Jesus taught his disciples that the presence of the Spirit of God was critical to all they were to accomplish.
Of course God is omnipresent – He exists everywhere – but I have also learnt that He loves to turn up somewhere. And we would love that to be in our homes and in our local church and through our daily lives.
Jesus modeled how to spend time with His Father God, how to pursue intimacy –get up early in the morning, withdraw from the crowd, go into the wilderness, look to heaven when in need of a miracle. He taught them how to recognise God’s presence by His Spirit. And he taught them that there was no power outside of this relationship: “..the Son of man can do nothing by himself” (John 5:19).
Nick and I have always loved the story found in the bible in John chapter 4 where Jesus meets a woman at a well whose life (below the surface) is in a bit of a mess. He has supernatural insight into the details of her life and points her towards a Father in Heaven who loves her. That encounter leads this same woman to go out and bring transformation “to her whole village”. “Come and meet the man who told me everything I ever did”.
When God shows up everything changes.
People encounter God easily where there is a tangible sense that God is simply there. I have witnessed this time and time again. And an encounter with God in someone’s life brings a revelation of who God is and when they see God in His supreme goodness they are drawn to turn to him.
When God shows up, everything changes.
When you engage with God’s living presence, people will be drawn to you and you will be drawn to people.
Our God is missional. He does the reaching, the pursuing, the sending, the encountering through us. I often hear Christians pray something that sounds like “Father we want to touch your heart”, “Show us your glory…” And He probably replies “People are my heart. You will find me amongst the people.”
If we really engage with God’s presence – the upward and inward journey – it will inevitably turn us outward. It’s impossible for it not to, because God is missional.
It’s not an “inner” world journey,
it’s a “wide world” one.
God does not want us to produce introspective disciples.
He isn’t just reordering our private world, or indeed only giving us an ‘encounter’ with his Spirit. He is interested in shaping us to transform societies, change cities, create shifts in culture. It’s not an “inner” world journey, it’s a “wide world” one. His heart is never for us to be mystics divorced from reality.
Engage with Him and others will find Him through you. It’s inevitable.
It’s impossible to have intimacy with God without impact. Intimacy with God will lead you to be involved with other people.
Every person, every day, everywhere.
And do you know what? It’s not very difficult! Sometimes we’ll get that nudge, and He will make clear to us that we’re to be intentional with the impact we’re to have. At other times we will be beautifully unaware of the impact we are having simply by being “someone who has been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Followers of Jesus who spend time with Him carry a presence and power that has the potential to change atmospheres and lives.
This year I’ve kept a diary, recording how people we have been drawn to God and His presence. Here’s a snapshot:
March 2016 “I turned around and a Sikh man in a turban was worshiping behind me in The Well service tonight. It took me a moment to clock that this was unusual. At the end of the service he came and found us, took our hands and exclaimed “I have been to heaven”, he repeated this several times. And then he told us his story.
He lived outside of the city in Doncaster and he began noticing that his Turkish next door neighbour (formerly a muslim) was really changing and becoming very happy. When he asked her why, she told him that you could come to this place in Sheffield called The Well and meet God! So he determined to come and find the place. But as he set off down the motorway he realised he had left his sat-nav behind and had no way of finding the place, so he decided to drive into the city centre and just ask someone. Here’s the best bit of the story – he spotted a young man, drove up beside him (this was on Abbeydale Road, quite some distance from us) and asked him if he had ever heard of a church called ‘The Well’? The young German guy he asked was actually on his way there for the Sunday night service! He’s been attending for the last few months. So he hopped into the car and directed our Sikh friend. We told this man how this sense of heaven was actually a person and his name was Jesus. He was grateful to receive prayer to encounter Jesus and a Bible to get to know Jesus better.
The next week I turned around and was surprised to see our new friend alongside a whole row of Sikhs in the service! And so I went to meet our new friend’s family but this is what they said: “We don’t know each other, we have just met, we just happen to be Sikh as well!”. I hoped I hadn’t been rude but inside my head I was thinking “God you are having a laugh!”
The newest couple told me their story: “We were on the way to the Sikh temple and the road was blocked off because of a half-marathon, so we decided let’s just go to this temple instead. It’s clear that God is here. Then we heard the people telling these stories about Jesus, we have never heard anything like this before.” So we gave them all bibles and I did laugh to myself – a row of ‘seeking Sikhs’ – all supernaturally drawn to the presence of Jesus!”
February 2016: Revival in the local Gym!
“It’s Friday and we’re back in the gym again. It’s really exciting what’s happening with our friend Nick who we first got to know in the gym. He was one of those characters everyone is drawn to and everyone loves. One day as we drove out of the car park we said to each other “Wouldn’t it be super to have him planting the church, he would be a ‘gatekeeper’ to open the door so many others.” At that time we didn’t know that he had once been part of church life years ago, and now he’s become one of the many de-churched people we have seen turn back to God this year. He was in church the next week (to our surprise invited by his partner) and began helping us with the music and sound systems. But as time went on Nick began to really encounter God, sometimes crying, and he began to really change. Looking back now, he now says he had never really personally encountered God before.
When I walked into the gym café today a circle of men were sitting around Nick, he was chatting to them and there was a Bible on the table. Nick introduced me to some of the men, and one of them told me how he has been coming to our services and sitting in our café listening. He says it brings him peace. The rest of the men haven’t been yet but something was happening right there in the gym. I’m struck by how complex some of their life stories are and I’m reminded how simple God and His love is. I’m then suddenly reminded that I had a dream about being in a conversation with one of these individuals one night – how strange. God must be after him.
A team of us are planning a trip to the Calais jungle and the other men are interested in this, so we have lots to chat about (Some are really against the idea!).
Our friends from the Vineyard church in Ireland told us in the first year of church planting you will spend a lot of time with unchurched people and a lot of time drinking coffee – it was good advice.
I went upstairs to my gym class and I see Helen my friend and one of our team standing praying for a woman in the middle of the aerobics class! I think I was a bit shocked but the woman seems very grateful. The instructor she prayed for last week then tells us her leg is better and she has been healed! We invite her to church.”