The second main session is by Pete Greig from 24/7 prayer movement.
You have no idea how brilliant you are. You are brilliant because you are human, your existence itself is a miracle. You have chosen to make a difference in the life of others. You’ve even chosen to be here this weekend rather than be at Homebase or some other heady heights.
Jesus looks at you and wants to say thank you to you. Youth workers are some of the most important people in our society and yet the most undervalued – financially and culturally. The hundreds of the tent represent tens of thousands of young people funded by the church. If the church were to disappear, some people would be happy, but millions of pounds would be added to the deficit.
All your relatives at family weddings are making money, they are brain surgeons and bankers and you are just a youth worker. Jesus wants to say thank you. So often you are misunderstood by your employers or church. Some of the great unsung heroes of our world, God’s heart is to say thank you to you.
If you want to lead you have to serve – it’s the only model for Christian influence and leadership.
Talking Jesus research recently published by Barna Group and others in the UK. One of the fascinating things is the difference in views of Jesus, the top three words for aged 18-almost dead are: spiritual, loving, peaceful. No great surprises there. Amongst the 18-34 year olds the top three words changed, and find something unique: spiritual, loving, 41% then say leader. No other demographic used that word of Jesus. Isn’t that extraordinary – not what the grannies are saying but the young guys. We have Putin with his shirt off, Trump with weird hair and Corbyn in the middle, and people say vote Jesus for leader!
Where do we look for trustworthy role models, IAAF report, Parish shootings last night, refugees across the world, wars and rumours of wars. Let us not be leaders trying to copy business leaders. Steve Jobs made pretty phones but not sure how many were crying at his phone. If your pour your life out for Jesus, when you die that church building will be full of people with emotion because of the difference you made in their lives. That is ultimately all the matters in our life.
Jesus doesn’t say it is wrong to be great or to be a leader but that the way to work it is to be a slave. There are four counter-cultural rules:
- Jesus starts with the heart in a narcissistic, surgically improved, celebrity culture.
- Jesus calls us to go small in a supersized everything world.
- Jesus dream is of team, not of the great heroic individual, not of the spotlight but the twilight.
- Jesus call is to go slow in a broadband 4G next day delivery manic busy world. There is a great book called the 3MPH God. God is not necessarily as efficient as amazon – thank God!
Start with the heart
You want to change the world, start with your heart, your own secret motivation. James and John are ambitious for the top jobs. They realise Jesus is about to make it big and they want the top jobs, it’s even worse than that, her mum wants the top job!
Jesus says if you want the top job you have to be willing to drink the cup I will drink, you have to be willing to suffer. I don’t know a senior Christian leader who has any real sense of authority around them unless they have majorly suffered. There is always a sacrifice that comes through suffering – not from a title or position.
In suffering, in the odd bit of failure, we grew in authority. People release young people for God unless they never fail. But don’t know anyone who did anything significant without failure. We must release our young people not just to succeed but also to fail. If you’ve set it up so they can’t fail they won’t learn, not danger or being stupid but opportunity to learn.
In my own life there were two key points. Both when I stopped trying to be a hero and tended to my own heart. First aged 18 had given up on Christianity and discovered even worse on being a non-Christian then being a Christian – so not a wild cocaine sniffing, millionaire, sex God, but was just rather a beige bank manager. Talking to God more even though I didn’t believe he was there. Thought about life and realised it was worth more than that. Settled into magnolia agnosticism and God broke into life quite unexpectedly. Told to get the next plane out to work with Jackie Pullinger in Hong Kong. As an arrogant so and so said he was going to work with Jackie Pullinger, see the miracles, and bring revival back to the UK! What really found was miracles, but also people who were more like Jesus than I was. Start to be embarrassed about the things that made me laugh, the things that motivated me. If I had been ill I could have gone to a doctor, but it was like a spiritual psychosis. Find the day off was praying a mantra, praying thousands and thousands times, “change my heart or take me home” – don’t want to carry home, I’m embarrassed to be who I am. Literally tens of thousands of times said this on my day off. There was a sanctifying work, a conviction of sin, a call to holiness, the really weird thing is that God did it, I am not perfect! God changed my physical features, one lady who I’d grown up with didn’t physically recognise me. Prioritise the heart, the presence of God.
Knew I was really rubbish at prayer and so started to attend to that. From me attending to my prayer life, and church started a prayer room, something viral happened and now over 100 nations involved. Started with me, not the idea of 100 countries.
Robert M’Cheyne said “My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness” The young people’s greatest need is not what you do with them but what you do without them, your personal holiness.
