Type your text, and hit enter to search:
Close This site uses cookies. If you continue to use the site you agree to this. For more details please see our cookies policy.

Pastor's Blog

News and (mainly) book reviews from our Senior Pastor, James Collins
24 August 2021 Just returning to the office after some holiday and study leave so two book reviews today.
second mountain David Brooks is a popular author and writes columns for the New York Times.  One of our church members, Bill McIlroy, gave me this book to read (thanks Bill).  It is essentially a book about people who manage to transcend a way of life driven by personal ambition and achievement and instead find deeper fulfilment in a life of self-sacrificial service of others.  Along the way he speaks about his own developing if somewhat uncertain Christian faith.  It's fascinating read with lots of wonderful, wise and warm observations about human nature and how to live a rich and fruitful life. 

Towards the end of the book there are two chapters which focus on building community which resonates very closely with our church's vision statement (Building Authentic, Courageous, Generous Christian Community).  There's lots of good material to reflect on which can be applied to PBC - in particular our church family, our outreach into the community and particularly our building project.   One quote might give you a taste to read the rest of what he has to say:

'A community is healthy when relationships are felt deeply, when there are histories of trust, a shared sense of mutual belonging, norms of mutual commitment, habits of mutual assistance and real affection from one heart and soul to another.'  Heavenly Father, may this be true of our church family and may we contribute to bringing it into reality in the other communities of what we are a part.

bedtime This is an excellent little book!  A little while back I read a fascinating book on sleep (Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker) which got me really interested in this mysterious subject - not least because, like so many I've spoken to, I often have trouble getting my seven to eight hours each night.  Geoff Robson has taken some of the contemporary thinking about sleep and embedded it within Christian understanding and teaching.  He has done a great job.

Reading this book didn't take very long but it certainly helped me to appreciate the gift of sleep and approach it as an important and beautiful part of a disciplined and fruitful Christian life.   Just one little caveat - the chapter on dreams is I think a little on the risk averse side.  With that exception I hope this book is widely read and applied to our often over-wrought lifestyles.
27th July 2021  
scazzero Sorry to go so long without posting - things have been hectic!  Anyway, I finished this book a few weeks ago and it certainly got me thinking.  Essentially, Scazzero makes a case that Christian leaders encourage people towards spiritual maturity without paying attention to their emotional health.  One without the other doesn't work very well.  For example, there's not much point encouraging people to get up early for some time with the Lord if we don't examine the pressures and temptations causing them to stay up too late.  Equally, our church service can so easily become unhealthy when it is driven by unexamined emotional needs and vulnerabilities.  Scazzero is certainly on to something here - highly recommended!
26th March 2021  
eswine Being a pastor is a difficult job often because of the complications and expectations pastors unnecessarily place upon themselves.  We start out with a calling to change the world for Jesus and set about our ministry with all the enthusiasm, energy and joy that our youthful selves can muster - we can almost taste the revival.  There's nothing wrong with that but when reality bites (as it always does in one way or another) we can spend years cartwheeling between romantic ideals and bitter resignation.  Eswine is no stranger to this unhappy state and writes words of wisdom, rebuke and healing for pastors caught up in it.  He commends a more healthy condition that he calls 'romantic realism'.

This is my new favourite book on pastoral ministry - I wish I'd read it years ago and I'll certainly be reading it again soon.
2nd February 2021  
I'm back to work today!  Really grateful to everyone who has taken on extra work during my absence, particularly Marilyn.   I look forward to seeing many of you over the coming weeks - if only via a computer screen.

I have settled into my new (socially isolated) office at church and will shortly begin preparing my sermon for Sunday morning.  Later today I have a meeting with the pastors and then this evening a meeting with the Leadership Team.  In other words, I am resuming all the usual routines of ministry.  I'm also hoping to make inroads into my bulging email inbox!

From my new vantage point I can clearly see demolition work starting on the Banstead Road site.  After years of waiting and wondering, prayer and patience, it is evidence that the next few years will be about prayer and preparation for our new church building and community facilities which should be ready in around four years' time.  The future is bright!

