Everyone gets to play

By Andy O'Connell

John Wimber

A city like Oxford is for many is a stepping stone of education and early career development, with high population turnover. A city church like OCC will reflect this population turnover of the city. But with our 'apostolic vision' for God's world, we see that turnover as an opportunity, not a threat! 

So it's no surprise that training and leadership development is a big part of what OCC focuses on! We love seeing everyone have the opportunity to become a disciple not just a church attender, be trained, empowered by the Holy Spirit and sent into God's world to be God's ambassadors and do God's work.

How does God involve people?

In the last 50 years, there have been some big shifts in the church, as the Holy Spirit has refreshed and renewed us all, in what has been called 'the charismatic renewal'. 1980s Vineyard church founder John Wimber called this "everybody gets to play". Of course this idea actually goes back to the pattern set by Jesus, who didn't just come and do it all himself, but set out training a bunch of apprentices, who in turn would train others.

Everybody gets to play means everyone gets to be filled with the Holy Spirit, for life, godliness and mission. We live in an era of world history when the Holy Spirit is available to all of us who follow Jesus.

Everybody gets to play means everyone gets to be an apprentice of Jesus. In the Protestant Reformation (1500s), in reaction to the priest-led church of the day, they saw again the importance of "every member ministry" and "the priesthood of all believers."

Everybody gets to play: in some church traditions today, paid church leaders do most of the stuff. But Ephesians 4 tells us rather that church leaders are there to equip all of God's people for all of his work. Like natural parents, they're not supposed to do everything themselves, but as spiritual parents, their goal is to train and nurture others.

Everybody gets to play: it's not just an inclusive statement, but also a mandate: "for the church to be all that God wants for us, everybody needs to play". 1 Corinthians 12 tell us this, in a vivid metaphor of the church being like a body with many body parts. As in a human body, it's vital that every part functions well.

Connect, serve and grow

I was raised in a conservative Baptist church where there was no expectation of the evident life of the Holy Spirit. But that church taught me that everyone gets to play a part (or at least, in my Baptist circles, everyone gets to vote!). 

I came to uni in Oxford, and learned, through one of the then St Aldates' curates who was moving around college CUs teaching and praying for people to be filled with the Holy Spirit, that everyone gets to be filled and empowered. 

I started to have a go at playing my part, in the church community. For me, I started by helping with tech and putting chairs out in hired halls. I became a church member, a really helpful process to understand the vision, values and calling of the church family I was choosing to be a part of.

A key guiding verse for me was Luke 16:10-12 where Jesus says whoever is a faithful steward of little will be entrusted with more; whoever is a faithful steward of worldly stuff will be entrusted with spiritual stuff; whoever is a faithful under-steward will be entrusted with their own stuff to steward for God.

And like natural parents seeing something in child and then nurturing it, church leaders ensured I got training, coaching, more opportunity, more empowering from Holy Spirit. As I worked out "everyone gets to play" in community, we all started to see more of who I was, what I was good at, and what I should leave to others. My character was formed as my corners were 'knocked off' in the wonderful all-age family that is the church. 

I connected, served and grew.

Leadership development in OCC

That's not just my story, but that is a big part of how we see leadership development in OCC. We love to nurture the gift of God in each person. We love to see all of God's people equipped to serve him, as they get stuck into community, serve, and see where God takes them. We love to see everyone getting to play, as they connect, serve and grow.

In fact we're sometimes asked how one gets to be a leader in OCC, which can be less than clear to people from other church background or cultures. This is the way: Connect, serve and grow! We start to see how God has gifted you, and you start to lead others in that area of gifting. As you are faithful in serving, God will entrust more to you.

God has called many of you to roles in his kingdom: leadership among his people, the church; leadership out in God's world; bringing godly leadership into workplaces, communities, politics, in our city and beyond; being peacemakers, culture builders, policy shapers and those who take the message of Jesus with us wherever we go.

To find out more please visit www.occ.org.uk/training

Adapted from a talk given on 6 March 2022