A Bit About Me
(this may be the most boring page on our site
so please only read if you feel you have to)
On 2nd December 1968 I did not believe in God. On the 3rd December, I did, and by the 8th I had committed myself to working for Him. It was another few weeks before I became His child, which happened after hearing a two hour sermon on the first seven chapters of Joshua.
I had no real previous experience of Christianity. Brought up in a pub, I entered my twenty first year with my major interests being a good job, gambling, drinking and pornography. My conversion was a surprise to most of those who knew me, as well as to myself.
Within a couple of years, I was preaching in churches and out on the streets, moving in various spiritual gifts and exploring many aspects of the early charismatic movement. Those were the days of Gerald Coates, John Noble, George North, Harry Greenwood, Dave Mansell et al. and, mainly out of a spiritual naivety, I made some form of passing first-hand contact with all of them.
After three years I left my job in the city of London and went to work in a care home, and then in a hostel for homeless ex-offenders. I followed this with a few months in a Christian community before moving to Wales to help plant and establish a small church in a hotel in Aberystwyth. I returned to London to marry Catherine and we immediately moved to Cornwall to work in a Pentecostal church plant founded after a Good News Crusade mission. We shared our small accommodation with a couple of young men who had been homeless and who had had radical conversion experiences to Jesus Christ (one of whom subsequently spent 25 year on the mission field in India).
They were essentially good times, though I was beginning to wrestle with the issue of ‘what should church look like?’. By 1974, in the five years since becoming a Christian, I had been involved with an Anglican Church, an Assemblies of God, an independent Pentecostal mission and virtually every form of house church going. Two had been deeply satisfying experiences, but whilst I saw evidence in all of them of God’s grace and activity, I came to the tentative conclusion that God tended to work on a wider level than any one group could contain.
Catherine and I were now expecting our first child. With cramped accommodation, no money and few job prospects we decided to return to London. A friend had moved to Biggin Hill and offered us temporary accommodation in exchange for painting and decorating his house. He and his family had become involved with the local Baptist church there. It had grown rapidly from a sleepy congregation with a couple of dozen members to a thriving charismatic community two or three times that size. Within a year Catherine and I felt called to move there. Although there were three or four gifted preachers in the church, they made space for me as well. The church continued to grow steadily. Marked by strong biblical preaching, which sometimes meant that meetings lasted for three or four hours, the church attracted a number of regulars from the surrounding locality, and groups of visitors from many miles away.
I began to concentrate on teaching as well as preaching and I felt God clearly speak to me that I should undertake some serious external study in order to back up what I had been gleaning for myself. Now with two children, Catherine and I began to explore going to Bible College. With only three mediocre ‘O’ Levels, most places would not even consider me, and there was no prospect at all of taking a degree. In the end, The Birmingham Bible Institute accepted us, and I simultaneously commenced two ‘A’ Levels by correspondence course.
I took to study like the proverbial duck to water. I got two good ‘A’ levels in a year and the disappointment of coming second in Church History at the college was mitigated by the fact that it was Catherine who beat me. I then decided to apply to Spurgeon’s College to study for a degree and to train for the Baptist Ministry.
It was rumoured that I had one of the longest and most thorough interviews in the history of the college. Grilled for nearly an hour by over three dozen council members, they asked whether my earlier involvement with the house church movement and my previous loose attitude to the Baptists (and other denominations) had been caused through ignorance or arrogance. I replied that it had been both. I was accepted, and in 1978, I became one of the first of many students to attend Spurgeon’s from a background of the new house church/charismatic movement. I spent four positive years at Spurgeon’s and am very grateful to God for it. Through placements, preaching and fellowship with other students, I was introduced to a new world of church life and activity. Not that it was all good, but it all served to continually challenge, enlarge and shape my own thinking.
At the end of my course, I was offered the position of Associate Baptist Minister at Queens Road Baptist Church, Wimbledon. With congregations of two to three hundred, the church had become one of the pioneers of charismatic denominational Christianity. I exercised a largely teaching (rather than pastoral) role. Although there were some good times at Wimbledon and the church was very generous and supportive to Catherine and I, the overall emphasis there tended to be to emulate the new things happening elsewhere and I was not completely comfortable with that. After three years of what might superficially be considered a successful time of ministry, Catherine and I left. We moved to Wallingford in Oxfordshire in order to support a colleague from college who was seeking to lead a church there into renewal. Within six months, he left there and we followed him. We joined another church, but within a year or so, it had closed down.
