Disappointment, Discouragement, encounter, Eternity, Evangelism, expectations, Fane Conant, Gospel, Message, obidience, Opportunity, Organic, Pioneer, pperseverence, Repentance, spontaneity, word -speaking/preaching/teaching.

Yesterday was a funny old day…

We have been doing a mission this weekend.

An evangelist friend of my Dad’s, Fane Conant, had come up to help us, following a brief chat I had at a evangelism/evangelist conference.

We started the mission with a small group of us gathered together on Hanham Mount -where John Wesley had preached to the Kingswood Miners-. The Kingswood Miners were considered to be the toughest and roughest of people, normally people fled from them, yet here we see a small group of Christians choosing to make them the priority. Following the actions of Christ that prioritised the marginalised, disenfranchised and ostracised. Yet here had been an incredible harvest that transformed not only Kingswood but also our nation, and the world.

“Lord we have heard of your fame, we stand in awe of your deeds renew them in our day” (Hab.3.) We prayed bold and audacious prayers nervously and worshipped, there were only 12 of us, and the city looked vast on the horizon as we sung in faith “greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this city”.

The next day we had a Men’s breakfast, sadly a few of the not yet Christian days didn’t show up, and 3 out of my 5 Churches weren’t represented, there was about 13 of us, and we’d reserved 30 places, so Fane’s presentation happened to rows of empty seats, although lots of people in the pub must have over heard the presentation too.

The next event was meant to be a coffee morning, but as I arrived no one else was there, not a single person had turned up. I felt bitterly disappointed. There were some guys in the hall painting. These guys were on Community Payback (the new name for probation).

Then an idea hit me, although God had probably been shouting it for a while, why didn’t I get Fane to talk to the Community Payback guys?

Swallowing hard and trying to appear chilled, I asked if Fane might be allowed to speak to the guys, talking about how his life had been turned around, message of hope and inspiration and I carried on in this vein.

The supervisor said “yeah, I’ll bring them all in”.

Fane (being wise) stopped him and said “you do realise I’ll be explicitly Christian?” (At this point I was expecting the guy to change his mind, and had already in a faithless way prepared my “well at least we tried” speech). The guy grinned and said “I don’t mind, I’m a Sikh by the way”.

So, here we were 8 guys sat around listening to Fane speaking about how Jesus turned around his life.

The last two talks Fane had done had been amazing, but here there was an even greater sense of God’s anointing, as Fane preached the Gospel in a wonderful and faithful way.

At the end Fane prayed a prayer and asked others to say it in their hearts, and then wandered around chatting to the guys, it turned out that two lads prayed the prayer giving their lives to Christ and are keen to be followed up.

Others were asking really deep, real hungry questions to Fane, Paddy and myself, the conversation fizzles and crack with God’s hand upon it.

As I left to take a wedding and Fane and a guy Harry from our Church went to chat to people on the High Street (and saw another guy come to faith)…

I smiled as I thought God is on the move, he is turning up in unexpected places, but he’s drawing people to himself, and what a privilege to join in with that.

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Authenticity, encounter, Worship

worship: A balanced diet.

“God doesn’t have a ‘faltering ego’ that needs propping up by your praise. God doesn’t have a lust for worship. He is not like Kim Jong-un. God created you because He loves you. You were created to love and be loved. To celebrate and to be celebrated. To walk with God with mutual enjoyment and pleasure”.

“We worship because we can’t help but worship this radical God of love. The God upon the throne is a lover, not an egomaniac. He may have our allegiance, but does He have our hearts. That’s a true worshipper, and the ones the Father seeks”.

These were the quotes on facebook by a guy I sort of know, Ben David, but it made me think afresh about worship, as celebration, I think for all of us when someone we love responds with love to us it brings a joy to our heart, it’s like a Father delighting in their child is God delighting in us.

I was reminded of the words of the Westminster Catechism “the chief end of man is to worship of and to enjoy him forever”, the idea of enjoying God was an idea I liked with worship.

I remember several years ago chatting to Bishop Stephen Conway (awesome man of God -Now Bishop of Ely) who I think describes himself as a sacramental, evangelical, charismatic which he described as “Loving God and having fun”, interestingly we don’t think of worship as fun -especially as an outsider looking in at more anglo-catholic forms of worship- et watching these guys splashing each other with holy water and wafting incense around maybe even though it is not something I fully understand I saw something of the fun -or perhaps Joy might be a better word.

I began to think about worship and realise that so often I have had a narrow view of worship, like a child who only eats the same two or three things, worship is singing songs with sound reformed theology with gusto!

Yet I have discovered that worship can encompasses all range of human emotions, musically it can be loud or quiet, exuberant or reflective, standing up on kneeling down, perhaps the song was written within the last few days or perhaps it is several thousand years old or maybe there are no spoken words at all, maybe its is said with movement like a dance, or in oils/paints/crayon or felt-tipped pens or a tear falling down your face.

Someone (I think it is Matt Redman) once said: “worship is all I am responding to all God is”.

Yet how can we respond to God adequately, all that we are can never be enough or a fitting response to the awesomeness of God.

Two of my favourite worship quotes come from a very old hymn and a much newer song: “when I survey the wondrous cross” which ends with the lines “were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small, love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all” and Matt Redman’s ‘I will offer up my life’: “Jesus, what can I give, what can I bring to so faithful a Friend, to so loving a King? Saviour, what can be said, what can be sung as a praise of Your name for the things You have done? Oh, my words could not tell, not even in part of the debt of love that is owed by this thankful heart”.

As when we respond to God our everything simply isn’t enough, perhaps the varieties, styles, traditions are ways that maybe help and enable us to encounter God afresh in a wider, deeper way.

Maybe, as we encounter God in different ways, we discover more of ourselves and more of God too.

I have encountered God in everything from Soul Survivor to Taize, from art to stillness, in fact as I have gone on, the more I have realised that a wider menu of of worship styles to draw on actually enhances not diminishes my faith, and frees me from the desire to say “you should worship more like me”, rather let us praise God together and discover more of him in new and exciting ways. Also, different people discover God in different ways, in the same week I remember talking to someone who wanted lively worship with some ‘oomph’ and someone else asking if we did a service that was more or less silent, it is okay to find a way that is authentic for you, and maybe too if maybe a way that did work is less helpful than it once was and something else is more helpful now, that is okay too, just as with food our taste buds change and develop so sometimes our spiritual lives change, I remember the Church I made a re-commitment in -I think I would struggle there now but at the time it was what I needed and I praise God for the blessing it was into my life”.

So, let’s worship God, encountering him, in whatever works for you, enjoying him, knowing he loves you, and wants to share this moment with you.

All of who we are responding to all that God is…

As we worship we discover that nothing can ever squeeze him into a box, we can never get bored of worship as there is always more to discover, to encounter and meet with, and perhaps in that encounter the journey might be different too.

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