When mental health hits you as a leader

My seminar from the Vineyard Churches UK&I national leaders conference on Mental Health and Church Leadership. You can listen online/download here.


If you are a church leader chances are you have frequent interactions with people struggling with their mental health. Then for us as leaders, the daily toil of leadership places huge wear and tear on our own mental health.

This seminar explores how we can better understand mental health and its intersection with leadership and spiritual formation.  We will see how mental health is not something to fear, but is a place to powerfully meet Jesus, and find hope and healing and transformation.

What's the point of Church?

Audio recording of my seminar talk on 'What's the point of church' at the VCUKI national leaders conference this past week.

Over the last 20 years one of the fastest growing groups of Christians are those who have given up on church. If you are a church leader and pastor, you likely have people regularly asking you why do we bother with Church? Do we really need Sunday services, buildings, church programmes etc? Surely its better to be into Jesus and stop being so obsessed with the church?

This seminar explores how we got to this place, where doing and being church has become detached from knowing and following Jesus. We’ll look at how most of the reasons people give for not needing church are actually part of the problem. We’ll look at why the church is vital to anyone knowing and following Jesus and how we can respond with confidence to this greatest of challenges.

EU referendum

I suspect most of the UK will be glad when the campaigning for the EU referendum is over. It has been one of the most ignominious experiences of UK politics I have experienced. 

No matter the outcome of the vote, the fratricidal behaviour of our government augurs for an unpleasant post election season.

I have cast my vote by post and voted to stay - so no turning back now for me.

What I have written here is not as pastor expressing God's view nor is it a way to tell others how to vote. It is rather my reflections on something that is rather monuments in my life time, for myself and my country and documents how I have voted and why. 

Some of my friends reading this, will have decided to vote to leave. I do respect their decision, and that reminds me that we live in a democracy - something I am very grateful for. 

As I posted my vote, I found myself convinced of the following:

1. Economic Risk: The sheer volume of world renowned financial experts on the likely economic shock to the UK if we exit Europe. There is a paucity of alternative economic responses to support Brexit, in terms of volume, and quality. I can't bring myself to take any comfort from leading politicians - claiming they know better than some of the most well known financial experts in the world - that if we leave Europe there will be no major economic downside in the short term at least.

2. Savings from EU costs: The £350 million claim of cost of being in the EU remains a major untruth aka a lie. The real figure after our rebate is half that, evidenced again and again by all financial institutions that calculate and know the real costs. The promised savings of Brexit from Europe would be completely eradicated by the costs of a recession and economic loss from exiting Europe. Also the claims that savings from EU fees will go direct to the NHS, or that subsidies from the EU will be protected on exit, seem to be extreme special pleading.

3. Competence: Leaving Europe requires the complex and complicated re-arrangement of trade deals, border controls, and laws, amongst other things. Given the general lack of competence of our government on any major items it has to overhaul, I have no confidence that our government in the state is currently in, can possibly navigate those items without causing collateral damage to much of our society. The conditions of behaviour by our government in how it has conducted the referendum seem proof to me that they are not competent to attempt the changes required in the event of a leave vote.

4. Character: The numbers and character of many of those supporting a vote to remain in Europe is compelling for me. The nature of some supporting a leave vote, and who would be more involved in governing concerns me. 

5. Benefits of being part of Europe: I enjoy and like the benefits of bring part of the EU. These include European harmony post world war II, and legal and human rights. Claims that Turkey are about to join the EU are spurious and ignore the veto position of all EU members.

6. Immigration: Some of the leave campaigning seems to have demonised EU immigrants and so has some of the remain campaigning. I'm repulsed by any demonisation of EU citizens moving to the UK. So I've looked where I can at statistics on EU migrants - the European Economic Area - and it seems most accredited statistical sources show that the UK is a net beneficiary from this migration where tax receipts outweigh cost and benefits to migrants. It seems what our government has failed to do, is use the increased tax receipts from population growth from migration to develop schools, and healthcare provision to keep pace. 

7. Sovereignty: I do believe we'd gain some obvious extra sovereignty from leaving the EU, for our laws, border controls etc. But we'd have to have the competence to make use of that. No.3 above means I'd prefer the arrangements we currently have. 

8. European: I find myself liking being part of Europe, being a member of the biggest project of collaboration since the second world war. I am not embarrassed at our EU membership.

