Interview by Miryam Lala
Miriam Swaffield is an evangelist in her twenties who works for Fusion, an organisation that seeks to equip UK students for evangelism. She is also a vital part of the leadership at G2 church in York. Miriam kindly agreed to meet me before her evening sermon on Tuesday night of #Sligo17 to discuss vocation, evangelism and leadership.
Q: How are you finding New Wine?
A: I really like New Wine. Like I’ve been going to the one in England for a few years and I’ve never actually managed to make it over to the Sligo gathering and so I’m excited to come here. It’s fun to see what the family looks like when we all get together in a bigger group to encourage one another. Getting to see any visual of more of Jesus in the same room is good fun isn’t it?
Q: You’ve been sharing with us about your work… How would you describe your job?
A: Kind of my dream job in the sense that I get to do what I feel like I’m made to do. Obviously there are always bits that are less fun like admin and databasing, but for me I get to help equip the local church for mission and evangelism and particularly thinking about how does the church reach the younger generations? Younger people as they go off to university, how do they transition really well so that they not only keep the faith but actually thrive when they get to uni?
And then I get to talk to lots of current students about how are you doing in your faith? Where are you at with Jesus? How are you sharing Jesus with your mates? And anything that's to do with adventure and creating fresh opportunities to invite people to know more of God I absolutely love and I get to do more of that for my job… So yeah, that's Fusion … We equip the church to reach students and it's super fun.
Q:How did you come to do the job that you do? Did you have a moment where you felt God was calling you?
A: Calling’s a funny word really because in one sense we’re all called to make disciples right? We’re all called to reflect the glory of God and we’re all called to walk in step with the Father and get to know Him better. So in some ways we’re all called to do this kind of thing, whether you're a doctor or a teacher or a dustbin collector or you're helping to lead a church or whatever, we’re actually all called to be more like Jesus every day.
But for me I was part of a local church that was doing really good work at reaching students whilst I was at university and it was only when I was in second year I found out that behind the scenes of this local church was an organisation called Fusion which basically was like putting petrol in the car. I thought, ‘Oh that's amazing that there's an organisation that would help lots of churches meet each other, work more in unity but also work more on looking at the whole map of the UK, the whole map of Europe, and thinking about young people finding home wherever they go to uni.’
So from that moment I started serving Fusion. I started giving to them financially and really backed the idea of supporting the local church to be mission. And so at the end of my time in university one of my church leaders said to me, ‘Miriam, I wonder whether you should work with students beyond being a student?’ I’d not really thought about that before but in the end it wasn't any sort of audible voice, it wasn't God clearly telling me ‘work for Fusion’. I got offered a few different opportunities upon leaving university and the one that gave me the most excitement in my heart was Fusion.
So I thought ‘Maybe just for a year, even if it is just for a year, I’ll work for them… because that's the one that's caught my heart, that's the one that's made me excited.’ And I'd say upon working for Fusion, it was in the first three months that then I felt something significant shift in me with the spirit of God and me go ‘Woah. I actually feel called. I feel far more invested in this for years to come, not just a year.’
So there was a dramatic change but, a bit like Abraham, he started going and later on what was supposed to happen came into play. Leaving uni and beginning with Fusion was actually the big moment for me and then God confirmed it with calling as I’d already made that step. I still don't feel like God said to me ‘You’re called to students’ but I feel like I am called to share Jesus with people that don't know Him, and I am called to help the church do that.
Q: If you could think of one tool that you feel is completely vital to evangelism, what would you say that is?
A: (Smiles) You know half of the battle is won when you decide to be bold so it's not about having clever words, it's not about having fine sounding arguments, it's not even about knowing all the right answers; quite the opposite in fact. When I say boldness I mean just the nerve to mention Jesus, name-drop Him, to invite a friend to church and not say their “no” for them in your head, and when someone asks you questions you don't know, having the boldness to say ‘Oh I don't know the answer to that. Why don't we both go away and do some research about it? I'm going to ask some of my church leaders and friends. Why don't we come back and talk more about that? Because I've not though about that bit of faith.’