By this time, I had begun to work for Oxfam in Oxford, returning to my original career as a buyer. This was a great challenge. It was an organisation at the forefront of social concern, but I only knew of a few Christians on the staff of hundreds. Two of my colleagues were deeply involved in the Oxford Gay and Lesbian community, and my boss was a confirmed atheist.
The job was both responsible and satisfying but not well paid. Now with three children and another soon on the way, I started doing Car Boot sales in order to supplement our income. As these were mainly on Sundays and as we had by now become disaffected with the church scene, we no longer regularly attended a church. We still believed in Jesus, we still prayed and talked with our children about God, but we didn’t go to a church. Once a fortnight we met with half a dozen assorted Christians (Methodist, Anglican, Roman Catholic or no particular allegiance) for a Bible study. There were no rules and anything could be said or challenged. Interestingly, over the months, there appeared to be a slow but steady growth of faith in most of the folk who came.
However the Car Boot sales had taken off, I had progressed to running a Market Stall and had moved on from Oxfam in order to do this. This continued for a number of years. Our daughter and youngest son grew up with no experience of attending church.
Several things then happened. I went bankrupt and almost had a breakdown, and through that, I realised how much I had moved back into a secular and sinful lifestyle. Then I began to experience a serious desire to write, and in the midst of this, I felt God speaking to me that He wanted me to return to some form of Christian ministry. Although this did not seem to be a realistic possibility, I saw an advertisement for the position of manager of the Manna House Christian Bookshop in Northampton for which I applied, and for which I received a call for interview. I was probably one of the least conventional of all of the candidates for the position. However, I knew a lot about books (I had always continued to read very widely), and having worked as a buyer and run a Market stall I was street savvy as far as buying and selling went. They offered me the job and I accepted. It was a good time and I worked there for fourteen years, during which period I continually interacted with people across the denominations.
In 1995, a year after I started the job, our family moved to Northampton and we started attending a church that met in a school close to where we lived. They were experiencing a little difficulty with organising a house group rota to put chairs out on a Sunday morning, so we told them not to worry, and for most of the first year the contribution of my family and I was to put the chairs out each week. After that, I began to do a bit of speaking and teaching.
Then my daughter, Joanne was converted at the age of fourteen, and I saw in her what a relationship with Jesus apart from ‘churchianity’ could be like. She has since functioned in preaching and leadership in several situations. More than twenty years later, she has not lost her edge and continues to be an inspiration to me.
Around eighteen years ago (whilst still at the Manna House), I began a few freelance teaching sessions in Northampton with some other Christians from the Anglicans, Salvation Army, Jesus Fellowship, a charismatic Baptist Church, a Pentecostal church and a New Church. Through those sessions, I came to know about the situation at Kings Heath, an estate on the edge of Northampton. The church there had been through a difficult time, and I felt God nudging me to get involved.
In 2002, I became the quarter-time minister at Kings Heath Baptist church, a small church on a post-war housing estate of around four and a half thousand people. There were around fifteen in the congregation, half of whom were over seventy. I came with a clear position on the contribution I would make. I said that I would preach Jesus and that I did not have a plan B. That’s what I did. Gradually hope was restored. I also began to relate to the Anglican minister on Kings Heath and suggested we did a few things together. Eventually the Anglican Church closed, but because a relationship had been established, the Bishop of Brixworth approached us about putting a part time Church of England minister onto Kings Heath to work with us. This happened and ten or a dozen folk came from another Anglican Church to support him. We had one building, one set of meetings, one bank account and a few healthy rows and heartaches. We did also see a little growth.
During this time I became involved with Churches Together Northampton and for nine years produced a monthly news bulletin for them, which was read online or in hard copy by a couple of hundred people. I was also asked to spend some time advising Churches Together on a County level, and through that had some insight into Churches Together England. This experience gave some further glimpses of what God was doing on a wider level.