9. What would have convinced me to vote leave: I went into this campaign inclined to vote leave and wanting to be convinced of that. I wanted our conservative government presenting together instead of destroying each other as they appeal to some of the worst of human instincts. I wanted those campaigning for leave to admit that leaving will likely cause short term economics losses, but appeal to me for how things might be better in the long run. I wanted a vision for leaving the EU that did not require demonising immigrants, and special pleading for the complex changes leaving will lead to. I'd rather hear, it will be an immense challenge, it will be complex, it will take many years, but here is why it is worth it. One metaphor I found compelling, to sum up the whole process, was how some want to claim this divorce from a 40 year relationship, will not be painful, not cost us anything, and the other party will be ready to give us everything we want.

10. Summary: So I am convinced that UK membership of the EU is valuable and beneficial to us, despite some of the problems. I think it is better to be part of the EU from the inside.

Some Sources: 





Myers-Briggs is dead long live Myers-Briggs


Some of my students at George Fox have asked me about this article that declares the Myers-Briggs test to be totally meaningless. Then I’ve seen it re-posted on many friends Facebook walls.  The article is almost troll like, deliberately intent on provoking readers into an emotional response to generate readership and comments.

So this one article would have us believe the Myers-Briggs test is not only meaningless, but that it’s only value is for entertainment. So is it RIP Myers-Briggs (MBTI)?  If you don’t know what MBTI is, take a look here?

Well let’s stand back from the hyperbole and look at the claims of the article.

1.  No Clinical Psychologists would ever use the Myers-Briggs I’m not sure why that is news, or a valid claim.  I’ve interacted with psychologists a great deal, personally, with family and professionally.

I’ve never expected them to use the Myers-Briggs for what they do, and would be disturbed if they did.  MBTI coaches would also never expect to use the tool for psychological issues.  This argument in the article is a red herring.  Only an idiot would use the MBTI to deal with someones psychological issues and needs.

2.  The MBTI is useless in predicting success in a job Again another red herring, and the MBTI has never been a success predictor.  The MBTI is not a job success indicator, so what is it?  Read on and I’ll get to that.

3.  The MBTI is based on false binaries and made up categories The MBTI measures a very limited range of things for sure.  It produces a grid of 16 types, based on four aspects that have a binary component. Let’s take the issue of how people don’t fit into 16 neat boxes.  Of course they don’t!  Human beings are unique and all aspects of who they are are on a wide spectrum.

The MBTI by it’s own admission, is measuring spectrums and divides those into two half, two weightings on opposite sides.  For example, do you get energised when tired by being with other people (extroversion), or being on your own (introversion).  The result is you are likely to be introverted or extroverted, but in a range within that.

So aren’t the categories just all made up and aren’t real things?  Well so are the categories of psychology.  Take personality disorders.  You can’t cut someone open and find a personality order to examine.  It’s a description of a range of behaviours in a person with mental health issues, that deviate from what someone else has decided is normal behaviour.

All human beings are unique, and even those with personality disorders don’t fit into a diagnostic box.  But with medical and psychological issues, human beings suffer similar issues in similar ways.

Calling that something in a category is a short hand way to talk about it and provide treatment for it.   Now for sure, personality disorders are based on the testing many many people, to see patterns that allow that diagnosis.

Then again the MBTI is similar, in that is has been used to ask millions of people the same few questions, for the same few categories.  Ask enough people the same questions with a limit range of options and people will fall into those categories.  Some will be borderline, and others clearer.

And again a reminder - the MBTI measures 16 aspects of personality and preference, and is nothing to do with psychological problems.

4.  What is the relationships between the Myers-Brigss and psychology? I’m sure there is some overlap between personality and psychology.  For example if leaving planning to the last minute caused self destructive events in your life, missing important events, stress for you and your loved ones, you might explore with a psychologists why you do that.

I like to plan ahead but that can lead to anxiety and control. I talk my psychologist about why I am unable to live in the moment, and rest.  I can find ways to grow as a person and be less anxious, and still find that my preference is to plan ahead.  But I have never hoped I’d become less anxious so I might change my MBTI!

5.  Don’t put me in a box, pigeon hole me, or label me I’ve heard this many times from people who don’t like the test.  If you don’t like it don’t use it. You’d be limiting yourself to go through life using your MBTI as the only way to understand who you are.  It’s very limited and focused on just a few key things.

Also I don’t know anyone who uses it to interact with people all the time, maybe there are some people out there who do, perhaps MBTI coaches!  Most people I know who use the MBTI use it as one tool of many to help understand preference, within personality.

6.  Myers-Briggs does work - long live Myers-Briggs The Myers-Briggs does work, in that is does one simple thing.  It maps the responses of people into 16 categories, that allows us to take complex behaviour and understand those with short hand mappings, as we interact with ourselves and others.

