Yesterday was the launch day conference of Gospel Yorkshire entitled 'Why not now?' Here are some reflections the day.
The first session was Neil Powell speaking from the book of Jonah and challenging us about where our hearts are for the lost. Are we prepared to go outside of our structures, outside of our comfort in order to reach the lost? The four points of his overview were very helpful: Grace forgotten threatens our mission, Grace rediscovered empowers our mission, Grace rediscovered send us on our mission and lastly Grace, living, sustains our mission. The challenge we were left with was that if God is so concerned with the lost, if Jesus is so concerned with the lost how can we not be?
The second session was various people sharing about plants they were involved in and/or planting networks they were part of. The Gospel Yorkshire committee also introduced themselves and explained more about their vision. After the break out groups, about which more in a moment, Andy Paterson from FIEC spoke on Planting a shared commission. His nine (yes nine) points were that there should be: a shared passion for the glory of Jesus, a shared understanding of the lostness of the lost, a shared commitment to pray and plan, a shared humility toward other networks, a shared vision for training new leaders, a shared sensitivity to cultural diversity, a shared awareness of community engagement, a shared sacrifice of people, resources and time, and finally a shared perseverance through tough times. One thing that struck me that Andy said was that his observation would be that Yorkshire has a rugged individualism, I'd suggest that is the case not only in Yorkshire society but in our churches as well.
Many churches in Yorkshire adopt that approach, they are little red hen churches (I'll do it myself). Even those who are part of larger networks often seem to display that characteristic within their network. And what strikes me is how tragic that is because most of our churches in Yorkshire are not full of indigenous Yorkshire people, and are certainly not led by them. If we are going to absorb anything of the culture around us why can we not adopt the generosity of spirit, the sheer determination, or friendliness of Yorkshire folk.
I guess my frustration with the day is in many ways my frustration with ministry in Yorkshire and it was well illustrated in the break out session, when we broke into regions the South Yorkshire region had representatives from only 4 churches, no doubt there were others who had good reason for not attending, but in many ways Yorkshire feels fragmented. When Neil Powell shared with us how Birmingham 20:20 works it was encouraging to see the diversity of churches involved and partnering together in the gospel, my prayer and the challenge I have come away from the day with is that we need to build those connections and quickly.