Dr Alasdair Sawers, 11 February
Starting from Luke 5 verses 12-15:the healing of the leper, Dr Sawers painted a picture of his background and upbringing to help illustrate aspects of Jesus' healing ministry. From Scotland he trained as a GP, 1988 now at Wheatfields Hospice in Leeds practicing palliative medicine.
Alasdair's Christian journey started with Scripture Union input at school in Edinburgh; Aberdeen university introduced him to the charismatic renewal. He now worships at Harrogate Baptist Church which he describes as a broad-based interesting collection of people where he has become involved with the work of Christian Aid. He has been influenced by the language and litany of the Iona community and finds listening to silence very helpful. So does this result in a seamless spirituality bound into his life? Not quite...
Dr Sawers described three things from the bible reading: Jesus healing, the ways Jesus engaged with people and the way he interacted withthe establishment.
As we look through Luke's gospel we find Jesus healed in a variety of ways:
Sometimes he touched, sometimes he healed at a distance
Sometimes he spoke a word, sometimes he said nothing and occasionally he shouted
Sometimes he healed in private and sometimes very publicly
Sometimes it was a person's faith that healed them, sometimes it was the faith of others
Sometimes he said "Your sins are forgiven" and sometimes hesaid it was nothing to do with sin.
There was no pattern, no technique but he healed all who came to him.
From the story of Jesus healing the leper we can see how Jesus engaged with people: Jesus could have just told the leper to get well, but Jesus reached out and touched the man - he engaged with an alienated, lonely, abandoned outcast. The raising of Jairus' daughter illustrates similar facets - Jesus engaged with the girl's needs by asking for some food for her. The healing at the Pool of Bethesda in John's gospel saw Jesus asking "Do you really want to be made well?" - starting a new life, fending for himself.
Alasdair noted how this level of engagement is seen in the Hospice movement especially; the stereotypical view of hospital working in days of old didn't allow for the building of patient-doctor relationships - dealing with each other as persons.
This generosity of devotion is seen when auxiliary nurses go more than the extra mile making special arrangements for those in their care - including making wedding days extra special (putting the bride on the back of a Harley Davidson motorcycle!).
Jesus and the establishment: he appeared to be in tension with the rulers and authorities. Jesus toed the establishment line: "Go and wash and show yourself to the authorities". On other occasions Jesus upset the authorities by asking the sick to stretch out the withered hand. Jesus wanted people to 'Repent' - that is, to re-think how God can reach out and change, heal and restore.
The medical model allows no space for comment on God's work, sadly.
Dr Sawers cited a case of an overdose where the two priests who brought the kid in were shocked when he joined in when they prayed the Lord's prayer. Was the kid that far gone?!
We have extremes of views on healing - it was OK in Jesus' day and nowadays we have medical science. The otter end of the spectrum suggests that God wants us to be well and rich all the time an it's 'your fault if you're not well and rich'. Unlike Jesus where the pattern shows his unique desire to engage with every individual we sometimes struggle to know how God heals today. God doesn't need a big church service to bring about healing - Jesus rarely healed in the temple and only to cut across what was going on.
In the Iona Community short prayers are said within a set service and God often heals through that. There is a place for prayers for the sick today just as much as enjoying the benefits of modern medical science. We can learn from Jesus' personal touch, the way he engaged with individuals and the way he handled the establishment.
Dr Sawers closed with an extract from the Iona Community healing service:
Spirit of the Living God, present with us now, enter you - body, mind and spirit - and heal you of all that harms you, in Jesus' name Amen.
Mr Dennis Richards, 18 February
Dennis Richards has served as head teacher of St Aidan's Church of England High School for some sixteen years. He is driven by God's love, as St Paul noted in 1 Corinthians 13: 'Love will never come to an end'. As today's speaker, he suggested he was intimidated by the number of people present - including the wife of the long serving governors, a governor, a prospective parent and the former head teacher of Harrogate Grammar School.
