Well, here we are again after the interval, talking about seeds, climate change and harvesting methodology, as you do!
We hope that you’ve been able to track with us over the last few weeks. We’re trying to paint a picture, to build a narrative, to tell you a story of what our God is doing amongst us, and to invite you further into the adventure.
Ultimately, we’re simply being obedient, responding to what He is saying and what He is doing. He is building HIS Church, and the gates of hell will NOT prevail against it, not for too much longer here in The Black Country. Do you believe it? Do you sense that something is happening, deep beneath the surface in the hearts of His people??
That’s what so many of us are believing for, praying into and hopefully ‘behaving‘ for. We need supernatural breakthrough across the region, in our personal lives, in your home, in my family, in our churches, in our businesses and organisations, and in your community.
He invites us into the wonderful process by asking us to partner with Him, especially in our unity.
As you know by now, we’re looking to raise some extra finance to sow into the next phase of where we believe He wants to take us as a network of Christians, connected by geography and generation here in The Black Country. I want to unfold a little more this time as we look at what is happening right now across the 4 Black Country boroughs…..so we’re right back to the present.
Each step in this journey to transformation is a strategic response to His Word, an unfolding vision that is ultimately about a significant representation of His Body across our area becoming a more significant manifestation of who He is.
We learn from scripture that this happens in various ways, but where we’re focused is UNITY and MISSION. When we are ‘one’ (John 17:21), He is able to release a glory from among ‘us’ that is beyond anything we could ever hope to see from our independent efforts, irrespective of our size or strength.
When we are clearly seen to be a Body that loves one another, genuinely and flowing out of divine revelation, ‘by this will all men know that you are His disciples’ (John 13:35).
Guys, just think about that for one moment. He is giving us a pretty big clue there….one that I don’t honestly believe we’ve quite caught as yet. The strength and authenticity of our ‘inner community’ will, He promises, ultimately work it’s way through to reflect His true nature to our ‘outer community’, all those around us.
To ‘bring glory to’ can be defined as ‘to reflect the true nature of’, and when He is lifted up, HE will draw all men to Himself. In other words, there is coming a day when all of our efforts, our programs and our plans will pale into insignificance, good as they are, and we’ll see with our own eyes a harvest beyond our wildest dreams.
When He draws people, His Drawer is so much more attractive than ours. When He lifts, divine hydraulics are far more weighty than mine, and when He tells us to throw our nets into a particular place, they are far bigger, stronger and more able to captivate than anything we could ever imagine.
This has been our primary purpose over the last 25 years. He called us to mend nets, and you get an idea of the scale He is focused on when you think how long it is taking. We’re being called to get ready. We’re being told to prepare, not for incremental change, but for an unprecedented shift, a move of His Spirit that will overshadow what any of us have seen before, maybe even more.
I wish we could all see what is happening around the area right now, but so much of this ‘mending’ is hidden is some way. Building relationships, seeking to engender a Kingdom culture across the churches is not an easy task.
I’m sorry to report that pursuing a ‘corporate vision’, connecting leaders, networking different kinds of leaders, breaking down barriers between denominations, boroughs, towns, gender, culture and generations requires divine hydraulics…and big Drawers!
Yet, I’m pleased to report that Jesus IS building His Church, despite all this, yet He needs you and I to work with Him, to make ourselves available, to pull down the barriers that we CAN see as He tears down those we cannot. Please take some time to look into what our God is doing right now in each of the boroughs, or at least in the one you’re heart is a part of, and you will begin to see the invisible as well as the visible, and you should be able to discern the intangible, as well as the tangible.
As you read, please ask the Lord to reveal to you the areas you could connect with maybe, things He would have you pray into, and please also ask Him to show you what He is doing and where we need to direct the finance we hope you’re going to invest into these wonderful relational connections and activities.
Another church split?
Over the last few years the churches in Walsall have worked together across the town through a variety of social action projects and enterprises.
They have distributed food to the hungry through Foodbank, the Glebe centre and the Big Feed, helped with finances through Money Advice and Ablewell Street and the Thomas Project, supported vulnerable people through Street Pastors and Street Teams and families through the Black Country Family champion initiative; provided accommodation for the homeless at St Pauls and young people at Streams and employment and education through the Vine Trust’s 390 and Vines restaurant apprenticeship scheme and the Studio School.
The church has been active! Through Kids clubs and youth projects, the Hothouse, J10 and House on the Corner counselling services. With our work with asylum seekers, teaching English as a second language with Neighbours Worldwide, Mend-it in Birchills the list goes on and on. It’s a great testimony to Christians loving their community in a variety of brilliant ways.