In the meantime, like you no doubt, I'm utterly fed up with the Covid restrictions and praying that (please God) they will soon be unnecessary.  May the Lord grant us all the patience and faith to endure and stay strong in Him, the humility to learn every lesson He wants to teach us and the hope and joy that comes from the gospel of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit.     
12th January 2021  
race Chris Giles lent me his copy of Ben Lindsay's We Need to Talk About Race.  All the churches I have pastored (including PBC of course) have benefitted greatly from the presence and contribution of a substantial and growing number of BAME members and I have learnt a great deal over the years.  I am personally grateful to God for so many who have shown me grace when I've made mistakes and been encouraging and supportive to me - please continue to do so.  Where would PBC be without the vibrant contribution of members from so many different cultures and ethnicities?  We would be greatly impoverished and much of the joy and fun of church life would be snuffed out.

Nevertheless, the challenges of applying gospel love and gospel justice to an issue where there is so much pain and brokenness are profound.  But they must be met head on.  So many of our BAME brothers and sisters have painful stories to tell of the most appalling racism (even within the church which makes me want to weep) and live with a constant sense that the system is stacked against them.  And that's to say nothing of the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade and all that has flowed from that unspeakable wickedness.

Reading this book yesterday brought all these issues to the fore for me, once again.  Frankly, I'd prefer not to think about this issue because it makes me very sad and I'm only too aware of my own failures and the failures of my forebears.  This all weighs very heavily on me.  If it were not for my faith in God's purpose for his children to overcome such deeply rooted societal problems I'd be inclined to run away from this issue.  Nevertheless, as the Lord strengthens and guides me, I am determined that PBC becomes ever better at intentionally and sensitively welcoming and including men and women from every 'tribe and tongue'.  We have much to discuss, learn and repent of.  To that end, I encourage you to read We Need to Talk About Race and give it serious prayerful attention and reflection.  May the Holy Spirit teach us all how to love each other across every divide and may the cross of the Lord Jesus break down all our sinful prejudice.
23rd December 2020  
confronting christianity Rebecca McLaughlin has written an excellent and readable explanation of authentic Christianity and how it applies to the concerns of contemporary men and women.  There is a widespread perception that Christianity is part of an oppressive culture that we want to leave behind.  McLaughlin ably, intelligently and winsomely demonstrates that whilst the failures of Christendom are well documented Christianity still offers the best available answers to the questions that we are all asking.  Christians will be encouraged by this book - those outside the Christian family might well find it a persuasive invitation to encounter the Lord Jesus for themselves.

In other news - merry Christmas everyone.  After a wretched year, may the Christ-child crash into your life bringing unexpected comfort and joy.
17th December 2020  
smedes Rob Parsons (of Care for the Family) describes this as 'the book that changed my life',  Having read it, I understand  why he found it so helpful.  Lewis Smedes has written an honest, simple yet profound, and beautifully persuasive account of how his Christian faith not only survives the hardest times but brings meaning and hope.  If, like me, you sometimes struggle with life and wonder where God is, this book will be a wonderful encouragement.
3rd November 2020  
incomparable I've enjoyed working my way through this book over the last couple of months.  The short but meaningful reflections on the character of God will both inspire and inform; here is easily readable and yet profound theology.   Highly recommended - read one short chapter a day (10 mins at the most) and you'll have much to ponder and pray over.
25th October 2020  
This morning I spoke about justice and forgiveness from Romans 12:17-21.  For those wishing to think more deeply about the theme of biblical social justice (and its superiority to secular alternatives) have a look at this excellent article by Tim Keller.
7th August 2020  
leap over a wall Marvellous reflections on the life of King David from the translator of The Message.  Every page drips with insight, wisdom and encouragement.  A joy to read.
9th July 2020  
peacemakers Just finished reading this excellent book.  The authors achieve a rare feat - the book is theologically robust and eminently practical.

The first half of the book develops a thorough biblical understanding of peace.  Reading this developed a real thirst for peace making in me.

The second half of the book applies this clear biblical understanding.  Bringing their long experience of peacemaking, reconciliation and pastoral leadership to bear the authors offer a wise and practical guide to making and keeping peace.

I think that every Christian would benefit from reading this.
23rd June 2020  
tennent Timothy Tennent has written a wonderful book for students of theology.   He ably demonstrates that global Christianity is in growing everywhere except in the traditional heartlands of the West. 

