I will tell you what the two things are in just a moment. I have begun this conversation many times over the week, talking to a wide variety of people - different ages, different nationalities and different degrees of “ripeness” for Kingdom harvesting.
Before I tell you the two things, there are two other things that got me out there, on the streets of Inverness talking to people.
The Turning is “local churches working together across a region until every believer is equipped to share the gospel and trained to disciple those that respond.” Yes, it’s that word “evangelism”, the one that gives Christians bad dreams at night. Evening meetings, time to worship God, pray and enter His presence are followed by next-day outreaches. There’s training before going out on the streets to talk to people about Jesus and see them respond. This last week a team from Reading joined us to soak the streets of Inverness with a gospel message.
I’d done this before. In October 1989, I arrived in Inverness as a part of a gospel outreach team. The plan was to spend a year helping to build and strengthen a new church planting. I’m not a sociable person by nature. Give me chalk and a blackboard and a room full of desks and I’m in my element. Give me paint pots and brushes, a white sheet of paper on an easel and a crowd and I can busk my way through a gospel message. Tell me to find an individual person to talk to – well, that’s a different story.
So, why go back out? There’s a scene in a favourite sci-fi film I like, “The Last Starfighter.” The baddie in the film destroys the space station where all the young trainees are. To save the planet all the retired fighters are recalled to step in. This week had that kind of feel to it – not the destruction of a next generation of witnesses – just the thought of me, outreach-retiree, back out there.
Perhaps if it had not been the last week in August, I would not have responded to the call. The last week in August, the Thursday of that week, in 1976 I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Saviour. It seemed like I needed to balance the universe somehow by inviting someone else to make that same decision. Forty-three years later I am still walking with Jesus. It became a part of my conversations this week to say that after forty-three years I could guarantee that God would stick with them every single day. I didn’t tell them it was a stroll in the park, or some vaccination against problems – and I have had my share. It’s just that walking with Jesus gives access to resources a person would not otherwise have.
That’s the first thing that got me out on the streets this week. The second is equally impressive. In 1986 a gospel outreach team supported a church planting in Rugby. Covenant Life Church in Leicester was splitting at the seams. Too many members and not enough space, they encouraged a group to move to Rugby and, with the help of an outreach team, start a new church. What I did this week in Inverness, a group of young people did in Rugby then.
Two people spoke to my mum as she sat on a bench. They shared the gospel with her. She did a lot of crying that day. It was an end-of-the-tether kind of day. They pointed to Jesus and she just walked into His arms.
Some people have their misgivings about people saying a prayer of salvation on some street evangelism project. They wonder whether it’s real. Do people really understand what they are saying? I had my own questions about it this week as I prayed with a young man as we went through a salvation prayer together. The ugly voice was right there in an instant – “It’s not real. It’s not genuine.” That is not my problem. That’s God’s problem. We made a note of names and phone numbers so that we could follow them up.
As regards my mum, and later my dad, I knew it was for real. Their lives changed. It wasn’t just them trying hard to be better people. They weren’t better people all by themselves but because of God intervening. They still lived in a world that wasn’t on their side – but they had a God who had placed Himself firmly on their side. Love for God showed itself in their love for each other and for their family. It was transformative. I know God works! I’d seen it in my own life and now in theirs. To me there is nothing more that convinces me that there is a God – not a God that starts things going like winding up a clock and keeps Himself at arm’s distance, but a God with His sleeves rolled up ready to get His hands dirty.
This week was about giving back something now in return for what had been given to me then.
And the two things I was going to tell you really quickly? That God loves you and has a awesome plan for your life.
If you want the rest of the conversation, and there is one, seek me out and ask me.