then - this got my attention "Hey, this guy knows what he's talking about as he's speaking right now to my heart!"  And then he opened up some quite amazing stuff for the future (it's still just in the future....but just a couple of years left now....!), and overcome by the presence and reality of God in the situation, I feel down (someone caught me, thank God!!).

What it did was this.....suddenly I realised that God was interested in me personally and had things that I would do - a personal, individual calling. I know I loved God before then, I know I totally believed in him, but it was only after this night that I started to realise that I too could move in Spiritual gifts.

These would only start to flow in a little while though. Excited by what would happen in my future, I went away, waiting for that day that I too would start moving in the things of God like I had just seen Gerald do....that was until another encounter two years later with another Top Tenner....but that's to come later.....

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The Ten Biggest Influences in my life: 10

I felt the other day it would be great to put down a few short entries looking at the ten people to have impacted & influenced my life (so far!) the most. The order isn't particularly important early on, and I have deliberately decided to leave out family members & my wife - it goes without saying guys and girls that you have all had a great impact on me - shaping my character, knocking off the rough edges etc. Thanks!

I've also not had space to put in youth group leaders and the such - great people, very involved in my teenage years, which are formative times. Thank you guys too!
So, lets start with my first one - someone I don't know the name of, but you will see why soon.

Number 10: That Pastor who laid his hands on me as a baby

I know this story via my mum. There was something about me as a baby, I think I kept myself to myself, happy with my own company (sounds familiar, actually!). A little worried about this, she asked someone to pray for me - he laid his hands on me and blessed me, praying about my life. Recently I've been reminded of that. The power of those prayers over the life of a little baby. My wife is taking teams to a city hospital here in St Petersburg, where children are placed, having been removed from unsuitable homes, before being sent onto Orphanges. They pray for the children there too.

What this man prayed I do not know. The results of his prayer, I know only too well! It's as if from my very youth I had been placed in the care of the Almighty. I grew in Him from a young age, was around four and a half when I asked Jesus into my heart and have never looked back! Life has been full of adventures. Yes, hard times too - everyone has hard times, it's just I have a solid rock to run too when things get hard, so that my existence is never in doubt.

So I thank that man, and that little prayer. God honoured it and has kept honouring it ever since - I pray He never stops honouring it!

I feel blessed to have seen the things God has done since in my life....I know there is more, so much more, to come.....but much of this, if only in origin, I'm sure can be traced back to the prayers of one man over the life of a little baby boy. So for that, I honour you! Thank you, where-ever and who-ever you may be.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Luck, good fortune, or God's exact plan for you?

Recently a friend of mine was asked - "Is it God's anointing on you or are you just in the right place at the right time?"

It made me think at why it was asked? This friend is seeing God do a lot through him.

I think it was asked in good faith, with no ill intent, but for me it comes over as rather un-encouraging of ones personal calling and more based on luck - 'it could have been anyone - you were just the one there at the moment God started to do things'.

But is that actually true?

Lets take your favourite sports match (team sports here, sorry!) If you've watched it a while, like I have with football, you would have seen many times the following scenarios. The team attacks, get to a great position with great movement, and then either the goal is a very easy tap in across the line, or a player (not the star striker) misses a great chance. In the first scenario, it's often said "Anyone could have scored that goal!" and in the second scenario there is usually some comment about another player on the same team, that had THEY had that chance they would have done better.

Now this is how I see it - in the scenario with the miss, even with the goal, it didn't start at the end, the final kick. The player had run and got themselves into position. If a player then missed and it's said his team mate would have scored, the truth is that same team-mate was on the pitch as well, seeing the same build up in play, and yet WASN'T in the place where the goal could be scored - the other player was. They'd all had the same input, they'd all seen the same things, one reacted to get themselves into position, the other didn't. The same is very clear with the goal - the tap in that 'anyone' could have scored. The brilliance of the player reading the game, getting themselves into such a position, avoiding their markers which usually are very physical - all this is forgotten - it's as if the player really was just in the right place at the right time.

I think you get the point.

Situations happening in our lives, with people reacting, getting involved and conversations taking place, don't just start the moment we get there.....there is all the leading of God to get you there that we forget.

So when things just seem to happen, like with my friend in another country, his moving, learning language, spending hours in relationships, investing his life into others, growing his children in another culture. That didn't just happen. It's not that when something incredible happens now it could possible be down to luck. God worked years ago to bring about all that was happening.

