Sunday, November 22, 2009

Martin Smith interview

Just posted the second part of my interview with Martin Smith on Everything Christian. I realy enjoyed it - he has some interesting things to say about worshipping in front of thousands of people, consumerism and the value of worship:

When we worship God we find out who we are. You find yourself looking in a mirror on a regular basis, “Is this the person I am? I need to change this. I need a redesign. I need salvation. I need forgiveness.” Worshipping God is amazing because you connect with someone extraordinary, someone eternal and you see yourself in that light.

Click here.

Part 1 is also available here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Atheist Billboard kids: “children of Christians”

Ruth Gledhill, religious correspondent at the Times offered a humourous take on the latest advertising campaign by the British Humanist Society, and fronted by scientist-turned-atheist-campaigner Richard Dawkins. It turns out that the children featured in the advert were children of a former drummer for worship leader Noel Richards and attend a Newfrontiers church. The BHA were rattled enough to issue a response here.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Arrogance, Ignorance, Greed


Tonight my wife and I are looking forward to seeing Show of Hands playing here in Shrewsbury. Beforehand I am interviewing them for Everything Folk.

The title track of their lates album is getting a lot of press attention and airplay, Arrogance, Ignorance, Greed (AIG) - a broadside at bankers and politicians with lines such as:
At every trough you stop to feed
With your arrogance, your ignorance and greed

Here is the video




Thursday, November 12, 2009

Everything Christian

I know I only announced a new blog yesterday, but this one is much more personal. Below is the actual press release:

Press Release


Launch of new Christian news and opinion portal, Everything Christian.


Today marked the formal launch of a new national web portal for Christian news and opinion, www.everythingchristian.co.uk. The new site will include the latest news from the UK and around the world, plus inspiring devotions and opinion from many of those at the cutting edge of ministry in the UK and beyond. The site aims to embrace the hallmarks of the culture change in the last few years, and collaboration and community will be central to the future of the project, including the opportunity for user-generated content.


The site is edited by Ian Matthews, who has worked for more than a decade in Christian publishing. He said, "The way we interact, communicate, debate and inform each other has changed beyond measure over the course of this decade. Our aim at Everything Christian is to be a place where both the content and the way of communicating reflects the church and the culture in which we find ourselves." He continued, "I am excited to be launching the site with a two-part interview with the former Delirious? front-man Martin Smith in which he looks at his time with Delirious, his passion for worship and social justice, and just what the future might hold. In addition, we have a wide range of devotionals, opinion pieces and other inspiring articles planned for the coming days and weeks, as well as regular news and product reviews. We will be launching specific sections devoted to subjects such as politics, mission, church in the community and worship - and starting this section with a series of articles on worship from around the globe written by Carrie Tedder from Worship Planet, a regular worship band at Spring Harvest. We also have an excellent article from Gerard Kelly on Twitter as a spiritual discipline coming in the next week."


As Everything Christian is encouraging an open approach to content, it is not only welcoming news releases, products and other information for inclusion, but is also encouraging readers to submit articles and news items for inclusion. All items concerning news or reviews should be emailed to news@everythingchristian.co.uk; for any features or to submit an article please email features@everythingchristian.co.uk. The editor can be contact on ian@everythingchristian.co.uk.


It would be really appreciated if you could pass this on to let others know, and if you have any ideas for content, do please let me know!


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Steve Chalke's Apprentice Tour

A bit of an advert here really, but I am managing a tour by Steve Chalke that starts tomorrow in London based on the 2009 Spring Harvest theme and the book that Zondervan released called Apprentice: Walking the way of Christ, with Diane Louise Jordan and Cathy Burton.

Anyway - a blog has been set up for it at www.apprenticetour.blogspot.com, so please do take a look. Should have stuff from Steve, Cathy and other people appearing over the next few weeks.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Eden and the high street

On-line retailer Eden recently launched an ambitious and audacious offer, giving Christians around the UK the chance to give £3 vouchers to all their friends. I cannot find a link to it, as it was an email offer to their customers. When I read it my initial thought was 'wow ... good move - great marketing'. Perhaps because I do not own or manage a Christian bookshop I didn't have the same reaction as Phil Groome, manager of LST bookshop and Christian bookshop uber-blogger who said,

Eden.co.uk threw down a gauntlet to the rest of the Christian book trade by claiming that their customers were more interested in range, availability and convenience than price. Their latest marketing ploy seems to mark something of a U-turn in attitude: a £15,000 gift voucher giveaway to church leaders to “encourage [their congregations] to read and/or share more Christian literature, music or resources.”



