Somehow the personal tragedy Rick and Kay Warren face, compounded with the atrocity committed in Boston has brought into renewed focus for me how broken our world is. A viral illness has silenced me for a day or two but I am back now with a vengeance! Truth be told there is a great need for us to consider headlong how we can tackle brokeness of all forms as churches. Today, there is something that I want to say before I get back into my series on Mental Health which so far has included my most popular post since starting here on Patheos, “Can a Christian get depressed?”
When looking at very real, very physical challenges as Christians there are two opposite mistakes we can make. The first is to assume that the gospel has nothing to say, no solution to offer, no influence to have, over a given situation. The second is to assume that because we have the gospel all we need do is preach it, and there are no other actions needed. The reality is that the Church carries a message that answers the deepest need that the human race possesses. The gospel changes everything. It permeates everything. BUT, we also need to do things rather than simply preach. In fact when a person is converted it should make the urge to do things about social problems that is stronger than it was before. I think that the age old social gospel vs spiritual gospel arguments have now largely run their course. Most Christians now accept that if a person is starving or thirsty we should meet those physical needs, while offering the gospel. Surely the same is true of things like mental illness. We shouldn’t see people as mere scalps to “get saved” with the assumption that all their problems will immediately be resolved. The work of discipleship is a life-long work. As the wise old pastor once said to a new minister, “if people didn’t have problems, you wouldn’t have a job!”
Today, I want to underline again in the backdrop of our renewed awareness of very real problems we all face: JESUS IS ALIVE AND HE SENT HIS HOLY SPIRIT! God’s ultimate solution for the problems of the world does indeed lie in the body of people we call “The Church.” He has an interesting way of working which we see repeated throughout church history. God takes a small group of people, fills them with passion for his gospel and with the power of his holy Spirit then sets them loose on the world. The best examples of the church throughout the ages have followed the same pattern as the birth of the very first church.
We see on the day of Pentecost a remarkably small number of people are gathered. Just 120 men and women were praying together. Amazing to think that as a result of that prayer meeting the whole world has been transformed. All the spread of the gospel, all the mission hospitals, all the care for the poor and needy, it all stemmed from a dynamic encounter with God. If, like me, you find prayer difficult, one solution for that is to gather with others and both learn how to pray and receive an impartation of the Spirit which often comes in such smaller gatherings. Just 2 or 3 praying together can make a massive difference. When you gather 120 or more, the potential for impact is even bigger. On the day of Pentecost they were all gathered in one place praying. Then the Spirit was poured out, and the world was changed as a result.
Because of this dynamic, I am really looking forward to this Saturdays 300 leaders event here in North London. We have a real sense of expectation, as Kenneth Ulmer, and my own pastor Tope Koleoso would join many leaders of growing churches in saying that prayer was the “secret” of their success. In other words, it is prayer that connects us to God, prayer that leads to our own lives being changed, and prayer that leads to blessing in the wider church.
We deliberately keep our leaders conference to around 300 people. This year there are a few places still available. I believe that a few of you reading this post will make space in your diaries and come along. Why not CLICK HERE to book in, and make sure you come say “Hi!” to me this Saturday.
The 300 Leaders Conference has so far included contributions from Terry Virgo, Bob Roberts, Jack Hayford, John Piper, Matt Chandler, Mike Betts, Dave Devenish, and our own Tope Koleoso and Dave Pask. All the videos are available free to watch and together make a great introduction to Christian leadership.