Tag Archives: Mission

God 52 – Week Thirty (23/7/2013)

25 Jul

2000px-Flag_of_South_Africa_SADCWebsiteI was in South Africa last week. I wrote a bit about it here, and that was the inspiration for this week’s challenge. I’ll copy and paste a bit of it, but take two minutes and read the whole thing. There’s a hilarious anecdote and some confusing imagery.

Here’s the crux of it  –

It wasn’t the poverty that struck me in South Africa.  What struck me was just how divided the nation still is. Apartheid is over, black people are, legally, equal with their white counterparts, but it remains a divided country. In the township we worked in we didn’t see another white face for the six days we were there. In the white town, Delmas, where we went to church on the day before work began, we barely saw anyone who wasn’t white. These two communities are a few miles apart. During the Sunday service the pastor alluded to the fact that many of the congregation would have never entered the township before, and would have no plans to ever do so. Throughout our week there white people were telling us of the challenge and provocation that our trip was providing while black people thanked us for showing them that white people do care.

To be honest, going to South Africa to tell kids about Jesus and build houses was, dare I say it, easy. Had I been asked to go and do the same on the local council estate, or with those people down the road, or that family I don’t get on with, I’d have found it a lot more difficult. Our segregation might not be as obvious as it was in Delmas but it still exists. 

 

I write a bit more about it on the Youthwork website, check it out. But here’s the challenge –

30: Cross a boundary (social, economic, whatever) that you wouldn’t normally cross to engage in the mission of God.

It could be as easy as buying a homeless person a cup of tea or talking to your local conservative party representative. Whatever you feel your mission is currently restricted by – ignore that restriction.

Got it? Good. Off you go.

We’d love some guest blogs this week on this subject – if you’d like to write one, please read our writing guidelines, then drop us an email.

God 52 – Week Twenty-five (18/6/2013)

19 Jun

BullhornAs many of you will know, the two of us behind the site spend a decent chunk of our time working on Youthwork magazine. (On a side note you can get a free copy here – you really should.)

Anyway, we’re currently working on a special issue focused on evangelism. Not mission,  not social action, not doing nice things for people – we’re talking about evangelism – telling people about Jesus. In the course of reading other people’s work, interviewing people and reflecting on the issue I’ve realised that so often we surround ourselves with excuses not to tell people about Jesus. So this week’s challenge is scary.

25: Tell someone about Jesus

The who, the how and the why are up to you. But if we believe what Jesus says then our friends’ and families’ need for Jesus in both this life and the next is pressing. So let’s do something about it.
We’d love some guest blogs this week on the subject – if you’d like to write one, please read our writing guidelines, then drop us an email.

God 52 – Week Sixteen (16/4/13)

16 Apr

notes2Welcome to week 16, a new week so lets jump right in.  This week’s challenge was actually inspired by something Laura Haddow did during a previous God 52 challenge, which you can read about here.

There’s something special that happens when the church commits to blessing a local community. As a teenager the things I saw God do at Festival Manchester through a bunch of teenagers stay with me to this day and remain a formative experience. The church is called to be an embodiment of God’s love in the world around us. This isn’t some nice, 21st century idea, but something we see in the life of Jesus. The people that Jesus healed eventually died got sick and died, that’s the nature of life, but the love that Jesus showed, the way he was interested in the earthly experience, I imagine that is what stayed with those who met Jesus.

Now, this week’s challenge is not ‘copy what Laura Haddow did’ but it is all about showing the love of God to the community in which you live.

16: Find a way to show the love of God in your local area.

You can interpret this in whatever way you like. You may like to find some creative way to communicate the Gospel to as many people as possible, you may, in a similar way to Laura, leave things for ‘God-anointed’ people to find, or you may choose to express God’s love in action and bless your local community in some way, be it cakes, songs, street performance, however you feel God can best use you.

A key point to finish. The work of The Message has radically altered the shape of Manchester. This was because they realised that God’s love has to impact people. The joy of Festival Manchester is that for the people behind it, this wasn’t a one-off event, this commitment to loving the community around it was a way of life. So remember kids, ‘This God52 challenge isn’t for a week in April, it’s for life.’