I think Phil is mistaken in seeing this as a U-turn. Customers may be more interested in things other than price, but price is still a good revenue driver - especially a voucher (which has a psychological impact that regular discounting doesn't). Gareth Mullholland, owner of Eden, isn't saying that price doesn't matter, but that Eden has a USP that is more than just that. Clearly, price is part of the mix.

Phil's main response, though, is good:

It’s a great idea that could certainly generate significant sales for Eden, but will do little to help generate footfall in local Christian bookshops — unless we rise to the challenge as I have done at LST: We will accept Eden’s £3 Gift Vouchers.


Well done - that is the response. I think the attitude I have come across with some Christian retailers, where they see a particular town as if it is their 'right' to be the high street witness there is outdated, wrong-headed and fails to take account of a changing culture in which we live. A Christian bookshop, which is a just a shop, is NOT a witness on the high street, it is a shop that most non-churched people will never go in. You do get the odd great testimony, but the occasional encounter does not justify the cost, expense and effort involved in keeping a shop on the high street.

It can work, and work well if the sub-conscious expectations on people today are taken into account. Rather than assuming that people, and churches, will come to you out of some sense of geographical duty, the shop that will thrive is one that understands that relationships, networks, peer-reviews and community drive successful ventures today. For example:

  • The obvious - a coffee chop. A good one with proper coffee (with the various types, sizes, syrups etc), sweet snacks - perhaps sandwiches from the local deli?
  • Customer reviews and ratings on the shelves, and in the email shots to customers
  • Reader reviews and sample copies on the coffee tables
  • A web site that is as much a blog as it is a retail site - let people say what they want
  • Suggestions on products to order, books missed etc
  • Find out why books failed - ask the customers
  • Vouchers in the local church newsletters (perhaps tied to the preaching series?)
  • Weekly top-10 voted books
  • Customer feedback forms (5 questions rated 1 - 10 that can be filled in in 2 minutes and put in a box) to find out if customer service, product range, in-store layout all work


If my calculations are correct I reckon that Eden are making an average of about £1 on every book they sell through this promotion. There is nothing stopping a Christian bookshop taking vouchers for their shop along to every church in their area and putting the vouchers in the hands of the members - the personal touch will have even more impact!

I think Eden have every right to take every opportunity they can to bring customers to their website, and good luck to them - there are about 3.5 million regular church-goers in the UK with only a fraction going into their local bookshop. They are not responsible for the decline in Christian bookshops, the problems run far deeper than that.

In the future I think that Christian bookshops will be either community destinations where people WANT to come to (they won't come for long if it is seen as a duty), or more closely supported by or located in larger churches (and you could have three or four of these in a large city each serving a different constituency). Anything that falls in-between won't last, and perhaps, doesn't deserve to.



Saturday, September 05, 2009

Blogging - why I do it (or don't a lot of the time)

I started this blog almost 5 years ago now (October 2004), and have had periods of activity and many months of inactivity. Part of my problem is that I have never seen this as a priority, and when life gets busy out goes the blogging. However, I have made some good friends and met (virtually) some really interesting people.

I generally only get 30 -40 unique visitors a week on this site (with the post below removed from the stats) - mainly because I haven't worked hard at getting external links and building traffic. However, one post of mine bucks this trend completely, even though it is now 2 years old, Porn Stars, Womanhood and the wallpaper of our lives. I probably get 15 - 20 hits a day on this one post, mainly referred from Google searches for pornography (including some deeply disturbing and very illegal searches). Hopefully it will make an occasionally visitor stop and think.

Earlier this year I started a political blog, The Digger, but have stopped for now after finding the whole political blogging environment utterly negative and disheartening. Maybe I'll have more stomach for it soon.