That's why when you take the test a good coach seems to know so much about you. It's not that they are amazingly perceptive, but that your test questions, give them answers to key thing about your personality. What good Myers-Briggs coaches are gifted at is using the information you provide about yourself, to help you better understand yourself and others.

For example, the Myers-Briggs asks questions that show your preference for planning.  Do you leave everything to last minute or do you plan ahead.  The results are your own answers to those questions.  Now just because the test confirms you like to leave things to the last minute doesn’t make any value judgements about you.

But if you work in an environment that requires planning in advance, it might help you realise why might find that less than optimal for how you work.  Again, as above, it doesn’t mean you’d see a psychologist to talk about why you prefer to leave your planing to the last minute.

Similar an introverted person, might understand with the MBTI that their preference is to withdraw from people to be energised and build that into their lifestyles and work.  And the MBTI does not tell you that you can only work in those 16 categories.  It does help you see the categories, i.e. preferences that are not your most preferred ones.

That’s all the MBTI does.

In my work life I’ve found that ENFP people tend to have planning taking place in their heads and it all comes together in the end.  That’s a generalisation, as many ENFPs know they need to plan ahead and do so very well.  But many don’t.  What makes them an ENFP is not the MBTI test, but who they already are!

I’m an INFJ, which is a mapping and short hand of how I amongst other things, like to plan ahead, and don’t like leaving anything to the last minuted.  So when working with and ENFP, it means I can consider how someone else prefers to be and they me etc.

So for me the Myers-Briggs is a very useful tool, and I will continue to use it.  But for who I am, what God wants me to be and how he can grow me and use me, it remains a very tiny tiny tool that I do not use to understand my meaning and purpose.

Why undertake a Doctor of Ministry Degree in Leadership?


I just got back from Hong Kong, and 10 days with my students from the Leadership Doctor of Ministry that I lead.   (The photo above was taken by one of my newest students, Pablo Morales) It's always an amazing time - the experiences we have in the global cities we meet in each year, with some of the most inspiring leaders and ministries in those locations.

We get to say goodbye to students moving on to their final doctoral thesis/projects and welcome our newest students just starting.

We have a section on our web site for our students reviewing their experience in the program.  So if you are interested in a Doctor of Ministry degree, and/or want to know what our students have experienced, take a look here.

Have the conversations that will move your church forward


One of my favourite speakers, pastors and authors, Carey Nieuwhof has a new book, Lasting Impact, out today. If you ever wondered why your church isn't growing, why high capacity volunteers are leaving your church, or why so many church leaders end up unhealthy, this book will help.

It addresses 7 key issues facing almost every church. Buy today and you get the audio version of the book, free. Details at www.lastingimpactbook.com

Leadership and Global Perspectives - learning from Hong Kong


This week I welcome, in Hong Kong, the new intake for the doctor of ministry program I lead out of George Fox Seminary.  Jesse Yu who made created the photo for this post, will be presenting during our time in Hong Kong. This time together is just one small part of an immersive learning experience the leaders in our program.

"Each year, incoming and current and outgoing students all meet in a global city for a face to face experience.  These face-to-face (F2F) intensives in the hybrid learning environment are called “Advances”.

These face-to-face intensives serve as a central learning experience in the program in which students will study and have experiences that ignite their imaginations, push the boundaries of their thinking, and network them with other leaders. The ultimate goal of each international Advance is to enable students to better lead in their own contexts.

Through a combination of academic seminars and field trips, students interact in-person with scholars and leaders from local churches, businesses, faith-based nonprofit organizations, government, and other entities engaged in significant ministry efforts. Students also meet with their advisors and research course instructors to discuss their customized research. Second and third-year students and advisors present their research to the entire learning community." From our Leadership and Global Perspectives D.Min Advances.

Teaching/Speaking in New Zealand- Laidlaw College & Vineyard Churches


I travel to New Zealand today, and later in August I will be teaching a week long course on Youth Culture, Popular Culture Theology at Laidlaw College. Whilst I'm in New Zealand I, will also be with my church family speaking at the Coast Vineyard, Auckland on 16th August and at Grace Vineyard, Christchurch on 23rd August.

I am so looking forward to catching up with old friends and making new ones - it's 14 years since I was last there.  I am looking less forward to the 12,000 miles and 24 hours flying to get there.

So I'll be upside down, going from summer to winter with rain, and some snow (Queenstown).  I also hope to see some main LOTR sites.