Saturday, 30 July 2011

Passing the Baton (Finishing Relay)

Cheesy title but yes, Relay is over. Thank you so much for your support over the last ten months. Your financial contributions have helped me pay rent, eat and buy books (yay) amongst other more essential things. I even had enough to occasionally feed a student (understand that their taste buds are mercifully impoverished, allowing them to settle for whatever I passed off as cooking). Your prayers have helped me in ways I'm ignorant of this side of eternity but I thank you for them. I know I haven't been appreciative enough of you all. I thank you for your grace and servant-heartedness.

I guess some concluding thoughts would be appropriate, huh? Well here's some personal reflection on how I've grown and how God's used me in the Christian Unions this year...

Looking Back

It's a little hard to remember what my expectations of Relay were. I think I did it because it seemed like a natural next step to take after enjoying involvement with the CU committee so much; I don’t think I really considered how much it might change me or even (rather arrogantly) how much I might need to learn from doing it.

But learn I have. At the very least my attitude toward church and financial generosity have greatly improved. I now have a deeper desire to serve the church I'm involved with and when I bring home my first paycheck once I get a job, I want the first thing I think about to be how I'm going to use some of that money to help someone. Additionally I think I've become a much better listener and encourager. Whereas before I eagerly desired to steer any conversation toward my own thoughts and experiences, I am now much more prone to ask the other person questions that allow them to speak rather than myself.

I also think that my approach to evangelism and spirituality has become more balanced. While I'm still convinced that churches need to up their intellectual ante I recognise that my tendency has been to swing the other way, reducing Christian experience to the purely cognitive. I now see more legitimacy in discussing things like the beauty and desirability of Christianity.

Most importantly the first half of the year helped me truly appreciate the unconditional nature of God’s acceptance of me and the second half helped me understand the proper response to this as discipline and obedience. As a result I’ve been a lot less tempted to wallow in prideful self-pity after sin, and to repent instead. I’ve experienced some times of great thirst for holiness this year and I thank God for that. I think that prior to this year I found it really hard to hold both the Lordship of Christ and his absolute grace together in my head at once. They seemed almost contradictory but that tension has now been largely resolved. I would do well to keep reflecting on these lessons as I feel that during my time since Relay ended, I have found it hard to live in accordance with them. Christian living really is about returning to the gospel and reminding ourselves of its power!

So what impact do I think my involvement with the Christian Unions has had? In many ways it's hard to tell. Most visible changes in the life of a CU occur through what the committee are up to but I didn't spend much time working closely with them. Most of what I did was a bit more “quiet” and centred around individual relationships with the students and side-projects like Equip. While I think this kind of work is hugely important you are not always granted visible “results”. That said I do think all the students I've met with have visibly grown from the start of the year to the end. I've seen them grow more confident in speaking to their friends about Jesus, in the truth of the gospel, and their particular gifts. Certainly I can't claim credit for that, but if God has used me to contribute to their growth then that's great.

I hope also that the presence of Equip, the apologetics workshop, on both Keele and Stoke campus will have produced an understanding within the CU (or parts of it) that the intellectual matters surrounding Christian faith are serious and merit our attention, for the sake of the gospel. Whether this translates into the continuation of something like Equip over the next year or whether this understanding is just communicated within the student's relationships with one another doesn't ultimately matter, so long as it's there!

I really looking forward to staying in touch with the CUs over the next couple years and seeing the new ways they step out of their comfort zone to reach their friends with the gospel. I have a large emotional attachment to these communities and it's going to be hard knowing that I won't be sharing with them in the busyness of the next freshers' or mission week. It is a humbling reminder that our ministries are a small part of God's overall plan.

Working with UCCF and in particular, the Midlands team, has certainly been wonderful. Everyone is just so down to earth. As a ministry UCCF really values unity around the central truths of the gospel and I've come to value that even more. It's been a particular blessing to have Luke as my supervisor and Jason as my fellow Relay-er. While it hasn't been totally smooth sailing between us it has for the most part been pretty incredible. We all share some of the same sense of humour and also many convictions about how the gospel ought to shape our lives in the 21st century. I shall miss our little trio!

What's next?

I shall be spending the next year back at my parents and doing a normal job! I hope to save up enough money to begin a Master's degree the following academic year, within the area of Philosophy of Religion.

So if you could kindly extend a little more prayer in my favour, I'd love if you could pray for the following:

  • That I would be able to find employment
  • That I would not view this year as a “break” but a serious year of further spiritual growth.

I think I'll keep it short and sweet at two prayer points. Thank you so much! As I sign off I'll leave you with a flurry of memories from the last year that stand out to me...

- Arriving late with Jason to the first Relay conference. - Finding someone else who says “get involved” a lot. - Pretending I was a Mormon. - Pretending I was a Muslim. - Realising I don't really understand grace. - Feeding two freshers with a terribly bland Sainsburys basic pizza. - Not being very courteous in discussing eschatology on a team day. - Forming 'Spasms of Vomit' the fictional Relay death metal worship band. - Cheesy Christian disco. - Discussing the gospel and Islam with two Muslims every Friday in the pub. - Trying to remember what I'd done on a certain day for my monthly report because I hadn't written it down. - Telling Luke that I was all confused and sinful and stuff (more than once).

- Arriving late with Jason to the second Relay conference. - Discussing Nietzsche, Christianity and Capitalism with two sceptics in Bangor. -  Finding out I was supposed to give a talk to a bunch of angry atheists a day before the event. - Drinking in the Glebe with two Serbian Christians. - Hanging out with an ex Bosnian mafia member in my room. - Crying because I felt so stressed. - Crying cause I felt so scared. - Being really emo. - Throwing a Bible at Jamie's face. - Loving preparing a talk on the problem of suffering. - Asking whoever was about on campus what they'd like to ask God. - Wishing I was better organised. - Arriving a day late with Jason to New Word Alive.

- Arriving on time with Jason to the last Relay conference (only cause we got a lift!) - Endless predestination jokes during the lead-up to the Equip session on the topic (I was predestined to write that). - Playing scrabble and going to the cinema during a “supervision” with Luke. - Changing my views on the Bible and origins. - Getting angry at Wayne Grudem for his Calvinism. - Cheekily acquiring food from the staff reserves at Relay 3 then returning to ask for beer. - Playing baskateball. - Singing worship songs in a whiny Blink-182 voice. - Struggling to light candles on a breezy day and realising that their intended symbolism holds all the more for it. - Going with Jemma to answer questions on Christianity and homosexuality with a group of girls we didn't know. - Discovering the cool American diner in Hanley and insisting in having goodbye breakfasts there. - Scoring my second leaver's card from Stoke CU (lol).

Time to pass the baton!!!!


SirNeilGlen said...

...passing the relay baton on to me! Man thanks for an incredibly encouraging and wonderful read, proper honest thoughts (and the momories are epic!). Also just as a bit more info into what situations i'll be going into this year, with Stoke CU, living with Jase + Dave, Lukervision etc.
Consider yourself prayed for bro. You better come back as much as you can!

Martin said...

"Lukervision" LOL.

Man I'm sure you'll have that wonderful blend of struggle and victory that seems to make life as wonderfully real as it is.

I shall certainly be visiting. Look forward to it.