He examines the theological issues faced by Christian communities from around the world as they grow in different environments.  His basic argument is that it is time for Western bible colleges to catch up with the 'glocal' (ie global yet localised) nature of contemporary Christian theology.  
The book is illuminating and deeply challenging - the chapter on the mission objectives of the Chinese churches is a sharp rebuke to the lethargy and lack of spiritual ambition of the institutions of Western Christianity.  As one Chinese church leader puts it: 'the pursuit of doctrinal purity in and of itself only results in legalistic bondage if you have no intention of also obeying God's command to proclaim the gospel throughout the earth.'  Do we have that ambition? 
2nd June 2020  
The senseless and merciless killing of George Floyd is deeply disturbing although tragically it is only one episode in a long-running saga.  Surely the wicked mistreatment of black people can't continue like this.  Lord, please teach us to treat each other with respect and kindness and fairness.  Please make our church family a beacon of welcoming love to all people irrespective of their background.    
23rd April 2020  
Peter Price (bishop) - Alchetron, The Free Social EncyclopediaPeter Price (retired bishop of Bath and Wells) was baptised some 60 years ago at PBC.  He visited one of our evening services some months ago and subsequently I have got to know him a little.  He has enjoyed an amazing journey in Christian ministry and has become a passionate advocate for peacemaking.

Peter has authored a number of books.  He kindly gave me a copy of his book Things That Make for Peace which I've just finished reading.  His commitment to peacemaking (at every level from the personal to the political) pours through the pages of the book and made a big impression on me.
A significant element of our calling as disciples of Jesus is to make peace.  Peacemaking (rather than 'keeping the peace'  - the coward's way out of conflict) requires courage, wisdom and creativity.  Peter's book will renew your commitment to this vital ministry and give you plenty to chew over in the process.
11th April 2020
On Tim Allen's recommendation, I just read a free short online book by Tim Keller entitled How to Reach the West Again.  It took me less than an hour to read but I'll be thinking about it for some time; it seems to me that it's a very important book.  If you're concerned about how to win people to Christ in our post-Christian culture (and why wouldn't you be?) then this is a great place to start.
You can access the book here (you'll need to sign up for notifications from 'redeemer city to city' but you can unsubscribe from these whenever you like).
11th April 2020
Spirit and Sacrament: An invitation to eucharismatic ...I really enjoyed this book by Andrew Wilson.  He makes an impassioned plea for churches to hold together both charismatic and catholic / sacramental / liturgical spiritualities.  He argues that by holding these seemingly opposed forms of Christianity together we can be spared from the weaknesses of both and enjoy a lively and substantive form of Christianity.
Having grown up in a Pentecostal church and attended and ministered mostly in charismatic churches, I have certainly seen the best and (occasionally) the worst that this stream of Christianity has to offer.  I really warmed towards Andrew Wilson's desire to build a spirituality that is faithful to scripture,  builds unity and incorporates the best of both these two traditions whilst avoiding the dangers of sacramental formalism and charismatic excesses.
Great 'lockdown' reading for pastors and church leaders.
21st March 2020
I finished reading this about a week ago - before the world changed.  Welch makes the case that our desperate need for the approval of others and our (often intense) fear of their disapproval can only be addressed when we relate to God properly.
Welch encourages us to fear God and love people rather than ignoring or domesticating God and fearing people.  His approach is provocative; it not only challenges much contemporary psychobabble but also a good deal of sloppy Christian thinking too.
The 'fear of the Lord' is a biblical theme that we ignore to the detriment of our spiritual health.  God cannot be tamed or contained or reduced.  When we downgrade our God to a divine spaniel who only exists to placate and soothe us, we lose much, much more than we gain.  
20th February 2020
David Chilvers drew my attention to this brilliant (and short) essay by C S Lewis on the subject of forgiveness. You can find it here
Well worth a read and an excellent example of the man's genius.
14th February 2020

Book Review: Dirty Glory by Pete Greig | Author David WileyThis is fantastic!

26th November 2019
bringing-the-gospelUndoubtedly, evangelism is very challenging, particularly so when we are trying to reach those that we love most and who know us best.  I've just finished reading Randy Newman's Bringing the Gospel Home.  It's an excellent book full of wisdom and encouragement.   It has certainly re-energised me to love and witness to those closest to me.
The author's honesty is admirable.  He readily admits the difficulty of the task and resists the temptation of turning evangelism into a technique or 'sure-fire' scheme (I've had more than enough of these - they are like 'clouds without rain').  Nevertheless, he leaves the reader with many thoughtful suggestions and much inspiration for prayer. 
19th September 2019
LuminousAlain Emerson has written a wonderful book.  It comes from his experience of losing his wife a little less than two years into their marriage.  He honestly charts his struggles with God and how his faith deepened and his character was formed through profound grief.  
I can't really do the book justice.  Suffice to say it's beautiful and terrible and inspiring and disturbing and comforting.  Read it and then get your friends to read it.
19th September 2019
wind in islamYou may have heard about this book already.  Based on extensive research, David Garrison charts the course of 'Jesus movements' among Muslims.  It seems that the Lord is doing something very exciting.  
This is an inspiring book.  There is much in the way of suggestions how we can 'fan the flames' of God's work through prayer and practical support.
30th August 2019
One of Purley Baptist's previous ministers, Rev Bill Channon, has interested me for a number of years.  He also ministered at Redhill Baptist Church (my last church).  Basil and Doreen Goodchild recently lent me a copy of a book (Come Life, Come Death) of his sermons published after his sudden death in 1970.  He died just a few weeks before I was born.  I'm sure that you can appreciate why I feel a connection to him.