At the end of Red Moon Rising was really tried, exhausted, typing with two fingers. Sammy and the kids are like widow and orphans. Call the family into the study, boy on each knee, Sammy behind, prayer over it, sent it to the publishers. There was a pub near by which had leather sofas and a playground for the sofas. Drove to the pub, there’s the sofa with the window looking at the playground, go and enjoy the playground, take as long as they want. One runs out and loves it, other runs to the door then comes back, think he needs the toilet, comes back and says “Dad I’ve missed you” and climbed into my lap and cuddled me. His act of unnecessary affection ministered to my tired lap. I would not have loved him any less if he had gone and used the swings and slide, but that one who chose to prioritise the time with me ministered to my heart. That is our choice, to minister to the heart of God, not numbers, winning the next grant. How does Mother Theresa’s work keep going, when they take people who are going to die, they spend resources on them and then they die anyway. It is by definition a pointless and thankless tasks, they do it not for them but to minister to Jesus, and they know through that they know something of God’s approval. If you are going to be sustainable you must climb into the lap of God and minister to him.
He calls us small
Not many of us choose the small, most of us want the big. Ended up having to do the small as didn’t have any other option. Had no idea how to make vision of young people across Europe rising up happen. Started doing youth work in Chichester, where it’s old ladies with cobbled streets. It was hard work, one step forward, two steps back, celebrate someone comes to faith and 6 months later they aren’t their, young leader who then sleeps with someone. St. Francis of Assisi gets this amazing call to rebuild the church, he rebuilt the church of Jesus in such a way that he changes European history. He starts to rebuild the derelict, funny, old chapel he was in at the time. The vision begins with what you have in front of you, and the opportunities that present to you and small and often unglamouress. The mustard seed, the five loaves and two fish. As we are faithful in the small he learns he can trust us in the big. Martin Luther said until a man has nothing a man can make nothing out of him. Perhaps you are on the road to hiddenness before influence.
The best beer is made by monks in Belgian. You can’t buy it in shops, there was mass pressure to produce it, but instead Abbot says you have to pray and we make same amount. If you ring the monastery at a certain time you give them your registration plate and phone number and they will let you drive up at an agreed time and collect a small quantity. Belgian lodger bought a gift, a bottle of the best beer, become a member of my family, help yourself to everything! So excited, hid it carefully so friends didn’t drink it back by accident, not drink at any time. Waiting for the special time. Lodger wasn’t impressed, thought he didn’t want it. Explained it was the best beer and was going to crack it open at a special time.
When God treasures you he hides you for a season, he has a high price on your life. He hasn’t passed you over. Mums with young children can be a frustrating time and bring hiddenness; illness can make it so difficult. A backward change, the preaching can be so boring you count bricks in the wall. Deep down I knew I could talk better, and if I asked the pastor he would say yes, but God said I want you to listen. Now God has opened up amazing opportunities, now turn down 85% of speaking opportunities.
Start with the heart, he calls you to the small. David was a shepherd boy, Joseph was in prison, Jesus had 30 years.
He dreams of team
He says serve one another, Paul says submit to one another. God himself is relationship, Father, Son, Holy Spirit. God’s strategy for changing the world is 12 people loving one another. The ten were indignant when the two were looking for position. You must beware of comparison – there is two possible outcomes: you think you are better than them, or you put yourself down as you think they are better. You are different, you are called. You need one another. He calls us to work together.
Our biggest success in 15 years of 24/7 is we haven’t had a relational fall out, just much bigger. Definite decisions where we could have been bigger, more impressive, but it’s enabled us to stay friends.
He goes slow
Finally our leader calls us to go slow. He had three years to change the world and he still had time to go for picnics, parties and more. Most pastors don’t have that time. Jesus is kind of a big deal and yet he had space to live in the world. A moment of confession, have been called for a speed awareness course. What were the circumstances around your speeding, wife having a baby, but I’m a Christian and have to tell the truth, I had a satnav and when I programme in an address it tells me what time I will get there and I always want to beat it, the joy of beating it! They looked at me like I was evil!
We live in a manically driven world and our leader calls us to go slow. Youth work is slow, it’s a long journey over months and years. Maybe what you are doing feels slow, small and hidden but the bible says Jesus is more committed to your fruitfulness than you are, he knitted you together in your mother’s womb, he has plans to prosper you, he will build his church, the gates of hell will not prevail. We can trust him, we can seek him, and we can withdraw with him and he will make us fruitful.
Maybe it’s the challenge of starting with the heart and prioritising God, hey that’s how it is sustainable and enjoyable, if your joy comes from results it will be high and low, if it comes from the Lord it will be consistent.
Maybe you are in a season of hiddenness, you feel you are in a backwater, he wants to say I treasure you and have not forgotten you.
Maybe there is something about team, there is fallout, bitterness, misunderstanding, he is calling you not to get isolated. To prioritise relationships over results.
God wants to recommit ourselves to serving Him, serving Him as youth workers, not serving young people, not serving our destiny. Laying down our lives. Some have come on the verge of giving up as you feel forgotten, or a failure, or exhausted, and he wants to say thank you for what you do, the price you pay, but climb into the chair next to me and let me tell you I love you.
God wants to speak to those of you going through the motions, spiritually you are very dry. He’s calling you to come back and recommit your life, some of you might even want to become Christians again.