Jez Field
5 Stand Out Lessons on Christian Life and Leadership

We’ve done it. 24 episodes, over 22hrs of conversation with 26 different contributors; season 1 of the Life & Leadership podcast is complete. Thanks for supporting it, I hope it’s been a source of encouragement to you. 

Each conversation offered some beautiful moments of inspiration and insight that have helped shape my experience of ministry over the past 12 months. Whilst there are many moments I could include in my top five, I’ve selected the ones that have stayed with me:

  1. Shift the conversation to mental wellness

As much as everyone’s now keyed in to think about and be aware of mental health Kate Middleton’s encouragement in episode 8 was that we ought to move the focus and conversation in a different direction than simply talking about mental ‘illness’.

Over emphasis on mental illness can create the impression that we catch neurosis like we catch Covid. If we’re not careful it can result in a kind of helplessness that implies there’s very little we can do about it, that it’s just a malady of our age we need to live with, like consumption was in the 1800s.

Whilst not denying genetic predisposition, Kate’s encouragement was that we should instead be more proactive at maintaining mental wellness. Her five tips for wellness were: 1. Manage your stress levels; be aware of how close you are to becoming overwhelmed. 2. Recognise the value of negative emotions. They’re there to teach us. 3. Get some processing space. 4. Overcome your negative biases. 5. People. We need other people to help us.

Really helpful and really practical.

  1. Christians are citizens of the City of God

Talking with David Bennett about sexuality was an absolute privilege and the need for Christians to engage deeply with Scripture and culture on the subject has become hugely important.

Around an hour into my conversation with David I asked the question: How do you think Christians should have responded to the redefinition of marriage, should we have resisted it more or should we have accepted it? His response was to pick up a copy of St. Augustine’s ‘City of God’ (that just happened to be on his desk!) and say: People should read this!

David then answered my question by saying: We need to understand that part of our calling as the people of God is to be distinct and set apart. Let the city of man, be the city of man, Christians live in a different city. His point was essentially that Christians are citizens of the City of God and we mustn’t think, or be, or live as the world does; we are those who have bowed the knee to the lordship of Christ.

Perhaps Western Christianity is struggling because we’ve forgotten who we are meant to be, who we’re called to be; set apart from the world, not entangled in the arguments of the world.

  1. The reality of racism affects everyday choices for people of colour

Kemi Koleoso has become a hero of mine. She is such an inspiring woman on many levels; in gifting, in faithfulness, in passion and most of all in her humility. She was unassuming and self-deprecating, but also packed a punch with what she said.

Her comments about race really helped drive home to me just how much the reality of racism impacts everyday life for people of colour: There are countries in Europe I won’t go to on holiday, or won’t let my kids go to, because I know we’ll be treated differently.

Imagine that; a family having to think about and decide on a holiday destination because of something as inconsequential as the colour of their skin. Many people, like Kemi, don’t have to imagine it because it’s a major part of their lived experience.

We live in a broken world where sin and prejudice run deep and wide. For us to build thriving church families we all need to recognise the daily indignities that some members of our churches have to put up with. When it comes to the black experience many of us need to listen longer and speak less. These are not challenges with straightforward solutions, but they do need deep and empathetic communities to engage with them. Which leads to me to the fourth stand out moment from the podcast…

  1. Compassion should come first

In matters relating to (what is unhelpfully termed) the ‘culture wars’ over things like sexuality, transgender, the female experience and racial injustice, our first instinct and reflex ought to be one of compassion at another’s suffering.

Too often upon hearing about or reading some story in the news we react with opinion: Well, I think this… or, the Bible says… Jesus’ reaction to another’s suffering was different. As God incarnate, he led with identification and compassion; in fact four times in Matthew’s gospel the phrase “he had compassion” or “I have compassion” appears.

Andrew Bunt’s model when thinking about the transgender experience is hugely helpful. He said we must engage with a heart response, a head response and a hope response, and his helpful phrase (which is also the title of a new Grove Booklet on the subject) was this is about people not pronouns. Hurting people know that they’re in pain, what they often want is an answer to the question: Does anyone else care that I’m in pain?

To have compassion literally means to ‘suffer alongside’ another and if that doesn’t sound like a model for Christlike engagement, I don’t know what does.

  1. We have an unhealthy lust for certainty

Honestly, this comment and indeed so much of my conversation with Jonny Mellor has run on a loop in my head ever since I spoke to him. I asked Jonny: Given that life is so complicated, why do people (Christians especially?) feel the need to draw lines and present neat and buttoned-down answers to everything? His response was not what I was expecting: We have an unhealthy lust for certainty. He went on to say: Since God is sovereign, we need to learn to live with and accept a lot more mystery in life.

He might as well have dropped the mic and left the Zoom room at that point.

So many of us seem to struggle under (and multiply) the weight of suffering by insisting on trying to find soul-satisfying answers to ‘why’ questions. We may be a people with access to Google but that doesn’t mean everything is within reach of our understanding.

Being a creature properly positioned in the world requires us to accept our limits and learn to trust God with the difference. This isn’t to encourage a retreat into the darkness of superstition but to enable us to view all of life’s unknowns through the lens of Christ’s coming.

“In the world you will have trouble,” Jesus said and yet because of his coming and dying and rising, whatever trouble we encounter rules out the possibility that God is unfeeling, uncaring and disinterested in our pain. This means that in a world where some things, the secret things, ‘belong to the Lord’. We’re left with a great deal of unknowns. Nevertheless, Jesus’ coming means that we can still find peace and quiet, and even joy, by learning to trust God with uncertainty.

Those five gems have done me a world of good this year and I pray they can help you too.

In September we embark on another season of the Life & Leadership podcast, kicking things off with an honest and heartfelt conversation with Natalie Williams of Jubilee+. I can’t wait to share it with you.

Until then keep pursuing Jesus with everything you have. He is our joy and the reason for our hope.