On Sunday 18 May 2014, the Transformation Thurrock Tour made an appearance at St Mary the Virgin in Little Thurrock.
I spoke in the 9.30am service in the church, and then again in the church hall after a break for coffee.
The first talk introduced the TT Tour and carried on the theme of that morning’s reading from Acts 2:42-47:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching
and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts (to preach the kingdom). They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Does the church of the 21st century really look like the church of the 1st century?
Where we have buildings, they had none. Where we have ministers and clergy, they had none. Where we have institutions and organisations behind most fellowships, they had none. And yet the growth of the church was exponential – at the end of the first century, the church was 20,000; but just two centuries later the church had grown to 20 million. No wonder the Emperor Constantine had the brainwave to make Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. And it’s from that point the church drifted from the original model. The blueprint became tainted with a pagan yeast. The priesthood went from being the whole Body of Christ to being a specialised professional class. Instead of transformation by the renewing of minds there was a conformity to the patterns of this world. Even the Word of God became a thing of secrecy and scarcity. It’s been recently said that it’s possible Constantine actually thought he was Christ, which leads to all sorts of implications about his state of mind and motives for turning the pure water of the early church into something that was definitely not new wine.
But who does Jesus say are the priests? Someone replied, “We are!”
This led to the next scripture that had been read that morning, the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20:
Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’
Who does Jesus say are the disciples? “We are!” And what do disciples do? They make more disciples! This is not building church. Who builds the church? In Matthew 16:18 Jesus made it very plain as he talked to Peter: “… on this rock I will build my church…” Jesus builds the church; we, his disciples, make disciples. Have we been getting this the wrong way round?
Transformation Thurrock is on tour to convert converts into disciple-making disciples. Our identity should be firmly based in the fact that we are the totally loved children of God, so we work from that starting point, not towards it. (This itself leads into a whole other debate about converts’ consumerism and disciples’ contribution.)
After a break in the church hall, we moved onto the PowerPoint presentation and the flipchart. Once again, the feedback was thought-provoking, challenging and exciting (see picture). St Mary’s Little Thurrock is continuing in the mission that the people in that community of believers began back in the days of the pilgrimages to Canterbury and Europe, around 800 years ago. The prophetic was evident and there was a sense of vision from the discussion groups. St Mary’s is soon to have its interior ‘re-ordered’, and there is a genuine expectation that God is about to do something new while the congregation is forced to relocate into the hall. Cups of tea are already given to people who sit on the benches near to the church building along Dock Road, and people at bus stops are befriended and have begun to come along to things.
Afterwards, Rev Christine Williams said, “It was really great having you at St Mary’s. You said some really helpful things, especially about converting converts into disciple-making disciples, but I was also encouraged by some things that were said in the groups, especially about the positive side of using the hall during the refurbishment.”
Christine continued: “What we didn’t mention to you is that we are testing out an idea of getting an allotment so that people who are unemployed or asylum seekers can grow their own food and do something positive. it is a kind of gleaning… We’re still in the early stages of thought process but could be helpful to some of the people who use the foodbank.”
The TT Tour’s next stop is at Grays United Reformed Church in Bradleigh Avenue on Sunday 25 May.
Where has the TT Tour gone and where is it going?
The 2014 TT Tour is growing all the time, and looks like this:
- 16 February – Fresh Hope Community (St Margarets’ Fresh Expression), Stanford le Hope – DONE!
- 2 March – Grays Methodist Church – DONE!
- 16 March – St Cedd’s, Stifford Clays – DONE!
- 23 March – St Mary’s, North Stifford – DONE!
- 30 March – Seabrooke-All Saints Mission Shaped Community (Thurrock Christian Fellowship), All Saints Centre, Grays – DONE!
- 6 April – Grays Baptist Church – DONE!
- 13 April – New Covenant Church, Grays – DONE!
- 4 May – St Margaret’s, Stanford le Hope – DONE!
- 18 May – St Mary the Virgin, Little Thurrock – DONE!
- 18 May – Stanford le Hope Salvation Army – East Thurrock United Service – DONE!
- 25 May – Grays United Reformed Church (part 1)
- 8 June – Grays United Reformed Church (part 2)
- 15 June – RCCG House of the Lord, South Ockendon
- 29 June – Destiny Chapel, South Ockendon
- 13 July – Tilbury Pride Mission Shaped Community (Thurrock Christian Fellowship)
All dates in between these (apart from Easter Sunday, 20 April) and after up to and including 20 July are currently available.
The content is suitable for any fellowship Sunday service or prayer meeting no matter what your style or where you’re ‘at’.
If you’d like to book Tim and the TT Tour, please call 07929 878 089 or email him on firstname.lastname@example.org.
The presentation – which is adaptable – is made up of three sections and lasts about 45 minutes. It follows this simple structure:
- Information – Powerpoint presentation
- where we’ve been
- where we’re at
- where we’re going
- Interaction – small groups
- what is God saying?
- what are you going to do about it?
- who are you going to tell?
- Intercession – for Thurrock and the UK
- proclamations of blessing
- prayers of protection