One Step at a Time

It’s 7.26 on another Friday morning.  Earlier than usual to write my weekly blog, which like so ministries has just happened.  No top down directive, not even as a planned outcome.  Just like Topsy, it just grew.  As we’ll see, the Holy Spirit’s preferred way of working.

I guess it started with the arrival of the internet.  And so rather than walk around with next Sunday’s notices to that week’s typist, I started to email them as an attachment.  It saved getting wet.

Then I gradually started to include other church members, occasionally adding an interesting story or one of Bill Evan’s jokes.  Nothing special.  In those early days Ted Morrell gave me the idea of showing the Everton match result in the subject line – but only when we won.

Not that often, I soon realized.

Gradually my approach changed, from just adding a few words as an after-thought to doing what I am doing now, aiming to give a considered Christian perspective on what God is doing.

So in about 30 minutes time I will be sending this out to 250 of you, in five separate mailings to avoid your spam filter. Thanks to Liz Wainwright this blog is published on the web;  then on our church twitter and Facebook feed.  Often people forward it to friends.

And invariably I get responses from people I don’t know and occasionally from people I do know of but have never met.  They could be anywhere in the world.  It’s a humbling experience.

This blog could be the most important thing I do now – but goodness knows how you could evaluate its effectiveness for an ecclesiastical OFSTED!  Certainly I now see it as essential at a time when church members may be all over the place (in both senses of the phrase), possibly feeling isolated, out of circulation.

I now realize that the most effective ministries develop just like this, without any strategic planning; they just happen.   When we started doing Alpha, for example, we had no plans to start Beta groups, and then Beta plus groups – which then became house groups. Step by step, we simply aimed to meet the immediate problem.

But that is how God works in our lives, he leads us day by day, decision by decision.  We may well not be aware of his strategy, where he is taking us – either as individual disciples or as a church.  “One day at a time, Lord Jesus.”  Probably just as well!

Few people are like Michael Heseltine, who in 1952 explained in some detail to fellow Oxford student Julian Critchley how he would become Prime Minister in the 1990’s.

Certainly Justin Welby didn’t sit down with his vicar and plan his career path to become Archbishop of Canterbury.  You read his account and it was simply one decision at a time.  There was never an overall objective, simply a resolve to serve God wherever he may lead.

That certainly was the apostle Paul’s experience.  He knew what he was doing, why he was doing it and where he was going.  But his strategic direction was always provisional – the Holy Spirit reserved the right to intervene.  And he usually does.

It seemed that Paul had no plans to go to Greece but God did.  And so we read in Acts 16:  “Paul and his companions travelled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.”  God was leading his apostle, moment by moment.

So in an era when strategic direction is given a high priority, often we just never know where God is taking us.  Unsettling but strangely exciting.  Who knows what ministries God will call us to?   Again, it’s one step at a time, at every turn of the road.

It’s a case of simply being obedient today, whether we understand the implications or not.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”  (Proverbs 3:5f)