Sometimes I stand in the playground waiting for my son to find his coat and exit the classroom, and I catch snippets of conversation going on around me. Normal, ordinary chit-chat about playdates, jobs, home-life, dental appointments, stresses etc., and I wonder how on earth I am making a difference in the lives of those around me. I am relatively new to the area and so haven’t yet forged the deeper friendships that others have been developing with each other since their children started school together nearly 3 years ago. I am still working my way in to those friendships, and I wonder how the dreams in my heart about God changing a town/city/nation make sense and fit with this current experience. I am capable of imagining revival in my town and let me tell you it is glorious! But the reality right here right now seems a million miles away from that.
So what should I do with the gap between the two?
The Lord reminds me that it’s about individuals. Me standing with ordinary people who have ordinary rollercoaster lives and getting involved, just being a friend. Recently God showed me how much I still need to deal with the fear of being rejected by people – it often paralyses me from being just that little bit bolder, a little bit braver, or simply from making a bit more of an effort. Sometimes I conveniently hide behind ‘I don’t know if the Lord is calling me to get involved there…’ as if I could excuse myself out of it. Alongside that, however, God has also spoken prophetically to us as a church of people being spiritually hungry: we just need to offer them food. That gives me faith, and I need those words of encouragement daily!
I need to remember that mission is not glamorously world-changing, not about fireworks and extravagant displays, nor is it about getting results – it was never supposed to be about a score card to make me feel good. It is ordinary people, ordinary lives, and an extraordinary God standing with us in the midst of life – and He is the one who draws people, who feeds them, who speaks life, not me. And He is SO GOOD at it!
I can stand in the playground, stand in the toddler group, stand with my neighbours, stand in the local shop, with the confidence of “Christ in me, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). I remember I am not alone. I have my missional community around me who are all standing in their playgrounds too. We are praying for and standing alongside each other, and yes, sharing stories of God at work – He IS at work!
Today I even took a step of boldness and invited somebody to a family event we’re involved with – and she said she’d love to come; the fact that unfortunately she is away and won’t be able to come isn’t going to put me off!
My dreams of world changing need to start with me standing alongside those brilliantly ordinary, beautiful, significant-to-God people whom I see every day. And if we can all do that – well, maybe that will change the world.
Helen Askew lives in Harrogate, North Yorkshire along with her two children and husband Ben who is a Pioneer Curate in the Church of England. She has been part of and led Missional Communities for over 13 years. She works for Kairos Network Church as the Network and Missional Communities Developer, and also with 3DM Europe from time to time!