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‘Lead Pastor’

Matt Barlow - 03 January 2020
Hey church, I thought I’d just pen a few words to let you know that on reflection, the leadership team and trustees have agreed that the title I’m going to run with as I move forward is that of ‘Lead Pastor’ rather than ‘Senior Leader.’ I thought I’d take a few moments to explain why, and what this will mean moving forward. Firstly, what’s in a title and why does it matter? Well in many ways, what matters much more is what I do, rather than what I’m called. I’m also acutely aware that Jesus warned the people to shy away from using titles in Matthew 23:8-12 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” The heart of what Jesus is saying here is: 1. Don’t look to one person as overly special compared to others, and idolise them or overly revere them - look to God; 2. Leadership is there to serve, not to Lord it over people. So, with that in mind, why the change? Well, ultimately language is there to help communicate what’s going on, and the word pastor (which comes from the root Greek word poimen) literally meant shepherd. This has now come to be understood in a church context as someone who cares for the flock, specifically the spiritual needs of the flock - in our case our church family. Interestingly in modern day language, it has often come to mean the main person leading a church. Which is totally fine, yet at the same time it should be noted that there is no clear biblical mandate for a church to be led by one person, though this doesn’t necessarily mean God cannot and doesn’t bless it. This is why we will be continuing with a plurality of leadership, but you will of course notice my leadership more, as I will be giving my whole life and time to it. In Ephesians 4, it talks about a bunch of different gifts that are needed to equip the church for works of service - prophet, evangelist, apostle, teacher, pastor. Within that pastor is just one of them. However, without a doubt, there is a sense that as the Light church we have been a people without a shepherd for some time, and that’s the role I am aiming to fill. So what does this mean you can expect? Well a shepherd does many varied roles and at different levels. In a sense I believe I’m here to pastor the whole church as a family. i.e. it is my job primarily to lead the flock to a place where good pasture is found - it is primarily to get a sense of where God wants to lead us to, how he wants to feed us, and to do my part in making that happen, that the flock will be healthy and well looked after. This is, in part, why the term of Lead pastor has been chosen - it’s a reminder that this is a clear leadership role, leading the whole church to where God wants us to be, but with a pastoral heart. There is another aspect to pastoring, which is what we often call pastoral care - this is ensuring individual members of the family are supported, discipled and especially cared for in times of distinct need. Whilst I will of course be doing some of that, and I recognise this will be an area of growth for me, that won’t be my primary role - this sits with the pastoral care team under Tarzan’s leadership for more the involved situations and Light group leaders for the more day to day support and encouragement. I’m so grateful that we can be a church that cares for each other, and also know we can do more. So, well done for reading this far. Referring back to the words of Jesus, I don’t want people using a title over me. I don’t want to be Pastor Matt, I just want to be Matt, but I will be Matt who performs the role of Lead pastor. I will lead, and I will pastor, both big picture and individually loving and caring the flock that God has placed under my care, along with the rest of the leadership. Do pray for me that I might make my Father smile with how I lead, pastor and love our church moving forward.

Merry busy Christmas!

Matt Barlow - 02 December 2019
So here it is Merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun! Well hopefully that will be the reality for you and your loved ones. We’re now in a time called advent, which is all about preparation, and whilst I love Christmas, you can’t deny advent is synonymous with busyness, how are we supposed to fit Christ into Christmas?! Presents, parties, hosting, work dos, relatives to visit or visiting you. School Christmas plays, church Christmas services, hampers for people in need, food shopping - all on top of normal life! Oh the horrific irony, that the celebration of the birth of the unhurried messiah, the one who had so much time on his hands for praying and for people, should have come to this. One of the biggest times of busyness for all of us is apparently celebrating the good shepherd who makes his people lay down, whose yoke is easy and burden is light. Now please don’t get me wrong. I’m no Christmas scrooge, and like my messiah, I love to party, to eat and celebrate with friends. But just as when we see that word ‘Xmas’ on a card or on some marketing, our knee jerk reaction is to want to put the Christ back into Christmas, maybe we need to work a bit harder at putting him back into our own Christmas. As we enter a time of advent, which simply means a time of preparation, my challenge to us as a church is to have our own time of preparation. As the carol says - to let every heart prepare him room. How might God want you to do that? To make room for Jesus in the busyness of advent and Christmas? I dare you to spend a few minutes asking him, how you might do that. Here were a few thoughts that came to me when I stopped and listened… Whatever it is you do, allow God to invade your busyness with his presence. Be mindful of Christ this Christmas in all that you do. That you might worship him in all of your gift giving, your food prepping, your hosting, your partying, your quiet moments. He is Emmanuel, God with us, let him be with you this advent period, I pray.
  • Maybe you can increase your commitment to spend time with him? Why not buy an advent candle, and use that to be quiet once a day before your King? Or as you eat that advent calendar chocolate, close your eyes and acknowledge God - the maker of chocolate!!
  • Sign up to an Advent Bible reading plan. There are lots of great advent devotions on the Bible app.
  • Maybe, as it is so busy, commit to more prayer as you go - praying before key Christmas preparations. How might you shop if you commit the shopping in prayer to him? ‘God, guide me to spend money well. Help me to ensure I’m being led by your spirit and not by the expectations of a world gone mad with consumerism.’
  • Give extra thanks over the food, as you will be eating a lot of it! As you stir the Christmas cake, pray not just thanks but blessing on all that will eat it. Thank God for the turkey that has given its life, and not just for the fact it’s defrosted in time.
  • Host Christmas drinks for neighbours, bringing your street and community together. Yes it makes you busier, but you will know God’s kingdom coming as you do this. This will truly give you a God smile Christmas glow.
  • Reach out to someone who is lonely, maybe even have a surprise guest at your table come Christmas Day. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jesus would have done the same.
  • Choose to do something nice just for you or you and your family. Go to the cinema, go for a walk, but recognise God is the giver of all good things, and taking time to stop and be refreshed would be totally his heart for you.

