Wednesday, 22 June 2016

I feel a bit threatened.  Phil’s anchor tattoo, shaved head and muscles trigger my flight or fight instincts.  He certainly doesn’t look to me like a ‘Christian’.  We’re sitting on purple sofas in a building with smooth wooden floors, a thriving cafĂ© and a gym.  It doesn’t look like a church.   Confusing day and an intriguing one.

The story that captures me is how this came about.   In January 2006 five people, who were disillusioned with normal church in Northern Ireland, met in a rented room.  They dreamed together of a different approach to reaching out.  A bit later they were meeting in an old scout hut.  Then that burned down.  Three of the five people left.  I’d probably have given up at that point.   They didn’t.

So now, 10 years later, we are sitting in a vibrant church centre with over 350 church people and a vital ministry to those in debt, food crisis and in need of God.  My friend Diane describes the church as ‘the most diverse I’ve ever seen’ and the wider community talk of the church as ‘the one that loves the community’

Is there something you and I can learn from this?  Here’s three things that stand out to me: relationship, discipleship and prayer.  

Phil tells me 'you can't get your church to love their community until they know their community'.  As the church has served people with CAP debt counselling and a food bank they've got to know and care about each individual. (And as I get to know Phil I decide he is not so scary after all!).

Discipleship is also hugely important.  'We can only serve our community like this through helping our people to become passionately committed followers of Christ'.  But discipleship for them is not mainly about courses. It's mostly about people learning to follow Jesus as they serve alongside more mature Christians.  It's what Jesus did with His disciples.  

And last but not least 'we pray all the time'.  And I love the way they talk about prayer. 'Prayer is just talking with God about what He and I are doing today'.


Monday, 6 June 2016

What's the most humbling gift you've ever received?  I feel acutely embarrassed as Pastor Rahul* hands me his family's 'bank'.  It's a small metal box full of coins, most of which are worth 5p.  Pastor Rahul and his family have just given me 445 rupees (£4.60 or $7).  It's taken them weeks, possibly months, to save this amount and they've just given it away to me.

I feel humbled because I've seen the scale of their home: one shared bedroom and a small kitchen and toilet.  I feel humbled by the open-handed generosity of this family who live in poverty.

And I feel inspired.  I think this small box represents the possibility of thousands of communities across India being transformed.  


Yes.  Often I think development organisations believe the answer to poverty is money from outside, from for instance the Global North ('economically richer countries').  I think the main key is actually money from the Global South ('economically poorer countries').  After all, 10 Christians giving 10% of their income (in cash or kind) can support one full time worker.  Wherever we live.  And yet as I travel in both the Global North and the Global South I realize how rarely Christians anywhere give this Biblical amount.  So I think the challenge is to all of us to give at least this much.  

Let's 'be rich in good deeds, generous and willing to share' (1 Tim 6v18). Perhaps the humbling generosity of Pastor Rahul's family will lead the way...

*Name changed for privacy