Mr Richards deferred from including Thomas à Kempis's works in his presentation. He focused on children - the phrase "The Imitation of Christ" resonates with him as he looks at the children at school and the presence of Christ in them. With some 1820 children at St Aidan's, his role is pastoral as well as an educator. Looking at the faces of the many innocent children he finds it easy to see Christ in them. Other children come across in different ways... The audience smiled broadly when he described his growth in devolved responsibility over the years: it's his fault when there's a problem with 'your pupils' or 'your teachers' and even 'your parents' (looking at the problems of parking on St Winifred's and St Hilda's). Today's fashion brings further light-hearted comments: "it's difficult for a man of my vintage to have to concentrate on the length of the girls skirts. The boys now wear low-flying trousers...." He does not like having to tell the boys to pull their trousers up and the girls to pull their skirts down. Sometimes this can get confused... So to today's offering; he has three thoughts on the imitation of Christ through the children: 'My Child', 'Your Children' and 'Our Children'
My Child: as a parent he found that the hardest job was being a dad - even compared to every other job, noting the time he spent teaching French in Barnsley. He cited a key moment from the Old Testament about David, recalling how his story saw great success even though the wheels fell off later. Joab the commander came back after the battle is over, but David just asks "Is my child safe?". When Dennis looks at children he remembers that every child belongs to a parent. "Is my child safe?" - we're be-devilled by the culture around us nowadays - drugs and crime. Being aware of all this hones his deep desire to keep the children safe. Having worn [pink NHS] glasses since he was six he has a good personal understanding of the need for personal security.
Your Children: becoming a grandad brings all the Mr Men and Thomas the Tank Engine books back off the shelf. Grandpa Richards is delighted with so many new books; today he read from 'My Grandson is a genius'. Parents know that their child is different; within the climate of targets and league tables, parents need reminding of the important things in life - relating one to another and so on. The 70+ people today also heard a reading from the children's book "Arthur" where the dog tries to adapt to modern times by imitating a rabbit, then a snake, a fish, then a cat. When the lizard, hamster and other menagerie appeared on the scene the poor dog realised that he had just to be himself. Just like being the person God created us to be.
Our Children in this country. Like St Valentine losing his life for sheltering children, Mr Richards seeks to bring up children so that they know love in all its fullness. Dennis appreciates the breadth of understanding in of the word Love as seen in the Greek. With Philia - the love of one's life, be it wisdom, philosophy, sports or friends. Storge expresses the love in the family; the relationships across the wider family as well as close family. Society appears to only know love as Eros - dominating the agenda whereas the other understandings of love are more important. Agape, the selfless love, the one that Jesus showed in the cross; we see it in the selfless giving to the Tsunami and so on.
Dennis Richards would love our children to know all aspects of love - and most especially Agape.
His desire is for My Child, Your Child and Our Children to know that the greatest is Love.
Fr Lawrie Hulme, 25 February
Fr Lawrie based his talk on this one verse from Micah: 'God has told you what is good - what has he asked of you: to walk justly before your God'. Saints days today include St Walburga (born in Devonshire England, around 710; educated at Wimborne Monastery in Dorset, where she became a nun. In 748, she was sent with St Lioba to Germany to help St Boniface in his missionary work). The Roman Catholic church has a church dedicated to her in Shipley. Fr Lawrie last spoke at these Lent Lunches in 1988 - sadly no-one recalled his talk then.
Fr Lawrie, priest at St Robert's Roman Catholic Church, has just finished reading Bill Bryson's "A short history of nearly everything'. He found it informative and sometimes sarcastic; the book suggests how we got here, concluding with how little we know about ourselves and the world in which we live. Speaking today - briefly - on the subject of the Imitation of Christ, as a Catholic, the only thing that springs to Fr Lawrie's mind is the book by Thomas à Kempis. Kempis didn't like people because they got in the way of his prayer life - on meeting people he would be briefly polite and then add 'I have to go now and talk with someone in my cell'. Fr Lawrie appreciated chapter 10 of the first book - the superfluity of words! He promised to be brief with the audience today.