Right place at the right time? No chance! God's plan is far bigger than we could ever imagine. And that goes for you too!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Team - What does it mean to you?

Team is one of those words that everyone knows, and many would say they understand, but in reality I think much fewer actually have a genuine understanding of what team is and maybe less totally live it. And when that same attitude comes into the church, it's something we need to start looking at.

The world at large thinks it understands team - in sport, you have a 'team player' or you get a 'superstar' who is able to do it on their own. They imply that it you have to settle for a team player, then great - but if you can get a super star, then that's better.

That doesn't work, of course! I've always said give me eleven (players in a football team) team players over 11 superstars and the team players would win every time. Why is this? Because no one can do it on their own, and no one was ever meant to. In the football world, you only have to look at the difference between Real Madrid ('superstars') and Barcelona (Team players) - it's Barcelona who play the best football - AND win the most at the moment as well.

But I'm not here to talk about football - forgive me - I'm talking about team.

I believe in team. I love team. And praise God I am part of a great team here in St Petersburg as well. I feel that I also live team. My decisions, motivations, thoughts are all working in my mindset that its team first then the individual.

Sadly not all think that way - and just so slightly too in the church. Most of it goes unnoticed but recently I've seen it there, under the surface, wrapped up in other nice sounding words but all the while the message is the same - I want to talk (ONLY) with the main guy!

Many churches & leaders talk in terms of number 1's or number 2's. "He's a great leader, he'll make a great number 2 but I don't think he has it in him to be a number 1".

Accurate, maybe helpful, but ultimately, in my opinion, not the language of team!

The world of sports use number orders - 1st place, number 1 on the team sheet etc. The world of politics uses the same - Britain's number 1 etc. Music & media use this language. But should the church? Should those made equal in God's sight, given different roles, yes, but joined together not by role or calling but in love, as a family, together working for the glory of God.

We can also sometimes talk in a way that makes us sound like we believe in team. This is a true story of a conversation I had last week when a couple from England were visiting the church. They were mature Christians from a good church. He asked me "So who leads the church?" to which I replied "A team leads the church" - this is 100% accurate, it's how we talk, it's Biblical and it's right. His reply surprised me - in a very quick, automatic response he asked "Yes, OK, so who is the Executive Pastor?". About ten seconds after that he didn't talk to me again once I answered him in the way he wanted to hear - off he went to talk to the number 1.

He used the phrase executive pastor in such a way that stated - "Yes, yes, I get it, we are 'talking' team - but what I really want to know is who REALLY is the leader". It was disappointing to hear coming from someone I hoped would know better.

So what do I believe then?

I believe in the gifts as seen in the Bible - and especially in Ephesians 4 - some to be Apostles, some Prophets, then Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers. I believe in a difference of role, an honouring of one another in team, and belief that your team members will go further than you - a collective togetherness that understands you are family, God's team in place in the local church or region, helping one another, loving one another, lifting one another up above yourself. I believe in working to each others gifts. In a clear team with everyone's heart for one another, this is very easy to do. I don't believe we are all the same (which is why team is key!) nor should we all do the same or think the same. I think that within this team that works, that thrives, that extends God's Kingdom, we can even then talk in terms of Executives or even Team Leaders, because we all understand where we are coming from - it's a description of the roles, and honouring of giftings - it is not an elevation of one over another.

And this is where I see the problem outside, and why I am writing so strongly against it now. Because when we act like the world does, and talk like they do, we don't honour team, we actually do the opposite. Yes, the Number 1 may feel flattered for a while that he is being singled out, but then where is he - if his team are being squashed down, if his fellow soldiers aren't there for him, God's church, His bride, isn't going to go very far.

Last week made me look down the years - to a time when I have a team around me, where I am leading the team. And when I see such people coming and wanting just to talk to me, people who say they believe in team but their actions confirm they don't, then I saw myself saying the following. "You want to know me? Then get to know my team first!" I wonder what reaction I will get. It doesn't really matter. The team God puts around me will be an amazing team, and I'll want them to feel lifted up all the time. It's the language I want to talk in. Yes, I believe in roles and gifting and anointing. But I believe in team first, because if the team is right, then all those things will only be used all the more for the glory of God and the extension of His Kingdom - which at the end of the day, is what I'm here for. Not the pleasing of man but the Glory of God!

If you are interested in the nations and like the sound of this future team - then get in touch with me and we can start talking. It might be the most amazing thing you ever do....