“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
(Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint)
“Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it.”
The vision of CityMinistries is: To change the spiritual atmosphere in Greater Norwich and reach Norwich for Christ and the Kingdom of God through teaching, training, prayer and action.
This will not be achieved through any one of our ministries but only through the corporate body of Christ!
It seems to me that we need to recognise the cost of isolation and independence from one another to leaders, churches and ministries and the work of God in general in the city. Years ago at a Transforming Norwich AGM a diverse group of people from a cross section of local churches and ministries wrote a letter to the church in Norwich in the style of the letters to the seven churches of the Revelation, which said “I have this against you. Your congregations and denominations separate you from one another and you love to have it so! Independence has become a stronghold which keeps you from one another and prevents My Kingdom purpose from being achieved through you.“ We have an urgent need to pull down this stronghold if we are to see the Lord’s will being done in Norwich as it is in heaven. We are all paying the cost of our separation whether we realise it or not.
It is also necessary to understand the heart of the Lord for the people of Norwich and the desperate need to answer the call to be fully committed to fulfill his purpose. What do you see when you look at this city? Nehemiah was a man called to rebuild the city of Jerusalem because the Lord laid on his heart the desperate plight of the city. He wept for it and prayed for it. He then went to Jerusalem, surveyed the situation and mobilised the people to rebuild the walls which had been broken down and re-establish the life of the city with the Word and worship of God at its heart and righteousness and justice for all in society. You will have noticed that people rebuilt the city walls where they were, but they did it in relation to all the other builders, so the city was rebuilt.
So What do you feel about the state of Norwich? Take a look at some statistics.
How about the state of the church? What do you see as you look at the church scene? I don’t know about you but I would find it easy to be disheartened! Disunity, apostasy, false gospels, a church being invaded by the culture.
Let me recommend two books on the subject. a) Joseph Boot “The Mission of God - A Manifesto of Hope for Society.” b) Nick Franks “Body Zero - Radical preparation for the return of Christ.”
I see in our cities ancient walls a prophetic statement about the moral and spiritual breakdown that faces us.
“I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one. So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord.”
We are all called to serve the Lord here in Norwich or else, I assume, we would not be located here. That being so, just think of this: The Lord has assembled a whole number of Christian leaders and others whom he called to serve him here. Isn’t it then the case that he has an overall plan and purpose in doing so which is bigger than any one of our ministries?
Let me add a personal note. My wife Doreen and I first came to Norwich to serve him at Silver Road Baptist church in 1969. When that ministry came to an end four years later we knew we could not follow the usual route of preaching with a view to the pastorate of other Baptist churches around the country, because we were absolutely sure that the Lord had called us to Norwich. So we must stay here in the city. Well now since the house we lived in and our income went with the role, we were in need of both a home and money to live on. At that time we had no money in the bank nor was it appropriate to go to the Job Centre to look for another pastorate.To cut a long story short, although they were challenging times the Lord was faithful in providing for our needs and we are still here to tell the story. Since then it has been my privilege to establish some local churches, bring new ministries to the city and pioneer movements aimed at reaching the city for Christ and uniting ministries to serve the Lord together, such as Festival Norwich 1990’s, Transforming Norwich and Celebrate Norwich and Norfolk.
CHURCH OF THE PLACE
As I see it according to the New Testament there is only one church in each place whether it is Corinth, Rome, Ephesus etc. The apostle Paul writes “To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints”, “To the church of God in Corinth” “To the saints in Ephesus” It is not that there were no expressions of the body other than the whole church but that they were all part of the one body, the body of Christ. “We are all one in Christ Jesus.” “In Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” The apostles' appeal was “make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”
What would it take to make that a reality for us today? The mutual recognition of churches and ministries, offering support to one another through prayer, sharing ministry, use of resources and participating in mission together where desirable, requested and agreed. Working in relationship wherever possible and desirable. Not just another organisation but the living, thriving, dynamic, body of Christ.
Let's think about that for a moment. What difference would that approach mean to your ministry and that of the wider church? Just suppose that “the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers” that Christ himself has given to his body in Norwich were released for the benefit and blessing of us all. How would that change the way you work? Just suppose you could depend upon the backup and support of the personnel and resources held by other ministries and you did not have to do it all or own it all yourself. And just suppose that the expertise, knowledge and wisdom of others was available to you!
What is needed is a multilayered mission strategy to reach Norwich for Christ. Both extensive and intensive.
A strategy for the local church to reach their community in depth.
Jesus commanded us “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
If the command is to disciple nations, not just individuals, then that must come down to us as a command to disciple our city!
Then we need a strategy to reach every strata of city life.
All this in fellowship and relationship!
After I left the Baptists I eventually got a job with the Norwich Co-Op department store on St Stephens Street. What I discovered was that, although they were the largest retailer in the country, they were not reaching their potential because each local Co-Op was independent and did not cooperate with other Co-operative Societies There were also many vested interests. Therefore, as we see today, apart from food stores, they have ceased to trade.
What I’m saying is that without a strategy and without a commitment to discover the Lord’s way to do all that he would have us do, and that together, we will go on repeating our failure to accomplish his will and purpose in Norwich as it is in heaven.
It is essential that we put the gospel at the heart of all that we do, and keep it front and centre, together with a passion for the Kingdom of God. It is a historical fact that the church at large and the charities which have been established with a desire to serve the Lord and meet the needs of people over generations, all too often have lost their spiritual edge. Churches and denominations have gone out of existence and the charities become just social outreaches. Read the Christian history of the 19th century. Have a look around at what is happening in society today.
WHAT WILL IT TAKE?
Mobilise intercessors to pray for the mission of God in Greater Norwich. There is a lot of talk about prayer but where are the intercessors? It seems to me that prayer is the neglected ministry of the church. It is essential that we engage in spiritual warfare. Paul concludes his statement about that in Ephesians “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Read the Acts of Apostles and you will note the link between prayer and the movement of the Holy Spirit. Read the history of revivals and your heart will thrill at the prospect of a move of God in our day in answer to our prayers! Personally I will offer a seminar “Daily Prayer” to teach the Lord’s prayer as a powerful means to build the prayer life of individuals and churches.
Establish a fraternal for the purpose of mutual support, encouragement and prayer. Let's break down the isolation and build working relationships of fellowship and trust with a view to engaging in mission. Not another fraternal which goes nowhere because it doesn't have any real purpose.
Seek the Lord for direction. Discern how we can advance the KIngdom of God, given the state of the church and society today. Share our insights and understanding inorder to strategize a way forward with a view to accomplishing the will and purpose of God in this city!
But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord to see or to hear his word?
Who has listened and heard his word?
But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds.