Sligo19: Together

VOX magazine editor Ruth Garvey-Williams is at the New Wine Ireland summer conference in Sligo this week. She brings you summaries of all the Evening Celebrations and the morning Bible Teaching so you won’t miss a thing!

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Wednesday 17 July

Gavin an Anne Calver are leading the morning Bible Teaching in The Arena at #Sligo19 this week exploring lessons from the book of Acts. Anne is a Minister at Stanmore Baptist Church and Gavin is Director of Mission at the Evangelical Alliance UK and chair of Spring Harvest. On Wednesday they gave a challenge for us to be one in Christ.

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Gavin: We live in a road in North West London with the finest curry house in the world. We went for a men’s night at the curry house with 22 men from 15 different ethnicities and ranging in ages from 16 to 80.  The curry house owner asked, “What is this group?”  I said, “What do you think?” He said, “I think this is a church group.”  I asked, “Why?”  He replied, “There is no one else in this community who can get this diverse mix of people around the table.”

The unity of the church is beautiful but the unity of the church is contested.  

The early church grew numerically but with growth comes conflict.  The evil one hates the unity of the church.  The early church was made up of Aramaic speaking Jews and Greek speaking Jews.  Although they were one family, they were an uneasy partnership.  Some felt they were being “overlooked.” Reading from Acts 6: 1- 6.

Anne:  When we are talking about togetherness, we are working together to see something beautiful happening. How do we see the church advance?  We have to have unity.  On the ground, working for a Baptist church I’m asking, “How can we see greater unity?”

We need to resist three things in order to advance together:

Gossip

As we pray for togetherness, there are a lot of undercurrents.  Conversations happen behind closed doors that should be happening face to face.  So often these conversations are unhealthy.  In verse 1 of this passaged, the Grecian Jews are complaining because they feel their widows are being overlooked. The enemy loves this.  He throws fuel on that fire.  The Lord is on a mission to bring His people together, not with a surface smile but a deep love. What I will say to your face, is what I will say about you to someone else.  This disagreement does not help the church to advance forwards

We have 35 nationalities in our church.  It is extremely busy.  People are living independent lives.  How do we see people coming together here?  Recently it has been a tough time with lots of people in hospital but in the midst of that people have loved one another and rallied around in the midst of pain and suffering.  I felt the Lord saying, “Look what is happening.  Look how I am uniting my people.”

We need to advance as a mighty army.  We are going to love Jesus and to love one another.  If the enemy is spreading a virus of gossip and nastiness and misunderstanding, then deal with it. God’s people gathered together and united to deal with the problem.  In John 17, Jesus prayed for the disciples to be one.  If we are together, then awesome things can happen.

Choose not to gossip but to really love one another.

Distractions

Gavin: I really hate mobile phones.  They are destroying people’s lives.  They are quite good at doing what they were designed for.  We have these phones that distract our attention and they get in the way.  We are spending too much time being distracted.  In the year 2000, the human beings memory was 15.2 seconds.  It is now 5 seconds.  We are so distracted.  We need to ditch the distractions and focus on Jesus.  The only person who can wake up a king at 3am for a glass of water, is a child.  We have that access.  This is not about people doing better stuff but staying focused on what God has for us. 

Right now it is a time where there are a number of things going on that are a big cause of distraction.  We might be concerned about Brexit but we need to be talking about Jesus.  Chaos gives us an opportunity to share Jesus. The enemy wants to distract us from the glory to be found in being united. 

What do we do when there are problems?  Do we look to the problem or do we look to the Lord?

We need to be aware that the world wants to distract us but we need to turn our attention to Jesus.  I know what Jesus thinks about me.  We need to unite in a broken world, drawing others to Christ, rising above the gossip and throwing off everything that hinders.

Hierarchy

Anne: It is the Lord who works to bring us together.  The reason we see this one heart and mind in the early church is because the Holy Spirit is moving powerfully among the people of God. It is the Spirit of God that can change things.

Alan Hirsch highlights two things that stop a major move of God in the world:

  1. Too much training without practice

  2. Hierarchy

We are all one in Christ Jesus.  These verses are fascinating.  An immediate reading might suggest that the ministry of the word is more important than the ministry of waiting on tables.  However, the Greek does not make that distinction.

This is a question of calling but there is no hierarchy here.  Too often, we have raised people up on a platform but we are all one.  We all have incredibly important parts to play. We have a problem with comparison.  There is a danger of looking to others and thinking they are better.

The enemy wants to sow those lies.  He will do anything to keep you paralysed.  

I’ve always been a slower runner.  There was one day when we went out together and Gavin pretty much lapped me on the run. The second time, as he went past me, I felt, “He is faster.  He is going to go further.  He has always been better.”  I saw myself in such a negative light.  As I prayed I felt these words come to mind, “Anne, you are in the same race. You are running at a different pace but you are headed for the same destination.”

We are all headed towards glory, to the throne room of heaven. The Lord cares for every single one of our lives.  He has a plan that is unique to you but it works perfectly together.  The more we can step fully into what God has prepared for us, then the greater will be our unity.

We need to work hard at valuing one another.  How often are we saying, “Thank you.”  Can we call the gold out in one another?  We are all called to serve but we need to value each gift.  The apostles choose and anoint the seven men who are set apart as deacons.   We have put too great a focus on pastors and teachers and that has been at the expense of apostles, evangelists and prophets.  We have said, “That is really important but that is not.”

How many other roles have been recognised and affirmed?  The Lord says, every role needs affirming and valuing. The danger is that we think our role is either too important or not important enough. All of you are one in Christ Jesus.

Gavin: This comparison is where the devil can get a foothold.  For the sake of our unity, the body has to appreciate each part.  I grew up in an environment where everybody compared me to family members who were mature Christian superheroes.  I wasn’t allowed to be a normal young person.  What people don’t realise is that most leaders are redeemed rebels.  

It is so damaging to tell a rebellious young person that they are not good enough because they are not as good as a mature Christian who is changing the world. We fail to understand what God is doing. 

Stop comparisons.  We are all made unique.  We need to celebrate our uniqueness.  What the body needs is for all of us to be pushing in the same direction.  

For some of us, this starts by accepting who you are.  I took a while to accept that I am not Clive Calver 2.0, I’m Gavin Calver. We have to accept that we are loved and play our part in oneness.  

 Growing up, there was one song that was particularly profound.  “If I were a butterfly...” the chorus of that song is so profound... 

For you gave me heart and you gave me a smile, 
you gave me Jesus and you made me your child
but I just thank you Father
for making me, me.