The Power of Investing in Few

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It is tempting to think that in order to make a major impact in our world, we have to reach as many people as quickly as possible. But in this mentality, I think we miss out on the opportunity to go deep in exchange for the chance that we might go wide.

OUR EXPERIENCE

Let me explain. Last term, our Pais team (a team of five young adults who do schools and church work in Southport) planned a day we called Kingdom Heroes Day, which was a day for young people to get a taster of a day in the life of a Christian. We originally hoped for as many young people as possible to show up, but in the end, we only had five young people come.

This was discouraging at first, but the further we got into the day, the more we saw that five was the perfect number. There was one young person per team member, and we got to specifically focus on each one individually.

We gave them biblical teaching on the Great Commission that Jesus gives all believers in Matthew:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
After that, we went into town to actually put the teaching into practice. Kyra, a girl in year 9, said, “I thought mission would be like being a spy, or being in an army and being commanded to do something. But today, I experienced going into town and giving out You are Loved cards with chocolates to share God’s love.”

Her younger sister Maisy had a similar experience in regards to worship. She said, “Before Kingdom Heroes Day, I thought worship was where you kneel, put your hands together, close your eyes, and say a prayer in your head. But I’ve experienced that there’s lots of ways to worship, by singing, by drawing, by listening.”
These young people came in with a variety of purposes, some desiring to learn more about Jesus, some to get a sense of Christian community with other believers their age, some just to have something to do for the day. The one common denominator, though, was that each young person who came already had a relationship with someone on our team. In order to spend a day investing deeply like we were able, the groundwork had to be done beforehand.

JESUS’S EXAMPLE

We see the example of a leader focusing on a small group demonstrated beautifully by Jesus in His time on Earth. He sought out those few who might follow Him, and with the simple yet beautiful words, Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people, He called them to Himself. Then at once, they dropped their nets to follow Him (Matthew 4:19-20).

It was after this that Jesus took these men, twelve in total, along with him during his ministry. They sat at his feet as he preached to masses the sermon on the mount. They stood beside him as he healed countless people. They saw him give time and attention to society’s outcasts. Their minds were blown as Jesus, the Son of God, washed their feet. Jesus took time to teach His disciples and take them on eye-opening experiences.

A CALL TO PRAY

Please pray that God provides for those who work with young people in Southport creativity, passion, and opportunities. Pray that God will show them ways to take young people beyond the normal church services and perhaps even beyond the church walls to experience mission and worship in new ways.

Pray also that we as a global Church won’t be stuck in a “religious rut,” so singularly-minded, that we’re unable to see the extraordinary experiences God allows us to have. God isn’t boring–he’s full of imagination, creativity, wonder, and adventure. It’s important that we help young people to see this aspect of God, because so many young people simply don’t see the point in Christianity.

As you pray for these things, consider asking God to show you people around you that you can take along on an experience, showing them the many facets of God.

 

Shelby Bland is a first year Pais Apprentice from Texas in the States, currently serving in Southport.

 

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Hannah’s Plea in the community

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Recently, I was asked to speak at a Rotary Club event as someone who works in the local Southport community. It followed a dedication in a church of some Christmas banners that had been placed out in the community over the festive season. They’d had them in some supermarkets and banks, with a note asking folk to write down what they felt their needs were at that time, which they could then attach to the banner. I felt this was a good, interesting and compassionate way to engage with the community in itself, but I was even more impressed to see the Christians from amongst the Rotary crowd were praying for these needs.

Obviously, as I was speaking, I was there representing Southport & Area Schools Workers Trust. So with Hannah’s Plea being my current hobby-horse, I decided to pull out 1 Samuel 1 and see what relevance I could draw out for the people gathered (who I was told would be a mix of Christians and many others who wouldn’t be).

I explained how Hannah’s Plea was a story of a lady who desperately wanted a son to be born into her family – a God-fearing family, for whom a man’s life being devoted to God in His house would be considered full of purpose, life transforming, and a privilege above anything else, in touch with all things divine and perfect.

This brought me on to some questions I’ve been pondering recently:slide2

How is our community the perfect family?

I interviewed a young person who had agreed to come and join me for the morning. He told us about how through the support of our ministry, he’d come into church. A church where he considered there to be a loving welcome and a whole host of different opportunities – opportunities to grow, serve, lead, developing both himself and others. This made me think of Samuel and that perfect family that Hannah so desperately wanted him to be a part of.

