Welcome to my Romans 15:8 blog for June. There is so much to look forward to as we approach the annual CMJ conference (8th-10th July). I am especially pleased that our keynote speaker at the conference will be Gavin Calver (CEO of the Evangelical Alliance). If you have not booked into the conference, please consider doing so as there are still a few places left. It would be wonderful to see numerous friends from the 15:8 leaders’ network at the conference.
As you will see from the Book Review in this blog, I have been reading the biography of Eugene Peterson. Eugene, throughout his long ministry, shared many insights, two of which came to mind as I was preparing this blog. First, he wrote: ‘I learned very early (in my ministry) that loneliness was unavoidable’. Second, he wrote: ‘What most pastors need more than anything else is not encouragement (although this can be very welcome!) but discernment’. I cannot guarantee that the CMJ conference will necessarily address issues of loneliness (isolation) or provide discernment, but I hope that it will be a source of blessing for many of us in leadership and ministry roles in these challenging times. Investing in areas such as key conferences, in-service training, supportive networks, accountable friendships and sabbaticals are vital components to enable ministry to be sustained and to flourish.
Teaching Reflection of the Month
For this month’s reflection, I direct you towards the new teaching series on the Parables that I recorded a few weeks ago. The title for this teaching is 7 in 7.
The series looks at seven Parables in Luke’s Gospel. Following the reading of each Parable (the series begins with the Good Samaritan from Luke 10:25-37), I share some teaching from the text and try to bring out some of the Jewish context along with applications for today.
Each teaching is within a seven-minute timeframe (hence the title 7 in 7), which hopefully makes the teaching accessible for uses such as mid-week study groups, youth events and daily devotions. Each week, one of the Parables will be released on the YouTube site, until all seven are accessible. You can view this teaching via the CMJ UK YouTube Channel. As always, I value your feedback from this teaching resource.
Ministry News Update
This month I was pleased to share some teaching ministry at Barrowby Baptist Church (11th June) and All Nations Bible College (15th June). In addition, the new Olive Press Research Paper (Issue 49) entitled Jesus Masked: Anti-Jewish Theologies by Theresa Newell was published this month.
The issue of safeguarding and good ministry practice is an important element for every Church and ministry. I continue to invest in training in this area on behalf of CMJ and I attended a training seminar led by thirtyone:eight on 17th June. As CEO I will also be the lead safeguarding officer at this year’s CMJ conference.
A Burning in my Bones – the Authorized Biography of Eugene H. Peterson by Winn Collier (Authentic, 2022)
I think most of us in the Romans 15:8 network will know Eugene Peterson as the translator of The Message Bible. However, I first came across his writing in his book Under the Unpredictable Plant - An Exploration in Vocational Holiness (Eerdmans, 1992). I followed this up by reading Subversive Spirituality (Eerdmans, 1997). As I read these two books I grew to appreciate both his skill as a writer and his wisdom as a pastor. I was therefore pleased to read his authorised biography and to find out much more about his life and faith.
This biography is insightful, personal and reflective, as it charts Peterson’s life and ministry in three parts. I can often tell how engaged I have been in reading a book by my habit of underlining sentences that ‘grab my attention’. As I look back through my copy, most pages have at least one such underlining. In addition to my habit of underlining, I found myself quoting parts of the book to my wife Mandy during our recent time away in Shropshire. Perhaps I overdid this, for at one point she muttered ‘I came away with you, not Eugene’!
I think that anyone who has sought to minister to others and to exercise leadership in the Church will find much in this book to encourage and challenge. It is sad, funny and poignant in equal measure. While the context of his ministry is set in the USA and within a different time and context to my ministry, nevertheless insights, values and struggles resonate across such differences.
I hope that this review inspires you to read this book. Let me quote from the penultimate paragraph, in which Winn Collier was sitting in the funeral chapel with the coffin containing Eugene’s body. Winn had been reflecting on some of Eugene’s achievements, yet he concluded by writing these words: ‘But what mattered to me - to so many of us who knew him and loved him was something much deeper, something none of us can really explain. You would just have to sit with the man. You’d had to encounter his warmth, his welcome, the hospitality of his silence. You’d have to encounter the way he knew God’.
Monthly Memory Verse
‘Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to recognize those who work hard among you and are over you in the Lord and correct you, and esteem them beyond all measure in love because of their work. Keep shalom among yourselves’. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 – Messianic Jewish Family Bible).