I’ve not long been back from being Big Hearted in Cymru. The boot of the car still needs emptying of the boxes of books and equipment, but I just haven’t managed to venture out this morning… the coffee tastes too good and my office is way too cozy. But before I head off to join BU council tonight I wanted to reflect on my week-end serving the South Wales Baptist association and the Baptist Union of Wales. This was a joint initiative, perhaps even a marker towards the changes that are hoped for and the desire to work together in the future.
My long week-end included new experiences. Perhaps the most surprising was that I led prayers at the civil-ceremony at the War Memorial on Sunday: I must admit that I did wonder why I was spending my time in such a formal context. Don’t get me wrong, I see the importance of my role for civic occasions, and even as a pacifist, I believe in the act of remembrance and honoring those who gave their lives. Yet, I longed to share my faith in a way that connected with someone. After the service of Remembrance I commended one of the soldiers who had marched up to the War memorial in such a precise manner. I then stood for five minutes or so listening to the horrors of war and his personal experience of a break-down. John’s story was traumatic and in a first world war context he would have been shot for being a coward. In the Falklands war he was given psychiatric help. He invited me down to his club ‘Moose International’, which also was a first for me to visit. A club that felt a bit like church, but without Christ, slightly like the masons, yet not exclusive and full of secrecy and odd hand-shakes. I told John that I get to meet lots of different people and I considered meeting him a real honour and that I would love to pray for him and to ask God to help him through all that he has been through- he agreed and thanked me for the offer.
I also had a new experience of teaching Church leaders on The Holy Spirit and Mission. The topic usually crops up in my teaching, but to be devoted to the subject matter for the morning was a novel experience, as was finding over 40 church leaders pleased to hear what I had to say as we gathered at South Wales Baptist College. For 3 hours we learnt and experienced the role of The Spirit in letting others in on what we have. Instead of having coffee at the college I sent everyone out to grab a coffee ‘out there’ and as they went they asked two questions:
Is there someone here who is hurting?
The stories of simple faith sharing through partnering in what God is already doing were touching. Such a simple thing to do, 30 minutes, go for a coffee and ask 2 questions as you go.
Some of the teaching that I gave was inspired by Francis McNutt the Catholic Priest whom Wimber was hugely influenced. Two of his quotes which sparked faith and also some discussion were:
‘The climate is changing. People are hungering and thirsting to know God in a direct experiential way. And the sick need healing, just as much as they did in Christ’s day. Those needs and desires are basic to our humanity. If the risen Christ is still healing the sick, then there is no problem in making Christianity relevant to the needs of most people today.’ P.22 Healing (1974)
‘The ministry of healing means that we take the incarnation seriously. The incarnation means that God is here. We are not ministering salve to sores, we are ministering love to suffering people.’ p.317 Healing (a message for priests)
Inspirational! Another new-ish experience for me this week-end was being an after breakfast speaker to men at a gold-club and an after dinner speaker at a Chinese meal for 30 somethings. Both experiences were ‘story telling’ based and worked well in connecting the audience with some funny stories from my travels. The response at the end of both took me by surprise as people wanted to talk and share some of their heart-ache and share their own experiences and some asked for prayer.
Something that worked well and I hadn’t done before-hand was stay fairly local to one church. Over Saturday and Sunday I was based in Blackwood (made famous by the band ‘Manic Street Preachers’- and a fine link to the title of this blog…) Mount Pleasant Baptist Church looked after me so well. Spending a couple of days in one place proved fruitful. One lady who attended on the Saturday night insisted her husband attend on the Sunday night… Which he did and we ended up praying as he wanted to know God more in his life.
One lady who attended the outreach on the Saturday has already written to me and said:
‘Saturday was a day of great inspiration- thank you for offering your time to teach us here in Blackwood. The time we spent in town searching for our God given treasure I will always remember and will look to continue doing this with local Christians.’
Boom! People who will carry it on- Now that’s good news! On Saturday this lady and I joined 40 or so others sharing faith through a number of different initiatives. We did ‘treasure hunting’ and where ‘led’ to a lady who was pleased that out of all the people in town, God had brought us to her. She asked if we could pray for her about some difficulties in her life. What a privilege it is to meet people and remind them that they are loved and known by God.
It is an honour to have a year as President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, to get a feel of where many of our churches are at and what they are doing in their community to be big hearted enough to let others experience what it means to be loved by the best heavenly dad that you could ever imagine.