I was 22 or 23 when I was first asked to move to another community house in 1998. When I moved in there were only five of us living there and it was up to me to make things happen. I wasn’t an evangelist particularly, but I was stirred by a desire to love people and share Jesus with people. In those days, we took a few risks, there were lots of good things that happened but also loads of mistakes. I was learning wisdom, learning to love and win people into the church.
When I first joined the church, I was very lacking in confidence. I related to the stories of Hudson Taylor where he lacked confidence and would say “God, I can’t do it,” and He would say “Yes you can”. It was a bit like that, the bit in Joshua 1:6 – “Be strong and courageous” – God was speaking to me, saying “I will be with you, go for it.” It was developing my own identity as a disciple and a leader. It’s a whole process of learning to grow and to work with the Holy Spirit.
I have grown a lot more confident now. I know that I’ve got a team building ability, and that I can encourage and affirm people. It helped that I was certainly believed in.
Recently, we’ve been doing this baptism teaching with some new Christians and it’s been brilliant, because it’s answering people’s questions, but rather than me telling them what’s right and wrong, it’s getting them to know their conscience and know the Holy Spirit.
You’ve got to love God and you’ve got to love your brothers and sisters in the church, but we quite often miss out on loving those outside of church. It’s like a three-legged stool that our lives are built on, we need each of them to stand. Without them, we get a bit blocked and the flow of the Holy Spirit gets hindered.
I want us to rediscover the power of the gospel and our ability to move with what the Holy Spirit’s doing, to go beyond our comfort zones and break fears. As a church we’ve lost some of our confidence. Maybe because sometimes we’ve worked at things for a while and it seems like it hasn’t really gone anywhere. It’s hard work loving people, but we grow through it and anything you pour out in terms of God’s love is never wasted. It may take ten times of people being loved by Christians before they really come alive but if you’re one of them, they’re closer to Jesus.
You can settle, can’t you? There are boundaries, even on our expectations, it’s like that ceiling’s got to come off and we’ve got to dream again. Pour your energy into the work of God. It’s the most amazing venture, being a disciple of Jesus. People can give time to other things, like entertainment or work, filler things, other pursuits. It’s not wrong, but there’s a greater cause that God wants our energies to go into. Often, we have quite good brotherhood times, but I want that brotherhood to push us out, beyond the boundaries of the church, into loving people.
It’s amazing what an impact even a small team of people can make. Recently I went to Milton Keynes, to visit a community house called ‘Peacemakers’, living on a local estate. There’s only six or seven of them, but they seem to be making a real difference there; they’ve got to know people on the residents association, they give out food parcels to some of the poorer families and generally they are just loving people.
If you lack confidence about the way ahead, pray about it, because I think if you ask God for opportunities, He’ll give them to you.