It has taken me a long time to sit down and write this post. I’ve been grappling with its contents for weeks since the Catalyst Festival, and questioning whether to share what I believe God has been speaking to me about since Dave Fellingham’s striking prophetic word (Richard Bowpitt records this on the Catalyst Network Blog here: https://catalystnetwork.org/festival-worship-lengthening-and-strengthening/) .
One week after Catalyst, I was asked by someone in the church office how I found the festival, and all I could reply with was “I’m shook.” God has shaken me to my core, and it’s been a messy, transformational and continual process. It’s been a bit like the creation of wine, where grapes are crushed, and it’s not pretty, but through it wine is produced. If you haven’t listened to Dave Fellingham’s prophetic word I encourage you to do so. He describes a vision of a “devastated bomb-hit city […] children that are crying”, and then describes how he saw
“the hand of God come down and start to put those buildings together, piece by piece, tier by tier. As that began to happen, a song of praise welled up as streets began to see healing, buildings began to be put back together, where children were filled with tears, they began to laugh and dance and shout and play. As I saw that, I felt God say to me, and challenge me to the very depths of my being…“Do you really believe I can do this?””
Devastated bomb-hit cities and children that are crying. This is the state of our world.
We see it on videos flooding social media. An AJ+ video of a child crying as her mother is being searched at the U.S. Mexico border is marked with angry faces, likes, loves. Its comments are swarmed with conflicting opinions, blaming Donald Trump, blaming her parents, but not the child. We can all agree that it’s not her fault, and a part of us tangibly aches when as strangers, we watch her tears unfurl behind the glare of our screens.
We see images of bomb-hit cities in the middle-east whilst making our breakfast; we see smartphone footage of brutality in refugee camps in France whilst eating our lunch; we see the stark contrast between lavish mansions and tented slums. It’s not uncommon: children who are displaced and denied education, alongside children who come to school tired, yet it’s their only sanctuary.
But there is hope for healing and restoration.
As a church, we have been praying for revival, and as a city of churches we have been praying for revival. As Paul mentioned astutely on Sunday morning, over the weeks and months we have been seeing an unquestionable unity forming. We see this unity in the churches of Coventry coming together at Motofest to pray for and proactively bless our city (read Joe’s latest blog post for more on this). Moreover, at Catalyst we witnessed a network of churches gathering together as one, called, commissioned and challenged to take hold of God’s prophetic promise to us. Every single one of us is a part of this call and plan. As Bernard reminded us when he visited from Bosnia last Sunday, no one is purposeless; every component in the body of Christ has a part to play. We’re all a strategic part of God’s plan, and during the festival, I felt God ask me “Do I have faith enough in God, to believe that restoration, healing, transformation can happen?”
I found myself saying yes. I do believe that this can happen.
Struck by the message, I visited the Global Zone for two seminars focusing on church planting and testimonies from different nations. I heard encouraging testimonies of radical faith and obedience, people moving overseas with families to areas of risk, and the continual, unwavering faithfulness of God throughout struggles and in unimaginable situations that may espouse fear. I also heard of the mundane, the real, difficult every day practicalities, the not-so-pretty or glamorous struggle it is to adapt to different cultures, to alter lifestyle. One lady reminded us, “you’ve still got to do a food shop, and you’ve still got to your laundry.” I was struck by their tales of perseverance, patience and resilience. People risk their lives for the gospel. They let go of luxuries. In that dimly lit Global Zone tent, I was weightily challenged by another question: “Are you willing to give your life, to give everything?”
I walked back to our campsite. The words still ringing in my ears as I walked past the toilets towards the red Jubilee flags. The words of Matthew 16:24 suddenly have a sharper edge when the reality of ultimate surrender is staring us face to face.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24, NIV)
Am I willing to do whatever is commanded of me, to go wherever is commanded? Often I sing “I have decided to follow Jesus”, but when following Jesus is costly, am I still willing? Willing to get over myself, my wishes, my dreams, my plans for my life (see how many times the word “my” was mentioned just then?). It’s messy. It’s difficult because individualism and self-absorption is pretty much hard-wired into our culture. In order to be caught up in what God is calling us to as His people, I need to get over myself. I need the self-absorbed hard-wiring within me to be taken out, to be renewed each day and have a tight grip on the truth. We were encouraged with this through the word that was shared, “to strengthen your stakes, to remember the things that are dear to you – life in the Spirit, the miraculous, community life, worship, prayer, evangelism, grace, identity.”
I think it’s amazing that we are doing this very thing through our current Foundations preaching series. Revival starts from within, from the changing of hearts. For me, Catalyst festival was a time where unity was evident, it was a time where we could worship with many other voices from across the U.K. and nations, where we could meet people from different churches and share stories, and pray for our brothers and sisters across the world. It was a time where my heart was challenged to my core and yes, it left me: shook. I was sharply reminded that to be united, and to follow the call of God wholeheartedly, I need to get over myself. It’s not going to be easy, maybe it’ll get a little bit messy like the crushing of grapes but I believe that through this wine will be produced.
But the good news is, we don’t have to walk this road alone. As the prophetic word concluded,
“For those desolate cities will be restored, the Son is victorious, he reigns as the anointed king, so lift up your voice, lift up your heart, lay down your life, triumph in your King, King Jesus.”
We have the greatest hope, we serve a victorious King, one who defeated death, and will return again one day where all will be renewed.