Jesus has given us this wonderful mission to go into all the world and make disciples. God has done so much for us, so we want to tell everyone how great he is! Jesus tells us “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” When it comes to mission, we usually remember the second commandment. We believe that God is just, and one day we will all face his judgment.
This is the second blog in a short series exploring what the elders believe God is saying to the church at the moment. A few days ago Steve wrote about faith for growth. Having had the privilege of sitting with the elders recently, I'm looking at how we can engage with the Summer of Mission 2018 because (unlike the Blues Brothers) we really are on a mission from God!
What comes to mind when you think about mission? Moving overseas? Crowds listening to a speaker in a stadium? Or your neighbour who you talk to about Jesus from time to time?
This is one of a series of 3 blogs explaining our approach to student ministry. We've talked about being part of a movement, how that connects with Fusion, and in this last blog I want to explain more about our values of 'church-based student mission'.
Our convictions, actually, are not really about just student mission, but mission and ministry in general. We believe that mission and ministry is supposed to be part of the task of the local church, where community, mission, discipleship and worship can be integrated, holistic and sustainable.
I came up to Oxford in 1985. At the time there was little in the way of charismatic, Holy-Spirit-filled life in the church. St Aldates at the time was led by Michael Green (now an elder-statesman in the church, who we are delighted is coming to speak at OCC in the autumn) - one had to queue for entry, such was the level of excitement as Michael led the church in the life of the Holy Spirit. There was a small charismatic house church somewhere in Botley, and an odd, itinerant and therefore hard-to-track-down group of Christians called Oxford Community Church.
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)?