Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Visitors' Week

It is Visitors’ Week at St Thomas’, the church in Sheffield that we are part of, and used to be on the staff team of. Visitors are a great logistical problem to have. So many church leaders from around the world were writing to us asking to come and learn the things that we’ve been learning here – in particular about discipleship and community – that if we let them all come we’d spend all our time talking about our walk, and have no time to walk it. And that is the beginning of the end. So, the senior leaders decided to set aside two weeks in each year where the staff would clear their diaries of other commitments, and some of the members of the church would take time off work, and we’d ask anyone who wanted to come and see to come and see at these times. I guess it is akin to getting everyone to sit down in groups of fifty, so that Jesus can feed five thousand. Hardly glamourous!

I've had the privilege to join in at another Visitors' Week again this week. Over the past two days, I’ve spoken to people from England and Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Slovakia, Australia, New Zealand, and the USA; church leaders in the Anglican, Lutheran, Baptist, Vineyard, Nazarene, and in independent traditions; from parishes and regional youth networks, and seminaries.

I love sharing the things I am passionate about. But I also love hearing about the contexts our visitors come from. I know I’m privileged to have such a broad exposure.

I don’t think We Are It. (I’ve certainly experienced enough we get wrong along the way.) But I do believe that God has taught us principles that are not only effective in our context but transferable to any other of the many and varied contexts our visitors come from. Some of the things we get to do aren’t transferable – they are possible out-workings of our principles in our context; and even here they change from season to season. Likewise, some of our visitors get to work out the same principles in ways we don’t have the opportunity to do. But it is both exciting and humbling to see the things we have learned here spread out; to break off a piece of bread or fish, and pass it on…

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