by Tim Harrold
On the afternoon of Sunday 18 May 2014, the Transformation Thurrock Tour appeared at Stanford le Hope Salvation Army, who were hosting this month’s East Thurrock United Service.
The service commenced with a time of worship led by Capt Sharon King with musicians from Corringham Evangelical Church.
I began my talk by telling everyone where the TT Tour had been over the past 3 months, and then asked the 40 or so people present which fellowships they represented. Just three: the Salvation Army, St Margaret’s and the afroementioned Corringham Evangelical.
I made the point that when the founder of the Salvationists, William Booth, preached the gospel, there were riots. When’s the last time we saw a riot on the streets of Stanford le Hope because the gospel was being preached?
When the forerunners of the Evangelical Church, the Peculiar People, preached the gospel, there were riots. When’s the last time we saw a riot on the streets of Corringham because the gospel was being preached?
When Anglican John Wesley began preached the gospel, there were riots. When’s the last time we saw a riot on the streets of East Thurrock because the gospel was being preached?
When George Fox, the founder of the Quakers, preached the gospel – yes, you’ve guessed it – there were riots. When’s the last time we saw a riot on the streets because the gospel was being preached?
George Fox would go into ‘steeplehouses’ and openly question the vicar’s sermon, and that earned him regular stays in prison. Christians were putting Christians into gaol.
Why don’t we see these kinds of reactions today? Is it because we aren’t doing anything to be worthy of such reactions – is it because the gospel isn’t being preached?
Why is the vision statement of Transformation Thurrock facilitating and resourcing united prayer and united mission?
The word over Thurrock is from Isaiah 41:17-20:
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.
The principle of unity can be seen in this passage. The miraculous appearance of seven different trees – appearing together in an oasis, the sign of life-sustaining water – was the proof of the existence of God. Christian unity among church streams and denominations, across nationalities and cultures, is like those trees, a sign of God’s very existence. The overcoming of man’s natural propensity for division can only be achieved by God.
Jesus made a point of echoing this principle. In John 13:34-35 he said: ‘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.’
Why was this command new? Because Jesus the rabbi was teaching his disciples something different to what other rabbis were teaching. Love was not in their vocabulary. The rabbinic schools were competitive places as disciples jostled to emulate their rabbis better than their peers, and for the schools to compete with others. But Rabbi Yeshua, with his band of unlikely disciples, commanded them to imitate him – because love speaks of unity, and unity has a spiritual consequence: everyone knows whose disciples these are.
Jesus continued with this theme when he prayed in the Garden in John 17:23. He prayed “… that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
It’s the same principle: unity among Christ’s followers results in spiritual awakening and revelation – that is, salvation – in the surrounding community.
Again… the unity principle is clear in Psalm 133:
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life for evermore.
Unity results in an eternal blessing. Unity affects the community. If there is no evidence of this, then we are not doing the unity bit enough. We are not living out the new command that Jesus gave his disciples – us.
The question was asked, is the East Thurrock United Service truly united? Or is it a ‘just’ joint service? (I asked this not to be critical but to challenge and encourage a deepening relationship between the various fellowships, to intentionally maintain the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace, as Ephesians 4 says.)
As in previous talks, the questions were asked: who builds the church? … and who makes disciples? The answers are found in these two scriptures:
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church…
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, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
Jesus builds the church. We – his disciples – make disciples. Have we been getting it the wrong way round?
The service moved into a time of prayer, with folk from different fellowships praying blessings over each other and their fellowships and communities. And then, after Sharon led everyone in a rousing rendition of Onward Christian Soldiers, everyone was led in prayers of blessing over East Thurrock, using the “Keep on Praying & Bless” book.
With thanks to Capt. Sharon King, the worship team from Corringham Evangelical, for a great afternoon.
Corringham Evangelical is celebrating its 100th anniversary by hosting a service in the style of the Peculiar People. This is on Sunday 19 October at 6.30pm. For more info, see http://www.corringhamevangelical.co.uk/we-are-100-this-year/
- William Booth http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Booth
- John Wesley http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wesley
- George Fox http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Fox
- Peculiar People brief history http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peculiar_People
- Discipleship Movement http://missionbritain.com/ and http://newformsresources.com/