Day in, day out, wherever Fr Hulme finds himself, he tries to allow the presence of Christ within him to flow to the outside world, in thought, wordand deed. He finds good deeds are relatively easy; he often finds it easy to say the right words - but it is most difficult to be Christ-like in his thoughts. It's not so easy being the Imitation of Christ when someone knocks on the door at midnight asking for a sandwich.
Fr Lawrie is fasting from TV during the week, so he then watches the rugby at weekends (a question came up later asking how to play rugby as a Christian). He noted that it isn't easy in society today to react to the prescience of Christ . The person of Jesus is not well represented within the press these days. Now, the vast majority of us in the UK live good lives, it's a part of who we are. The way we relate to others, show care and concern. We speak out on issues. As a priest, though, he finds representing Christ can be a heavy burden; he may wonder why people come to church - but he knows it's more important that they are there, just like Jesus welcoming crowds in.
Sometimes Fr Lawrie can be overgenerous - he gives folk the benefit of the doubt. Jesus didn't; the leaders of his day said "This is intolerable language", yet Jesus didn't go after them and explain his position
Fr Lawrie struggles most with the way Jesus spent time alone in prayer. When those times get smaller and smaller he wonders if he should wish he were like Thomas à Kempis and take himself away from people.
In Lent the Catholic church look at the stations of the cross - the stopping places. In this journey of Jesus we note that our Lord never looks back - he knows where he is going. Jesus knows where we are going, too. I need to be aware of my faults and failings but God doesn't want to allow those to get in the way of moving forward with him. Putting the not-so-good things behind is easier at those stopping places, the stations of the cross. For example, Jesus met a lady who wipes his face; Simon of Cyrene stopped to help with his two sons Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15 v21); he had pushed his way to the front - perhaps the last time he put himself forward. Sometime we stumble, sometimes we need friends to help us up, sometimes we find it difficult to move forward. And here is Jesus saying "Keep going". Don't ever think we're already there, that we've made it.
With just a few tatters of cloth here is Jesus more interested in our needs than his own, dying for us, aware of the crowds who were there. Many would see the crowds and want to run away. Fr Lawrie thinks he'd be so frightened he'd be off in the distance.
Perhaps God uses us when we are somewhere we shouldn't be, trying to sneak off out the back door.
Sometimes it's the way we speak rather than what we say. God chooses us rather than us choosing him. Fr Lawrie wonders why; he, too, has rough days when he has to go through the motions. He finds that it can happen when he's with people needing care - and sometimes he finds himself letting God take over. He can find himself wondering if he had really said what he said. He can get it wrong - and then finds that God wanted those words to be said. Everyone in a group can hear something different from what he says.
Fr Lawrie suggested that when Wesley Owen/Branchlines reopens we should have a look the book by Thomas à Kempis - not to buy it - simply read the chapter headings! For example: bearing the defects of others', 'the consideration of human misery', 'humble submission', 'the truth speaketh within us without the knowledge of words', and 'acquiring patience, obedience'. Perhaps in imitating the person of Christ, the highest priority is to fix our sight on God alone.
Mr Richard Dean, 4 March
Richard has derived much encouragement from a passage in Jeremiah: "I know the plans I have for you to prosper you, to give you hope and a future" and he spoke in a little more detail on this in his talk. He described his background - a retired as a plumber within church eldership; he now worships at River of Life church - the remnant of Harrogate Christian Fellowship.
To imitate someone you need to know them; getting to know Jesus is the most important thing you can do. He chose to look at four key aspects of Jesus as a prophet, a giver, one who knew God's word and as a man of prayer. He started with prayer:
Jesus prayed; he was led by the Spirit - Matthew 4 the spirit sent Jesus into the wilderness; in Luke 4 he returned to the Jordan full of the spirit. When he and his wife Jenny became Christians 27 years ago they arose at six in the morning to pray; sometimes sleep overtook them, though. Going to church, church meetings, having a family and running a business forced Richard to move this early time of prayer to later in the day...