We’re always on the look out for guest bloggers. If you’d like to write a guest post this week on practicing simplicity, please read our writing guidelines, then drop Martin an email.

God 52 – Week Thirteen (26/3/12)

26 Mar

billy_grahamDo not be afraid. Last week we prayed for opportunities, this week we take them. This is the second part of a two-week challenge, all about sharing faith with our non-Christian friends and family-members. Week thirteen’s challenge is very simple:

13: Look for an opportunity to share your faith with the person you prayed for last week.

Don’t force the opportunity – God is faithful, and will create opportunities for conversation. But be ready, have your eyes open for where God might already be at work in someone, and remember this amazing truth from Rico Tice, which he shared on Premier Radio a few years ago:

‘Remember when you’re talking to your non-Christian friend about Jesus, the Holy Spirit is there behind them saying “this is true, this is true, this is true.”‘

I find those words hugely comforting as I approach this week’s challenge – I trust you will too. Time to step out in faith…

Want to write a guest blog this week about sharing your faith with friends, family members or others? Check out the writing guidelines, then drop me an email!

Prayer Stalking for Beginners, by Lucy Mills

4 Feb

In a final week 5 guest blog, writer Lucy Mills explains how she enjoys praying for others… often without them ever knowing she’s done it. 

lucy mills“She calls it stealth praying.”

My friend’s friend (always an awkward phrase) was very shy. She couldn’t walk up to people and talk about Jesus. So she prayed for them, behind their backs. Literally, sometimes, praying for the person sitting in front of her on the train or the bus. If I had to coin a phrase without stealing hers, I might, tongue in cheek, call it prayer stalking.

I’m rather taken with it.

I don’t drive, so spend a lot of time on buses. Sometimes I do what everyone does – stare out of the window, worry about some issue or another, wish I could get home more quickly.  But other times, I try praying by stealth.

Sometimes I pray a little for each person, if there are only a few of us. Sometimes I fixate on one – who has no idea that they are being thoroughly prayed for by some weird woman across the aisle. I pray generally at first, then start praying for this day, that they would be encouraged, protected and strengthened. That they would catch God-glimpses in unexpected places. The driver usually gets a good prayer-dousing.

Some people I ‘prayer stalk’ all the way off the bus, still praying for them as they slide from view, trudging along the pavement to whatever situation they are facing.

I have no idea what effect these prayers have, beyond the immediate. The immediate effect is that I begin to care about these people I have never met. When I’ve been praying for someone, it’s quite difficult not to smile at them when they walk past me or catch my eye.

They may think I’m mad. Or they may smile back.

It’s like holding a delicious little secret. I’ve been praying for you.

Praying for strangers can seem difficult. And I doubt that the boy listening to music behind me would appreciate my turning round, plucking out his earphones and intoning, “I’m going to pray for you, sonny boy.”

But seriously – praying in this way helps me to care. Because compassion isn’t on tap, is it? We don’t just manifest the fruit of the Spirit if we never engage with said Spirit or, to put it biblically, keep in step with Him. By praying in this way I rely on the Spirit to guide me. I can’t ‘pray intelligently’ as people like to say. I don’t know their hurts and their desires.  I don’t even know where they’re going.

But I know this – God loves them, and God knows them. And if the Spirit intercedes for them through my wibbly-wobbly prayers, then we are all blessed.

Lucy Mills is a freelance writer and member of the Magnet editorial team – an ecumenical Christian resources magazine.  Her website and blog can be found at www.lucy-mills.com.  She tweets as @lucymills. Her big passion is the book she’s writing, called ‘Forgetful Heart’ – looking at what it means to remember God in our daily lives, and confessing she’s not very good at it.

Watching and waiting, by Neil Chappell

3 Feb

Today’s guest blog sees a church minister explaining how he responded to this week’s challenge. Have you taken the plunge yet? If not, he offers an easy-to-replicate model…

NeilChappellI’m something of a Twitter addict. I’m fascinated by its potential, always looking for ways to harness its power. Some would call me sad (my son), some would call me a geek (my son again). But I believe it provides opportunities for Christians to witness to their faith and I’m all for that.

