After spending a numbers of years working in evangelism and training around the world I returned to my home country in 2009. I returned in part because Carl Beech, leader of Christian Vision for Men (CVM), asked me to come back and work for the organisation.

Having seen a little of evangelism in overseas countries I was keen to stuck in on the ‘home front’. Through my 19 months at CVM I saw much of the country, much of the desire for people to share their faith with their friends, and the enormity of the task at hand.

During my time overseas I came to see the need for effective apologetics in evangelism. Apologetics, put simply, is dealing with people’s objections that stop them seeing Jesus. I grew to enjoy the discipline, find I had a gifting in the area and the desire to grow in it.

Every culture has its own challenges and obstacles. My time with CVM helped me to understand some of the current problems men face in the UK in their faith today.

In 2011 I was released from my position in CVM to study at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. My time in Oxford boosted my foundation in Christian Apologetics and opened up new areas of engagement to me.

Now I get to put all of this together!

It’s with real excitement that I can announce that Andy Kind and I will be heading up the Demolition Squad, the new apologetics arm of CVM. Through this new initiative we will be bringing apologetics training to the hundreds of men’s groups up and down the country that are fighting hard to see their families, friends, colleagues etc. come to know Jesus.

There is lots more to come, but for now read all about it here.

Matthew Stadlen asks Peter Hitchens a few questions in the BBC’s Five Minutes programme.

Peter Hitchens on BBCs Five Minutes

Peter Hitchens on BBCs Five Minutes

MS: “Do you think it’s possible to have a viable moral code without God?”

PH: “No.”

MS: “Explain to me why you think that.”

PH: “Well, anybody can have a moral code but unless it originates from some power of source that you can’t control you’ll fiddle with it to suit yourself.”

See the whole 5 minute video on the BBC website.

Bits and bobs from around the web this week:

Apple Media Event All But Confirmed for September 12th, iPhone Launch Likely
Here comes the next iPhone.

London2012 Opening Ceremony: The power and the might
The London 2012 Summer Olympic games get underway

Q & A: Os Guinness on What Freedom in the Balance Looks Like
My friend Os Guinness taking questions before his new book is release - A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future

‘Not tailored to U.S. audience’: NBC cuts tribute to London terror victims from Opening Ceremony broadcast
American broadcasts try to explain why honourable memorial is cut out from their delayed feed of the opening ceremony

Helen Glover & Heather Stanning win first Britain gold
The first Team GB gold from Eton Dorney, the beginning of something special. My passion for rowing is only increasing with this Olympics.

There were the scoffers, the doubters, the haters, and the wish-it-were-us-ers. There was the expectation, the hope, the promise, and the collective big breath. There were roles for Boris, Beckham, Cameron, and a cumbersome cameo for a chap called Romney.

London 2012 Opening Ceremony fireworks

credit london2012.com

And then, on Friday 27th July at 9pm, the questions were answered and the negative comments rebutted. London 2012 opened to the world with great panache and splendour.

Danny Boyle and his troupe delivered an Opening Ceremony the nation can be proud of. Colour, movement, prose, pyrotechnics, and sound were threaded together in a collage of creative exuberance.

A captive global audience watched the drama of a nation’s life story played out before them. Literature, healthcare, industrialisation, and music – all British-led world-changing developments – were celebrated, and properly so.

Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth II (a constitutional monarch, which is a political and legal triumph itself to rival all others) – opened the proceedings and we were off and away.

There was much to be thankful to God for in the events of Friday night. I love my country and I am proud to be British. Of course, there is more to man than achievement and success, yet these things are worthy of celebration. Humankind is wonderful, diverse, and capable of amazing feats.

By celebrating the wonder of man we must never forget to go one step further and celebrate the Creator of man. An athlete may possess the pinnacle of human power, but it still is not powerful enough to fix mankind’s basic problem.

Consider these words from Psalm 33.

The king is not saved by a mighty army; A warrior is not delivered by great strength.
Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, On those who hope for His lovingkindness,

Consider Him who gave us the potential to produce what the world will now be watching together for the next two weeks. Let us remember that all “honour and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”*

And now to the games. May they be a tremendous success. May the competitors give it their utmost and thrive in competition and the spirit of fair play.

And to Team GB – well done. We’re already proud of you. Take this opportunity, grasp it with the strength you have honed. Spend yourselves and leave nothing in the tank. God speed!

*Revelation 7:12

In the absence of anything new on the blog this week please enjoy these links that have caught my eye:

The “It” Factor Every Relationship Needs
What are you prepared to do to make things successful?

I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why.
“Grammar signifies more than just a person’s ability to remember high school English.” Interesting article that’s close to my heart – from the Harvard Business Review blog.

Eight Twitter Accounts During the London Olympics
The New Yorker lists some interesting Brits to follow to get into the Olympic mood.

What Would Jesus Tweet?
Does what it says on the label. Plus helpful terminology guide for those new to Twitter.

Apologetics: An important spiritual discipline for our time
“Christian thinker G. K. Chesterton observed in 1933 that while it is important to win the unsaved to Christianity, leaders must increasingly endeavor to “convert the Christians to Christianity.”