And we have worshipped together with the Room 1 project – a band with musicians from many Walsall churches (STOP PRESS -next event is this Saturday evening at St Matthews!); we have eaten together at the Love Walsall breakfast and prayed together in different groups and many places; are setting up a joint bank account to enable us to sow into working together more effectively and soon we will walk together the way of the cross on Good Friday in Aldridge and Walsall Town Centres.
Coming up in May we’ll have the Turning Team here and we’ll share the Good News together with the people in our Borough.
But, and it’s a huge but…….the list above hardly begins to scratch the surface of what God is up to through His church across Walsall. And that’s really good news.
God is calling us to be His Church – together as one. We realise more than ever that we need to invest into relationship, both in terms of finance and time. We are doing this, and will continue to do this.
So another church split? Quite the opposite!
Mark, Richard, John and Kevin
On behalf of Love Walsall
Connecting Christian Leaders
At present Love Sandwell provides a relational space for congregational leaders to gather once a month with around 14 leaders from across the denominations regularly attending. We also have a monthly breakfast gathering a wider range of people who have a heart and a passion for Sandwell to be transformed. More recently these gatherings have also started at a town level with Oldbury, West Bromwich and Rowley also now meeting weekly.. There is a real sense of God wanting us to prepare the way for him and regularity and connectivity is what God seems to be asking for. There is a real momentum, a sense that we need to be prepared for what God is about to do!
We have also felt led to open a ‘Love Sandwell’ Bank account, a common fund where we can begin to invest into needs we see in our borough, and we have invited churches, organisations, businesses and individuals to join us in this so that we can own some of the need together and take responsibility in practical outworking as well as prayer and activity. We hope to see this grow supernaturally over the rest of 2017 and beyond!
Isaiah 40:3-5 NIV – Taking Prayer to The Boundaries!
A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord ; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken ..”
I know this scripture is relating to the coming of Jesus, but God has spoken to the Black Country in a wide variety of settings and gatherings over many years regarding the need of preparation both personally and as the body of Christ. God has asked us to prepare the way for Him so that He can do something new in our midst. we have been asked to clear the table of our sin, striving, agendas and the mindset that we can fix the problem. The Black Country will only be saved when we prepare a highway for the Lord by clearing all of our clutter. In biblical times before a king travelled from one place to another someone would go on before them and make sure the path/route was clear. They would also announce the coming of the king. I believe that God is asking us to do something similar, a prophetic act of declaring these words over ourselves, the body of Christ and the wider Black Country.
We are starting in Sandwell! The boundary is 42 miles long and we will be splitting it up into towns where we have a designated town champion coordinating local congregations involvement. Some are cycling the lot, some people might only do a mile but together we are preparing the way of the Lord! Leading up to the day, Jon Grant will be running to churches on a Sunday to share the vision in each town
Prepare the way – Sandwell 20th May 2017 – Walking, running, cycling the Sandwell Boundary!
We will then be looking to pass the baton onto Dudley, Walsall and Wolverhampton!
Sandwell Churches’ Link
Sandwell Churches’ Link formed over 20 years ago as a predominantly Anglican network to share information from the three C of E dioceses which intersect in Sandwell: Birmingham, Lichfield and Worcester. Over time it has become more ecumenical, and since Laura Nott was appointed as SCL Director in 2016, we have been able to forge strong links between the Love Sandwell and SCL networks. We are committed to working together both strategically and on the ground, so Jon Grant has become a SCL Trustee, and Laura attends Love Sandwell and Borough Leadership Team meetings. We have supported two new town-based weekly prayer meetings in West Bromwich and Oldbury, and it has been hugely encouraging to see the commitment to unity displayed by local leaders, which we believe will lead to transformation in our towns!
Jon, Laura, Marcus, Andrew & Martin
On behalf of Love Sandwell
Wolverhampton – ‘Loving Our City’
There is much going on in the City of Wolverhampton. Shrugging off the local affliction of low self-esteem, voices are increasingly being raised highlighting the steady stream of positives in the city – a city with the wonderful prophetic motto of ‘Out of Darkness Cometh Light.’ This is just a snapshot of some of that activity.
