These are interesting times.

For a long time we have been talking about stepping into something new. This idea that we are seeing a new move of the Spirit. God is doing something different. And that different involves a significant shift for us. More people coming to faith. More people being healed. More people hearing God more clearly. More of us taking courageous steps of faith. More of us flowing in the prophetic and the dramatic and the supernatural.

And we have begun to see that new. New people coming along, new people joining in, new people coming to faith, people encountering God, hearing God, stepping out in faith. Being healed. We’re seeing this. The stories are beginning to flow. Discipleship groups are springing up.

It’s beginning

We have talked of imagery of rain coming, and the trenches we have dug into the extremities of the community filling with the rain and becoming irrigation channels across the community. And we are beginning to see this happening. New conversations. New opportunities. New openings. New relationships

It’s beginning

We have talked of imagery of us jumping into the river. Not just tracking the river along the edge, but jumping in and being at the mercy of the currents and flow. Losing control. Taking leaps of faith. Trusting God with whats next. Being courageous and faith filled. Deepening our intimacy with God. Connecting deeper with the Spirit. Committing to the ride or the journey.

And we have begun to see this happen. People taking leaps of faith. A new level of encounter in our worship. New levels of prayer, and hearing God, and flowing in the prophetic. More and more of us bringing words and pictures and sensing the next steps

It’s beginning

We have talked of the imagery of the walls of Jericho falling down. We’ve spent seven weeks walking around the walls. Seven weeks of prayer praying for the walls to fall. We’ve been prayer walking the town. And we’ve seen things starting to change. People in the town sensing a change in atmosphere. A sense in us that everything has changed and we’re learning to walk in the new. Obstacles have shifted. And we’re seeing an acceleration in conversations and relationships. We’re seeing dramatic moments on the streets and in the community.

It’s beginning

We’ve talked for a long time of this idea of space. This idea of extending the tent in both directions. Making more space for more people. More space for more of God. Not just doing lots of things for God, but creating space in which God can do lots of things with us and through us. All of us. This idea of encountering Jesus through each other, and the other. That we extend the walls. Extend ourselves. Extend our capacity. Extend our arms to include more people. And that we make Jesus bigger, and more visible, and more evident, and more accessible at the centre.

And its beginning to happen. More people stepping out into their calling, more people and cultures and aspects of our community joining in and connecting in. and all gathering around Jesus

It’s beginning

We’ve talked about this idea that the way we’ve done things to this point has been great to get us here, but it isn’t going to take us where God wants us to go. It won’t work for what’s next. That we need to change and evolve and adapt. Build more capacity and better structures that facilitate rather than control. That in this next part of the journey we should expect to see a greater experience of the Spirit across our community and across our programmes and projects and relationships. In our workplaces and colleges.

And we’re beginning to see it happen. A greater authority and openness in our interactions in the community, a greater evidence of the spirit. Steps forward in our leadership and trustee structures. New appointments made this week in community role and operations role, developing our strategic team to help us grow and develop. Roles that we have been working towards for two years, enabling a restructure we have been discussing for a long long time, and this week we took the step.

It’s beginning

We’ve been talking about how we should see a greater influence across the community and the nation. A greater voice across the church. A greater impact in our culture and our contexts. And we’re beginning to see it happen. More invitations and conversations from churches, and events, and towns and cities, and councils, and organisations, and government. From the house of Lords, to Rochdale council, to Reading church leaders, to new wine, NHS England, the regional schools commissioner and more.

It’s beginning

These are times to be encouraged and excited. This is a time for steps of faith and courage. For attitudes of hope and determination. For a posture of prayer and preparedness.

Whether you are someone new to YCC who is part of this new moment and might assume it’s always been like this, or whether you have been on this journey with YCC for years, and even decades, and have heard us talk for a long time about this sense of anticipation and hope of what is to come. These are the things that we believe God is asking of us. Faith and courage. Hope and determination. Prayer and preparedness.

But it’s not an easy path and this is not an easy moment.  Change is a challenging process. Progress isn’t an easy journey. All these things come with opposition. With challenges. With cost.