As I send out Tweets, communicating among churches and leaders in Oldham, I often use the hashtag #prayforoldham. I’m so sad that on Tweetdeck I have a column just to harvest Tweets with that hashtag, and for the last 6 months mine have been the only ones to show up. Quite depressing really. That is until this Monday.

When I opened Tweetdeck I got the shock of my life … there on the #prayforoldham timeline were 19 Tweets. What brought a smile to my face was that every single Tweet referred to the previous days FA Cup match between Oldham Athletic and Liverpool! Some from Oldham fans, some from Liverpool fans, some from Man United fans!

While still in a state of amusement, I received notification that the next #God52 weekly challenge had been posted. And what a challenge it was … Offer to pray for someone.

An hour later I made a tentative connection between my #prayforoldham experience and the weeks challenge. Why not offer to pray for those who prayed for Oldham? I dug out the list of 19 tweets, eliminated those in a foreign language or location, those perhaps not suitable and came up with six names. And to each one I tweeted…

Hope your prayer was answered… if you have another prayer request I’d be happy to pray for you. #prayforoldham

So I sit and wait. The offer made. I’ll respond if and when needed. First time I’ve ever done anything like this, and I’m excited and nervous too.

Opportunities are waiting for us. Opportunities to share the good news message. Opportunities to pray for others. Opportunities to usher in God’s kingdom. Opportunities to reflect God’s glory. Opportunities on Twitter, in our work-place, at the supermarket, at a football match, where we live. I must try to keep my eyes open and alert to the possibilities around me. Join me.

Neil Chappell is Minister at Greenacres Congregational Church in Oldham. He enjoys all things techie and helps out with Social Media and Website Development in the Congregational Federation. He blogs weekly at http://aweirdthing.wordpress.com and regularly tweets as @rev_neil.

How to pray for strangers, by Steve Bateman

2 Feb

Today’s guest post is one of the most exciting things we’ve been able to publish since this project began. If you’ve found this week’s challenge – to pray for a stranger – difficult, then read this: the testimony and advice of someone who I (Martin) know to be the real deal. May it challenge, encourage and inspire you, and leave you in no doubt that God can move powerfully through ordinary people just like you.

Steve_BatemanI love praying for strangers! I made a decision years ago that talking and praying for strangers is so weird. It’s awkward, embarrassing and culturally offensive.  Many of us feel like calling out “unclean, unclean” every time we do anything evangelistically.

I read a quote a number of years ago by Clint Thomas: ‘If I pray for 10,000 people and 10 of them get healed, I think it REALLY matters to those 10.’

I then made a decision to try and talk to people who are sick and who I feel God prompts me to pray for.

So I pretty much start off by trying to build a bit of rapport with people. People love talking about themselves, particularly if they are visibly injured or in pain. I often then say to people ‘I know this is weird but I’m a Christian and I’m wondering…’ or ‘I’ve been learning about praying for people for them to be healed, can I practice on you?’ This time of year I’ve noticed that there are lots of people walking on crutches. So I often say, ‘Have you injured yourself skiing?’  This then leads to various conversations either about their skiing accident or the other way they were injured.

The way I’ve got over this fear barrier of approaching complete strangers is asking myself a different question to ‘What if God doesn’t heal and what if I get it wrong?’ Instead I ask myself: ‘What if they are healed, and their lives are changed forever?’

Most people who I pray for are surprised and touched that someone would stop and care enough to pray, in my experience they don’t care if they do get healed or not. We’re often so worried about God not answering our prayers that we don’t step out and try. Surely that’s not our problem?

I have been practicing hearing from God what people’s names are and I’ve got it wrong so many times! I just apologise and say ‘Sorry, I thought you were someone else.’ All those times of getting it wrong are worth it for the times when I’ve got it right.

During the Olympic Games I arrived a couple of hours before our evening watching women’s hockey. As I stood on the bridge watching the highlights of the day on the big screen with the thousands of people all around me, I closed my eyes and had an image come into my mind of a man in a white T-shirt, jeans and blue hat, and the name ‘Tony’ popped into my head.

Having got used to these random promptings, I began looking for anyone matching that appearance. I waited there a few minutes and then closed my eyes again and really felt God’s presence with me and then feeling that I should go to the other side of the bridge.

