Not forgotten

Church Leader and theologian, Chris Lane, helps us to think about estate ministry, recognising moments of despair, kindness and mercy. Recalling both tough and tender times on his Salford Church plant, Chris reminds us we are not forgotten. 

Books Sustaining Ministry
An image of Chris Lane Chris Lane
12th June 2024 4 minute read
Chris Lane walking down the street

It was an amazing summer. Have you ever had one of those summers, where the sun shines, where you properly relax, where you see lots of your favourite people, and return to work feeling ready for anything? This is how I was feeling one summer a few years ago. Not only that, but I had been speaking at a few Christian festivals and a number of people had been praying for me and giving me lots of exciting prophetic words. I was overflowing with hopefulness and vision, so excited for all God was about to do in our estate.

On the first Sunday after an extended holiday I was preparing to preach for our church, hoping the fire within me would spread to the rest of the church as I shared all God had been saying and doing. A friend pulled me to one side and said ‘I need to tell you about something.’ She then told me of an incredibly painful development that had happened for some of our friends in the church. I felt devasted and began to feel some of my passion draining away. The next day another equally difficult thing emerged that rocked us to the core as a church. I had gone from feeling on top of the world to wondering whether our church would survive the next few weeks.

Within a month or two around half of the people who regularly attended our church were no longer coming along. Some dear friends even questioned their faith. We went into a 9 month period where we were unable to put on public Sunday services. A smaller group of us gathered together to pray, to cry and to worship together. Kind friends from other churches came alongside us to help lead worship and preach and pray.

During these months I had a significant amount of people call or email me saying something like ‘I saw you speaking at this event/read your book and would love to come and visit your church and see what you do’. I was thinking ‘there might not even be a church for you to see!’

Those 9 months were so tough for us, and yet they were also a period of time when we learned more about Jesus than in the better times. We learned that this is God’s mission, not ours. It is God’s church, not ours. We discovered afresh that God is utterly and completely faithful and trustworthy. We learned that in our weakness, he is strong. And actually that he really does use the foolish and weak, and that his power is genuinely made perfect in our weakness. Probably more than anything we encountered the kindness of God.

I will never forget our first Sunday service back after those 9 months. It was an Easter Sunday, the 15th anniversary of our church. An amazing occasion to celebrate resurrection in all its wonderful meaning. Jesus had spoken to us really clearly from the story of the Prodigal Son, especially the way that although the son was far off, the Father saw him, was filled with compassion for him, and then ran to embrace him. And it was in the embrace when everything changed. All the guilt and rebellion melted away in the Father’s arms.

We knew that although some of our friends were far from God, he was filled with compassion for them and wanted to embrace them. On that Easter Sunday we had a lot of guests attending who didn’t know Jesus. I stood up to lead communion and explained the gospel to them all. With bread in my hand I said ‘Jesus invites everyone to his table. If you want to come and receive from him today, even if you are choosing in this moment to follow him, please come and receive’. I was blown away and had tears in my eyes as almost the whole room stood and came forward. As each person received bread and wine they were then prayed for by our team. People were crying and encountering God in amazing ways. One lady said to me ‘I’m a Muslim so I can’t have the bread but can I receive prayer?’ She wept as our team prayed for her.

This is what estate ministry is like. We often can have moments or even weeks and months of despair. But in those times we learn the deepest truths about Jesus. And then our magnificent Saviour surprises us and blesses us with his kindness and love and mercy. He sees us, he is full of compassion for us, and he runs to embrace us.

I tried to capture these thoughts in my second book, Not Forgotten: Walking with Jesus through the Wilderness where I go through the whole Bible story from Genesis to Revelation and reflect on how God walks with us in our darkest moments, using this story as the starting point. I hope it might be useful to some of you.

 

Written by

Chris Lane

Chris Lane is a church planter at Langworthy Community Church in Salford. He works as Tutor for Pioneering and Church Planting at Emmanuel Theological College and at St Mellitus College. Chris is the author of two books, both published in the UK by Instant Apostle: Ordinary Miracles: Mess, Meals and Meeting Jesus in Unexpected Places (2017) and a sequel called Not Forgotten: Walking With Jesus Through the Wilderness (2023).

An image of Chris Lane
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