I’m married, have two grown up children and am part of the Immanuel Christian community, where a number of us live within a few minutes walk of each other just north of Romford.
As I look back, there seems to have been this odd consistency in my life. As I have continued to seek God, my efforts do not seem to have taken me that far, yet every now and again I have caught glimpses of something. Glimpses that have raised questions that have driven me to look for answers. Yet, it is only now, looking back, that I can see how they have shaped so much of what I have done.
About forty years ago, after I had been a Christian for only a few years, I heard a message on the Sons of Issachar, men who understood the times. I can recall almost nothing of what was said, except that somehow I knew that God was making that call on my life. Which was odd, because at that point I had absolutely no idea what it meant.
The second incident occurred in 1993. I was on a camping holiday with my young family in Aldeburgh. As I put the tent up I managed to injure my shoulder, which was not a major problem, until the night of the storm. I am a capable fellow, but with one arm out of use I became seriously worried as to what would happen if the tent gave way – which felt a very real prospect. It was in the height of my worry that I sensed God say: “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all of these things will be added unto you”. It was a familiar passage, but I knew I no longer needed to worry about my tent. My priority was to seek the Kingdom of God and God would look after the rest. So, I stopped worrying, turned over and, remarkably quickly, fell asleep. It was only later that I realised I had no idea what the Kingdom was. Was it church? Was it heaven? Christian teaching at the time seemed to glide over this bit.
The final challenge to me came around fifteen years ago when I was reading Romans. Paul described the gospel as the power of God (Rom 1:16), when I was arrested in a way I had not been before, at least not by that passage. I was floored. If the gospel is the power of God, then why were all our attempts to evangelise proving fruitless? At that moment I was confronted with a stark choice: either the Bible was wrong, or we have somehow got the gospel wrong. So I began to ask, where then have we gone wrong?
What has surprised me is the way these three have come together. I have come to realise that the message we preach needs to be the Gospel of the Kingdom and it needs to address the needs of that culture, and not some other. It is about knowing the times in which we live. It is, to switch metaphors, about knowing when and where to cast your nets, that you might catch fish.
And this will explain a lot about me – and a lot about this site.