By The Revd Dr Mark Pickles
Thus the plea in this chapter is for local churches:
I. To be intentionally praying for and asking God to raise up more workers for his harvest field. If every evangelical Anglican local church had a vision to raise up and send at least one person every five years into ordained ministry in the Church of England, we would be well on the way to a thousand new gospel-ministers over ten years.
In Matthew 9 Jesus is clear that it is ultimately God who raises up labourers, however, He does that through means. Here are some suggestions for what it might look like for a local church to have a vision to raise up and send at least one person every five years into ordained ministry:
• Make it an intentional prayer for God to raise up at least one person in 5 years into ordained ministry, and for this to be prayed for at the church prayer meeting, staff meetings, PCC meetings and in church services.
- For it to be a regular agenda item on the PCC for reflection, discussion and assessment, simply asking “How are we doing on this?”
- Hold an annual ‘Vocations Sunday’ – not entirely given over to thinking about ‘ordained ministry’, but with that always an integral part of it. This would give an opportunity to preach and teach on why this is so important, including a call for people to consider prayerfully before the Lord if he is calling them to full-time gospel ministry.
- For it to be a particular focus for the incumbent to be prayerfully sensitive and watchful for individuals who God might be raising up to send as labourers into his vineyard, and then to invest time one-to-one in teaching and discipling such individuals.
II. To see that a local church that is truly gospel-driven will quite rightly have a focus on the spread of the gospel in its immediate parish. But that focus will not end there, it will look ever further outwards to the ends of the earth. However, my plea is that this mission emphasis be ‘ecclesiologically’ shaped. Of course, there are numerous occasions when Anglicans might want to partner with non-Anglican evangelicals for the cause of the gospel locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. That said, if we are to integrate our ecclesiology with evangelism and mission, as I think we ought, then it follows naturally that we will also be committed to the spread of the gospel and to pioneering, establishing and securing biblically faithful, gospel-driven local Anglican churches, deaneries, and dioceses throughout the whole denomination. This ought to be the intentional and focussed mission of every local evangelical Anglican church. We should seek to do so with Lion-like courage and Lamb-like gentleness.
The Story of the Two Trampolines:
A passage that is frequently referred to during times of great revival is Isaiah 64:1-3:
“Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence – as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil – to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence…”
Feel the depth of emotion and longing behind the simple word ‘oh’. A cry of intensity that God would rend the heavens and come down, but the cry is stirred by a remembering of what God had done before. Meditation upon God’s past action provokes a passionate outburst, crying out in desperate longing for God to do again as he had done before.
That is, a day in the year to think and pray about the wider Church and the need for more full-time ministers.
It is vital, that particularly in the current climate when the need for more gospel-hearted ordained ministers is so crucial that that does not lead to a devaluing of the ‘calling’ of the majority of God’s people to serve him in every other sphere of life
We noted in the previous chapter the value of church history. George Santayana once wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” However, as Christians the opposite may be true. If we are not familiar with what God has done in the past, we may have a lower sense of expectancy about what he might do in the present or future.
We used to live in a vicarage in which the study overlooked the back garden. We already had one trampoline, when a kind(!) friend donated us a second and so we put them close to each other in the back garden. One day whilst working on a sermon I looked up to see our middle son Jake (then aged about 14) jumping up and down vigorously on one trampoline and then jumping head over heels through the air and landing on the second trampoline. It was one of those situations when you both could not bear to watch, but also could not tear your eyes away. I kept thinking to myself, “One slip, one mistimed jump and…..” The consequences were unthinkable.
However, that was not my greatest concern. My greater concern was that his younger brother Reuben (then aged about 8) was watching. I knew exactly what was going through his head, “Wow….I wonder if I could do that?” Sure enough minutes later, Reuben was jumping up and down on the trampoline inching nearer and nearer to the edge, trying to summon up the courage to leap head over heels into the unknown. He did manage to summon up the courage and as I watched with bated breath, he too sailed through the air, head over heels landing safely on the other trampoline. The sermon prep did not go too well that day, but out of it came an illustration which I continue to use. The point of the ‘two trampoline story’ is simply that if Jake had not jumped head over heels across the gap between the two, it would not have entered Reuben’s head to have done the same. His vision for what was possible was enlarged and his desire for what was possible was inflamed by seeing what someone else had done. When we see what God has done in the past it can serve to enlarge our vision of what God can and has done, and inflame our desire that He might do it again. This is especially true if we live and minister in a context in which the Church seems to be making little headway or even losing ground, or if discouraged and disheartened by the current state of things within a denomination we are tempted to jump ship.
Excerpted with permission from; Pickles, Mark. Gospel-Driven Anglicanism, 2017, pages 120-122.