At both Redhill and Purley Baptist Churches his ministry was exceptionally well received and both churches grew substantially under his leadership.  The book reveals a humble, warm, loving and wise pastor and a bold evangelist with a particular impact upon younger people.   His example is a profound inspiration to me.

Here are one or two quotes from the book that you might like:

You can never possess peace till you possess Christ.  A life outside of Christ is a life outside of peace.  There may be excitement, pleasure, success, but peace never!

If a man anchors himself to that which is transient, when it perishes he too will suffer a like fate.  God is the only permanent Reality in the universe.

Never yield to despondency whatever the temptation, but remember the grace of God, and go steadily on day by day, smiting at every kind of evil within and without, entertaining no fears, giving no quarter to sin, never resting until the battle is over and the victory won.
9th August 2019
I have just started using a new search engine.  Ecosia uses its profits to plant trees. They have recently become 'carbon negative'.  You can read more about them here:

To make the change go to the “Settings” or “Options” (look for the cog icon!) of your internet browser and look for the search engine option. Ecosia may already be listed as an option. Simply select it as the default and start planting - on average a tree gets planted every 45 searches!

13th June 2019
About 60 PBCers had a great time at Spring Harvest back in April.  The main speaker was Pete Greig who inspired us and taught us about prayer.  Since then I've read his God on Mute and I'm now working on How to Pray.  These are great books - really easy to read and full of wisdom about developing a fruitful prayer life.  I look forward to reading Dirty Glory.

In other news, I'm currently suffering with shingles.  I'd appreciate your prayers and hope you'll forgive me if I'm a bit less visible than usual while I recover.
18th May 2019
circle maker Just finished The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson.  Really inspiring book on prayer.  Easy to read and very encouraging.  Mark wraps his reflections on prayer around his experience particularly that of the dynamic church he leads in Washington.
18th May 2019
Had a great time praying with the rest of the Leadership Team at the beginning of this week.  Thanks to everyone who was praying for us as we were praying for the church.  I have an increasing passion that PBC develop into a hotbed of passionate and persevering prayer.  Why not join us for our monthly 'Thy Kingdom Come' prayer meeting next Wednesday (22nd May) - 8 pm at the church.?
27th April 2019
Looking forward to 'running' the London Marathon tomorrow with fellow 'PBCers' Ashley Cooke and Andy Collis.  We're raising money for the excellent work of International Needs in Buikwe, Uganda:
26th April 2019
Spent an excellent day at the London School of Theology participating in their annual research conference.  Several excellent papers given - much food for thought.  It was great to meet Professor Pete Ward of Durham University (author of several very well received books - do check them out) and hear his thoughts about celebrity and theology.
28th February 2019
The Bible Project is the best web resource for bible study that I'm aware of.  Their site includes an excellent bible reading plan (you'll need to scroll all the way to the foot of the home page).  Strong recommendation - spend some time looking here:
22nd February 2019
better story

Finished another excellent book.  Glynn Harrison (formerly a professor of psychiatry at Bristol University) offers guidance for Christians as they attempt to negotiate the widening gulf between Christian sexual ethics and those of mainstream culture.  As he rightly observes there is much more pastoral reflection to be done but his book is an excellent and very readable starting point.

19th February 2019
soul keeping I just finished reading Soul Keeping by John Ortberg.  The pace and accompanying strain of modern life can so easily choke our souls - this wonderful book offers invaluable insights into living a life of joy and peace. 

Highly recommended.
Hello and welcome to our church. If you are a new visitor, we have a page for you to get to know us and learn more about planning a visit.
Click here to see more.

Planning your Visit