A Mixed Up Minister?
What insights does the book of Jonah have for ministers today?
Led by The Revd Tom Stuckey, a former President of the Methodist Church.
Just Walk Across the Room
Have you ever had a phone call from a friend - have you heard about..? Have you read..? We’re doing it at study group..!
That’s how it started. A few phone calls and a copy of some of the study material later and I was hooked. “Just Walk Across the Room”- it is as easy as that. I picked up the book which was easy to read and challenging to put into practice. With the helpful use of story and practical experience Bill Hybells introduced us to a way of outreach that was not complicated but accessibly challenging.
We planned a four week programme in the autumn last year with every church in the circuit taking part at the same time. Four weeks of themed preaching, midweek reading the book and study.
When Bill Hybells wrote “What if you knew that by simply walking across the room and saying hello to someone, you could change that person’s forever?” the challenge was set before us. What happened and what difference did it make?
The four week course led us to consider how we got to where we were in relationship with Jesus, the possibilities offered us in association with Him, the responsibility given to us and challenge to continue to live in the way He wants.
On the first week we looked at “The Single Greatest Gift” - God “walked across the cosmos” for us and we know the whole story is rooted in God’s love for his world, you, me and those around us. We were asked who was it that walked across the room to tell us the message of his love. We were encouraged to give thanks for that person and, if they were still around, send a postcard to tell them of the influence they had on our lives. One person wrote to Tom an encourager, just days before he died. Another was able to get a message to Rob Frost shortly before his death. Thankfully not all postcards had this effect! They were a source of encouragement to the recipients and a thoughtful reminder to those taking part. How important it was that someone took the time to walk across the room to tell me of the good news of great and abiding love.
In week two we were asked how we could we be like those who encouraged us? “Living in 3D”, Develop Friendships, Discover Stories, and Discern Next Steps. This section was not a pattern to win souls but a realistic attempt to encourage us to be genuine in our discipleship and open to the story of God within us and within those we meet. We were not to be overtly evangelistic from the word go, but to be genuine believers getting to know people, interested and involved in their stories. We were challenged to be prepared, at the right time, to offer the opportunity of a next step with God. This may be after a week or twenty years of genuine consistent discipleship and real, no strings, friendship.
For the third week we established that one part of the next step was our ability to tell our own story in simple non religious language “The Power of Story”. Every member taking part was encouraged to write the account of their conversion in less than one hundred straightforward words. This was surprisingly difficult but folk took to it with enthusiasm. We ended up with around seventy from a congregation of one hundred and twenty. As part of our Easter celebrations we printed off the stories, a number on A1 card, and opened the church for the community to come and drink coffee and read some of them. This has also been used at the Share Jesus Pentecost Celebration in London. The stories are by and large ordinary tales of discovering a living relationship with a loving God. The unspectacular leading to the unimaginable.
The forth theme “Grander Vision Living” introduced us to the “Matthew party”. Having engaged in the project in the autumn we set our sights on a Christmas family event. In a local hall, not linked to the church, we staged a Christmas party at which about half were not committed / infrequent or non attendees. It was an opportunity to put into practice the principal of invitation. This is something which we have revisited over the opening months of this year through to a special Pentecost Sunday service and an evening celebrating all that is Eurovision.
The whole project has been enthusiastically received by many, enjoyed by some and tolerated by the rest. It has opened a way of thought and living which involves folk in keeping outreach in the forefront of their minds. It does not demand a systematic theological education but a willingness to respond to the prompting of the Spirit and to talk about their experience in a straightforward way. It encouraged us to consider that evangelism was a lifestyle choice and that it worked in everyday life over years rather than concentrated campaigns.
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