Jesus was a giver - giving all to save us. This has meant that the Dean family have given time and money. With no father-roll model, Richard sought security in money - yet still suffered from depression (what Churchill called the 'black dog'). He noted how David and Elijah suffered depression. Richard also suffered with dyslexia; it took God a few years to get through to him.
God's hand on his life has seen completely changed lives, including his giving. He offered his time and money, learning the benefits of returning the tithe to God. He noted that he's never met a tithe giver who's hard up!
When people took offence to Jesus' words he noted that a prophet is without honour in his home town. As well as being a prophet, Jesus explained prophecies to people - he knew how important prophecy is to the church. As Christians and a church we're all the poorer when we miss out on prophecy.
Spiritual leaders bless their churches; there's much rejoicing when the church leader is forced to be all things to all men, doing all the jobs in the church and getting burnt out on the process; Richard suggested that we should express God's love in support to help our leaders be refreshed.
Jesus knew God's word; to imitate Christ we need to know God's word. Richard offered a handful of passages which have built a foundation in his life.
Deuteronomy 30 19 "setting before you life and death, blessings and curses - choose now". Richard believes the important word in the passage is "choose"; he chooses to be positive, put a smile on his face.
Matthew 10 28 - "come to me all you who are weary and burdened... come and learn from me... my yolk is easy and my burden is light". Richard recognised that he wasn't living Jesus' way when he saw that his life was a burden.
Galatians 5 1 "It was for freedom that Christ has set us free" - Richard encouraged the audience to know that freedom - even to expressing it clearly and loudly!
Jeremiah 12 11: the plans I have for you - to prosper you, not to harm you, to give you a future". Richard knows he's on a journey and when the end comes he hopes that people will say that he followed Jesus, he tried to feed the hungry, clothe those who were naked, visit the prisoner, serve humanity, spoke out against injustice. Living a committed life is his desire - he hopes these things add up to a life not lived in vain.
Mrs Ruth Cundy, 11 March
Ruth introduced her talk suggesting that she didn't have a title for her role - as noted in the programme. She was awed by the subject matter, seeing it as challenging, scary and humbling to think of imitating Christ. She considered that it was a mistake to talk about herself and how she fails or succeeds in imitating Christ.
Alister McGrath wrote that the gospel was not about copying Jesus so much as appropriating Jesus. Appropriating is all about 'taking as your own' with a sense of identifying and being part of a close relationship. We come to God in and through Christ, not with Jesus. Ruth has been thinking in terms of two sides of imitating Christ:
Being, particularly being in relationship with God
Doing, what we do as a result of this relationship.
In any situation, then, as well as considering "What Would Jesus Do", we may think on "What Would Jesus Be".
We tend to define people by what they do rather than who they are. Looking at the descriptions in the Lent Lunch programme, Ruth suggests that she may not fit into the categories - maybe women's lives are less neatly packaged than men's. Tim, her husband, carefully avoids answering the question "What do you do?" directly - perhaps "I'm a teacher", then maybe followed by "Maths" - but he's aware that, for some, the memories of Maths in the classroom will put people off developing rapport with him. Ruth sees Tim as her husband and best friend rather than a teacher!
Jesus values us for who we are - not what we do or even how we relate to others. When he met the rich young ruler, the paralysed man, Peter or the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus saw what was going on on the inside and challenged people from that position. What they needed was forgiveness, and that is what he came to deliver. As Christians we are called to be as much as to do. Ephesians 4 v29 to 5 v2 describe how, as children of God, our relationship with the Father comes first. We imitate our Father because that's what children do, subconsciously.
Verse 2 describes how Christians are to live a life of love, being before doing. We live a life of love because we respond to Jesus' love. When we see Jesus in people we see his love, his compassion, his forgiveness - attitudes which lead to action. We love just as Christ loved us; the imitation is not so much copying as responding, as in verse 32, forgiving each other just as in Christ, God forgave you.
There are times we fail in doing, but God can reveal himself in our being his children.
