My blogging journey from the beginning for those who are interested. Each week I will include one of those original blogs from Martin Scott’s Perspective site. February 4th 2010 and the blogging began. Never did this before, but what therapy, what a joy, what a chronicling of a journey that never ends. In many ways things have developed, but it is good to see where we come from to appreciate where we are. All in the healing. Enjoy or endure…
The Traveller’s Rest-dwell!!!
Posted on March 11, 2010 by Paul Leader
What is it all about? Is it really something we do to get people into heaven? Is it really about special events, being relevant, the message of the cross? As a local church leader there is that unending pressure of building a bigger church. In my own denomination all funds came from the money people gave so the more people the more money and greater job security or even a miraculous chance of a raise next financial year, one miracle that often even the Lord could not make happen due to the resistant spirit of the elders and treasurer! Of course being so holy that was not the main motivation, it was to get people to sign up for heaven and come to my church on Sunday’s for starters. Then when they are really committed the mid-week meetings too.
So much was done in the name of evangelism. The special events; Christian bands that played contemporary music (contemporary to who?), visiting speakers with dramatic testimonies about being ex-murderers, drug addicts, alcoholics (but no divorcees that was going too far!!!) and then finding the Lord, special services for Easter, Christmas, any excuse, with added Gospel message and decision time and the endless celebrity nights with big names who have become Christians like Syd Little, Dave Markee etc. All aided by posters, leaflets and personal invitations to come to our church this is going to be fab. Outreach; door-to-door, ahead of our time now everyone tries to sell stuff like this, leaflet drops, questionnaires, open airs, doing church outside, and for the really radical picnics, barbecues and days out to the sea-side. Then for the big One-the big tent mission in the local park with an amazing evangelist who may even do some healing of back problems if we’re lucky.
Got many t-shirts to prove it…
Sorry if I sound a bit sarcastic, don’t mean to be. These are all things I have done so I am not pointing the finger. I have all the t-shirts. Where did this all get me? Maybe one or two added to the church in 15 years of doing the stuff. More money spent on doing and not seeing much for the investment. My fingers are well and truly burned. And do you know what I have realised? Most of what we did was not introducing people to Jesus but was a gateway to my church, a shop window. If we are honest most of our outreach effort was in one phrase ‘come to our church’. And if we are honest the specials never gave a true reflection of the day to day life of a local church that never had artists or comedians in the pulpit, or people telling stories of how they met Christ, or young people expressing themselves with music relevant to them. The church service was run by preference or tradition of the leaders/members or both. We could all quote that church was the only institution that exists for the benefit of those outside, but really it was for our benefit because we liked it done that way.
Dwelling in the aisles of Asda.
But what do we do when we do not have a church to introduce people to? I think we finally wake up to the realisation that evangelism is not an event or a doing that introduces people to an imperfect bride, but Good News of day to day life knowing Jesus in and through every moment of every day. Not preaching at potential converts but loving and living shoulder to shoulder with other people who long to love and live.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Jesus could have taken us all up into the third heaven to help us make a decision. He could perform a personal miracle for us all to see. He could just let His glory shine right now and reveal his fullness to the whole of mankind. But instead He chose to dwell, to tabernacle, to live amongst us. To walk on our dirt, to live in a family, to grow up, to make friends and enemies, to be embraced and misunderstood. To experience joy, and pain, and death and life. Instead He dwelt amongst us. This is all we need to do, dwell amongst them. We have spent our whole lives building a separate world of Christianity and church life where all Jesus wants us to do is be in them but not of them. To love and live.
This is what I do in the aisles of Asda, I love and live. And I have discovered that I have had more conversations about eternity over this last two years than I ever did as a pastor behind a pulpit. Wish I could have one of those amazing stories that you read of in books that says God sent His glory and weeping swept over the whole shop-floor and people were crying out what must I do to be saved. Or that God gave me a Word of knowledge that was so spot on that someone invited Christ into their hearts there and then. Revival has not yet come, but I believe revival has come!!! Love and life has come.
A couple of quick stories; Lyndsey started a conversation telling me she was an atheist. But she had many questions as we were filling those shelves over the next couple of hours. What do I believe? Who was Jesus? How do I know He exists? What do I think about church and all the hypocrites? Do I really believe in the death and resurrection? How did I get into all this? I answered her questions as fully and honestly as I could, and sometimes even admitted I did not have an answer about suffering etc. It turns out she got bitter when her sister lost a baby and took it out on God. How can He be a God of love when this happens? The conversation ended not with a signing up for heaven, what is that all about anyway. But what she said really blessed me. She ended by saying I do not really know if there is a God, I’m not sure. In one conversation she turned from atheist to agnostic, that is a major jump forward. I’m not there to get her to make a decision. I have realised we are all on journeys, and there have been too many premature births into the kingdom because we cannot wait to get the sign up.
Hayley is a young mother. She has a son who goes to Sunday school and asks her lots of difficult questions about God, Jesus, heaven, hell etc. What do i think about all these? Do I really believe all this is true? Again over a few hours of shelve filling we talked about eternity and eternal issues. There is a sense that she believes/wants to believe. We laugh, we share, we cover every subject under the Sun. For what is going on in her heart I do not have to do very much, her own son is obviously doing a great job of opening her up to eternal issues and the possibility of belief. The only worrying thing she said was, if I ever had a church in the Rhondda she would come along. Oh well that’s how it goes. Years trying to get them in and they run a mile, now someone wants to come in and I’ve got nowhere for them to go!!! This is just a couple of the stories. There are more to follow in the coming weeks. More stories of the humble aisles becoming the places of holiness and Bethel. And there will be many to come as I keep dwelling amongst them with this Word in flesh. Who knows what conversations I may get into on tonight’s shift? But whatever I will continue to love and live and realise that the Good News so often speaks volumes even when my lips are sealed. Now that is evangelism!!!
Just an update on Lyndsey and Hayley. Lyndsey left the night shift to go into primary school teaching assistant. She has since gone through a marriage separation. We still remain in touch. Hoping to grab a coffee one day. Hayley left the night shift and disappeared without trace until one day I took a wedding and who happened to be the registrar? Hayley! She had always said she would love to hear me share and she got the opportunity. She seemed really happy in her new career.