The theologian Thomas Fuller was the first to suggest that the night is always darkest before the dawn. And this idea is an idea that has been borne out by experience for so many. But I feel it has some relevance for this moment. The moment of birth is the moment of greatest pressure. The moment of stepping into the new is the moment of greatest challenge. And I believe we are stepping into something sensational. Transitioning into something transformational.

It’s beginning.

The sun is rising

And this point is different than the point of decision. We have jumped in. we have committed to the journey. We have walked the walls and seen them fall.

To use the birth analogy, at the moment of new life, at the moment of birth, of delivery, it is not a choice of do we want this or not? Not even a choice of do we hold back or push on. We are in it. We see it through. This is a moment of challenge and pain and a moment of joy and beauty.

It’s beginning,

The sun is rising

But we need to see it through…

And for us at this moment, it is a moment of new, and stepping forward, and pressing on, and at the same time is a pressure point. A squeeze point in the curve. A moment of challenge.

We have talked before about our pressure in finance. About the diminishing of our reserves due to a range of reasons. And we responded to that as a church amazingly. With real generosity and courage. There was a strong resonance from the church that moving forward without a reserve was where God wanted us to be. It increased our faith and our reliance. And we responded by stepping up our monthly giving and using the Givt app and setting up standing orders. And it has been really encouraging to see.

So it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that at the very point we finally commit to the new structure and roles, that we see a further squeeze. A tightening pressure. A further drop in our reserves to only very slightly north of zero. Again, this is due to a number of factors, but it means we are very firmly in a position that requires faith and courage.

It feels significant that at the point we feel like we need to expand and step out, and create more space to welcome people, and be more accessible, is the very point that our finances suggest we should shrink and step back and do less.

It’s a difficult place to be. And it may be that we need to cut our cloth accordingly. Cut costs. Reduce overheads. Do less. So we can pay our salaries and bills next month.

And it may be that we need to press on, and continue with our plans to open the coffee shop, and stream gatherings, and grow, and reach new people and see the more come to faith. And its probably not a binary choice, it’s a tension to live in, a balance to find.

But we want to see the more. We want to see the miracle. We want to increase the space, welcome more, see more come to faith, see more encounter Jesus, and see more miracles.

And so we want to bring it to the whole church.

What is our response?

We are conscious that this is a very generous church. We give so much. Financially and in time and hospitality and love and resources. And so we don’t want to just ask for more money or time or anything else. So many already give so much.

But we need a miracle.

I do have a sense of what sort of figure we need to be able to press on into what God has for us, but I don’t want to name the figure publicly, other than to say that it is a significant figure which, should we achieve it, would leave us in no doubt that God did it.

We also hold that faith goes hand in hand with freedom. We step forward in faith. We believe that we are stepping in the footsteps God has called us to and this is beyond us.

That’s why this is a miracle. Because we can’t do this without God.

But freedom is a huge part of this too. We don’t do anything by expectation or pressure. When we love we love freely. When we give we give joyfully. When we serve we serve because it’s a privilege not a duty.

My sense is that for some of us the response is to pray. Pray for the miracle. This is our greatest gift.

  • For some of us, it is within our gift to be able to give. Perhaps significantly as a one off gift over and above.
  • For some of us our response is to think innovatively and creatively.
  • For some of us it is to consider where we can adjust and save

I will be doing all of these, and have asked the leaders and trustees to do the same.

And so we ask each of us to think about which one or more of these we can do. We will be talking up a special offering over the next two weeks, and so, for those who are able to make a one off gift, we can bring it on those occasions. But also so we can pray, bring words, pictures, scriptures or ideas and suggestions.

I would also say that I am fully aware that finance and staffing can be a contentious and emotive subject and one that can provoke lots of opinions and sometimes negative conversations amongst us. Please don’t do that. Its really important that we stay united and that we speak well of each other. So, if any of this troubles you, or raises questions, or prompts difficult emotions, or stirs you to get more involved, or you want more specifics about the figure or the details involved, then please do come and talk to me. Lets have a coffee. Lets work it out.

It’s beginning…

Lets push through into all God has for us. And most importantly, let’s do it together, and stay united in Him.