When I got to the other side I saw a man who matched the description. With my heart racing, I approached him and his family and grandchildren and said:

‘Hi… Tony?’

He replied with a ‘Yes, how did you know my name?’ and the next few minutes with him was truly remarkable. I explained that whenever this happens to me it is because God wants to change the course of someone’s life, or because there was an illness or sickness.

He then asked his family to leave and then explained that he had just been diagnosed with bowel cancer and only him, his doctor and now I knew. We were both shocked that God had lead us together particularly as we were there with tens of thousands of people.

We prayed together, cried together and spoke quite candidly about faith in God and this was a moment in time that both of us would never forget. I released the power and the love of Jesus over him and we left each other happy at this sacred moment.

How to pray for people in your community:

1. Keep your eyes open while praying
2. Tell them how God feels about them (He loves them, He’s a good Father and wants to heal)
3. Tell the illness and pain to ‘Go in Jesus name’ as you believe that God has given you authority to heal the sick.
4. Encourage them to seek further advice either from a doctor or and invite them to church on Sunday/midweek groups.

The clouds don’t always part to reveal a choir of angels as people fall to their knees and ask what they must do to be saved! But don’t let that deter us from trying. Better to try and fail than to not try at all… even just for one person’s sake.

Steve Bateman and his family live in and love SW London and is he passionate about seeing people both physically and emotionally healed.  He believes that ordinary Christians can show people of faith and no faith an extraordinary God. He manages a community centre in an inner city estate which runs various projects for vulnerable families. He claims he almost became a professional golfer and still dreams that one day he will play for West Ham! Follow him on Twitter @Steve_Bateman

Dear God, Help. Amen. by Russ Wood

31 Jan

This week on God52, the challenge is to offer to pray for someone who isn’t a Christian.  In today’s guest blog, youth worker Russ Wood wonders about the ethics involved…

Russ God52 PhotoWhen I first read this week’s challenge, my thoughts were immediately directed towards the young people I work with. To explain my context, I’m a Christian youth worker who works for a Christian organisation. However, we don’t preach at our young people. We work to serve them with whatever their needs are, with an aim to make them more employable. Despite our lack of organised preaching, we find ourselves talking to them about Jesus a lot of the time.  They’d never go near a church; but they’re really interested in this ‘Jesus guy’. I hope I don’t sound proud when I say that it’s a privilege to be a part of it.

So when thinking about praying for people who aren’t Christians, I think of them. And with me being a relatively-inexperienced youth worker, I struggle with this question: Is it right for a youth worker to pray for young people who wouldn’t expect, never mind ask for, prayer?

The Christian in me says, Why is that even a real question?  It’s a no-brainer!  Everyone needs prayer!  Go for it!  Pray for EVERYONE: men, women, teenagers, children, dogs, cats, hamsters, cactus plants! If it’s got a pulse, it needs prayer! OK, I took that a bit far, but you get my point!

On the other hand, the youth worker in me asks: is it appropriate to pray for young people in your care? Does it blur or even violate boundaries? Am I risking my relationship with this young person by initiating my own agenda when they haven’t asked to be prayed for?

The Christian youth worker in me takes these two, mushes them together and creates a pulp that says, why does the prayer have to be such a big deal that it’s seen as risky? Prayer doesn’t have to be filled with long words and tiring clichés. Why can’t the prayer just be really simple?

The answer is of course that it can. I’m a big believer in simple prayer being as powerful as complicated prayer. If it wasn’t, then the prayers of children, young people, new believers, and the majority of Jesus’ ministry were barely effective at all – and I’m not convinced this is true.

If you’re anxious about praying for the person God gives you an opportunity with, then try this: Dear God.  Thank you that you are in charge.  Please help ____ with [insert situation].  Amen.

Nothing weird, nothing scary, but just as powerful. If the situation works out well, then they might see the link and attribute it to God’s intervention. It might even change their life forever. Now that’s worth a little step of faith to ask, Can I pray for you?

Russ Wood is a youth worker at Perth YMCA and also studies Youth & Community Work with Applied Theology at the International Christian College in Glasgow.  He blogs at russellwood265.wordpress.com, tweets @MrRussWood, and puts photographs onto russview.wordpress.com.