University of Oxford goes to the Olympics
Oxford has a proud sporting heritage. Here are nine alumni competing in the Games this year.

 

Here are some of the things that have caught my eye this week from around the web:

How The Gospel Changes Our Apologetics, Part I
Tim Keller dealing brilliantly with the biblical basis for apologetics. One of the best answers to ‘Why apologetics?’ I’ve found.

Communion on the Moon: The Religious Experience in Space ht Micah Ruelle
An interesting look at why religious experience is mingled in with scientific discovery.

Every Presentation – Ever: FAIL [VIDEO] ht Michael Hyatt
Funny and all-too-true look at the problems many people experience either in giving, or sitting through, presentations.

When Good Ambition Gets You and Part II
How should a Christian see ambition?

It’s Just Stuff
“Stuff isn’t bad. It isn’t even wrong, but attachment to stuff (physical, emotional or spiritual) keeps us stuck”

‘We’ve got better restaurants than Paris and less rain than Rome’, says Boris Johnson [VIDEO]
The best of Boris from this week.

The Social Network 2.0 [VIDEO] ht Krish Kandiah
What would you do without Facebook? Funny take on how Facebook has changed our lives

Amazon Links

July 19, 2012 — Leave a comment

From time to time I like to write about books that I have read. When I write a review I try to include links to these resources online.

I primarily use Amazon because I like their service and they offer commission on sales.

Running a website has some costs involved, one of the ways I can mitigate these costs is through services like Amazon Affiliates (US|UK).

If you’re interested in anything I talk about on this site and would buy it online through Amazon, please consider using the links herein. It helps out jonathansherwin.net and it’s no skin off your nose!

One Step Better

If you really want to help then why not save this link to Amazon as your primary bookmark. That way, every time you purchase something this website gets a little boost!

ps. I try to localise the links, if you’re in the US you should be linked through to Amazon.com, if you’re in the UK your links should point to Amazon.co.uk – any problems, please let me know. Thank you!

I am about to start something new in Oxford, and for it to work it is going to need a great team. Now, two things I have learnt about starting new teams are:

  1. Always build a team around people you can BBQ with
  2. Deal with expectations early

These two principles have stood me well as I have worked in, and led, various teams. The first point is useful; the second point is essential. Every time that I have missed step 2 I have had to have a conversation (or several) down the road to deal with issues that arose when a simple exercise in the beginning could have dealt with them beforehand.

Ask Questions

When I first started to think through managing expectations, during my training as a school leader in YWAM, I was taught to ask questions. Now, every time I get a group together to achieve a goal I try to sit down as a team and explore the expectations we all have.

There are broadly three areas of questioning to be explored:

  1. What a leader expects of his/her team
  2. What the team expects of their leader
  3. What the team expect of each other

Taking time to explore these areas is always beneficial. Often people have hidden expectations, some that they may not even realise themselves. But boy, do we know it when our expectations have not been met!

Take this scenario for example. Perhaps regular times of feedback from the team leader is important to a particular team member. If he didn’t mention this to the leader then with time, frustration can grow which could turn into resentment. By talking about this right off the bat the expectation can be understood and accommodated.

Taking Stock Of My Frustration

Of course, it’s inevitable that not all expectations are met. All of a sudden I may find myself frustrated, usually accompanied by critical thoughts.

When frustration arises I have two options: 1) react out of my feelings 2) find the hidden expectation and assess it.

Another example. I like to know that I’ve done a good job. More specifically, I like to be told I’ve done a good job. When I finish a project I like to hear that it’s what someone wants.

I remember a time when I had finished a particular project that took me couple of weeks. Done, dusted, submitted. Confirmation from my boss, but, tragically, no embellished praise!

“Did he even care?!”, I wondered. Instant frustration! I would like to say that I took stock of this immediately and thought it through. The reality is that I sat on it for a few days, a little grumpy about the whole thing. Slowly, I came to my senses. I realised that I need to deal with the frustration. “The key to frustration is unmet expectation,” I mused.

I began to explore my increasingly obvious expectations. I wanted, no, I needed affirmation from my boss. Constantly. But is that fair? I was one of a number in a team and my boss is a very busy man. What right did I have to the pat on the back?

Additionally, where was my sense of value in the whole thing? Did I delight in doing the job well or in pleasing my boss? These questions pricked me into personal investigation. People pleasing is an energy-sapping, sure-fire way to a quick inferiority complex and I needed to deal with it.

Spending a few moments dealing with my frustration helped to bring awareness to unhealthy patterns in my life that, now exposed, I could pray about, deal with, and move on.

Frustrations, left alone, can stagnate. By pausing to reflect on our expectations prior to starting something, and taking stock in the midst of frustration, we can disarm the negative, disruptive emotions that hinder great team work.

What things are key to you building new teams? How to do you deal with expectations?

The Defining Decade

The Defining Decade by Meg Jay
UK | US

I’ll level with you. Until a couple of years ago I wouldn’t have picked up this book. Psychology? Pah. Man up.