Times to be and do: The reminder in Luke 10 38-42 of Mary and Martha illustrates Jesus telling Martha to stop doing and to just be with him.
Ruth recalled her times in Burundi - just being rather than doing. People used to come and sometimes to talk - they liked just being with others. In Nepal Tim and Ruth had no specific job to do - even expecting to help in the line of Maths. Tim did something only in the last weeks - which was welcomed by the headmaster "It was so good to have you, one who was happy just to be here rather than having to do something".
God can change what we are where we find it difficult; by comparison, we find it easier to change what we do. In Nepal, Ruth felt ill at ease and felt she could nothing about it apart from pray. Her fear of heights also concerned her; later in Katmandu she was overwhelmed by God's peace and a sense of belonging, with Ruth very grateful to God for those gifts (which seem to have left since - she is still afraid of heights!).
We are all children of God with our diverse personalities and characters. God doesn't change us so much as works with us help us respond to and imitate Christ in many different ways. Ruth enjoys working as apart of the banner group at St Mark's church. The banner that Ruth brought along says "Not to be served but to serve" God can speak through our gifts - and so much more than we can. Like Jesus, we are to serve, using what God has given us in the service of the church, the community, our family and in our jobs. The image of Christ kneeling is a very challenging one.
Ruth noted the power of the visual on us: in the banner the shape of the words (in a cross shape with a descending line) and the attitude of the figures helps us to respond to Christ and imitate him in our lives.
Ruth concluded with an extract from Mark 3 v14: Jesus called his disciples to be with him, then he sent them out to preach and do his work. We cannot be imitators of Christ if we don't spend time with him, getting to know him.
Mr Michael Langford, 18 March
Mike drew from Galatians 5:22-26, Phillippians 3:4-8 and John 10:7-10 (GNB) in his talk as he concluded this Lenten series on "The Imitation of Christ today". He kindly emailed this script in advance of the lunch; much of it is therefore in the first person.
Mike suggested that folk wondered who he is. By being last does that mean I am at the bottom of the guest list or does it mean that Churches together have been saving the best until last. Why should I have been asked to speak when there are so many other good Christian folk around? Why am I, if at all, different to the other speakers? Do I imitate Christ in a different way?
Mike noted that we have heard from a well-known doctor who knows all about physical healing and has a good working knowledge of Jesus Healing ministry as recorded in the Scriptures, well known teacher who has influence many of our Children's lives, a Catholic priest who is respected and adored throughout the region, a plumber who is an elder in his church and has a fantastic knowledge of the scriptures and how he applies them to his life, and a well-known and respected missionary who has seen much suffering throughout Africa. And then there's me.
Mike noted that he has no theological training, has never taken big risks for The Lord, avoids preaching in Church, Christian Counselling or being a great Prayer Warrior. He has never travelled abroad on missionary Service - so why am I here?
I think its because I am an ordinary Christian and that means I can relate to most people in this room. Its not that I or we are in awe of these people who have already spoken, its just that people who know me and my faults know that I struggle to imitate Christ but I do live life to the Full. This may apply to a lot of us who have never moved out of the comfort zone of our Christianity. I contribute where I can to the life of my church and I have the fantastic opportunity to run a business and use the power and the Grace of God to help me do that. Living life to The Full is the way I witness. I have gained everything and lost nothing and that's why I have chosen the reading from John.
Mike nearly failed his A levels because he did not read the question. So I have read this letter from Ron Evans and I will try to address the ideas that he has suggested. So who am I? Michael Langford, married to Frances, with two children, worshipping at St Andrews Church since 1987, and self employed as a Travel agent: Michael Langford Travel (which saved him thinking of another name for the business).