Sara Batts on praying for strangers

30 Jan

This week’s God52 challenge isn’t easy at all. In fact it’s pretty much an introvert’s nightmare – to ask a stranger if you can pray for them. In this week’s first guest post, newly-doctored librarian and researcher Sara Batts writes about the practical way in which she’s integrated morning prayer into her daily commute, and how that has naturally led her to pray for those she doesn’t know.

Sara on trainFor the past few months I’ve been doing something called #trainprayer in the morning. There are lots of people who commute and offer prayer via Twitter. I’m just one of them. Generally, this is on the 08:10 from Colchester to Liverpool Street, mostly from a seat, sometimes from the vestibule, always using the same Morning Prayer that everyone else is following. It’s an interesting feeling, being part of the stream of prayers at the start of each new day. As soon as I get on the train and get sorted I tweet out that I’m 10 or 15 minutes away, offering to take the concerns and celebrations of my Twitter followers to God that day. Some days, no-one answers. Other days I’m praying for train delays to fit them all in (not really, if anyone else from that train is reading this…)

I know very few of the people that share their issues and their joys, so most mornings I’m interceding on behalf of a stranger. It’s public, too – anyone on Twitter can see what I’m asked, anyone can see when I let the requester know it’s been done. I don’t like taking requests by direct message – I prefer this to be an open conversation for my own protection. After all, if you want private prayer Twitter isn’t the place to be asking for it.

I feel hugely privileged to be trusted with the concerns that are closest to people’s hearts. To be able to play some small part in their life with God. To follow progress of bail hearings, illnesses, job hunts, house moves and all the worries of life as I see new status updates or have repeat requests. Does it matter that I might never meet these people? I don’t think so. It doesn’t mean I care less, nor struggle to leave their concerns with the Lord and not carry them with me. Does it matter that sometimes I preface the offer to pray with warnings of grumpiness or inability to concentrate? I hope not, for if our prayers have always to be coherent and beautiful sentences I for one am doomed.

Sara Batts is a law librarian working in the heart of the City, ‘blessed’ with an hour’s commute from home. She has recently completed a PhD investigating how churches and church leaders use websites & social media (quite a lot the work for it done whilst commuting). Sara enjoys running, writing and real ale (separately) and is currently working out what to do with the rest of her spare time with no PhD to do. She’s been a Greenbelt speaker for the past two years as well as presenting her ideas from her thesis to anyone who’ll listen. Find her on Twitter at @DrBattyTowers or blogging at runninglife.wordpress.com.

If you’d like to write a guest blog on this subject, please read the guidelines here, then drop Martin an email.

God 52 – Week Five (29/1/13)

29 Jan

I’m writing this sat on a train. It’s about midnight and my carriage is full of drunk, swearing, offensive twenty-something men. The last thing I do is start talking to these guys about Jesus. Seriously, I can’t think of anything worse. Apart from flirting with them, but in this day and age that would be far more socially acceptable.

Yet right at the end of his life Jesus is really clear about this:

‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’

I’m a coward. It’s pretty simple. Yes my mates know I’m a Christian but it’s a rare day when I go out of my way to talk about it. I don’t even want to tweet about this blog, because, you know, my followers want bitterness and occasional whimsy, not earnest God-centred endeavour.

But I know that I want people to know Jesus. I passionately believe that following Jesus is the best way to live, that Jesus has to power to change lives, situations and communities.

So I maybe I ought to be less quiet about it…..

5: Offer to pray for someone.

Important caveat – this person shouldn’t (as far as you know) be a Christian.

We’re going to go on a journey this year, and I’ve got a feeling there’s a few of us who struggle with this. So we’re starting off gently. In my experience people are often regally happy to be prayed for, so find that opportunity and take a risk. It could be online, in the pub or with a friend, however will work best.

No matter how you choose to do it, lets take this week to commit to a baby step in the right direction, to love out what we believe in the life-altering love of Christ.

If you’d like to write a guest blog on this week’s subject – praying for strangers – please read the guidelines here, then drop Martin an email. We’re particularly interested in stories of what happened when you stepped out and tried it… whether that ended in a miracle or a disaster! Thanks.