Sheffield Conference - Day Two
The day started with worship and teaching from Mike Breen expanding on the Kingdom theme of the double helix dna of Kingdom and Covenant that wind their way through scripture. There was then a lifeshapes session on the circle - learning from the moments of life. This was followed by two sessions on clusters (mid sized groups of 20-50 with a mission focus) and huddles (leadership/accountability groups where we seek to answer the questions - what is God saying to us and what are we doing about it?). In the afternoon there were a range of opportunities to be involved in some mission activity.
Never imagined I would be tending an english garden on this conference. But that's exactly how I spent day two of lifeshapes. Seven of us were sent out to help a muslim lady with her garden, it was a way to experience firsthand how to engage in mission. I loved how natural and easy it was to be the hands and feet of Jesus. This woman was alone, disabled, and had suffered racial abuse from her neighbours. She was hardened by her pain, but to then see her willing for us to pray to Jesus for her was exciting. Mission in my mind was always going abroad to a third world country or shouting from the street corner, but today I've seen how simple mission can be.
Mike Breen started this morning by talking about how our obedience in serving God must be seen through the lense of our identity in God. We need to understand our identity in Christ to then be effective in our mission work in the Kingdom. If we start with the Kingdom work without the identity then we end up with burnout. My mission activity this afternoon was prayer walking through a poor neighbourhood of Sheffield. This area has a high population of Pakistani and Slovakian migrant workers who have recently arrived in England. It was incredibly challenging to walk in this area and see how the church is attempting to make links with the community. They have run children's programs and alpha groups. Each week a group of young people from the church arrive for 2 hours on a Thursday to hang out and chat with the kids and run activities for them. I had the opportunity to chat with an English women with two children who had converted to the muslim faith as her husband was a muslim. Her family had rejected her because of this. Her life appeared chaotic but she still wanted to bless me as she left. She seemed very touched when I offered her a blessing of 'shalom' (peace) for her. My brain is getting more fried and I'm missing the kids but going well!
In the session on the circle we talked about the fact that some people prefer the repentance side of the circle (observe, reflect, discuss) and can get caught in endless discussion, while others of us prefer the belief side of the circle (plan, account, act) when we jump straight from an event to an action without giving time to the reflection and discussion that is necessary to hear from God. If we prefer the repentance side we need to let those who prefer the belief side to prompt us to plan account act and visa versa.
In my mission activity, 18 of us met to talk about going out in faith and relying on God to lead us. We then spent 5 minutes praying for God to give us words or pictures before we headed off on the tram to the centre of town. I didn't get anything for then but God gave me a bunch of things for me to do when I get back to Australia. But one guy, Chris, had a picture of a cathedral with benches, trams going past and a person in a blue shirt. When we got off the tram at the cathedral, there was a guy in a blue shirt sitting on the bench. Unfortunately Chris and I didn't get a chance to speak to him because he was busy on his phone/ipod. I offered prayer to another guy nearby but he graciously declined. Another person prior to us going had a picture of a man with an orange turban. He ended up finding and having a conversation with a sikh family (men where turbans) who were assylum seekers from Afghanistan, and offering to pray for them. Another couple of guys had a picture of a young man with a green tie and spiked up hair. When in town they met an older man with a green tie and prayed for him, but on the tram back to the church, they were standing next to a young man with spiked up hair that had a polo shirt with a green stripe that looked like a tie. They had a conversation with him. Another pair offered prayer to 4 people who weren't interested but the fifth man who was dressed in a business suit had a conversation and they prayed for him and he gave them his business card so they could follow up later.
Toby who led us said it was important to take God at his word - that the fields are white to harvest (and that many will be closed as well), that we should continually ask God to show us what He is doing and then step out in faith - obedience not results is the important thing. When listening to God we can either come in with a base assumption that God is not speaking to us or with a base assumption that God is speaking to us and to learn and stretch as we step out in faith. He challenged us to persevere until our experience rose to the level of scripture rather than trying to come up with explanations why it was different to scripture.