I used to think I was a Christian as I did everything right, went to church, helped old ladies across the road, passed O level RE at grade 5, didn't commit any heinous sins. There was a notable moment when I was walking back from a swimming pool that I had been invited to use by some friends of mine who were running a Crusader camp for young people and he said “Mike, are you a Christian?" (meaning to my mind like a vicar or a church worker) and I said "No", but I would like to think I am as good as one. He said, "But you know, Mike, that's not what its all about," and that set me thinking. During the week the school minibus had a crash and as I was the only person they knew in the area (and it was not an insurance job so they needed it done cheaply) I liaised during the week between them and a friend of mine who repaired cars for a hobby. I spent time with them and their Christian activities, was given a bible signed by all the leaders, learnt my sister was a covert born again Christian, nearly had a crash myself up near Pennypot and decided perhaps being a Christian had something to offer.
At then end of the summer I was sailing with a friend near Falmouth and as neither of us could be bothered to read the charts or interpret the shipping forecast at 5 to 6 (we thought Fastnet was a type of woman's stocking) we eventually became becalmed and then stranded in Truro Harbour as the tide went out. My friend was a Christian Thingy but had never pushed his faith on me but at my suggestion we went to Evensong at Truro Cathedral as there was nothing else to do. There were two people and a dog in the congregation in this vast building and there were at least 40 clergy up front. That was the night I saw this this large gulf between me and God and I had been pushing him away so (and it seemed a good idea at the time) I knelt down and asked him into my life. Unfortunately nothing happened but my friend knew I needed affirmation and knew two old ladies who lived nearby who could give me that. My friend also told me that when I got back to Harrogate (he lived in Worcester) I should find a lively church and join a housegroup.
So on my return I went to the old Barbican Christian Bookshop (the one at Strawberry Dale) and asked that dream question that none of us ever get asked: "I have just become a Christian and I need to know how to take it further". I also added that I am not ready for this happy clappy stuff but church services bore me. They directed me to St Andrews and that day I went it was as if the preacher was speaking directly to me.
So what seemed like a good idea at the time was slowly nurtured into a living faith. My favourite song in those days was a Chris Bowater song ('There's a call to Holy Passion') and I suspect I was a pain to anyone where I had the remotest possibility of getting my newfound faith into the conversation. I probably upset my mother because I may have insinuated that her particular brand of Christianity (a local church of Scotland in the Highlands) was not the real deal and I went through a hard time with my colleagues at work as I had found God and this might impact on our relationship with each other. I forgot about keeping up my friendships with perfectly acceptable and very nice non-Christians and I was impervious to how Christ would really like us to live out our Christian lives.
Mike used to work for American Express Travel and have travelled the world extensively but in 1987 I heard I was to be made redundant. That came to me as a kick in the teeth as me and the team I worked with had really put a lot of effort into building up the business. There may be people in the room who have also been through this and I know what a difficult time it can be. However I was very fortunate in that I knew I was going to be made redundant, I did not have any wife or family to support or convince of a course of action and I knew a lot of people in the area. So although I had the offer of moving with American Express to another office somewhere else in the country I decided to set up on my own as a Travel Agent. That was in 1988; from small beginnings I grew slightly to two staff and now I am back to me on my own with a slightly different set up. I rent a desk to someone who does really nice honeymoons for people and although she is not a Christian I could not ask for a nicer person to work with.
I love the job I do. As a travel agent I deal mainly with happy people. That's what most people think of as travel agent I presume but there are plenty of times where I have had to deal with sons, daughters, mothers and fathers who have just heard a relative has died or is dying. My role in that is to be level headed and compassionate. Some people are so confused that they need someone who will tell them what the best course of action is. Do you go for a cheap ticket that cannot be changed or do you go for a more expensive one that can be changed? If someone has next to no money do you do a fantastic time consuming job for them that you earn no money on (and remember if I do not make money I do not survive) or do I do a Robin Hood and milk the rich to help pay for the poor? If I do a booking for a church or a missionary, do I charge them nothing as it is the Lord's work? Christ equipped us all for this sort of work and that is where the reading from Galatians is so appropriate as we seek to imitate Christ.
