Sabbatical, Day 4

At last. I’ve just finished typing my summary notes of ‘The Starfish and the Spider‘. They exceed three and a half thousand words, so when I post them to the blog I shall certainly split them up. There are probably about seven sections in what I’ve summarised.

The job got finished, because the children’s school was open again today. Snow still lies thick on much ground around here, including the school playground, which was out of bounds, but a path had been cleared to enable parents to get children to their classrooms this morning. Peace at last!

I made one or two phone calls this morning. I am due to travel on Sunday to Cliff College in the Peak District to spend five days studying there. Every day I enter their postcode into the five-day weather forecast section of the BBC website. Currently, heavy snow is predicted for them on Sunday. It’s too early for them to consider cancelling the course, but clearly it is a possibility.

During the day, I found a particularly interesting blog post on Mark Batterson’s Evotional site. Entitled ‘Chief Storyteller‘, Batterson proposes this as a description of a senior pastor’s rôle. We are called to retell ‘genesis stories’ that show where we have come from and where we are headed. There is an intimate connection between the past and the future, to the point that ‘stories of the past … frame visions of the future.’

I think there is a lot in this. My one query (which I left in a comment on the blog) runs something like this. I see great value in this approach in that the ‘genesis stories’ tell us key things about our spiritual DNA, the purposes for which God called our community into being. I’m not so sure they remain the entire framing reference for all future vision. We need to make allowance for the possibility of paradigm shifts that appear to come out of nowhere and seem to bear little relation to our prior trajectory. Even where genesis stories do give us vision for the future, that vision can change shape drastically. A classic example would be the radical reinterpretation of Old Testament texts in the New Testament. In the light of Christ, OT texts bear a wieght they didn’t originally carry in the minds of their authors.

Let’s end today with this. I received a friend request on Facebook today and I didn’t recognise the name. I sent a polite message to the person, asking her to remind me where I knew her. Back came a reply in which she admitted she didn’t know me, but had seen my name on a mutual friend’s list and she thought I was ‘an awesome man of God’.

Well, the lady is clearly very kind, but Debbie would soon correct her misapprehension of me. I am nervous of these descriptions, not out of low self-esteem, but out of a need to protect myself. I have seen Christian leaders who believe the hype, and I wait for them to fall. I can remember one grisly example back in Kent.

Eleven years ago, I was involved in putting on a one-day conference for members of worship bands. Cutting a long story short, at the end of the evening celebration, two women went from the conference to pray with a man who should have been there but had sustained a fall. As they prayed, he felt the heat of the Holy Spirit and was healed. I emailed this story around a few networks at the time, and back came a reply from someone who ran an email group about revival: “David, you mighty man of God.” I had to sit at the computer and type back immediately, explaining I hadn’t even been one of the people who had prayed for the sick man. I was merely recounting the story. As I said, believing the hype is dangerous. The glory must always go to God. And not just in the times of ‘success’, but the opposite too. ‘Though the fig tree does not blossom … yet will I praise him,’ said Habbakuk.

But for those of you who might enjoy a satirical take on self-important and self-deluded leaders, I can do no better than to recommend the wonderful Brant Hansen’s 417 Rules Of Awesomely Bold Leadership. Have a smile. Or a hernia, if you read too many.


  1. Calling someone something like “a mighty man of God” can indeed be dangerous if they already have too high an opinion of themselves. But for some people who are discouraged or afraid, like Gideon hiding in a winepress (Judges 6:11-12), it is just what they need, to reassure and encourage them that God can use them, that they can do all things through God who gives them strength. If your self-esteem is really not too low, then maybe you don’t need words like this. But there are many others who do need this kind of building up, and so we shouldn’t deny it to them out of an exaggerated sense of the dangers.


  2. Thanks, Peter, that’s very wise. Certainly some people do need building up, just as you say. I was coming at this from the other end of the spectrum. I think there are some evangelical and particularly charismatic circles where this language is used a little too easily, and that is what I had encountered in the past. Thanks for the reminder of the opposite end to this.


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