Tim Harrold’s account (as much as he can remember) of a serendipitous suddenly of God on Sunday 4 May at St Margaret’s Parish Church, Stanford-le-Hope
As regular readers will know, the 2014 Transformation Thurrock Tour is a presentation combining visuals, a talk and discussion. On Sunday, all this went out the window.
Rev John Guest had told me beforehand that there was to be a thanksgiving (dedication) for a baby. So in my mind I thought there’d be maybe a dozen extra people at the most, along with the regular church members who would, naturally, outnumber them.
But when Vera and I arrived at St Margaret’s, to our surprise – but, I suspect, not to God’s – we found some 50 or so guests waiting outside to get in. And they outnumbered the usual congregation by some way. The auditorium was packed, and it was hard to see anyone we knew. We ended up sitting in the area at the side with some of the church members. One of them lent forward and said with a chuckle, “You’ve been stitched up!”
I discussed the matter with John. I told him that the presentation was wholly inappropriate for the occasion and I’d just have to wing it. “Why?” he asked me. “Because it’s a challenge to the church,” I said. John made a helpful suggestion. “Well, just do it anyway. God’ll tell you what to say.”
I sat back down next to Vera, my stomach churning. Andy Bird began the time of worship. I prayed. I texted a couple of people to pray for me. Vera prayed for me. The worship ended and John led the thanksgiving. I thought, well, I’ll just do what I was going to do and improvise as the Lord leads. Now the inevitable was upon me, I was able to relax. And that’s when the Holy Spirit whispered in my ear.
I scribbled down, “John 13:34-35 – The New Command that Jesus gave: love each other, and the ‘world will see that you are my disciples’. Repent because the world has not been able to see Jesus’ disciples for their lack of love.”
Then, “John 17:20 – Jesus prayed we would come into perfect unity so the world would see, but the world doesn’t see because of the lack of unity.”
After this I added, “Psalm 133 – no blessing because no unity.” I wrote a couple of other things too which I didn’t use.
The thanksgiving drew to a close and John introduced me, getting everyone to applaud…
The PowerPoint fired up and I explained what the Transfomation Thurrock Tour is all about, where it’s been, and the website and so on. I then explained the vision statement of Transformation Thurrock: “Facilitating and Facilitating United Prayer and United Mission”, and emphasised the word UNITED. I declared that believers are united in the fact that Jesus lived, died and rose again, being totally innocent of any sin, and that he sent the Holy Spirit.
I said that for Christians to be in unity is a command of Jesus, and the mark of being one of his disciples. I used words along the lines of, “The church appears to the world to be divided and always arguing – there is no unity. And so the world cannot see Jesus through us because we’re not being true disciples. We are not loving one another as we should. And for that, I would like to apologise on behalf of the church. We are sorry that you have not been able to see Jesus because of our divisiveness.”
As I spoke I became utterly aware of the presence of God, and at the moment of representational repentance everyone in that place had eyes fixed upon me. I was in that instance tuly alive in the Holy Spirit.
Using the reading that morning – the Great Commision from Matthew 28:19, I explained the gospel further, what it is to be a disciple (someone who makes disciples) and talked about simply seeing Jesus instead of focussing on all the religion that gets in the way, to simply believe, and to simply talk to God. “It doesn’t matter what you look like, how old you are, wheteher you’re young or old, you can believe and you can talk to God. Simples.”
Mentioning Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane that for believers to be brought into perfect unity so that the world might see, I said that if the world isn’t seeing, it’s because the unity of the church, of so-called disciples, is imperfect, that is, still in a divided state.
Citing Psalm 133, I explained that a spiritual principle and promise of God is that where there’s unity, he commands the blessing in the community. “If the community isn’t being blessed, then it’s because there’s a lack of unity.”
I wanted to show a cartoon from the PowerPoint presentation, but it turned out that it was somehow incompatible with the St Maragret’s laptop. (See the picture above left.) Then, I admit, I began to waffle. Vera made a “wind it up now” gesture from the back, and so I quit while I was (hopefully) ahead.
As I went off the stage and into the prayer chapel next to it, a man called Bill appeared, just as another song was being sung before the intercessions I was about to lead. He said, “Tim, thank you! You’ve just told the story of my life!”
I said, pleasantly surprised, “Have I? How?”
Bill said that he’d wanted to believe in Jesus but never known how to – but what I said about simply believing and just talking to God, and that anyone can do it, really spoke to him. We had a quick pray for each other and thanked each other, and then I went back out to do the intercessions (adapting the prayers of blessing from the Keep On Blessing and Pray booklet for Thurrock and Stanford le Hope).
When John closed the service, he allowed Bill the opportunity to address everyone there. saying what he’d said to me, and thereby immediately endorsing and emphasising the Good News of Jesus. (See top right photo.)
Afterwards, another man, also John, said that the message had confirmed to him things he had been thinking for many years. And so I was encouraged.
Members of St Margaret’s added their thoughts to a feedback sheet on a flip chart (see right, with John Guest), as we’ve done in most of the others where the TT Tour has been.
And a weird little coincidence occured – there was a family from Freshwater Bay on the Isle of Wight, a town with which both John and I have family connections. Many years ago, Vera and I joked about planting a church called the Freshwater Freshwater Fellowship… John’s connection is with a house called The Mount.
Well, looking back at Sunday, it was as if the mount was struck and fresh water flowed forth. My prayer is that whatever happened through that representational repentance, the fresh water of the Holy Spirit flows across SS17 and the east of the borough, bringing healing and restoration to the church(es), and through a fresh revelation of love and unity as a mark of true discipleship, blessing to the community.
John 13:34-35 (NIV)
‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’
The TT Tour’s next stops are at St Mary the Virgin in Little Thurrock AND Corringham Salvation Army for the East Thurrock United Service on Sunday 18 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’s, Little Thurrock (starts 9.30am & 11am)
- 18 May – Corringham Salvation Army – East Thurrock United Service (starts 3pm)
- 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