The best stories don’t rush to the end but enjoy the journey keeping things interesting as we tick along. So thus far in this journey we’ve established the ignorant beginnings, discovered some fundamental reasons for the issue and the importance of relationships in getting anywhere with God. It’s not just about relationships the environment can be crucial as well as proved to be the case for this most crucial of episodes in the journey – we are in the city of Stoke-on-Trent … or at least near it.
United Christian Broadcasters were at the time based in a facility on the outskirts of the city called Hanchurch. The facility housed their recording studios, offices, canteen area, resource area and some decent quality overnight stay accommodation. Hughie worked here and managed to book some of the space and accommodation facilities for the group who expressed an interest in the national youth evangelism initiative. I recall it vividly because that weekend included Christmas Day and my dear friend, Kevin Shaw, celebrated the birth of his son around the same time.
The sessions that we had as we fasted awakened me to the vitality and dynamism of fasting. With no disrespect intended for previous experiences, I had never got the impression that it could be so riveting, interesting, aspiring, inspiring, challenging, invigorating and draining. Again because I was a novice I was only doing the fasting from morning to evening where others were going for the whole weekend. Unlike other occasions, though, we spent sessions creatively engaged in bible study and prayer.
I recall one landmark session was studying the episode of Gideon in the Judges 6 and also 7. We went through what lessons we could derive from it and its application to the evangelism initiative. I remember being amazed at just how much is ignored when we read scripture and how much juice there is in every verse. I was also caught up in those modern applications and how God is only looking for a few good men to accomplish His will so that the world will know that it is Him that has made it happen and not the ingenuity of man. It was such an impactful session as well as an impactful day that the thought of food or being hungry barely registered.
It was around this time as well that we watched a Transformations video (no, not that video) seeing the effects of the gospel in turning entire communities around from cesspits of sin to flourishing areas of economic vibrancy and social cohesion by the power of prayer and unity. I was captured by that vision and it definitely broadened my mind as to what ministry was all about.
It is something that still heavily influences our church approach to missions both at home and abroad. It is not just about only giving a word, or handing a leaflet to someone about how they need Jesus, but it is about a desire to see our community transformed by the power of God to be places of individuals delivered, families healed, businesses prospering, cultures coming together and peace being made by the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is a lot more to the agenda than better church attendance – it is the natural consequence of making disciples and the social impact that has to have as a witness to the world of the glory of God.
I didn’t fully appreciate at the time how because I was feasting on the Word of God that I was fulfilling a basic requirement of fasting. It is not just the prohibition of food consumption but the active sole dedication of the mind and body to consumption of the things of Christ. It is physical affliction in line with a desperate need for God and God only.
Such was my excitement about the session of fasting that by the end of the weekend as I was planning to make my way back to London, Hughie and I conversed about things regarding both NYET and my media aspirations and we came to an agreement that it might be worth considering me moving up to Stoke-on-Trent … for good. That’s another story.
This started in earnest a new level of excitement about fasting, but little did I realise there was so much more fundamental lessons to learn. Lessons like some things to be aware of when fasting and how it is not just for church and project based purposes but it has significant personal implications as we shall discover in the next part of the series.
For His Name's Sake