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How to lead nobody

Someone leading without anyone following is just someone taking a walk.

This is almost true. Jesus is our model for leadership and at times he was completely isolated.

Church planters start by effectively leading nobody. We can sometimes find ourselves in this position for a while. There comes a point when people start signing up to the new church and it feels like you are getting somewhere. It feels like they have bought into the vision and are ready to be led into the great unknown.

The reality is a little different.

Sometimes I encounter this expectation that leadership is a deeply idealistic position where people follow your vision, your ideas, your preaching, your theology or your gifting. To start with I don’t think this is true. When a church is small enough for everyone to know the leader (1 – 100ish) then relationship is what matters. First of all people need to like the leader, only then will they follow.

Lately I have discovered myself living a strange existence. I have been spending a lot of time convincing people that I am likeable (tough sell), whilst be myself and only needing the approval of Jesus not men.

Most people joining the church don’t care that much about our theology, our worship, our small group structure or our vision. They just want to feel like they can belong. Only once they have found there place in the community do they worry about the other things.

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Contextualisation sounds like this

Here is the CCM:City take on Jesus Saves –

I think this is my favorite one so far. It has a fair bit of cross over and so is probably not pure dance music but it really thumps!

We want Manchester to hear us and be surprised!

All three songs that Mike has re-imagined are here –

Crying like a toddler (again)

I have been looking forward to writing this post for the last 18 hours.

Manchester has looked after the Simmonds family and CCM rather well in the last week. To be more specific, the churches of this beautiful city have really stepped up to the plate and slammed the ball out of the park on our behalf!

On friday I was sat with my good friend Nathan Whilians (from Kings Church) in a cafe. Nathan, being the good guy that he is, asked we what we needed. At that moment it occurred to me that this is a brilliant question and I cannot remember if anyone has ever asked me this question before. “What do I need?” is so much better than “What do you want?”.The things I want are stupid (people, money, recognition etc etc), the things I need are simple.

In a flash of reality I realised I needed God. I need God to move. I don’t need anything else. Nothing at all. Every perceived issue we have, every hope, every dream and every expectation all get addressed when God moves.

So I did what any normal bloke would do. I cried. right there in the cafe. Like a toddler (less stamping of feet but the point stands).

Nathan was gracious enough to wait for me to compose myself and then he prophesied over me and encouraged me while I did a bad bad job of getting my act together.

Fast forward by 48 hours and Sarah Smith from Vinelife was speaking at CCM:City. The Vinelife guys have been consistently amazing to us. They have served us, encouraged us, challenged us and very publicly supported and promoted us.

Anyhoo Sarah preached the Holy Spirit turned up, prophecy bounced around the room, Non-christians experienced God, Christians reconnected with God and our meeting was a mess (guess what? I cried. In fact I am crying now….).

You have to remember that we are a new church, we are fighting to exist and we are growing slowly. There is no reason at all that Kings or Vinelife should even know who we are let alone care that we succeed.

Something is happening in this city.

Why the music matters

I had been in Manchester for about a month and Raj insisted we go Clubbing. I was 32, going grey, father of 2 kids and I worked for a church. The last place I should be was a nightclub. The club we went to has a certain reputation for niche dance music and drugs. Lots of drugs. Nobody drank beer, everybody took drugs. We left my house at 11pm on friday and got home at 8am on Saturday. The next day I was due to preach at CCM for the first time.

I grew up listening to Punk and rock, I have never been a huge fan of dance or electronica. Although in recent years this has changed and I listen to more electronica than rock. So why go clubbing?

In Manchester if a DJ, club, band, writer or artist does well then the national press take note. This city loves to party, it loves to create and it loves to watch others create. So I thought I maybe able to learn something about Manchester from its nightclubs.

A nightclub is like most of other nightclubs. If you don’t get abused by the bouncer and your feet don’t stick to the floor then you have had a good night. However my night out with Raj dropped a few seeds in my mind. Would any of the hundreds of the people in this club go to church? If they did what would they think of it? Would they want to sit and listen to someone preach? Would they want to hear a guy strum an acoustic guitar? Were Raj and myself the only Christians in the place?

The next question I asked myself was whether church should be entertaining. Attractional church gets a bad press at the moment. Church planting types want to hammer you with the community card. Well in the middle of that club, over three floors with hundreds of strangers I felt part of a community. We all had a collective hope. We wanted to party. Does community have to be 12 people sitting in someones house? I hope not.

After struggling with my church planting ideology for a while I realised that I am a pragmatist. I just decided that I wanted people to hear about Jesus and that if the music was a way of getting more people to hear about him then it must be worth a try. Fundamentally I want Non-Christians, God haters, the broken and the lost in the room when we worship Jesus and I want them to be surprised.

Since we have started experimenting with creativity (and noise!) a number of people have expressed how excited they are about bringing there non-christian friends along. We are in the very early stages but that has to be a win, right?

Pray for us, pray for Manchester, pray God saves some people.

Open Mic Video

We have run monthly Open Mics after CCM:City for about 18 months. To start with I organised them and they were rubbish. Seriously, 5 people in a room listening to some skinny white indie-kid play Switchfoot or John Mayer. Nasty.

Then Jonny joined our church and boom. 80 people a night, tons of talented musos, stacks of Non-Christians and one very very happy Tim.

Have a butchers –

Further experiments in dance music

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the experiments in dance music we are attempting at CCM.

Our hope is that the music that we worship God too will be missional. We want people who don’t know Jesus to see and hear us worship and to be able to identify with what is going on. Also, I want our worship leaders and musicians to feel very free to be creative. I don’t want them to feel in the slightest bit restricted by my personal taste or by any expectation of what worship music should sound like.

