I’ve been touched by the people who’ve sent messages asking about how our launch event for the school of Mission went on Saturday.
Actually I think God was very gracious with a really blessed time but what probably scared me the most about Saturday is that it was a dream in my head and heart now becoming a reality which is both exciting but scary. The dream that “one day I might…” is an exciting but comfortable fantasy the reality wakes me up at night sweating!
The dream seems crazy when I write it to see every Christian in the UK comfortable and Confident to share their faith with wisdom and sensitivity both to the person/context and to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
Self doubt creeps in and my answers of loving and praying together to seek God for your context seem “not enough” I need a clever message, a PowerPoint (or at least a flip chart) be selling a “how to” book that is thicker than a telephone directory. Yet friendship, love, prayers and my own bumbling journey with bruises and graised knees seem not enough, but it is all I’ve got.
As I embark on this launch -and the subsequent journey from Cornwall to Carlisle- I feel like Naaman as he was told to wash in the filthy river Jordan (rather than do something difficult, complex and dangerous) -he had to loose his pride, ego and humbly surrender to the downward mobility of a God who is strong when we are weak. Facing the unknown with the simple belief that love and seeking a Missional God who speaks (and loves) is all we need feels like David standing before Golliath with 5 small stones.
Anyway, back to the launch Saturday -or rather a few months before this when the idea that had been conceived many years before began the gestation period, the embryo began to take form, flesh and grow.
I remember thinking where to launch this and Bristol felt right as I’ve spent the last 8 years crying out to God for this city it had to be there.
I also knew some great Bristolians that are deeply committed to the city they know and love and are seeking to see “the Kingdom come here on earth -in Bristol/Knowel west/Hartcliffe/Hanham as it is in heaven”.
When thinking about the context of ministry we need those who live it and breath it, what the African Christians refer to as “someone who knows where the shoes pinch” but we also often need a friend from outside “who can see where the roof is leaking” -the fresh eyes see what we on the inside are oblivious too, our blindspots. Yet, who to ask for this role?
Who to have as a keynote speaker? My first choice was a lady called Jackie Leswell who I’d worked with projects such as Town Pastors and the Poole Youth conversation, one of the wisest /Godliest ministers I know. Yet she had just moved to Norfolk, she’s not going to travel 5 hours to help me out, would she? Indeed because of this I nearly didn’t ask her! Yet, so glad I did as she brought such gentle prophetic wisdom to the people that day. I was reminded of a phrase Bishop Lee (Bishop of Swindon) once said: “don’t say someone else’s ‘no’ for them!”.
The day came, and the day opened with some beautiful worship led by my friend Wes, and then Sam, my former intern a 26 year old Anglican ‘Priest’ from Knowel West gave a word. A passionate plea for us to be embedded in our communities, to realise not only how much God loves us but those we are speaking to, to have/be theologically robust enough to keep on loving people even when one of his friends from the working man’s club said: “I admire what he did” when referring to the far right murderer if Muslim worshippers in Christ Church (New Zealand) and not to take the lazy/easy option of simply labelling people as “monsters”.
A challenging word, I smiled as one of our accountability group, Chris Harwood, would have given a similar message if he had been there.
I also felt pride in Sam, as I remembered the 19 year old I first met 7 or so years ago, and the privilege it is seeing him grow into this amazing man of God, I look across at Regan another guy I walked with in a mentoring relationship and again felt proud, I may have left the city but there is something wonderful about playing a part (even in a small way) in helping to rise up this new generation of leaders.
This is idea was something we reflected on afterwards, as felt from conversations afterwards about this need for Missional Mentoring of people, and explored how often our leadership in Churches often is more “cork” than “catalyst” and how the Kingdom is about enabling people to thrive in who they are and what God has called them to do.
Wes played the song which featured the line “Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours”. -Which was part of Sam’s call.
Jackie spoke next about “uncovering wells” I think this is probably a blog on it’s own really but the idea of realising that which God has put within you and maybe we need to discover/rediscover/resurrect this. The image (which appeared later too with my friend Mark) was of an artisan well which is more like a fountain or spring coming from that deep place and bringing life.
She called us to think about mission as a way of life lived out in everything we do, say and how we pray, “where is our field” where has God placed us?
After Jackie’s talk we had the awesome privilege of anointing everyone who came and praying for them, which was amazing and there were many prophetic words -including one gentleman who was reminded of a word that had been given to him 25 years ago.
In the afternoon, my friend Tom did an advert for CVM (blokes ministry) and this was fantastic. Tom had not spoken much before in Church and it was great to give him an opportunity as he is stepping into this new role as regional co-ordinator for Bristol, and in many ways was a living embodiment of what he was praying for.
We asked Jackie to pray for him, and this was a profound moment as we were celebrating the vital role women play in leadership of our Churches and also our need to think afresh of how we meaningfully engage with guys with the message of Jesus.
After this my friend Regan gave his testimony, which was incredibly moving, and is a great reminder that it is God who is the primary agent in mission, but we get to participate within it -and there were great examples of where God worked through his people to see Regan become the man of God he is now.
After this I shared a little of the vision of the School of Mission and our desire to travel from Cornwall to Carlisle over the summer, offering people the opportunity to join me in this journey and adventure, and join us as we seek to be a blessing to encourage mission and discipleship.
I shared the picture from my previous parish about the need to “encourage missional DNA” and to help build “good incubators”, and challenged us to think about our “words, works and the wonders God can do through us” -living for God’s glory every day in what we say, do and how we pray.
Mark and Jackie closed with some powerful declarations of truth, praying blessing over us all and upon our city and ending with worship.
It was a wonderful day and really grateful to God for his faithfulness, but the challenge moves from having done a successful event to being part of a Kingdom movement, to catch the wind/wave of God’s spirit and to ride it to the shore.
I’ll end with an idea Jackie shared about us living in the 29th chapter of Acts (it finishes in chapter 28) this is our time, story and call responding to the greater story, call, plans and purposes of God who seeks to work in partnership with us.