Happy New Year everyone!

Just before Christmas I rushed down to Devon to collect my eldest daughter and bring her home for the festive break.  I stayed with one of my best and closest friends (we’ll call him Simon) and we ended up doing what what we used to do before I moved: sit outside around the chimenea, drink wine, have a laugh and sort out the problems of the world. I must have been going on about how great RBC is, because he suddenly asked me whether RBC folks got my sense of humour or not.

Now, I should explain that Simon knows me extremely well and has been witness to the times when my ‘hilarious’ jokes have spectacularly misfired and resulted in upset, complaints and urgent damage control apologies.  He was probably referring to the time I made a joke about council parking officers in front of our local counsellor at the first community party in the park we organised. Considering the council had generously provided their services and expertise for free, it wasn’t wise to hack them off.

The reality is that I have reigned in my penchant for practical jokes because I don’t want to get fired just yet and because I have learned that sometimes the tone of my humour is misunderstood. So I’m being careful.

What about our tone in other circumstances?

I was shopping in Sports Direct just before Christmas and witnessed an angry customer unleash his fury at the sales assistant because of a labelling mistake. In front of a growing queue of people he bullied, berated and belittled the assistant, seemingly living out his ‘Suits’ lawyer fantasy, even his partner was telling him to leave the assistant alone. He may have been correct in all he was saying but his tone was ugly and wrong.

Last term I took the RBC staff team to the Global Leadership Summit conference in Bracknell. In his keynote address Bill Hybels talked about the need for civility in an age of growing disrespect and division.  In his hard hitting summary he unpacked 10 rules of respect for Christians to live by:

  • Christians must set the example on how to differ with others without demonising them.
  • Christians must set the example of how to have spirited conversations without ‘drawing blood’.
  • Christians must not interrupt others who are talking and must not dominate the conversation.
  • Christians must set the example of limiting their volume levels and refusing to use incendiary words that are guaranteed to derail a conversation.
  • Christians must set the example of being courteous in word and deed to everyone at every level.
  • Christians must never stereotype.
  • Christians must apologise immediately when they are wrong.
  • Christians must form opinions carefully and stay open minded if better information comes along.
  • Christians must set the example of showing up and following through.
  • Christians must set rules of respect for everyone in the organisation they lead and enforce them relentlessly.

It seems to me that a lot of what Bill is talking about is our tone when speaking to people both in and outside the church.

I think 2018 will be a year of change and challenge for many of us at RBC. I believe that we will see growth, conversions and baptisms. (If you haven’t been baptised yet- it’s your time… let’s do it.)

We are going to review our current format of two Sunday morning services.

We are going to think about the roles that Roberta and Gerald are vacating and the opportunities this opens up for RBC.

We are going to think about how we can do discipleship better. I don’t think we do it very well at the moment and we need to do it better with some urgency. (Note my tone, I say ‘we’ including myself rather than pointing my finger.)

There are important discussions and big decisions to make this year, and my plea is that we watch our tone in how we speak.  Let’s model civility even when we may disagree. Let’s be examples of respect and courtesy as we go into 2018 together.

I’ll finish with a much quoted sentence from an unknown source.  “Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates: “Is it true?” “Is it necessary?” “Is it kind?” ”

Has your humour ever spectacularly misfired?

Have you ‘jokes’ ever had disastrous consequences?

Has a practical joke gone wrong?

Why not let me know by sending a reply

We are back to three services again this Sunday morning: 9.AM , 11.AM & 6.30 PM

Hope to see you at one of them















2 thoughts on “Tone

  1. Thanks for this Graham,
    Not so much a joke – but your story reminded me of a time when my tongue certainly got me into a sticky situation. Was in my early 20’s – so 5 or 6 years ago 🙂 – on a trip with my best mate from college to Toronto. We found ourselves in the city library where they have very swanky glass elevators and you can see all the people on many floors. There was an attractive woman looking right at us and smiling. I said to my pal “She looks a bit of all right heh Kev!” convinced we were the only 2 in the lift. Imagine my shock when I heard a response from behind us quietly respond “Yes I know – she is my wife!”. If I were quicker I could have handled the situation better, instead in silence I waited what seemed like an eternity for her husband to leave the lift – did not have the courage to turn round and get out ourselves, although we had a good laugh once he get out 🙂


  2. Janet and I well remember your father travelling from Wishaw and staying with us for the weekend. He had been invited to preach at Cheam Baptist Church as they had no pastor at that time. After the service, a contemporary Jill ——– said, “Douglas, I don’t think I could vote for you to become our pastor because I would always be thinking of the terrible practical jokes you played on everybody, not forgetting the corner jokes, when we were both in the Youth Fellowship!” Bryan.


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