London and West
As a teenager I’d often go to Christian summer camps, get inspired, and encounter God and some great people. I've loved seeing many of our youth do just that this summer. But often by the early autumn, out of sight, mind and contact I'd find my passion and conviction had faded like the summer days. Even now as a minister I can see the same patterns of summer highs and autumn lows in my life although preparing, preaching and pastoring on a daily/weekly basis has the illusion of evening it out a good deal.
I had a brilliant time at United this summer. Nicola and I spent much of our time in the Hungry venue, inspired by the teaching from KXC on the names of Yahweh, St Aldates God-focused worship team and the Melluish’s and Johnson’s consistent inspiring leading. We saw people who don’t even come to church attend the week and want to bring their friends next year. One Bulgarian guest who was blown away by his experiences in the Arena said: ‘If you could make a country out of these 5,000 people it would be the best country in the world ever’. Our children continued to make progress with God in Pebbles, Ground Breakers and Rock Solid.
At church we also see some wonderful encouragements. A teenager gave his life to God last Sunday and said, ‘I don’t feel disabled anymore.’ New interns are writing worship songs drawing from what they are reading in the Bible. We have people exploring ordination again and a whole church building coming back to life when just three years ago it looked like it was going to be turned into flats.
But in honest moments I realise how much of my personal and church leadership is underpinned by fear. Like the highs and lows of teenage years there seems to be a fear-faith cycle at work in me… sometimes I can boldly lead myself and others forward, other times I’m sinking in my own thoughts and trying not to give in to dismay or fear.
Last week at church Nicola spoke about having the strength to live out the blessed life with Christ as Lord. She was preaching from 1 Peter 3:14 on ‘do not fear what those around us fear. Do not be frightened’. She reflected that for us fear is most likely something to do with parenting our young children, and as Nicola articulated that to the congregation you could sense a freedom coming to other parents in the room trapped in that fear.
Later in the day we had a visitor from Causeway Coast Vineyard speaking to our small evening gathering. Scott is an infectious evangelist and had stories of seeing paramilitaries won to Christ, in a church where scores of people are coming to Jesus every month. He had a compelling story of his calling to be an evangelist: In a vision he walked along a prison corridor and led the first, second, third and fourth men by the hand out of their cells. But when he came to the fifth it was oppressively gloomy and he shrunk back from going in there. God spoke to him and said: ‘I need someone who will go there’. That was the beginning of his calling to have a ‘legacy’ with the paramilitaries. A compulsive vision conquering his fear of stepping out among them. He has since led scores of them to Christ.
As church leaders, fear can grip us whether it looks like things are going well or things are tough. 1 Peter argues that because Christ suffered in his body, dying for your sins to bring you to God (3:18) and rising again to give you a clean conscience towards God (3:21), you can carry on being clear-minded, controlled, hospitable, loving and administering grace, speaking ‘as if speaking the very words of God’ (4:7-11).
Whatever the fear or challenge you face, whatever your context, 1 Peter says get back into the Gospel. Though an enemy lurks to get you (5:8) you can resist him, knowing that the God of all grace will himself restore you after your little sufferings and has called you to eternal glory (5:10).
Whether you’re in a season where you’re digging out stones in the vineyard, ploughing, planting, bearing fruit or even going through severe pruning do take time to fall in love with the Gospel again. Peter knows what it is like to start drowning when faith fails. Listen to his words. We’ve got a great destination and remembering this keeps those fears at bay.
Because of the vision, because of the resurrection power, because of the destination, we can go for ‘long obedience in the same direction’. As we say YES to faith more often than fear we can start to see that ‘best country in the world ever’ - the kingdom of God - built in or lives, churches and communities with a consistency that can only have come from him.
Richard Moy is the new Regional Director for London & West. He and his wife Nicola are vicars at Christ Church W4 in Chiswick, west London. Before that they served for eight years in Wolverhampton in the West Midlands where they were the youngest clergy couple in the country.