I learned a number of things during my 14 years working for Crisis Centre Ministries. Much of it is not easy to put into words – as we know, most of the important stuff is more easily caught than taught. But a few simple things stick out.
People grew through their involvement with us. Over and over again, volunteers would tell me that volunteering with us was the best part of their week. Yes, they enjoyed it, but more than that: they were growing, both as people and as Christians, as a result of their involvement.
We were giving ordinary Christians the opportunity to do something worthwhile – to help other people in the name of Jesus. With hindsight, of course, this is terribly obvious: we all know you don't learn from listening, you learn from doing – perferably doing it alongside other people who can do it better than you. And you learn best when, after some time of doing it, you have the opportunity to reflect on how things went and how they can be done better the next time.
It isn't rocket science. But it took a while for what was happening – and the importance of it – to properly sink in. People were growing through their involvement with us because we were providing an opportunity for practical and effective Christian service (the technical term is 'ministry'). We were providing it, and (for most people) their home church was not.
There is no reason why this should be the case. There is nothing magical about working with homeless people, drug addicts and alcoholics. You can learn and grow in any setting. Yes it's easier in some places than others, but it is possible anywhere.
The trouble is that most churches are very good at telling people what they ought to be doing, but much less good at equipping them to go out and do it. This is not what most Pastors were trained to do. To be fair, it's not what most churches expect their Pastors to do. But it is what we were called to do.
The good news is: it's not difficult. You don't have to set up any new programmes (although you might end up doing that). You don't generally need more meetings (maybe you need less), you just need to understand how to use the meetings (and the people) you already have – how to set them free from from the things they think they ought to be doing, so they can do what they secretly want to do: to follow Jesus, in every way, in every place, at every moment; to experience God working through them.
Once the ordinary Christian learns the lesson: God can use me, here and now, just the way I am – then the ordinary Christian is ordinary no longer: she or he is a Child of God, bringing the presence of God and the Kingdom of God into every situation, every hour, every day of the week.
I have seen this happen, over and over again. Not one of our volunteers turned into a perfect Christian (that takes a little longer), but their lives were changed in a fundamental way for the better. And, for the most part, they saw the fruit of that change ripple out into their church life, their home life, their work life, their friends and families, their hobbies and holidays.
Every Christian can grow; and, if the Christians are growing, the church will grow. And that is good – not because church growth is an end in itself, but because there is big world out there which needs us, because, astonishingly, God has chosen to work, to love people, primarily through His Body. Us.
People keep asking, "What are you doing now?" - and there is no simple answer. This web site is an attempt to help folk understand what I am doing, what I am trying to do, and why I am doing it.
One answer would be:
Encouraging and supporting churches in social action.
Another answer would be:
Helping ordinary Christians learn how to 'love their neighbour'.
And a slightly longer answer would be:
Promoting social action as a means by which the local church can help every Christian respond in obedience to Jesus' command that we should love our neighbour, and thereby discover their true identity and calling in Christ.
'Make a Difference' is the banner under which - for now, at least - this activity is being undertaken. If you would like to join me in this, please get in touch and let me know. Thank you.
I believe there is a fundamental connection between your character and your calling: between who you are and what you do. If you want to be happy and fulfilled, the way you live must be an expression of who you are.
Who you are is connected with your character, values and beliefs. What you do is tied up with your family, your job, your hobbies, your responsibilities, what you do well, and what you enjoy doing.
Making this connection is not complicated, but it is not easy - for two basic reasons.
We want to make a difference. Actually, we need to make a worthwhile and meaningful difference: we need to make a difference to something which matters, in a way which makes it better.
When you connect who you are and what you know to be true and important with the people and the activities you give your time and energy to, then you start to discover the 'abundant life' which Jesus came to bring. The 'new life' Jesus offers us is the life He wants us to live - and the life He empowers us to live, through His Spirit, if we allow Him to.
All of this is true for us as individuals, but the same principles work when we consider our life together as the people of God, the Body of Christ.
In the navigation bar on the left, you will find links to two of my other sites, which contain other relevant and helpful material. In time, I plan to pull it all together in a more accessible framework.