I want our corporate worship to be Jesus focussed, Spirit powered and God inspired. After that I want creativity that makes God smile and that Non-Christians will be surprised by.

Anyways, Mike Bradley has finished another song. Fancy a listen? Of course you do –

Your Love Never Fails is by Jesus Culture.

Hopefully in a few weeks I will be able to post a version of Jesus saves which is probably the best song we have done so far. No pressure Mike. No pressure.

Dance Worship

So we are on a journey at CCM at the moment. The guys at CCM:City are experimenting with dance music in our worship times. We are privileged to have some very talented musicians who are passionate about worship.

I have banged on about worship music being missional for ages in the hope that a few people would join us who A) agreed and B) were talented enough to make it happen. Prays answered. Thanks boss.

Manchester has more nightclubs than people, dance music rules in this city. To not at least try and incorporate dance music into our worship would be a colossal oversight.

So we have a track that we want to put out there. We have used it on a Sunday a few times and it works (pretty much). We are working hard on increasing the flexibility of the music so that we can go wherever God takes us as we worship. We are not quite there yet. What you will hear is a backing track that we make our drummer play along to (he is awesome) and the worship leader adds some elec guitar. We think that we can soon fire the drummer and just have a guy on a laptop.

Anyhoo, we remixed consuming fire by Tim Hughes. We slowed it down a little. We threw in some beats. We ran it over with a lorry and then we got R2D2 on lead vocals.

Have a listen –

Two Years Old

CCM:City was two years old on Sunday. We are behaving like most two year olds do, we aspire to be like the big kids but we have a tendency to run into walls and burst into tears for no reason. I have resolved to enjoy the journey and I am!

Two years ago I wrote about my own anxiety and the tiny hope that we had for the future.

I have learn’t more in two years than I can possibly fit into one blog post, lets just say that we have tried to learn from every mistake and not got too excited about any success.

One thing I have slowly grasped is that you have to view any church plant or site plant as a long term project. I want to build something that outlives me. Being caught up in the present battles and goals is important but they must be formed by what you hope for in the future. We want a church packed full of missionaries who love Jesus and love Manchester. Simple really.

That first night two years ago was made up of a small core (maybe 6) and 14 well wishers, some of whom never returned. We were a Sunday night mission group with a big idea and no real clue as to how we would get there (worship led by a punk band? great idea Tim. Great idea). Two years later there is a core of 40 ish with a fringe of 20ish* and we are learning to walk.

To celebrate our second birthday we had our first stab at dance music in worship. It pretty much worked. More on this soon.

*those numbers adjust depending on my mood, today I feel optimistic so you may want to adjust for “church planters inflation”.

When Vision Attacks

You have to be true to what you believe is possible and you have to be realistic about what is likely. The clash between faith and reality can sometimes be quite painful.

There have been a few times in the last couple of years where I felt a distinct sense of belief. People have kindly prayed and brought prophetic words and I feel like a million pounds. Indestructible. Like my destiny is written in the stars. Like I could be the NEXT PIPER/DRISCOLL/VIRGO/KING DAVID!!!! Then the next sunday comes round and 10 people turn up because they felt sorry for me and then I realise that reality has punched my faith in the face and run off with his wallet.

I cannot count the amount of Monday mornings where I have just felt foolish. The sinking feeling that not only am I barking up the wrong tree but that the tree is dying and will soon fall over and kill me is burned into my brain.

I remember meeting with one guy who visited CCM:City back when it was The Chapel a few times. I explained all that I wanted to do and how he could get involved. I was articulate, engaging, funny and visionary.

I never saw him again. He ignore my texts and avoided me on facebook.

I realised that at the beginning of the church planting process vision and faith is really only for the entrepreneur because nobody else is that interested. You have to cling tight to what you believe God has called you to do because there is nothing else to hold onto.

It all sounds a little bit dramatic and over the top but you have to hold the big vision within yourself and try to win one battle at a time. I remember at the very beginning of this venture feeling like it might be easy because I was so sure of what God had told me. How naive was I?

The truth is I am more sure of what God has told me now than I was then. The only difference is that it drives me to win one person at a time and not to expect an easy ride.

When Vision is Pointless

This time of year does funny things to my mind.

I am sitting and waiting. This means my brain goes into overdrive. My sleeping patterns get messed up, my routine gets funny and I spend a lot of time staring into the middle distance.

Early September is the calm before the storm. In the next few weeks and months we at Christ Church Manchester will grow. I believe it. Will I regret this bold statement? I don’t think so.

We will grow in number. People will add purpose, community and complexity to us. I cannot wait to have these guys and girls with us.

This time two years ago all the vision I had was to get to Christmas in one piece. The reality of planting a church is so very different from all the books that tell you that you need a clear vision of what your church is going to look like.

I had a vision, and I still have vision, but when you can count your core group on one finger then vision seems a little pointless! There are only so many times that person want to hear “the vision”. I quickly realized that my vision was to get one more person, and after that another person.

Two years in and the world is different. People don’t look at me with pity when I explain what we are about and what we want to do. Some people even talk about joining us.

So we are faced with an exciting future.

If you are the sort of person that thinks praying is a good thing then could you throw a quick prayer up for us?

Pray that
• CCM:City actually does what we think it might do!
• CCM:East also takes a leap forward
CCM:Salford will soon spring into life so pray for Tom and Emma
• CCM:Levenshulme gets beyond the “Crazy idea stage”. We need a breakthrough here.

Thanks for reading.

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