When I was in reception class of primary school I remember really well our teaching assistant had a ‘magic cream’, whenever we fell over in the playground or hurt ourselves we went to her for the magic cream and immediately felt comforted. I’ve been thinking about the way we engage with our community and help them to connect with God in some way. For years we’ve been really good at putting on big events and inviting the community to come and have fun, be blessed and through this have made some brilliant relationships, some of which have led to people coming to know Jesus and becoming part of our church. All of this has been good and it’s been really important to be visible locally but I’ve come to see this as ‘magic cream’, it’s easy to offer, comforting to people and slowly over time it starts to actually do something.
Recently as a staff team, we became aware of how much time we spent behind our desks or in our building and decided that each week we would use one of our morning prayer slots to go out and walk around the local estate for half an hour, stopping people and offering to pray for them. This for me has felt more like an injection than a cream. It has carried real power, really quickly, directly to the bloodstream of people longing to connect with God. For our team, I think most of us still have a little sinking feeling in our stomachs at the thought of going out but we also come back so pumped to have been able to chat to people in our parish, find out more about what’s going on in their lives, tell them about our church and more excitingly have the privilege of praying for them.
We’ve had people call us to tell us that their daughter got the job; we’ve seen people healed in front of us; people go from defensive to open and warm; reconnected with people we’ve met at events and its changed the spiritual atmosphere in our team – we’ve become more confident to pray and talk to people about Jesus and as we see each other take a risk and step out of our comfort zones we are encouraged to do the same.
Recently there was a stabbing on the estate of a 17 year old boy, one in a number lately which has given rise to a feeling of ‘enough is enough’ locally. It’s not a small issue so it’s hard to know where to start but we started with prayer. Whilst we were out praying this week one of our team prayed that weapons wouldn’t win. The following day they walked up to a young 19 year old guy sitting on a wall, he opened up to them about being on probation for ABH and GBH and told them how the day before he’d been carrying his knife, as he normally does, and had this sudden conviction that he should throw it away. He said “I threw it away yesterday, it’s a good job I did otherwise I’d have it on me now talking to you.” Being obedient to the call of Jesus to ‘go out into all the world and preach good news’ leads us directly to the hurting, abandoned, sceptical, cynical, lonely people who wouldn’t come to us.