So apart from these guidelines in Galatians how do I become The Imitation of Christ –Today? Jesus was never a travel agent and I think he walked most places so probably did not even need to use one. I thought I had found the answer when I went to Spring Harvest one year and there was a seminar just for me, entitled: 'How to be a Christian in Business'. Surely I could come away from that armed with a formula or books but no. The whole emphasis was on how I lived my life. We all have relationships in the workplace –with colleagues, with employees, with customers with suppliers. How can you expect to be treated well by your boss if you treat your staff badly? How can you expect people to pay their debts if you hang on to your money for as long as you possibly can? How would you like to go somewhere for advice and get biased advice based on what someone wants to sell you rather than what is best for you? My relationship with God is that I say "Thank you God” when I get a good booking and I say “How are we going to get out of this one” when something goes wrong. Things I believe start to go wrong when I forget that God Looks over me rather than just after me. The imitation of Christ that I want to do is that Father Son relationship that Jesus had. That's why I chose the reading from Phillippians as our relationship with God and the people we work with and our families is what God is really after rather than what we do.
Do things go wrong? Yes. One time I purchased a ticket. Never arrived. Chapter of events which got worse and worse. Prayed for three specific things. God honoured all three - money back, new tickets and that I could maintain the same working relationship with the client
On another occassion the lease never arrived, so he went into the Lady Chapel at our church which I hate doing as I think everyone is looking at me (why is he going in there?) to pray for the Lease to come through and it did just in the nick of time.
A client who always pays owed me a substantial sum. This time, it seems, is different as his phone simply rings and rings. I get the feeling it is unanswered prayer and a phone call from him will come but when do I lose patience with the great Debt Collector in the Sky and resort to the human Debt Collector. Mike remarked that he wrote these notes on Monday this week, and on Tuesday this client rang out of the blue and paid the account.
During the first Gulf War no one was travelling and I was losing monet hand over fist. I said to God: "Please provide me with another income when the overdraft goes up above £10,000". However the war stopped and the Overdraft stopped at £9,600.00!
He has encountered wrong advice - notably regarding a Visa for Cuba. I paid out £2,500.00 as it was not the clients fault (nor mine really). So he put in a claim against myself (as the client was not claiming as he had already got his money). The insurance company paid up despite being told initially that you can only make a claim if you are sued or an employee is negligent.
I used to employ two staff, had a turnover of over £1,000,000 and the lost a large contract which meant about £40,000.00 of income (they all went back to the USA). Because I had a good relationship with them, one of the office girls told me, six months in advance, that she would be leaving to travel round the world (and therefore no worries for me about redundancy and no worries for her about how I would treat her once I knew she was leaving). The other one I found a job for her in another travel agency but told her if she did not like it to come back to me and I would pay her redundancy or business may have picked up by then.
So what are his weaknesses? I hate charging people money. I have no problem charging people for a holiday when I earn a percentage of the money but I have great difficulty in saying that's £500 plus by fee of £50. I find it difficult to be a hardheaded businessman. Lots of Christians do not have that problem. I make money by providing a service which people want rather than being a business person who has spotted a gap in the market and selling that service.
In conclusion then I live my life according to how I think Jesus would want me to. Through the scriptures he gives us plenty of guidelines, not so that we can be like him, but can aim towards what he wants me to be. I stray from that path but I know that most importantly I must never let that relationship die or wither. I also know that as a businessman, God is more interested in how I conduct myself and my relationship with him than anything else. I am fortunate however in that I can work without too much pressure as I do a job I enjoy, Frances my wife does a great part time job as a midwife and I have chosen to run a small business rather than be greedy and make lots of money. I also enjoy being a nice guy and being hard headed does not come naturally to me anyway.
Thanks for listening and if you do not have any questions then I have some for you to help me make money but be fair about it!!
In addition to answering questions from the floor, Mike posed a couple of questions to the audience:
If I charge a fee should that be a one off or say £25 per ticket (so if there are four I would earn £100 for doing the same amount of work as one)?
I lose £5,500.00 per year in credit card charges so should I charge people if they use a card or should I be grateful that I have got their business in the first case? It is better to earn £80 less a credit card fee of £20 than nothing at all.