My latest venture is Everything Folk, a news and reviews site for another passion of mine, roots and folk music. I decided to do this one differently, and wanted to learn more about the technical side of blogging, so I am hosting this one with Wordpress and am now going about the process of learning to use this incredibly flexible piece of software. I started it as I saw a gap - there wasn't really a blog about the current growth of interest in this area (outside of BBC and Guardian sites which are updated every week or so). We'll see how it goes, but please do go and pay it a visit - you may see something you actually quite like!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

New Wine - personal reflections

Having survived a six-hour car journey (with an hour in a traffic jam in a service station!), waterlogged camping ground on arrival, rain, digging, mud, mouldy clothes, and 10,000 Christians packed onto the Bath and West Showground, Team Matthews is finally safe and sound in Shrewsbury after a week at New Wine.

For those who don't know, New Wine is (or was - see below) a network for church leaders keen to balance 'word and spirit', and who want to transform their churches and their local communities "by the power of the Spirit". Since the 1980's they have also ran a conference during the summer with worship and teaching. The movement's roots go back to the early collaboration between John Wimber and Anglican minister David Pytches (now Bishop).

Overall Impression

This was the first time I had gone to New Wine, and apart from a couple of Spring Harvests for work, the first 'bible week' since Stoneleigh in 2001 - where it rained all week and we camped with a 3 year old and a 10 week old!! So off we set with Caravan, Awning, food for 4 days and a GPS unit.

We were heading down a day early on the Saturday, and following six hours on the road with a grumpy 3 year old, including the service station above and an hour stuck in Bristol, we finally arrived after a day full of rain to be greeted with a waterlogged and muddy campsite. I think Mrs M was ready to go home right then, especially when we were told to camp "wherever we could find a dry bit". Located our church group in the chaos created by lack of supervision, found what looked like a level bit of ground that wasn't just mud and proceeded to set things up. New Vicar turned up at the same time, with a trailer tent they had been 'blessed' with and myself, Vicar, his wife and fellow church-member Martin spent the next two hours trying to make sense of a 20-year old collection of bent poles, chipboard and leaking canvas. They felt so blessed by that gift!!!!

Woke up Sunday morning and then watched about a million cars create the perfect water drain direct to our campsite (at the bottom of the hill) as they drove through our bit to get to their areas AT THE TOP OF HILL. You can guess what happened later in the week.

What happened?

For the main morning and evening sessions there were two option. 'Venue 1' - the larger marquee (about 5,000 at my guess) - which had what could be called 'mainstream' worship mainly by the Trinity Cheltenham team led by Neil Bennets (although David Ruis also did some sessions) and 'Venue 2' which was supposed to be the more contemporary venue. This was pretty much given over to Trent Vineyard and was hosted by them and 'Trent' led all the worship. It wasn't so much more contemporary and a bit louder and with a tighter band doing more of their own material. Still - it was very good!

Opening session in Venue 2 (my choice that night) was an absolutely storming sermon by Simon Ponsonby, Pastor of Theology at St Aldates, Oxford (an old church of mine in David McInnes days). Based on 1 Chronicles 12, he argues that that the church is in a war and should be living like that - engaging in acts that push forward the kingdom of God - His justice, peace and love. Obviously he emphasised the spiritual aspect of this, but it was a masterclass in preaching, taking scripture, contemporary issues facing the church and popular culture (nice bit of post-modern intertextual criticism with Lord of the Rings). If you want a great book on Revelation and the end-times that debunks a lot of the silly 'left behind' stuff, and takes seriously resurrection on a new earth then I would recommend his And The Lamb Wins.

The morning sessions were more bible study focused, with just a short time of worship. Mrs M and I put our youngest into his group and attended the 'Venue 1' series working through Proverbs, called 'Everything Your Parents Should Have Told You (but probably didn't)' by Ohio Vineyard pastor and Jewish convert Rich Nathan. It was excellent - simple biblical insight on wisdom, children, sex, money etc. I only went to one other evening session as we were sharing kiddie duty, and this was also by Rich Nathan.

There was a whole range of seminars to choose form, with leadership, mission, spirituality, relationships and worship 'tracks'. I chose a series by David Mitchell (not of Mitchell and Webb fame I was sad to discover!) from Woodlands church in Bristol. He, along with his family and 23 other people live in a big house in a residential community, and I was really hoping to get to grips with what they were doing, how it worked (and didn't), and to be inspired to get serious about these issues myself. Sad it was all a bit rambling and disorganised - my seminar companion from church and myself left feeling more frustrated than enlightened.

