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I hope you find material here to enrich, resource and inspire you as you learn and grow in your own discipleship and ministry.

Grove: Evangelical LeadershipTo learn more about my concerns for ministry, read my Grove booklet on Evangelical Leadership.


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Jesus was not born in a stable

I am sorry to spoil your preparations for Christmas before the Christmas lights have even gone up—though perhaps it is better to do this now than the week before Christmas, when everything has been carefully prepared. But Jesus wasn’t born in a stable, and, curiously, the New Testament hardly even hints that this might have been the case.

So where has the idea come from? I would track the source to three things: issues of grammar and meaning; ignorance of first-century Palestinian culture; and traditional elaboration.

The elaboration has come about from reading the story through a ‘messianic’ understanding of Is 1.3:

The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.

The mention of a ‘manger’ in Luke’s nativity story, suggesting animals, led mediaeval illustrators to depict the ox and the ass recognising the baby Jesus, so the natural setting was a stable—after all, isn’t that where animals are kept? (Answer: not necessarily!)

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Jeremy Pemberton loses employment appeal

It was announced yesterday that Jeremy Pemberton has lost all appeals at the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) that he brought in relation to his Employment Tribunal (ET) case brought against Richard Inwood, Acting Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham. At one level there is not much to say on this, since the EAT has confirmed in […]

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What does church planting achieve?

One of the key changes that has been introduced as part of the Renewal and Reform programme within the Church of England is in the way that Church Commissioners’ money is distributed to dioceses. Instead of all of it being allocated using a formula determining need, part of it now is distributed as Strategic Development […]

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Hope and fulfilment in the gospels

Biblical eschatology is founded on three key assumptions. The first is that the God of Israel is the rightful ruler of the world (and not just of Israel alone), often described in terms of his kingship over the creation. The second is that, even though this is the situation in theory, in practice the world […]

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The pragmatics of the sexuality debate

I offer here the second of three planned reflections on the sexuality debate—before returning to the bigger questions such as question of biblical interpretation, the importance of apocalyptic. Adrian Hilton recently published an exchange of six letters (three each) with Martyn Percy, Dean of Christchurch, Oxford, and in the last one Percy claims that:  I am […]

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Evangelicals and the Trinity

In recent years there has been a heated debate amongst English-speaking evangelicals about the Trinity, particularly concerning the nature of relationships within the Trinity and whether these shed any light on human relationships. Despite some difficult moments, this debate in some ways offers an example of ‘good disagreement’: different parties haven’t held back from the […]

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Using images well in preaching

Many churches these days have digital projection and a screen—so the question is, how to use this well in preaching? Many people use it to put up words, perhaps setting out the points they are making. This has some value, because it enables listeners to see and understand the shape and flow of what you […]

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How did John influence the Synoptics?

If that sounds like an odd question to you, then you need to know that someone once wrote a PhD on the influence of T S Eliot on Shakespeare. The thesis was of course on how our reading of Eliot creates a lens through which we then read Shakespeare (I am assuming, dear reader, that […]

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Interpreting the sheep and the goats in Matt 25

Jesus’ ‘parable’ of the sheep and the goats in Matt 25.31–46 is very well known and widely misinterpreted. It forms one part of the extended teaching about ‘the end’ distinctive to Matthew (compared with Mark and Luke). It is most commonly interpreted as an injunction to help the poor; most Christians (in the West at least) read […]

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The discourse of the sexuality debate

I am reluctant to comment too frequently on sexuality, not least because there are other pressing issues, and some which might not be urgent but are rather important and deserve our attention. But there is a lot going on just now, and the intensity of debate will continue for the next few months at least until […]

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Personal disclosure within preaching

How much should I share of my personal experience in the context of preaching? This is a perennial question facing anyone in ministry in the local church—and relevant to speaking on other occasions too. My first encounter with the issue arose when I was a teenager. I remember one of the lay preachers in the […]

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