My favourite book on evangelism is “God on the beach” by Michael Volland, in it there is an awesomely powerful image, he looks out and sees a boat stuck in the sand, at closer inspection the boat has been there for years, and will be there for years. Michael was coming to an end of a mission week in Newquay, and in seeing this boat he received a picture from God that God had been in Newquay since before the mission team arrived and will be there after they go.
This understanding that we are invited into the awesome privilege of joining with God for a season of his salvation work in his world. Rowan Williams once wrote that “it is not the Church that has the mission of God but rather the God of mission who has a Church!”
There is a theological phrase fort his, it is called the Missio Dei the mission of God, which he calls us to enter into.
God is always at work within the creation he adores the call to us is to find out what God is doing and to join in.
The problem is that God is working often in places our religious spirits don’t want to go, Peter on the roof of Simon the Tanner when he sees the vision of unclean animals for him to eat, but instead he says “I’m not eating that” despite Jesus saying to him on mission “eat whatever is put before you!” and because of this vision he goes and finds God at work in the life of the Gentile Cornelius. God had been working where the good respectable religious people thought he shouldn’t be working, but was.
The same is true today, often Christians are scared to go into “body, mind and spirit” fayres forgetting that “he that is within us is greater than he that is within the world” – in fact the display of the Holy Spirits power was so impressive in the book of Acts that one of the peddlers of occult stuff wants to buy the Holy Spirit as the recognises the Spirits power is greater and more beautiful than his own limited attempts.
I used to do a town centre chaplaincy giving our chocolates to the various workers in retail and used to feel awkward about going into the Good Timez store with its in store clairvoyant, but although I’m not into such things I always went in as I saw these people as spiritual seekers, people looking and longing for God, must looking in the wrong place. Something of mission is discovering where the Holy Spirit is at work in them even if other things appear more viable at first.
We often start a conversation unaware that God has been at work in a person for years, recently having a pint with my friend Chris he said “the girl behind the bars’ dad’s a vicar” and some of the regulars have got Christian mates or been part of a Christian youth group… yet at first glance you wouldn’t realise that God has been at work.
I love the idea of looking at people and the world with the eyes of faith, seeing God at work and ingeniously drawing people to himself, just like the star in the East leading the astrologers to kneel before the king of kings in a manager, so God is reaching out to his world in live, not wanting anyone to perish.
We hear stories of Muslims asleep and encountering Jesus in their dreams, God working in areas that often we assume he would bypass. Yet there is no door that can lock out the spirit of God.
Even within the world God has ordained that everything reveals his splendour, St. Paul talks of all nature leaving humankind without an excuse but to believe in God.
My former intern Sam once told the story of an African village which was having peace talks , and ones of the tribal leaders rushed forward and gave the other warlord his son, and grabbed the warlords son. The image was powerful that whilst their flesh and blood lived within the other community there would be peace through the sacrifice.
A redemptive image from their culture which gave the missionaries language and opportunity to speak to this tribe of a God who gave his son to bring reconciliation. The world is full of atonement imagery pointing people to Jesus, but the spirit of this world has blinded the eyes of the unbelievers.
If we read Harry Potter we see a wonderful image of salvation, these images are seen from Disney to Dickens literature and film are pale immitations of humanities yearning for the greatest story of all.
In sport when a hated player from the premiership done an England shirt his past performances for his team are forgiven as he tries to bring victory to the national team.
A world screaming out the message of the gospel.
Yet God invites me and you to come and to join him in partnership with sharing revelation and his good news with his beloved peoples where-ever they may be and whatever they may have got into.