grow a healthy church


An Australian Living In London, Married To A New Yorker and Ministering Across Europe: Simon McIntyre

Simon McIntyre is a dear friend who is living in London and pastors C3 Church London with his New Yorker wife Valerie. He is also the C3 Church European Director and loves to grow a healthy church.

Over 30 years ago Simon helped Phil and Chris Pringle pioneer C3 Church Oxford Falls where he was a long term staff pastor. He’s also an author, a blogger and a pilot.

John Finkelde: After a lifetime of New Zealand and Australia how have you found living in London?

Simon McIntyre: It’s a cultural shift up and a weather shift down. I’m loving it, I think it would be very hard to pull me away from London at this point.

John Finkelde: I would imagine it’s a totally different culture and demographic.

Simon McIntyre: It’s certainly more compact and in some ways more divided. London, and most of England, has always been a series of villages that ended up bumping up against one another. The communities here tend to be quite separate, even though they’re round the corner.

John Finkelde: How do you feel living in London with all that history all around you?

Simon McIntyre: Australia and the US are very young nations. I think we tend to be more adventurous, we’re more probably aggressive. The English would call us a little bit more arrogant. One of the advantages of a living in an old culture is the richness of culture heritage. Both spiritually and physically. The greatest authors and thinkers probably come out of England.

John Finkelde: You realized how young Australia is as a nation comparatively?

Simon McIntyre: It’s a teenager.

John Finkelde: Why?

Simon McIntyre: Still yelling at its parents. Australia is a destination of preference to people in London. They would love to move there.

John Finkelde: How’s the church in Europe?

living in London

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Simon McIntyre: Well I think contrary to most experts, Europe is far from dead spiritually. What we hear in the newspapers may not reflect this view. For instance, church attendance in London is up, not down, which is partly due to Holy Trinity Brompton’s and Hillsong’s influence.

There are large churches in London that are barely known outside Europe.

Many of the growing churches in the UK and now across Europe are led by Australians. One of the biggest churches in Glasgow used to be on Brian Houston’s staff in Sydney.

Then across to places like Amsterdam, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Israel, Hillsong churches having huge influence and all of them come out of Australian heritage.

John Finkelde: Wow!

Simon McIntyre: My read-out of Europe is positive, far from negative. It’s not a place being overrun by migrants. It’s not a place totally given to French socialism or too English secularism. A lot happening, very positive and much more to come.

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John Finkelde: It’s very hard for us to see what’s going on in Europe in comparison America or South East Asia.

Simon McIntyre: I think America is better in advertising than Europe is. The Europeans tend to disdain self-promotion.

John Finkelde: What trends are you noticing amongst pastors during your travels?

Simon McIntyre: One is that younger men are kicking the goals, and I mean I’m 62 and I see around me the guys in their thirties, late thirties, early forties are really kicking great goals.

A worrying trend is the personal isolation that pastors feel. I would say that in C3 Europe we’re cognizant of that fact and we’ve put energy and money into connecting with our pastors. We do various smaller events that are very powerful in connecting. But even then, with all of the best intentions, with all of the best pastoring, these guys are having to do it by themselves day by day.

The issue of isolation in leadership is a significant issue and I don’t have a smart answer for it, except keep connecting.

I think the other trend in Europe is, there’s a great hunger amongst pastors for a living and active faith and I’m not referring just to the word of faith philosophy, because that’s ultimately is, but I’m referring to the upside of that.

John Finkelde: Right.

Simon McIntyre: There’s a hunger for a more positive, more affirmative certain faith whereas historically Europe has tended to be both more liberal and intellectual.

John Finkelde: Give me three words to describe the feel of your church, C3 London.

Simon McIntyre: Community. Worship. I know this is almost repeating the first, family. You have to have a community in London. Neighbours are less likely to get involved in conversation. Community matters, I put good time and energy into that.

John Finkelde: What’s the good, bad and ugly of pastoring a smaller church?

Simon McIntyre: I think one think that you have to do is, is not care. Whether you’re big, middle size or small. My fruitfulness doesn’t go up or down dependent upon the size. However if there wasn’t an increase in size, I would question my fruitfulness.

The good is that it’s a much more natural sense of family. The bad would be, sometimes it’s a little bit in grown and that means that traction can be difficult.

living in London

John Finkelde: Team pastors. What’s one word of advice you would give to them?