The Camping

Aahh - the camping! As mentioned, the ground was flooded when we arrived, and rain on the Tuesday meant that there was six inches of standing water all over our area of the campsite. I woke up Wednesday morning to a flooded Awning, and another family found their 2-year-old asleep and freezing cold in a pool of water. Suitcases had been waterlogged, tents flooded, and the ground was a quagmire. The site site were exceedingly unhelpful at this point, and we just had to make a plan to move the tents that needed moving, dry stuff out and help each other out.

A team from New Wine arrived in the afternoon and we dug trenches and pumped around 1,000 gallons of water off our site. The problem was that all the water from the showground was passing our way and the track created by the cars on the Sunday helped direct it just to our door! However, this was a great time of bonding and fellowship, and working with other brothers and sisters to get it done was, in the end, the highlight of the event for me.

Overall Impressions

The Good
  • Good new songs from David Ruis, Trent, Trinity Cheltenham, David Gates and Jonny Parks.
  • Fine teaching in the morning.
  • Wonderful community on our site - I got to do a years worth of relationship building in a week.
  • The kids work - just fantastic. So well thought through - a focus on the Kingdom from the pre-school to the 10-11 year olds. They loved it, so I am happy.
  • Generosity - just under £90K was taken in the offering this week (plus similar amounts in the other two weeks).
  • Good to see a spectrum of the church in one place
The Bad

  • Poor organisation on-site. Few resources to deal with the weather - not enough sand bags, bark chip, pallets/duck board, or even attention!
  • Too many Americans & non-Anglicans. There was only one Church-of-England main stage speaker, and only two British ones during the whole week. This isn't a criticism of US speakers (I spent 5 years persuading us 'Brits' to read them more!) or movements outside of the C-of-E (goodness know that we need to hear what God is saying through everyone), but as a UK-based, predominantly Anglican network it would be better to hear more of what is happening in the UK, and biblical exegesis rooted in what we are doing.
  • Too many 'stories', not enough Bible in the evening meetings.
  • Worship too predictable. Unless you were willing to stay up to listen to a DJ spin worship at 'after hours', then all you got was the usual guitar/keyboard bands playing a variant on rock/pop music for 20 - 45 minutes before a sermon, as if that is the biblical way! As the uniting aspect of New Wine is a Charismatic/Evangelical axis, what about: Celtic liturgy, contemplative spirituality, Franciscan worship, Taize, Messy Church and all the other ways people are exploring charismatic worship.

Final thought

I had one final thought that has left me a bit disquieted. In a video presentation before one of the offerings, John Coles the director of New Wine made this statement: "New Wine is no longer a network - it is a movement" and emphasised the shift with things such as the new theological training (at undergraduate and post-graduate) as evidence of this. In talking with friends the consensus is that New Wine is positioning itself for a split in the C-of-E. I think that in doing it this it will be encouraging the split to happen. I also think that it may be over-estimating the number of churches that would be wiling to jump ship into the 'lifeboat' of New Wine, especially when the commitment to the Anglican way of doing worship, mission and ministry seems to be in the process of being pushed back at the New Wine public event.

However, the event as it stands was a great opportunity to fellowship, worship and learn from those who are both teachers and practitioners from all over the world. And the biggest thing I take away from this is that my heart has been softened a little and I have fallen more in love with Jesus again - that cannot be denied and makes it all worthwhile, even the mud!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A New Blog

I just wanted to let you know about a new blog - The Digger. This is (currently) an anonymous blog where I am trying to explore some of the political issues from a libertarian-left position.

Just wanted to let you know in case you are interested.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Allotment heaven!

I am now the proud tenant of a half-plot in the local allotment site just near my house. Dreams of endless potatoes, carrots, parsnips, shallots, beans, peas etc now fill my imagination ...


Of course the reality will probably be far from this, especially in the beginning. For now, we are sharing the site with our neighbours (who are now also on the waiting list), making it more manageable - essential when you look at how the plot was when we started out.




So we have spent the last week turning this into something usable, and trying to do it without resorting to chemicals. Of course, child labour helped!


The chance to run an allotment is one I have wanted for quite a while. As well as a tiny step towards self-sufficiency, it offers good vegetables and fruit at a good price, fresh air, exercise, space for the kids to discover things of nature and opportunity to connect with other people in my community.

I am sure I will post here on how things are going!

What are we here for?

Google