So, I’m surrounded by boxes of books and bits and bobs. But before I pack them away for another Big Hearted Tour back up North, this time with the Yorkshire Baptist Association… I thought a quick reflection on the week-end would be helpful… you see, I’m still in some what of an after-shock after such a good 4 days away, not that I wasn’t expecting it, but rather it was just such a good time! It was all a bit too easy-peasy and enjoyable. Surely being a Baptist Minister should be a bit more dreary and boring. So what is it that made this cold and wet tour in the Northern Baptist Association fun?
Firstly, like any other tour I had a travel chum… but not just one but two on this occasion. I ran the risk of bringing the man who was my Pastor for 16 years (he could tell you some stories I tell you…) and I also brought one of the graduates of The Light Project training in Theology and Evangelism. In fact, Andy Putt had trained with us twice. First when it was just a course that I had designed without any formal qualification and secondly with the University of Chester, a Foundation Degree no less. These two made my job easy, not just with lugging boxes and setting up the book stall at 7 different events but also with sharing the speaking and giving examples to the teaching I delivered, grounding it into day to day ministry. At times what Andy and Andy brought was powerful… which leads onto my second reason for the jolliness of this report.
On a few occasions I asked my travel chums to spend time to ‘hear from God’ and bring some words for people that had gathered at the training events. So with hearts pounding and feeling slightly nervous Andy Glover was tasked to share some words at the Sunday night youth event. He shared 6 ‘messages’ that he felt God wanted to share with the 60 or so youth gathering and 6 people responded and said that this was for them! They were words for healing like for Tinnitus; “it’s been driving me nuts!” said the guy who had suffered with it for over a year. Another ‘word’ was scripture which someone said they had been thinking about recently… So they were prayed for and were somewhat shocked that God would know this kind of stuff, and be interested in making things better! The whole youth night was powerful… One girls hope she shared was to ‘find faith’ at the gathering and ended up praying for people that they would experience the love of God that she felt in the room.
Another powerful thing was when Andy Putt led Baptist ministers in a simple exercise in Prophecy, writing words of encouragement, comfort and strength on the backs of others in the room… on paper of course! It was great fun, but also got people ”practicing’ listening to God for the sake of others.
Thirdly, this part of the tour was special, because to be honest I was feeling pooped/knackered/ tired/ bushed/ drained/ worn out before hand… however you describe ‘lacking of energy’ I felt it. Yet, I experienced such encouragement and get-up-and-go that was way beyond my own resources. Now my tiredness was partly because I have spoken and trained over 120 groups of Baptists thus-far on the Big Hearted Tour and partly because I have been busy with my day job as an evangelist with The Light Project. On the Friday night when I was somewhat lagging in the middle of a two hour training evening I received a text from some friends: ‘ Dear Chris, read this tonight and felt God said to share it with you, because this is how you are: “Stephen brimming with God’s Grace and energy, was doing wonderful things among the people, unmistakable signs that God was among them.” Acts 6.8 They then wrote a prayer thanking God for the energy and grace that I brim with. Wow, this simple text changed how I felt physically! So, the training and speaking happened not in my strength but with a real sense of the Spirit doing what He does. In the cold and wet as we were doing what we did in Middlebrough a fire eating was performing… a bit of a symbol for what was going on!
Lastly, this leg of the tour was full of excitement due to those who were willing to have a go and do something big hearted. On the Saturday afternoon in the cold and wet I gathered with 16 others ready to share good news. Some went out with gifts, others with cards of thanks to encourage shop workers and then some did Treasure Hunting. I went with two 14 year old lads who hadn’t done anything like it before… we ended up meeting lots of people, with one person in particular who turned out to be our ‘Treasure.’ She was amazed that we found her, especially as our clue for prayer was ‘right lower back pain.’ She had suffered badly for a number of years and was seeing specialists for her back pain, an operation was looming…We offered prayer which she was very grateful for.
Even though the weather was cold, wet and grim; the experience was anything but that… over the 10 different events that happened over the 4 days people were encouraged to be big hearted and ‘have a go’ at sharing what they have so that others too may have an opportunity to follow the One who says… ‘I give you life, life in all it’s fullness…’