Obviously, ‘community’ is a pretty broad term. In the case of this young man, we’re speaking of church community. But community could mean our family, our friendship circle, or the neighbours down our street. For our Rotary friends, it’s the local community of Southport where they have their focus, but community even exists in national charities and organisations. Eg. Car owner’s clubs, or the National Trust.

But whatever the ‘community’ may be that we have influence over, what makes it so good? What makes it worthwhile? What’s it’s purpose? What does it do for those who would join?

How do we as part of that family welcome others in?

For me, this is the difference between feeling ‘welcomed’ and feeling ‘wanted’.

A couple of years ago I remember moving into an apartment in a block of retirement flats. It was a nice flat, two bedrooms, owned by a friend whom I payed a bit of lodging cash to – all around a bit of a blessing really. Apart from the fact that I wasn’t really sure what to make of living amongst people old enough to be my grandparents. I mean, many of the people in this world who I respect the most and love dearly are of that generation, but the rather extraverted thought came to mind of how on earth will I relate to them? Whilst I was wanting to have movie nights and entertain my fellow millennial friends, was I not going to feel like the odd one out amongst the rest of the residents? What sort of welcome would I receive? I was fairly hopeful they’d be civilised and say a nice “hello”, but for some reason that didn’t seem to cut it.

After months of changing smoke alarm batteries, shifting heavy furniture, carrying shopping bags out of taxis, and much more, for all the elderly residents, I realised exactly what it meant to be ‘welcomed’. It wasn’t a smile and a nod, it was actually the feeling of being ‘wanted’.

Rather than knowing he’d made some church members happy to see a young man sitting in their pews, I believe this is what the young person I interviewed experienced in a church community. Could it maybe be what Samuel would have experienced in his family and temple community also? How do we help people see they have a place? What opportunities do we give for them to fit into the community and to do their bit?

In what ways do we bring transformation by welcoming others in?

As I write this, I notice today is Martin Luther King Day. Here’s a man who made such a difference, such a huge mark on history. Not only did he see injustice as a concept, he saw the people affected by it most, and even experienced it first hand. What he understood was something very powerful about community. He saw millions of people oppressed because the colour of their skin, chose to grow a community with a common purpose in combatting this, welcoming in anyone who would want to embrace this movement and find comfort in the knowledge they were standing up. These people knew they were wanted in this community, because each and every one of them knew the power of the movement depended on them all being in it together.

The people of this movement, who were once downtrodden and oppressed, were instead empowered and transformed people with the confidence in what their place and purpose in society should look like. Not because of any huge political changes (although these are of course to be remembered and praised), but because of the power of knowing their place in their community.

When we welcome people into this attempt at a perfect family that we call community, founded on love, justice & mercy, how do these people see transformation in their lives? If Hannah hadn’t devoted her son Samuel to a community serving the Lord, would he have grown up to be one of the greatest figures in the history of Israel?

How much do we want this transformation for the people we see around us?

Do we have something here? I’ll tell you what we have: In our back pockets are the keys to a community that can bring transformation into the lives of everyone we walk past in the street.

How desperate are we to see community like this? Hannah wept bitterly. Her desperation was so evident that people thought she’d totally lost the plot. They thought she was a drunkard in the house of the Lord. What passion! How much do we want to see lives born again into the transformational power we possess? Where are we putting the effort in? Where are we making the sacrifices?

As a Christian, I believe the best example I can follow is Jesus. He was so desperate to welcome people into the life-transforming community of his family, that he gave his life for it. The Lamb of God sacrificed in all His perfection, for the salvation of the broken and lost, in all our imperfection.

Also, as a Christian, this passage has inspired my prayer life a great deal. To find out why, please do have a read of our Prayer Guide for Hannah’s Plea, and try praying with me on this for the town I love and know I am called to live in.

I don’t consider myself a hero of the community by any stretch, but I do really want to leave you with these questions, along with the people and organisations and lessons that I feel like I’m learning from, simply because this is what has challenged my thinking most recently. I really hope these challenges have been a bit of an inspiration at least, because they have been to me!

God’s blessing to you all,

Tabz


Tabz (David Taberner) is the employed Schools Worker for Southport & Area Schools Worker Trust. He leads our team from the Pais Project doing a lot of work amongst the community of primary and secondary schools in Southport, as well as with other projects in the wider community.