So boldness is key and boldness is something that you learn. The good news with evangelism is that if you're not sure you're any good at it, practice genuinely strengthens it. It's like a muscle; the more you exercise it the stronger it gets.
The more you practice, the more it becomes your normal. The more it’s your normal then you push your comfort zone to the next level again and start getting a braver. Yeah… Comfort zones are moveable; God didn't make them, you made them, so you can push ‘em. It's good.
Q: And you're involved a lot in leadership as well Do you lead a church?
A: Yeah, I’m helping lead it. I’m not on my own with it. I’m part of a team that leads a church called G2 in York.
Q: So what would you say to women who feel like God is calling them to leadership?
A: It depends on your context doesn't it? If God said it and you are fixing your eyes on Jesus them He’s the one who tells you whether you lead – nobody else. But, sometimes we can be in a hard context where there aren't other women leading or you're not getting lots of opportunities to do that right now. And so my big advice would be to pray for your leaders that are over you, no matter who they are, no matter whether they are releasing you or not. Pray for them.
Secondly, every opportunity that you get, say “yes” and serve really faithfully. It doesn't matter if you are asked to lead the café at church and serve the coffee, whether you are asked to lead one bible study in your small group, whether you are asked to speak and say a notice to church at the front, do it really faithfully, do it really well. You know, God trusts you with small things but He also trusts you with big things. It starts with the every day how in every area of your life can you be a leader, representing Jesus and serving other people. We can all practice that, even if you're not leading a church or preaching a whole 40-minute sermon.
Be really faithful in the small things. And if you feel called to speak and no-one’s asking you to speak yet, I’d really recommend blogging. Or just writing short talks in you journal… Write your thoughts around a passage and what you would say, ‘cos writing is a really good way to practice, even if you've not been given a microphone, that’s ok. You can still use your gift in the secret place with God.
Q: What’s your favourite thing about being a Christian and following Jesus?
A: In one way it’s real simple because my favourite thing is that I get to know Jesus and He’s like amazing… The best guy out isn't He? He’s the one that gives you comfort and gives you peace and the one that makes you not afraid and the one that means you're not on your own and the one that makes impossible circumstances actually seem like we could do something… So the biggest privilege of my life is that I was introduced to Jesus when I was very small, I can't remember not knowing Him because my parents knew Him and so they introduced me.
So the best thing about being a Christian is the person of Jesus, God made knowable, but the effect of being a Christian, that is a game changer because it suddenly makes this world not all there is and it means when everybody else loses hope you've got hope like an anchor in your soul. And when nobody else knows what to do with messy headlines and tragedy and all the tough stuff that we’re going through, suddenly you know there's a much bigger story, and you know that the end game is that Jesus has won, is winning and will win. There's a good news story. The final word is God’s.
At this point Miriam was called away to pray as her sermon was due to start in the Arena. Miriam is a woman of undeniable determination. She is strikingly confident and directed in a way that makes me imagine that she could have been an entrepreneur - she carries her own winds of change with her. She speaks with authority and a frankness that is really refreshing in an age where everything is polished to perfection, almost as though she knows her own heart and mind so well and is so in sync with her own thoughts that she doesn't fear the odd slip up because she is at peace with her own fallibility.
Nobody is perfect obviously, but for a woman like Miriam it would be easy to become arrogant as, it is evident from the Sligo 2017 she has a clear gift of leadership. The one thing that stands between Miriam and arrogance though is clear in her final statement. The final word is God’s, not hers. In this way, I think she is a shining example of servanthood in leadership, as she walks behind her creator towards a vision greater than her own interests. pray that God will bless Miriam and her work and I am so excited to see what adventures Miriam and God will embark on next.
Miryam Lala is a Psychology Student currently studying at CCU. During #Sligo17 she was volunteering with the Access Team serving in a range of practical roles across the site. On Tuesday, she worked alongside the Media Team to discover what is happening to capture and communicate what is happening during the conference.