Truth be told, I cry a fair bit. I got the advice from William Booth (not in person, you understand) – ‘try tears’ he said. Injustice moves me, poverty moves me, unwarranted suffering moves me. Most of the time I’m not directly connected to that, especially these days. Yet, over the years, another thing that has consistently ‘got me’ is a burden for God’s people to encounter the transformation he brings and the depth of longing for the church to grasp the significance of our work, mission and task ahead of us.
It is a burden that I’m continuing to take to the Lord. I lay out my question before him: ‘How long?? Lord, why is it when your word says [this], and your passion is [this], and your command is [this], we’re so slow to respond to your call?’ And I ask him ‘Lord, send workers into the harvest!’ ‘May your Spirit renew us inward and move us outwards!’ …and I plead. I beg that he might come and do his work…and I try tears as old Booth suggested. It’s not that God will be manipulated, or suddenly moved by waterworks. It’s not that I have to turn it on, I just plead and I long…and it lays heavy on my heart. I still pray over my church’s empty seats every week like I’ve done for a long time in every place, picturing each person who comes and calling to mind the ‘feel’ of the assembly and the spiritual temperature of the corporate experience. And, praying for those who’ve still to hear, who might someday sit on them. I celebrate the good, and the rest…well, the Lord hears me.
The problem with me is that I’ve never been satisfied with any doctrine, idea or argument which seeks to come along and detract from the urgency of the Gospel. Yes, call me old fashioned, but for me, preaching the gospel (in whatever format) is still important because I want people to experience the fullness of salvation God brings. I want them to connect with deep grace, deep love, deep mercy. I want to see so many folk’s transitory troubles pale into insignificance compared to the greatness of the promise; Christ in you, the hope of glory!
Taking away the Christian-talk….I believe God is in the business of rescuing, changing and redirecting people to a different destination. And, there’s not a single person any of us have clapped eyes on that is not in need of the work of Christ to lead us out of the Kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of the Son, whom God loves. Any other ‘gospels’ out there perplex me, to be honest.
And then there is what passes as ‘normal’ in so many settings. From my own perspective, I am worried if I have no passion: to encounter God through his Word; to pray and spend time in the ‘secret place’ with the Lord; to speak his name and carry out his mission; to meet with, and encourage, and create community with the body of Christ regularly; to be open and accountable about my spiritual life; and, to extend the loving hand to the ones in whom Christ comes to us in his most distressing disguises (whatever you do for the least of these…)
It can’t be that I’m just weird to be so preoccupied with these things, can it? And don’t get me wrong, I have my own salvation to ‘work out’ and I’d be competing with Paul for the ‘worst of sinners’ title most days if it wasn’t for God’s restraining grace. It’s just that my heart longs for Christ to be fully formed in us, as much as is possible and that our capacity for being drawn in pursuit enables us. To that end, I’ve laboured and no doubt will continue to labour.
Another thing Booth said was to assemble kindred hearts in some back room somewhere and pray until the breakthrough comes. Prayer is where the transformation comes, it is where the relationship flourishes and where disciples are formed in love and active learning. It’s a burden that needs sharing, maybe even a vision that needs renewing. May God hear and answer. Come quickly, Lord.