To re-state for personal context purposes I’ve got baptised in February 1994 after taking a relationship with Jesus a bit more intentionally in the later summer of 1993. I’ve done the university thing from 1996-1999 and I’m just getting settled into London from August 1999 onwards. Things are looking good for me there. It’s a familiar place to me now, I’m feeling at home and building good relationships as well as getting involved in church activities. Surely everything was set for me to enjoy some good years in the capital city.
A number of factors merged to give me the opportunity of travelling up to Stoke-on-Trent. I had written a letter to someone I admire who was involved in Christian media up in the area. That letter was sent over a year previously and I’d almost forgotten about it as I settled in London after university.
I was involved in the Youth Anniversary for that year being asked to ‘preach’ a sermonette alongside some other brother (don’t worry Shane, I won’t expose you by mentioning your name here … oh hold on a minute ...). I have never been formally trained or personally mentored in the area of sermons. Having a knack of talking and being educated left most people assuming that I’d know what it is to preach and I’d be alright on any given occasion. Like a lot of the spiritual stuff that I’ve gone through, especially initially, it was mostly self-taught or Spirit-led without personal intervention – call it what you will.
I’ve never had the best recollection of that sermon, but I am my own worst critic. As well as the sermon, though, the rest of the day featured a presentation made by Hughie about a National Youth Evangelism initiative for which he was looking for volunteers. Thanks to my mentor at the time, Ritson Shields, I was already involved in an evangelism initiative and was exhilarated by the experience. Not sure if I’ve mentioned before that evangelism is not a natural passion for me – it has not bee something to which I am naturally drawn, but thanks to Ritson the interest was there and that was how I got involved in the local initiative.
Hughie was the dude to whom I’d sent the letter. Hearing him propose something on a bigger scale to what I was doing locally and a possible gateway to exploring the media I approached him and he recalled the letter sent to him sometime before. A fasting and planning weekend was scheduled for the end of the year in Stoke-on-Trent and so he said that would be a good time to discuss matters further.
This fasting weekend had enormous implications for my life. One aspect of that was my concept of fasting.
We’ll find out exactly what took place over that weekend that changed a substantial amount for me personally and spiritually in the next blog entry. What’s worth noting here though is just how crucial relationships are in our spiritual growth. As I mentioned earlier sometimes as new born Christians left to our own desires our initial excitement about God can peter out into a mundane double life of church attendance and mundane day to day living with a veneer of religiosity. God in His wisdom has given us men and women who model what it is to follow Christ and the Scriptures are replete with instructions for those relationships to be in place to encourage the whole Body to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Identifying these people may not always be easy, but it is definitely worthwhile. Meanwhile if you’ve done the trip for a while then you should be able to appreciate those who have not made the trip as yet as well as those new to the trip – the angst and issues of following Christ. Do me, them and most importantly God a favour and reach out to them if at all possible, befriend them, forbear them and contribute to their understanding of God that may lead to life-changing experiences as the Christ they see in you becomes a part of them over time.
Don’t forget to come back for more soon.
For His Name's Sake