Wildfires lessons from the global church

By Andy O'Connell

Big Top at Wildfires Festival

Loads of us have just returned from Wildfires Festival and Big Church Day Out. We had an amazing time, and there are lots of personal stories to be told - just ask anyone who went!

If you weren't able to be with us, do listen to some of the excellent Big Top teachings here:

  • The Spirit of comfort - Rich and Ness Wilson (Fusion and Pioneer networks)
  • The Spirit of hope (stay awake to the Spirit's promptings) (Steven Chandler)
  • The Spirit of wisdom (Damilola Makinde, KXC and Evangelical Alliance)
  • The Spirit of courage and power (join in with God's plan, rather than asking him to join in mine) (Jay Pathak, Vineyard USA)
  • The wildfires of the Spirit (a choice to take risks in what God is calling us to do) (Rachel Hughes, Gas Street Church)

What about us as OCC?

Beyond the important and life-changing personal stories, what is God saying to his church as a whole?

One of the things I really appreciate about attending these larger events is to gain a a fresh heavenly perspective. When we take time to gather with others - different streams, churches and communities - we gain a broader and richer view on what God saying to the whole church. This can confirm, challenge and enrich what we are hearing as OCC. It's really important that we don't just exist in our own 'bubble' but look to see what God is doing in, with and through others.

The ministry at Wildfires showed me 3 things that I believe will encourage us as a local church as we emerge from the pandemic. They certainly encouraged me and I trust it encourages you. (Links to talks will be added when they are available.)

Jesus comes alongside with compassion

When Jesus joined the confused and grieving disciples on the Emmaus Road, first he came alongside them, and listened. As we're told elsewhere, Jesus sympathises with us in our weakness.

The church today, not least because of the challenging 2 years we've just had, is very attuned to the brokenness of the world: personal and societal. Rightly so. Jesus sympathises. Jesus weeps. Jesus sees 'sheep without a shepherd'. As God's people we're called to carry his heart of love and compassion. 

Unsurprisingly there are new, prophetic songs emerging, expressing this aspect of God's heart. For example:

"In the chaos You are the peace | In my suffering You’re here with me | In the darkness You never leave | God of mercy You’re walking with me"
(Sound Mind, Jonathan and Melissa Helser)

"When I feel like ruins | You see foundations | To build Your Kingdom here"
(Foundations, Gas Street Music)

Jesus gives understanding and perspective

On the Emmaus Road, Jesus also brought understanding to the disciples, helping them see past their disappointment about Jesus' death, and perceive God's purposes.

Church leaders, globally, are asking the question, "What we do we learn from the pandemic, and what are God's purposes through it?"

Respected church leader and cultural commentator, Australian Mark Sayers, notes "What looks like obliteration, is the beginning of a new era. After obliteration it just takes a single seed to start the new thing. What seeds does God want to germinate in your life?"

One thing the church is learning is to again gather and come close to God in worship. As we come close, he comes close, and fills us afresh with his Holy Spirit, and speaks about the new things he wants. While online church has been a lifeline for us all, the church is seeing that there is something powerful, unique and tangible when God's people gather, in a room, to worship.

We've been teaching recently in OCC about refreshing our worship. If you missed it, watch Steve Jones' talk (15 May).

Jesus gives contagious hope

Jesus' interactions on the Emmaus Road left the disciples freshly full of hope and with 'hearts burning inside them'.

Various Wildfires speakers pointed us to the hope we carry, as God's people, and our mandate to carry that hope to a confused world.

Damilola Makinde (KXC and Evangelical Alliance) said "Does consecration mean withdrawing from the world? No, we steward the work of the spirit in order to be contagious, not to avoid contamination."

Rachel Hughes (Gas Street) noted that while can be ready wearing the 'activewear' of Holy Spirit, all too often we don't actually go on to use it, and play our part in God's purposes in the world.

Mark Sayers again. As a non-Brit, he encouraged the UK church by what he sees, as an outside. He sees that the UK church has a combination of word and Spirit, worship and engagement with the world that sets us up well to take Jesus' hope into the world. We are well-placed. He encouraged us to appreciate what we have, and move into this post-pandemic era with contagious hope.