Simon McIntyre: My word of advice would be, see your gift as to do what needs to be done. Unfortunately we talk about our gifts as a title and as a role and I think that’s quite fatal in its effect upon people’s self or upon their arrogance.

Secondly, don’t try to be a visionary. Work with a vision. If you’re a visionary, go away and do something.

The other thing is, work hard. Work hard and don’t be a clock watcher.

John Finkelde: Do you think we’re making any progress generally in the way that we look at team pastors? Old school thought was, “When are you going to grow up and get your own church?” which is ridiculous thinking. But do you think we’re making any headway to more validating pastors as a calling and even, as a lifetime role?

Simon McIntyre: I think it’s going to change from nation to nation. Different nations experience this differently. I think the basic philosophical trend in Australia and America is that it’s based upon competition.

When I hear American pastors talking about good friends in ministry, it’s far from what I would think was a good friend.

I would say it’s an acquaintance. Competition is part of the very deeply fundamental capitalistic world. I don’t think that they easily have long term trust in friendships so they almost have to go and do their thing. Many churches in America have only grown because of splits.

John Finkelde: What’s the worst mistake you’ve ever made in ministry?

Simon McIntyre: I think the worst mistake I’ve ever made was recent. I expressed my dissatisfaction about some things in the church right amongst, in a big group leaders. I had to do some crawling to actually recover from it.

I was tired, I was frustrated. I have asked for something to be done and it hadn’t been done and so I got a few emails from the person who felt that they were carpeted unfairly.

I apologized and I think it was one of the best things I’ve done. I think in some ways that had to happen and it shook people around a little bit.

I think the biggest mistake I’ve ever made, is not dealing with certain people sooner. Toxic people. People that kiss up and kick down.

People like Phil Pringle and myself are fairly self-motivated and we think that everybody just needs a bit of encouragement, but they don’t. Some people need to be sacked, because they’re toxic.

living in London

Photo courtesy of hans-jürgen2013(CC ShareALike)

John Finkelde: What inspired you in terms of becoming an author?

Simon McIntyre: To begin with, the inspiration, any writer, is that they read. There wasn’t a moment or a person or a book. It’s a lifestyle. I’ve been reading, since I could read.

I think at the age of about 12, I ploughed through the Lord of the Rings and thought it was the most mesmerizing, captivating thing I’d ever read.

I’d always read and for some reason, the more you read, you more you get sort of tools of articulation to speak yourself.

I do read Christian books and many of them are atrociously written. Bill Hybels’ books are well constructed, easy to read and compelling, but he’s rare.

John Finkelde: You write great blogs, because you write across a variety of topics. I think more pastors should be blogging, because everyone’s got a unique voice.

Simon McIntyre: Yes.

John Finkelde: Even if it’s just for your own church.

Simon McIntyre: I think if people read and write, they will get better at writing.

John Finkelde: What are the best books you’ve been reading lately, especially around the theological stream?

Simon McIntyre: I’ve just finished two brilliant books by Kenneth Bailey, who’s a middle eastern scholar. He’s American, but he’s lived there for years.

He wrote two books, Jesus Through Middle-Eastern Eyes, and Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes which is basically a commentary on first Corinthians. It’s a cultural, contextual commentary. Jesus Through Middle-Eastern Eyes is largely on the parables of Jesus and then the seven encounters that Christ had in speaking with women and I found those absolutely riveting.

I’m always picking up what NT Wright has written. I’m just reading at the moment Alistair McGrath’s new book called, Inventing the Universe, and he talks about why we can’t stop talking about science, faith in God.

It’s a very necessary volume, especially after the rampant new atheism of people like Hitchens and Dawkins who actually have become quite unpopular with their unpleasant and foolish comments.

I must say, I read a John Grisham novel recently and it was fantastic. The other one I read recently though that’s interesting is, The Secret War, by Max Hastings. He’s a tremendous writer.

There’s another guy who writes about war stuff called Ben McIntyre and he just, he’s a story teller per excellence.

John Finkelde: Thank you Simon, our man living in London, for joining us on the blog, it’s been fantastic talking to you all the way from London.

Simon McIntyre: My pleasure John.

Here’s the full audio of the interview.

John is a wellspring of information, experience and advice in all things church. His responses were often out of the box of what's been said before.
Ps Christie Blaikie
Oasis Church

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