As I’ve been preparing for the Turning, I’ve been reminded of the story of Gideon in the book of Judges. He lived in a time when the people of Israel were not really close to God and the Midianites were regularly taking away their crops and intimidating them. His response was to hide away in a wine press and thresh wheat there so that his family could be fed. He is approached by an angel but immediately talks about what’s wrong in Israel. God’s response is to ignore what he says and call him to go and save the nation.
When I was in my early twenties, I took on mentoring a student (let's call him Jon). Jon was in his final year of University, and most of what we talked about was how his devotional life was faring during the pressures of finals. One evening, however, he asked me for my opinion - should he start thinking about proposing to his girlfriend? I hadn't talked out that kind of question before, and it took me quite a while before I eventually thought of a response I was happy with. My question to him was, "tell me all of the reasons why you like her".
One of the great things about working for Steve Thomas is that I get to hear about all sorts of things and even get to take part in some of them. However, when, within a few weeks of hearing of the incredible results obtained in an evangelism campaign in Reading, I began to pick up indications that, not only that they were thinking of taking this thing to France, but that Steve had actually volunteered my services to help administrate the event, as well as to translate all the related texts, I was far from impressed.
When I first started going to Abingdon to see what was happening there, I found myself on my way to the Salvation Army building near the town centre. I parked up, only to see someone I recognised from a prayer and worship time the night before. She was right there in the car park talking through a sheet of paper with an elderly gentleman. I left her to it and walked into the building across the street ready for a cup of coffee and to be taught how to do “The Turning”. I later heard from her that she had prayed a prayer to Jesus with the man.
Over the last few weeks I've found myself musing on the question of God's timing. As a human, God's timing is all too often not what I would want! He seems to not respond until the last minute, or answers a different question to the one I am asking! Am I simply to have a posture of submission, or am I supposed to know what he is up to? After all, Amos 3:7 says "God does nothing without revealing it to his servants " so surely, like the Men of Issachar, I am supposed to "understand the times and know what we ought to do" (1 Chronicles 12:32)?
Over the last 3 weeks I've had the opportunity and privilege of serving one of the national families of churches in our Salt & Light international family. Along with 2 other leaders from the UK, we've been helping them think about the shift to a more missional culture in their churches. As part of that I presented the following 'P's of leading transition in the church:
In my various roles as a leader and manager within our extended family of churches, charities and networks, at this time of year I find myself with an overload of budgets to manage and approve! It's just that time of year!
I was talking to our Sunday welcome team last night about the culture and atmosphere of welcome we want to create, certainly on Sundays but also right through our church community - in our central gatherings, in our community life and in our homes. If we are to be an effective family on mission (the theme for this blog!) then it shouldn't need saying that we need to be friendly and welcoming!
You might know the old anecdote: The man (it's usually a man!) on his deathbed who says he'd wished he'd spent less time at work, and more with his family. I've sometimes wondered (probably in a self-defensive kind of way, to avoid the nudges of my conscience!) whether it really was the case, or whether it was just a good preaching point!
In a conversation the other day, with the leaders of one of our missional communities, I was challenging them to consider their responsibility, as leaders, to create culture. If the culture of the group - attitudes, values, habits - are not right, then it's our responsibility as leaders to give attention to that.