It must nearly be the start of term…

why?  Because I’ve started getting emails from churches in cities with universities asking me to put them in contact with any students we’ve got heading to their cities.  I get why.  I know how crucial it is for students to plug into a good church during their first few weeks.  I know, because I know how much it mattered for me to do so.

But I wonder how many of those same churches help those same students think strategically about where they go after university.  And by strategically I don’t mean in terms of pay packet or wage or career.  I mean in terms of the gospel.  Where can they most impact the gospel in the world?  Where can they go where there is desperate need? Where can they go to use their gifts and be trained?

How many of those same churches think about our sort of church when it comes to the third year of those students university courses?  Small churches in hard to reach places.  Churches that need leaders, that need people to serve and love and grow.  Churches where there are way more opportunities than there are workers.

I wonder what the response would be if I reworded their email and send it back to them asking them to pass on the details of any students in their third year of university in January?  Who might be graduating and would consider moving to Doncaster and joining us at Grace Church in reaching Hayfield with the gospel?  I wonder how many of those student workers would respond?

I absolutely will pass details on.  But I wonder how two way that partnership is?  How UK wide the gospel vision is?

Do the work of an evangelist

I’m preparing a couple of things for next term when I get back from holiday, both reflect something of our context and our circumstances.

The first is some leadership training material.  Having done a year as Sole Elder of Grace Church it is not something I want to replicate for long.  There is immense value in having others to share and bounce ideas off, disagree with and pray with.  I have missed that over the last year.  We have been praying hard for leaders but we also need to be the answer to our prayer sometimes.  And so come September we’ll be starting some leaders training for both elders and deacons.  I’m excited to see what fruit this produces and what habits it inculcates.

The second is something I’m a bit more hesitant about.  I’ve enjoyed this year having a number of really good opportunities to share the gospel with people in everyday conversation.  And other opportunities to offer to pray for people or talk about how Christians forgive.  But I am more aware than ever that so many of those I talk to have little or no previous exposure to the gospel.  With that in view we’re going to be encouraging people in church to dare to ask a friend to do The Word One to One with them (https://www.theword121.com).  I need to lead on this not just direct so I’ll be asking a couple of people if they want to do it when I’m back from holiday.  That is in part inspired by a great little book by John Lennox Have no Fear which I found both challenging and reenergising in its call to share the gospel.  You can order it here https://www.10ofthose.com/uk/products/24580/have-no-fear.

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I’d love your prayers about both of these, that leaders would be raised up and that the lost would be saved.

Some thoughts on Keswick

Last week we took the boys and headed off to Keswick for week 3 of the Convention.  Why week 3?  Because we wanted to sample some of the unconventional side of the conference, in part because we all love Andrew Peterson’s writing and songs and he was there.  And also because I’ve been encouraged and helped by so many of Ray Ortlund’s books and wanted to hear him preach.

It was a great week.  Ray Ortlund’s talks from Romans 8 warmed my heart and did a tired soul good.  In fact I hadn’t even realised how soul weary I was until I was feeling refreshed.  You can catch up with all the teaching from Keswick here: https://www.clayton.tv/find/explore/886-888/0i0/5440/

It was great to be reminded of, and luxuriate in, the generous love of God that we enjoy in Christ.  To be reminded that it is nothing we do, but all of him.

The evening celebrations were great, and we enjoyed being led in worship by Olly Knight and the band.  The range of speakers in the evening spoke with very different styles, but helped us see the goodness and graciousness of God to Abraham and through Christ to us and called us to live by faith, fight sin and oppression and love others.

Andrew Peterson’s and Day Hankey’s seminars were a particular highlight on very different themes.  One of the great joys of Keswick is to see our kids so well taught and served by the amazing team of volunteers.  The benefit for kids from a small church to meet with hundreds of others should not be underestimated.

One of the best things was the relaxed nature of the convention, we didn’t feel the need to rush around and be at everything, but were able to take time out to enjoy being with others and catch up with friends.  We enjoyed our week so much we’ve already booked accommodation for next year.

Choose life

Choose life,

choose a job.

Choose a career

Choose a family

 

Choose a big television

Choose washing machines, cars,

Compact disk players, and electrical tin openers.

Choose good health , low cholesterol…

That’s how trainspotting started.  It was an ode to nonconformity.  It ridiculed all the things people choose in their comfortable little world.  Instead he chose escapism.

I can’t help thinking we have our own Christian version of that song.

Choose life,

Choose consumer church,

Choose comfortable Christianity,

Choose not having to sacrifice too much.

 

Choose a church that makes you feel comfortable

where you don’t have to serve at too much cost.

where there are lots of people like you.

Where the music is good and everyone’s a professional…

I could go on.  On what basis do we choose our church?  Is it about mission and need or is it about comfort.  I still think it’s telling after all the renewed interest in church planting over the last decade or so that so few thriving churches are outside of university towns, and so few church plants have been established in hard to reach areas.  And even those that have struggle.

Too many of our big churches have a glut of capable leaders, leaders in waiting, teachers, musicians and so on.  Whilst many small churches are withering for the want of those very same gifts and people.  We happily hear from mission partners in those kinds of area, we give them some money, and then pray for workers for the harvest field.  But what if we gave workers instead of money?

What if we mobilised a generation so that there was an infusion of gifts into churches in the neediest places.  What if we issued the same call to the Goldthorpe’s and Rotherham’s, and Clitheroe’s as we do to more far flung places?

What would it look like for us to seriously invest in revitalising and reaching those places with the gospel?  What strategy would we use?