Wednesday, 10 August 2016

One brick at a time

When at home preparing a talk or sermon, I have occasionally been glancing out the window, watching the workmen outside my study as they beaver away extending my drive and replacing the faulty wall that had been trying, unsuccessfully, to hold up my front garden. Of particular interest - given my background as a bricklayer myself - is the way in which the wall is being built. It is one brick, or rather block, at a time. Hardly revolutionary or noteworthy I hear you say. Isn't that the way its supposed to be done? And yet for me it was as if God had opened my eyes to something I hadn't seen before.

Let me explain. For nearly thirty years I have been involved building up the Body of Christ, the Church, in various places throughout South Wales. Starting with St. Thomas in Swansea, we then moved to Penparcau, Aberystwyth, then Hirwaun, before moving back down to Cockett and ending up here at St. James. In all that time I have been concerned with helping to build up each congregation in my care so that the Kingdom of God can grow and the Church can become a force for good in the community it served. God has been good and we have seen things grow a little each time. But never in great numbers. And it has always been in ones and twos at the most. Even when we have done Alpha or Christianity Explored, it was always usually one or two, never threes fours or fives.

I must admit that through the years this has bothered me. I don't know why, but I have always imagined larger groups coming to faith or a small crowd suddenly turn up one Sunday morning and staying. When that hasn't happened I have been disappointed  and resigned myself to thinking that either I was doing something wrong or that my calling was somehow different to other Christian leaders.

However recently I have gone back to the New Testament and back beyond the Book of Acts with its 3000 new converts on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41) or its daily influx of new members (Acts 2:47). Instead I have come alongside Jesus and watched Him at work. And what I have noticed is that although crowds of people came to see or hear or watch him perform miracles, it was his work with the individual that really stood out. And so whether it was the crippled man by the pool in John 5, Zacchaeus the tax-collector up a tree in Luke 19, the woman at the well in John 4 or the shepherd searching for the one lost sheep in Luke 15, each time it was about adding one more to the kingdom. Like the bricklayer outside my study room window, it was slowly and surely, carefully and gently, one at a time as the wall grew before my eyes.

Here then was an object lesson in how to build a church and one which God had actually taught me 40 years ago as an apprentice bricklayer but because I wasn't listening - or watching - I had missed it. So for anyone out there who wonders what is the best way to go about building a Church, its like building a wall, slow and steady, one brick at a time, one person at a time, the Jesus way

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