We’re still quite close to ‘A Passion for Life’. The dust hasn’t quite settled. There’s still a fair amount of follow up to do. But I wondered whether now might be a good time to share some of my reflections. Overwhelmingly I’m incredibly positive about the whole series of events. For at least the following reasons:
1. It allowed us to preach the gospel. What better reason can you think of for having a series of mission events? At each event we had a clear and engaging explanation of the great news of Jesus Christ in language that people could understand. If that was the only reason it’d be enough to celebrate. But there’s more!
2. It created opportunities for service. So many people got involved. For example, it was thrilling to hear how well our lads had done at the Women’s International Evening. That could have been a night off. But it wasn’t. They chose to work hard and to work late to make sure that the women could concentrate on their non-Christian friends. And they weren’t the only ones who served. Lots of us got stuck in behind the scenes to make events happen.
3. It forced us into the open. Up until recently, we may have been living a secret life of Christian discipleship. People may have just assumed that we were the nice bloke in the office and had no reason to know that we are as we are because of Christ. But mission brings our Christian profession out into the open. If we invited people to events it meant that we couldn’t really hide any longer. All eyes are on us now! Colleagues will be looking on to see how we treat people, how we work and how we treat adversity. They’ll be looking to see whether belonging to Christ makes any practical difference to life.
4. It enabled us to work with others. We have great friends at Trinity Road, Holy Redeemer, St Nick’s Tooting, Summerstown Mission and St George’s CU. We’re all reading off the same hymn sheet. We stood together for Christ. And it was fabulous to prepare together, pray together and work together. These churches are full of great friends for which we praise God.
5. It highlighted where we can make progress. This is a positive spin on saying that we were brought face to face with our weaknesses! But the truth is that there will have been times over the last few weeks where we wish we’d done something that we didn’t or that we wish we knew something that we don’t. Doing mission exposes those things. And we can now do something about them. Now is the time to go away and find out what we should have said! If you realised that you’re disconnected from people in Balham, now is the time to join the Library Reading Group. I’ve realised, what in our busyness I’d forgotten; that we have massively productive conversations with friends over dinner.
6. It exposed us to opposition. Most of us ended up on the receiving end of someone declining our invitation to an event or someone pulling out at the last moment. Some of us may have had to cope with some unwelcome flak. But suffering for Christ is a great honour. But let’s keep some perspective on what we’ve been through. I don’t doubt that we’ve found persecution unsettling and unwelcome. But in the weeks leading up to AP4L two hundred Nigerian Christians in Jos were slaughtered for their faith in Christ, by their Muslim neighbours. When you compare what we’ve had to cope with, we’ve not really suffered, have we?
7. It involved us in mission. Evangelism is a dual enterprise. We work and God works. In fact, God works through our work; he uses us like a workman uses an instrument. We might use a pair of pliers to pull out a nail. We’re the one pulling out the nail but we use the pliers as the way to do it. God has decided to involve us as ‘fishers of men’. And so it’s through our prayers and our evangelistic endeavours that God pulls out those whom he has chosen to bring to himself. When we do mission we’re working with God in his great missionary enterprise. It’s a terrific privilege. Of course, recruiting people to events isn’t the only way to do it. But it is one way. And it’s a way we’ll continue to do it whilst it works for some.
8. It revealed where we are evangelistically. Mission events often expose where we are evangelistically. It shows up whether we’ve been doing any evangelism. It reveals whether we’ve got anyone to invite and whether we’ve had spiritual conversations with friends. That’s uncomfortable but useful.
9. It stimulated our praying. We had a great time praying as a family for people, for the speakers and for the events. I suspect that’ll be a hugely formative experience for our kids. It was for us. If praying for the conversion of our friends had dropped off the radar then the mission provided the stimulus that we needed to get going again. Don’t stop now!