Wow! What an amazing week last week was for me.
On Monday night there was the Leader’s meeting, Thursday morning was our staff team meeting and Thursday evening a really good church meeting.
Then on Sunday I had a great time playing in the band and in the afternoon came my formal induction as Team Leader of EBC, an event attended by at least six ministers, two mayors and a great many of my church family and friends. Amazing!
I want to say a huge thank you to all those who came and of course many others who have been so supportive over the last year or so leading up to my being “induced” – as everyone insisted on saying (though in the event no gas and air treatment was needed!).
If you couldn’t make it, or would like a recap on what was said, I believe a recording was made and will eventually make its way onto the website but in the meantime here are some of the thoughts I shared at the service:
One of my favourite lines in the bible is Psalm 144:1 – “Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle.”
Had it not been for the training I’ve had in the course of my life, I would not be here now – the last year or so leading up to today has sometimes felt like quite the battle, to be honest. But: blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle.
It’s been my experience that training is often painful – necessarily so. But as that great Austrian philosopher Arnold Schwarzenegger once wrote: “Don’t worry about pain – it means growth”. That’s true of physical training but I’ve found it to be true through other painful experiences too - illness, grief, problems at work, redundancy, anger, depression, times of overload physically, mentally or emotionally… these things train us for the battles ahead – our own and those of other people we come across in life who just need someone to get alongside them for a while in their battle. And blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle.
My own sometimes-painful training in the gym, in the Ju Jitsu dojo, in industry and the school of life culminated in two terribly painful years which turned out to be perhaps the best training I’ve had – because it was training in some much-needed humility that ultimately taught me to depend less on my own strength and more on God, and it led me directly into seven years of training here at EBC leading our seniors ministry.
This didn’t include any time in formal bible college (so please don’t call me “Rev” or “Vicar” – though I quite like “Supreme Commander, Allied forces” but…) Seriously, I believe that through all of this, God has given me a battlefield commission as Team Leader here at EBC – to my great surprise!
I believe my life to date with all of its pain and all of its consequent growth has been training for this day – and the battles that lie ahead. And blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle.
I want EBC to reach embattled people and save them – from circumstances, from themselves and just maybe save them from the wrong kind of eternity (because we all live forever somewhere).
I want EBC to go into battle for people. For a roof over their head, furniture, food, friendship, a helping hand… and we’re partnering with the council and other agencies and churches to do those things. We’re so grateful to them for that. To the council for funding our big beautiful Storehouse van, to Crown Wood Community Association and the Crown Wood councillors for their support of our Refresh cafe, to our local councillors for their help in funding projects here, to Berkshire Women’s Aid and the various arms of the council – family team, leaving care team, mental health team and the rest - for giving us the opportunity to reach out to embattled people in desperate need of our help, and to all the churches involved in the Night Shelter. Those partnerships really matter because they help us do what church should do – help people.
I could tell you stories about the survivor of domestic violence who literally clapped her hands and danced for joy when we pitched up with a vanload of stuff. The little boy (Joel) who beamed from ear to ear when I brought in a little table. I could tell you about the people we’ve fed at Refresh café and the people who’ve been comforted there in times of grief and illness and bereavement. I could tell you about the man who lost everything and ended up in Night Shelter with us, was then baptised & housed temporarily by Kerith, before the council found him a home and we were able to help him with another vanload of stuff.
So we’re very grateful for all of those partnerships but our battle is for more than that. See we want more for people than that. We want a heaven of a lot more for people than that.
Reach people, make disciples – that’s the commission, the great commission, for me and EBC because that’s what Jesus commanded – love God with all you’ve got, love people as yourselves and… ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising 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.’
Please keep helping us fulfil our battlefield commission in this little branch of God’s holy and mighty church… help us to help people. Help us bind up the broken-hearted, help us free people held captive by circumstances, release people trapped by poverty or addictions. Help us reach people and make disciples.
I’ll close this blog with the same blessing I prayed over the congregation last Sunday:
May the Lord train your hands and fingers, your heart, mind and body for the battles of life which lie ahead.
May you always fight them under his victorious banner, and may you be strong and courageous - knowing that God himself is always with you.
May he comfort you in your times of sadness, raise you up when you despair and fill you to the measure with renewed hope and renewed vigour for the future.
May Almighty God heal you completely from the pains and burdens and angers of the past.
May he fully restore you, and may his holy word ever fire your spirit, soften your heart and nourish your soul.
May you, through the power of Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit dwelling within you, become everything he longs for you to be – according to the Sovereign will of God, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
And now the Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace.’”
See you on Sunday!