Two weeks on…

Matt Barlow - 21 November 2019
Well, it’s been just over two weeks since we announced the news that I will soon be stepping down from my CEO role at CAP and stepping up into a new role as Senior Leader of the Light church. I’m already so excited to see how God is changing my heart, I’m praying for the church, hearing more from him, just having more headspace to be pastorally present - the sense of change and God being the one behind it is wonderful. Thank you so much to those of you who have reached out with an encouraging conversation, email or even a hug, and I know that already many of you are praying for Josie, the kids and I. Thank you! I thought I’d just pen to paper (fingers to computer), to let everyone know exactly what is happening and when, and what to expect from both me and the rest of the leadership team through this time of transition. So, in answer to the question, ‘Have you started yet?’ the best answer is ‘No, not really, but kind of, yes, no not really, maybe!’ Ha ha. In other words - all of it! The truth is that once it’s announced some things just naturally end up at my door, and I will do my best to serve the church as well as I can in this interim period. However, officially, I am planning to take on the ‘position’ of ‘Senior Leader’ from the beginning of January 2020, but only in a minimal interim capacity. I will likely have around 1-2 days per week to spend on it, so will only be able to do so much. My priorities during this time will be:
  • Connecting with and supporting the staff team
  • Setting some vision and direction for the year, and launching the new year well
  • Getting to know the church better, especially those in leadership and pastoral work
  • Working with the leadership team to create new structure moving forward
Things that are on my heart to do, but that I am unlikely to be able to do during this time, and will have to wait until I start fully April/May time, will be:
  • Giving much time to really getting to know the church well, praying, pastoring, visiting etc.
  • Starting to look at our discipleship programmes and how we can strengthen them
  • Connecting with the wider body of the church in Bradford
  • Connecting with those who may provide and become our external accountability and support structure
  • Devoting more time to preaching and teaching
  • Engaging deeply with longer term vision, building needs etc.
  • Developing next generation leaders
You can see that there is a lot to do, but I’m genuinely excited about pressing into all of the above, and seeing what God has for us. I believe that his vision for us is to become a really healthy, strong church. Spiritually healthy, emotionally healthy, exhibiting life in all of its fullness (John 10:10). Strengthened in our faith, strengthening those around us, and all those God brings to us. If we can do that, I believe we should expect his church to grow, but as I’ve been learning in many ways recently - health and strength needs to come first, growth can flow out of that. In terms of being around, whilst of course I will be very committed to being around at our Sunday gatherings and hope to connect with many of you there. If I happen to not be there, it maybe I’m on holiday, or, on the the odd Sunday, I’ll be fulfilling my dad role of taking Jed to play football and cheering from the sidelines. As for the next two Sundays - I’ll be in New Zealand and Australia with my CAP work, all prayers gratefully appreciated! I’ll do my best to let the church family know when I’m not around and why. Leadership team - as was expressed in the Sunday evening meeting, as a leadership team we will now be seeking God for how we best lead, oversee, govern and manage the church. As Gareth explained, the church is a complex combination of both very spiritual and also highly practical. We need to be moving in the gifts of the spirit, whilst also doing health and safety really well. Need to be pastorally caring for people well, whilst also running buildings and budgets. With some external support, we are prayerfully considering what the future structures need to look like, and you can expect some change to be happening, hopefully by Easter. In terms of staffing, from January Lindon will be reducing to 3 days per week, as was agreed in the whole organisational review last June/July. The recruitment of a higher level Operations/Administration manager than we have had previously is currently on hold, the consensus is that it is better for me to get in post and assess the needs, once I am in the mix. We are grateful to Lindon, Alan and Tarzan, all of whom have been covering various duties. Anyway, I’ve gone on enough now, but hopefully you can see from this that one of my commitments is to give you, the church family, as much insight as I can into what is going on. This way we can all feel more engaged in the wider work of the church and have greater confidence in the leadership, the direction of the church and the decisions being made. God bless you all as you continue to live out the calling Christ has given you right where you are!

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