Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:2-6 NIV
And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.
You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness. Ephesians 4:2-6 The Message
“Today was spectacular, one of the best prayer gatherings I’ve ever been to!” – Rob Groves, Community Evangelist, Stanford-le-Hope
On Thursday 10 February nine local church ministers and leaders gathered together to pray with and for each other for the borough and individual needs.
Present at the Fire Safety Centre in Corringham (left) were (in alphabetical order): Colin Baker (pastor, Grays Baptist Church); David Bareham (pastor, Chafford Hundred Community Church); Fr Paul Dynan (Stanford & Tilbury Roman Catholic Churches); Pastor Frank Gaise (Destiny CHapel, S Ockendon); Rob Groves (Community Evangelist, Stanford); Rev John Guest (Stanford Parish); Tim Harrold (Transformation Thurrock); Rev Andy Higgs (Stifford Parish); and Rev Bob Love (retired CofE).
Through this unlikely gaggle or flange of assembled bods the prophetic flowed, speaking to all of us as a group and also to individuals.
The day began with some worship led by the DJ-ing skills of Andy Higgs. He placed a map of Thurrock on the floor and we began praying for the community. Rob Groves got especially evangelistically excited, even stamping on snakes’ heads by stamping on the map. We all prayed for Rob.
Bob Love – new to the borough but already fitting in and so obviously called to be among the Thurrockites – encouraged us by saying that God is creating a dragnet which is bunching us together. He challenged us to know who we are, that we are loved, to be part of the dragnet, and to return to our ‘first love’ and not be like the ‘first son’ (a reference to the Prodigal’s older brother found in Luke 15:11-31). God is working out our gifts to be used in the dragnet – he’ll make sure we all have the right gifts in the right places at the right times.
Frank Gaise spoke on a more national level, feeling that the Lord is saying, “My coming is sooner than you think”. Frank saw a ‘wave of hatred’ coming against those who stand for Jesus, but the church will not lack anything, and signs and wonders will flow. As in some nations around the world, Christ will appear physically to people. To counter that wave will come a ‘wave of the Holy Spirit’ across the UK, and he encouraged us to watch the things we say and ‘call things that are not as though they are’. God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did. (Romans 4:17 NKJV.) The Lord’s riches are found in secret places, and gifts latent in people’s lives will open up.
Rob then urged Frank to lie down and ‘rest’ as a representative of the African churches in Thurrock, and we all prayed for him. David Bareham spoke about how he’d heard on the radio that morning that multiculturalism in the UK hadn’t worked, and that it was now time to stop separating people and bring them together. Then Tim Harrold joined him on the floor to represent the unification of the churches and a bridge across the cultures. They held hands, and Colin Baker placed a small piece of paper with a line of colours on it on top of their hands, as a depiction of all our churches being for all people from all nations and cultures who come to our borough. John Guest then asked Frank to help Tim up from the floor, saying, “We cannot get up ourselves – we need the African-led churches to help us”.
We also prayed with Paul Dynan as representative of the Catholic community of Thurrock. We welcomed him amongst us and see him as a sign of widening unity. Paul reciprocated by encouraging us in our unity.
After a break for lunch, during which lively conversations were had and much networking was done, Tim read out the contents of an email he’d sent to someone the day before who’d asked, “What is the purpose of the TLN Day?”
My answer was one word: UNITY.
Unity lies at the heart of Transformation Thurrock, because unity lies at the heart of the Gospel, and that Gospel depends upon unity to be a transforming Gospel.
Believing at face value that Psalm 133 is a spiritual principal that all believers can adhere to and live by, the TLN Day provides the opportunity for the Lord Jesus Christ to forge in us and through us His divine unity that surpasses all our earthly differences, denominational and cultural barriers, to His glory. Dwelling together results in commanded blessing, as you know.
Another aspect is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14. By coming together in unity as the people who are called by His name, we humble ourselves and we turn from our ‘wicked’ ways that division, isolation and sectarianism bring. The result? A forgiven people, a healed land!
I believe to come together for such a time as this is a response to the command of God to be in unity and to the Lord Jesus Christ’s prayer in the garden ‘that they may be brought into complete unity’ (John 17).
Ephesians 4 says: ‘Make every effort to maintain the bond of peace through the unity of the Spirit’. So to not attempt to be in unity is to go against the will of the Almighty.
There is no ‘revival’ because there is no unity; but there is a revival of unity – we can be a part of it. (And because unity is a prerequisite to the healing of the land, then when we are obedient to this end, we may find that we’re experiencing ‘revival’ in our own faith, in our churches, across the church, in the community, through an upsurge in salvation and the miraculous.*)
Isaiah 41:17-20 is the word over Thurrock. It’s a picture of unity created by God. The result is faith arising in the hearts of those looking on. The sons of God are revealed. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. (Romans 8:19.)
By praying for each other’s ministries, projects and with each other as people living out real lives, trust and friendship are built, and God-willing, the prophetic will flow, building and encouraging one another.
* This bit was added later.
We read out Isaiah 41:17-20 from a number of versions (this one is the NIV):
“The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.
I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set junipers in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together,
so that people may see and know, may consider and understand,
that the hand of the LORD has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.
Out of this, Rob encouraged us to no longer refer to Thurrock negatively, but to change the meaning of its name and to always refer to the borough as the place where the life-giving fresh water of the Holy Spirit of God and Christ flows. Bob emphasised the ‘seeing’ and ‘knowing’ factors, and Rob connected it with what it says in John 3:3, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.
John said, “You seek the Kingdom, and I’ll build My church” – he pointed out that much of what we do is merely maintenance. We must live as citizens of another country – like Lucy entering Narnia through the wardrobe, we must declare the Kingdom we’ve seen and experienced.
The nine men then then split into three groups of three and prayed with one another, into their family situations and work life, and spoke the words of prophecy and encouragement into each others’ lives.
Apologies were sent from Russell Godward, Andy Blakey and the team at Thurrock Christian Fellowship, who were attending a Leaders’ Conference at Holy Trinity Brompton, and Rev Rosemary Pritchard of Grays, Linford & Horndon on the Hill Methodist Churches.
It’s planned to have four Thurrock Leaders’ Network Days per year. The next one will be after Easter.