I had an interesting phone call yesterday.
Geoff is a local doctor, and a man on a mission. He has started a link between Pontypridd and Mbale in Uganda. We have supported this in our giving on several occasions. We have hosted joint services. He has often asked me to go over there - so far I have said no.
Yesterday he rang to ask if I was going to a meeting, and as I knew nothing about the meeting I said no. Could I send someone else, he asked?
He is like a dog with a bone. And credit to him - he has a vision for all the churches being linked with this, and indeed all the town. He has created a link between all the local GPs and even the hospital, and the local council, and is doing an amazing locality driven thing the like of which I have not previously seen. This will get you to his website so you can read more for yourself.
However, again I said no. He was clearly put out. This is a vision he has from God. I am saying no to it.
Yes, that's right.
Because I too have a vision from God, and it is a vision for my church here. And as exciting as Geoff's is, my church can't be driven by his vision. His vision doesn't get priority because it's bigger. We will join in, at the right times, in the right ways. But Geoff has no idea what is going on day to day in our church, and I can't drop things in order to make his vision our priority. His church, which meets 200 yards away from ours, has many more people and many more groups, and many more leaders; sometimes I think that bigger churches just don't understand how smaller ones work. I pray that as we grow, we will remember these stages of our life so that we can always help others along the way.
Our priority right now is to learn as a church what evangelism is. To learn how to better share our faith in Jesus with others. This is a scary thing for some, a worrisome thing for others, a fun thing for a few, and an important one for us all. The last thing I can do as pastor of this place is to say, "by the way, if anyone would rather do something else, Geoff has something that might be more fun - go and get excited by that!" And three key people go off and do so; and they come back bubbling, and create a little groundswell about that work, and before I know it, our attempts to make evangelism the centre of our life together have all but evaporated.
When I worked in Aberystwyth, Stuart Bell (the rector there) constantly frustrated people who wanted to do various exciting things. If they weren't exactly what he thought the church should be doing, he said, by all means do it, but it's not a church event or activity or programme; it's your own thing. He was single-minded. It could be so annoying!
But God blesses that place, and I do believe part of the reason God can bless that place is because Stuart is so single-minded. He knows what his vision is. He follows it. He doesn't get blown off course. I pray I may know half the blessing on my church he has on his; and that I may learn at least half the lessons in my life he has in his.
So - I'm sorry Geoff. On the phone you sounded disappointed that I wouldn't come. But I said no because I am trying to follow Jesus and grow the church here. Do I think you are following a vision from God too? Absolutely. Do I think that vision applies to and includes St Catherine's? Quite possibly. But not today. For there are days where - and as a man of vision you must surely know this - in order to see a vision come to pass, you have to be single-minded.