We all need holidays. I’ve been on holiday for a week, and I’ve largely stayed away from the computer, and instead I have just enjoyed the weather, neither too hot nor too cold.
On Friday I decided to do a trip out, and I went up to the Peak District. This is quite a run, a round-trip of some 400 miles; but in fact I never saw what I went to see, which was the Peaks. Instead I saw something much more important.
I was nearly there when, while driving along a dual-carriageway, I saw a sign that indicated that I was very near to the location of a church that I follow on Facebook, but had never seen. This, I thought, it might be nice to look at.
Not quite sure where I was going, I indicated and came off the dual carriageway, and sought out the area where it meets. I thought perhaps that there might be a church office open, and maybe some literature about the history of the church. I was in for a surprise.
I’d never attended the church. It’s far too far from home, and in addition is attended by a family of good people whom, for personal reasons, it would be embarassing for me to meet. In fact I’d never even been to that town before.
But I knew that the church must have been very alive when it was founded. Someone from my younger days, a very enthusiastic Christian, had attended it, almost from its foundation in the early 80s right through to recent times, so it could hardly be a dead loss. It came out of the restoration/charismatic movement of that period. After I became aware of it, I made it one of the churches that I follow on Facebook, for encouragment and a source of topics for prayer. But it is very hard to get any impression of what God is doing from internet pages. And I thought that it might be interesting to see the location itself with my own eyes.
A few wrong turns later, I found myself there, in an industrial unit, wondering where on earth the church was. I got out of my car, and was accosted by a man who asked if I was looking for the building. It was, in fact, right in front of me, but unsigned because of renovation work in progress. The building is a small converted warehouse.
The man who spoke to me was working there. During the week the building (and an adjoining one, also owned by the church) hosts conferences and meetings, so apparently there are always staff there during the week. Unfortunately the church office was closed.
But this worker belonged to the church, and told me about it, showed me the auditorium, and indeed prayed with me. In short he did a fine job of welcoming a casual visitor, and had I not been a believer, I am quite sure that he would have shared the gospel with me too, in a wholly unembarassed fashion. In short I felt that I came into contact, not just with the building, nor even with church officials; but with the church itself, and God within it.
I drove away, rather impressed, and profoundly encouraged. Clearly the church is busy, and doing what God wants it to do. Hundreds of people belong to it, and it is, as the name implies, a thriving community of people dedicated to God and his work.
Very little of this could be known to anybody who didn’t go there. I didn’t know it, despite taking an interest in the church for the last three years. You could only learn any of this by meeting those involved.
In fact it became clear from what I learned that the work of God is very much alive and making progress in these northern towns, in a way that does not seem to be the case in my own town. Praise God for this!
God is at work among us now. We won’t hear this unless we are actually in touch with it. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening. God is not interested in making a media splash, but in converting ordinary people like ourselves from our pointless lives, and leading us to accept Jesus as Lord.
This is important for believers to remember. Many of us on the web live rather isolated lives. That means that, in truth, we don’t really know what is going on. Never rely on what the media or the web say. God’s work has always taken place, sub rosa, away from the publicity. It is still the case now.
So if you were in the middle of God’s work when you were younger, when everything seemed to be happening; and then found yourself in a desert, do not be discouraged. Jesus also went into the desert. It is a normal thing, in a Christian’s life. Just remember that the absence of life in the desert does not mean that there is no life anywhere. The silence and absence forces you to work out what you really rely on. We have all known people, apparently believers, who turned out only to be going along with the crowd. God takes us into the desert, I believe, that we may grow reliant on Him directly. Some of us will live our lives in the desert. But we must never forget that He is alive!
In countless lives, in ordinary people, in ordinary places, the kingdom of God is at hand, and people work out their salvation, trusting in God and blessing as many as come within the circle of their lives. It was rather humbling to see this.
Praise God for that church. I pray for its leaders and its people, that they may be blessed, and bless others; and that many may come to know Christ through its ministries. Amen.
UPDATED: I’ve removed details of which church this was: it’s not important to the article.