It took some motivation, but after two large cups of coffee I eventually managed to unload the van of all the boxes and big-hearted resources that I used over these past 4 days, including all my clowning and magic show equipment and a 20 foot art installation called ‘before I die I want to…’ It’s now empty and while I recover from all the lifting I thought I would reflect upon the past four days touring the East of England.
These past 4 days have been inspirational on 3 levels:
Firstly, I was able to see what Baptist Christians are doing to be big-hearted in their communities, connecting something of their faith with those who don’t have a clue what it means to be a Christian, let alone a Baptist! This started on Friday when I joined a bunch of people for lunch down the cafe in South-end (pronounced caff- not cafe’) a Turkish/English greasy spoon which the team from ‘Church from scratch’ often meet in for being church during the week. It was hard to work out who was part of the church and who wasn’t, a glorious mix of people who welcomed me and my travel buddy Daniel Hatfield with such warmth. I could see why people feel at home with Peter and Alison Dominey and the amazing team who serve people who many churches would consider beyond the pale of their communities.
Richard Lewis one of the regional ministers of the EBA brought a friend along who ‘didn’t do the church thing’ but was happy to share in a lunch and short talk on how I seek to connect people to God… Afterwards there was an opportunity to ask questions. The first one was from a lady who said that she used to go to church from scratch. Her query was one of heart-ache and pain: ‘How could there be a God when I’ve experienced my family dying, bad health and debt?’ We sat together and spoke for a while and she agreed that I could pray for her and ask God to reveal himself to her in a fresh way.
I also saw many Christians being big-hearted through their willingness to take part in ‘going out there’ to share the good news of Jesus in simple and creative ways. Over 60 people from the EBA Assembly ventured out into Hadleigh, giving away sweets and cakes, praying and writing notes of encouragement, and taking part in an art installation inviting people to write what they’d like to do before they die. A further three groups met in cafes and pubs to undertake a Lyfe Bible Study, meeting in public rather than hiding away in a church building. For many this was ‘out of their comfort zone.’ Yet, they were willing to do something to show their faith and ‘have a go’ at something new.
Taking part in the Funday at Carlton Road was a special day. The church cancelled their morning service so that they could celebrate with the community their 200 year anniversary. It was a fun time, a time where church and community partied together. There was a free bar-b-q, bouncy castles, fun games and I had an opportunity to do some family magic shows and balloon modelling.
Secondly, I was inspired by the opportunities I had to share with others something of my heart and what I believe God is calling us as His people to do for the sake of those who have yet to hear and see something of the gospel. During the week-end this wasn’t always in presenting formally like you may expect, rather it involved meeting round tables over food, a morning with ministers in Lode and informal conversations over a cuppa.
Thirdly I have been inspired by the past 4 days in the East Baptist Association by the way I have been able to do to show the big heart of God. Last night I spoke at an Alpha event in Royston on the subject of ”Does God heal today?’ At the end I said a prayer for the 50 or so guests that had gathered and as I did so I had some ‘words for people.’ I was blown away when 5 minutes later I’m sitting at a table joining some of the discussions when 3 of the guests share that the things I had shared were for them, and would I please pray for them specifically?! On Sunday at the Funday a lady who was there with her great-grandchild asked me about what I was doing and why and I spoke with her about the prayer tent that the church had set up and whether she would like anyone from the church to pray for her. She spent an hour of the afternoon talking and engaging with the people from the church. Magic.