The older I get the more I narrow minded I realise I must have been and realise just how much grace I’ve been given by people around me!

I don’t know how the process of softening rock-hard judgements begins for everyone else. I suppose for me it’s a trust issue. If people or ideas I trust point me to areas that I haven’t explored/I’ve kept locked down, then, if I trust them enough, I may venture to that new area. With time I’ve realised these forays often prove very useful and they’ve become easier and easier with each successful trip.

It was the wisdom of my pastors in Maui and a friend/tutor in Oxford who helped illuminate my glaring blind spot here. Anyway, a few books later and this book, The Defining Decade pops up.

The Book

Easy, fun, and informative. The book, firstly, is easy to read. I don’t mean that it’s light fluff but that the author has a natural, gentle style that is a pleasure to read. Ideas are formed and repeated with just the right distance between the two to sit well in my mind.

Secondly, the book is fun. There are lots of stories. Some stories I laugh at, boldly. Some I laugh at a little more nervously as they land closer to home. Real-world stories help to connect the reader. Like a great film, we identify ourselves with certain characters. This is the same for The Defining Decade. I found myself turning to the next chapter keen to read the forthcoming story and see how much of me I saw in it.

Because of these two reasons, and probably many more, I learnt a lot from the book. Great writing + great storytelling = compelling learning. Here are some of things I learnt.

What I Learnt from The Defining Decade

I suppose that I didn’t walk away from this book saying, “Aha! I get it now.” Rather, the book reinforced some ideas I already held and helped to shape them to fit the stage of life I’m in now (side note: yeah, it’s risky to read this in your late twenties – who wants to hear they might have got them wrong?! – but hey, man up, it’s worth it).

The big idea is simply this, “Ideas have consequences.”

What we believe will determine how we act. Choices we make about career, marriage etc. well, they are big ideas, big decisions, and have big consequences.

Here are three things that stuck with me;

  1. Weak Ties“The Urban tribe is overrated” claims Jay. More and more, twentysomethings form a group of like-minded, socially-similar peers. With the dispersion of the family many people seek comfort in close friends. The trouble is, “the urban tribe helps us survive, it does not help us thrive.” By neglecting to cultivate weak-ties – relationships beyond our immediate close friends – we limit our connections and our potential.I can relate to Jay’s advice. My last job and my year of study in Oxford were the result of weak ties. I went out of my way to grab that lunch, have that coffee, with two “weak ties”. And big things happened as a result. If I had stayed put I would never have branched out discovered so much more of who I am and who I am meant to be.
  2. The Cohabitation EffectOk, so I knew that moving in with your boyfriend or girlfriend was a bad idea. Marriage first, that’s the way, right? What I didn’t realise was some interesting studies that show just why cohabitation before commitment is bad.Jay calls it, “Sliding not deciding.” Bob moves in with Jane because it makes life “simpler”. But they haven’t decided to get married. However, with time, their lives become more and more entwined. In the end it’s “simpler” to get married. But then the marriage breaks down. The reality is couples who live together first are more likely to divorce than couple who do not.There’s value to the right amount of space needed to make a good decision. Instead of being led by a rush of hormones, or by cold pragmatism, weigh up the decisions neutrally. A good reminder – not just for who to marry, although I can’t think of many bigger decisions.
  3. Delayed Gratification“People of all ages and walks of life discount the future, favoring the rewards of today over the rewards of tomorrow.”This might be the biggest, and one of the hardest, lessons to learn. Credit cards, passionate romance – our culture screams that whatever you want you can have it now. But then comes the mountains of debt and the heartache.We are promised bliss and happiness, but often it turns out to be a lie. The trouble is, even though we’ve been fooled before, we’re easily fooled again. The smart decision is to delay gratification. To work hard and put off the reward. To invest now and take later. But if the purpose of work is pleasure and gratification then we’ll easily put it all on credit to get it now. How we define work will define a very large portion of how we live.I find that being a Christian helps to break the cycle of “must-have-it-now”. In Jesus I can truly know myself and be truly satisfied in God. I have desires for other things, but Jesus is my chief desire and through worshipping Him my priorities and desires are straightened out. Being a Christian isn’t about killing desire, it’s about desiring the right things. We’re built as creatures of desire – but as C. S. Lewis talks about, we are “half-hearted creatures” with weak desires.

Conclusion

This is a really useful book and I have no problem recommending it to twentysomethings (or thereabouts). Especially so those in university or who have just left. The Defining Decade is full of helpful wisdom, the stories are down to earth and the points are well made.

Have you read it? I wonder what you think. Be great to hear from you on this.

Buy The Defining Decade on Amazon – UK | US

Chariots of Fire is being re-released by 20th Century Fox this summer, in time for the Olympics taking place in London.

If you haven’t seen it, 1) where have you been? and 2) it’s worth it; go see it. And of course, if you have seen it, it’s well worth watching again. It will get you in the mood for the Olympics and I hear the re-mastering has given it quite a shine.