Love Wolverhampton Breakfasts
For over two years the Love Wolverhampton prayer breakfasts have been held at the Molineux stadium. When we first moved in (under a very favourable arrangement with the venue), we felt that the words from Joshua 1 resonated with us as we took up residency there – ‘I will give you every place where you set your foot.’ We look forward to the day when the stadium will be full of Christians worshipping Jesus in spirit and in truth! The breakfasts are usually free-flowing and left as much as possible to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But it is a unique space bringing together a real cross section of Christians from many different walks across the city. We continue to pray for its prosperity and the many city-wide initiatives continuing to emerge.
CONNECT – Networking Wolverhampton’s Churches
For over 10 years a significant number of church leaders across Wolverhampton have met month after month to pray for our city and provide support for one another. It has become an increasingly rich and precious space, which so many have come to value highly and prioritise in the diary! God has really worked His togetherness amongst us, not just joining our hands in action, but joining our hearts in relationship. Together, we are seeking the advance of God’s Kingdom in our city, and we have seen the evidence of this taking place so much more effectively as we do it with one heart and voice. We are grateful for the God-connectedness that we have, and recently renamed ourselves ‘CONNECT’; in the process we also registered ourselves as a CIO to ensure a vehicle fit for purpose as we seek to serve the church and the city. We are passionate about the journey God is leading us on and excited about all the future holds!
In recent years churches in Wolverhampton have come together for Easter marches in the city and public acts of witness at Pentecost – but Awaken17 is our biggest gathering yet! Bringing the church together in the very heart of the city centre (Queen’s Square) on Easter Saturday 15th April from 11am-1pm for what promises to be an incredible time of worship and witness. Featuring both locally and nationally renowned worship leaders, the Saltmine Theatre Company and speakers from across the city, we are believing God for a significant impact in our city at what is such a significant time of year for the church.
Church Shelter for the Homeless
Following a four week pilot project last year, this year has seen a Church Shelter for the city’s rough sleepers being run for four months from January through to the end of April. It operates as a unique joint venture between two of the city’s churches but is supported strongly by a wide cross-section of people drawn in via social media, as well as from the congregations of other churches. There are about 60 volunteers involved and once again all the funding that was needed to run the venture was raised well ahead of time with very little effort. This time the Shelter is being operated as part of a new ‘Pathway of Hope’ which has evolved since last year’s venture and is focused on supporting those rough sleepers who have lost all momentum and self-belief, helping them to begin moving forward towards employment and stable accommodation.
Jeremy, Richard, Matt & Simon
On behalf of Love Wolverhampton
What’s happening in Dudley?
There is a growing sense of connectedness within the Dudley borough. People are finding each other relationally and functionally. Yes a lot is happening ‘together’ but it’s the ‘off line’ activity that is truly inspiring. So younger and older leaders are walking together, people from different streams, organisations, denominations are finding common ground and genuine friendship.
We are seeing this at a congregational leaders level, youth leaders level and across the spectrum of people who are connecting and who you genuinely sense Love Dudley! It’s more than unity, it is beginning to feel more like oneness and we know that Jesus not only prayed for that but amazing things happen out of it.
May this help prepare an environment and atmosphere that attracts the presence of God in our day!
The Easter Production
Around 15 churches across the Dudley Borough will come together in April to display the Easter story in an impacting original musical production. Featuring casts members, creatives, musicians and a host of volunteers from across Dudley the two performances provide an opportunity to see Easter through the eyes of those who actually experienced the event. It’s an opportunity for those who may not be willing to step inside a church to witness the death and resurrection of Jesus and the message this brings.
The performances will take place at Dudley Town Hall on Fri 14th & Sat 15th April and hopes to reach up to one thousand people.
One Heart Sound – One heart for the young people of Dudley!
As a Dudley Youth network we aim to bring together youth groups and youth workers across Dudley with the heart and vision to reach the 56,000 young people in our Borough. Whilst we believe our individual youth groups and churches do amazing work we recognise that we cannot reach all these young people on our own. We believe God is stirring the hearts of young people and youth leaders. There is a sense that 2017-2018 is a moment from the Lord and we want to respond to what He is doing and saying. In 2018 we will be partnering with The Message Trust in a mission to reach more young people than we have ever reached before. In preparation for this we have our quarterly ‘Connect Nights’, bringing youth leaders and youth teams together, and our One Heart Sound event in the summer. As we continue in 2017, a year of Prayer and Preparation, the Lord continues to gather youth leaders and young people, connecting us into a wider vision to see His Kingdom come.
Adrian, Leon, Rachael, John, Iain, Tim & Jeremy.
On behalf of Love Dudley