However, apart from concerns which I had about the low level of spirituality in the churches that I had contact with, I was deeply dissatisfied with my own walk with God. Then, six years ago, I went to a Christian conference and whilst there asked for prayer that I might re-prioritise my life in line with God’s kingdom. A week later, I had a life-threatening heart attack and was hospitalised.
I needed to take things easy for a while and during that period God began to speak clearly into my life. He showed me that I had lost my first love and that I needed to repent before Him. He also clearly challenged me that I needed to enter into His rest as mentioned in Hebrews chapter four. I received both these things by faith, and as a result, I realised that many of the things I had been involved in were on the basis of my works and not God’s.
I gave myself afresh in total surrender to God and He began a period of refining. Firstly, God went through all the ‘good’ things in my life. I had been involved with several Christian groups and organisations and on various committees on both a local and national level. Over the next three years I resigned from all of them. Secondly, God began to highlight the ‘bad’ things in my life. Many of these were simply lifestyle issues such as de-cluttering and finances that Catherine and I needed to work out together. However, there was one issue I felt I needed to share with the other leaders in the church at Kings Heath. I had always had a recurring struggle with pornography and this had twice come to the notice of my employers in different situations. It was usually accompanied by some drinking to dull my conscience and this sometimes became noticeable. Catherine and my family and a few friends had walked with me through these times, but I now felt I should share it with the other church leaders. Understandably, they struggled to know how to respond to me and suggested various avenues such as counselling.
However, God was giving me a greater understanding of the sufficiency of the cross of Jesus, and I saw that this was the only answer. Catherine and my children stood with me on this, and God dealt with and cut out some deep-seated roots that went back to my very early childhood. Since that time, God has continued working and He has been refining every area of my life. I have come to understand that in the cross, Jesus not only dealt with the guilt, but also with the power of sin. That does not mean that we are not able to sin, but that it becomes more normal to walk in the Spirit, and abnormal to walk in the flesh. The practical outworking of this has been a deliverance from addiction to pornography and a refinement of many other areas of my life.
I was overdue for retirement from ministry in the church, and Catherine was also retiring from her job as a teaching assistant. We felt that God was speaking to us about retiring at the same time and moving into something new. So in the Summer of 2016 we both retired and also resigned our local church membership. We felt it right to start visiting local churches in order to try and sense what God was doing.
To date we have been to well over fifty different churches both locally and further afield. We have connected with some good friends and seen evidence of life in a variety of situations, but there does not appear to be any significant commitment by churches to help each other or to see God working in the wider church. Where there is any co-operation between churches, it appears to be largely on the basis of ‘like associating with like’. However, we are persuaded that it is not enough to love and work with those who are similar to us. Jesus did point out that even the tax collectors managed to do that.
I am aware that much of my Christian life has been a mixture of success and failure, with some progress and an intermingling of sin and backsliding. However, I am too old, and Jesus is too faithful to make that the basis for the future. I believe that it is important to allow God to make up some of the time I have lost. Catherine and I are now in the situation where, as far as we know, we have no outstanding issues with God or with any other person. We have decided to stop trying to do things ourselves and are simply seeking to follow any initiatives of the Spirit, looking to God to work in our lives and the lives of others. This has brought us to a rather strange position for the present of not attending any particular church on a regular basis. However, my wife and I have exercised an ongoing ministry of hospitality in whatever situation we have found ourselves, and over the past few years since our retirement we have rarely had less than a dozen or so people to eat with us over the course of each week. These have included young and old, Christian and non-Christian, different nationalities and a range of personalities and social backgrounds. This means, that in spite of not attending a church regularly, we do have some ongoing fellowship and interaction with folk from several churches. We love to do this, and will continue until we are physically unable to do so.
By the time I retired, I had been contributing articles to various Christian magazines and papers for a while and I began to see writing as a way in which I may possibly make a contribution to the kingdom of God. This website is one of the results of that.
I don’t think that I fit easily into any theological box. I have a wide experience of all types of churches and I have been through heights and depths of success and failure on a personal level. If I have a theological position, it would centre on the trustworthiness of God in what He says; the relief (not merely belief) that the Father has achieved salvation through the work of Jesus when He came to earth; and thankfulness that, having been exalted to the highest place in the universe, Jesus Christ has sent the Holy Spirit to get involved in our daily lives and sort us out.