The Downside-Up

Join Sam Ward as he journeys through Luke, exploring the upside-down ministry of Jesus or was it really the downside-up?

Books Proximity Principle
An Image of Sam Ward Sam Ward
5th June 2024 4 minute read
A man in the street looking over his shoulder

Why This Book?

Maybe I shouldn’t have parked where I did. Those four secluded spaces at the bottom of a high rise were dusted with glass fragments that glimmered momentarily as I turned in. I paid little attention to whether their sparkle was a welcome or a warning because I was there on business.  

In hindsight, I like to imagine those four spaces were dangled there like wriggling maggots, hooked and hanging on a line that leads all the way up to a fourth floor flat. Sitting in his window, looking down from above, is an angler waiting patiently for a fish like me to park up. He has cast his line in the perfect spot. It’s a short walk from the city centre and the parking is ‘free’, making it all too tempting for tight business folk and day visitors seeking to dodge the exorbitant fees of the city. 

 But I hadn’t come for the city, with its trendy bars and boutiques, I’d come for the neighbourhood. My business was the community and I felt I’d parked at the heart of it. I had intentionally arrived early, hoping to walk around and explore the streets much like the apostle Paul in Athens (Acts 17) before meeting a church leader to talk about an Eden partnership. Eden is a network that for over 25 years has been sending and supporting teams of urban missionaries into deprived neighbourhoods – to live sacrificially, share the gospel and build authentic community. 

With eyes, ears and nostrils open (the latter is sometimes regretful, but it gives you a real feel for a place nonetheless) I walked, prayed and dreamt of what could be.  

Where would a team live?  

Where do people gather?  

Who are the people of peace?  

What are the needs of the neighbourhood?  

Where is God, what is he doing here and how can we join him?  

I suspect the ‘angler’ had seen my Skoda Octavia arrive. I now picture him as having perked up as I pulled in, adjusting his seat to get a better view as I took three attempts to park within the white lines. I’m sure he witnessed me lean over discreetly to hide my bag in the footwell of the back seat before exiting as naturally as I knew how. He saw me double clicking to lock the car, my hazard lights flashing twice to let him know I wouldn’t be back for at least at hour and he was welcome to come and take a look.   

As I dreamed and schemed my way around the streets, the angler landed his fish. After an excited meeting I returned to find someone had added to the carpet of window sprinkles with my rear passenger side window, leaving some of it on the seat as a consolation prize. My bag was long gone. Despite being made from sea plastic my bag was more functional than fashionable. It contained my laptop, which was expensive and important but not personal. The most precious thing was my leather-bound journaling Bible that I had received for my birthday. The words of God can be purchased from Amazon at a very affordable price. Wrapping them in cow skin adds to the cost, but those things were secondary to the encounters that lay detailed within its pages. I had found incredible joy in Jesus as I had begun to journal my way through Luke’s gospel.  

The Bible had felt alive and fresh. I had begun to mine it, poring over verses as if striking rocks and expecting each one to reveal a rich opal. I had run down rabbit holes and let my spirit wander as the upside-down kingdom conspiracy theory had begun to unfurl. 

I grieved the loss and feared that I would never be able to replicate the journal journey.  

This book is my attempt to rekindle the embers found in the margins of those 38 pages of Luke.

May what the enemy meant for harm be turned for good.   

I have prayed many times for the angler. I have prayed for his salvation and healing. I have prayed that he would have opened the Bible and begun to read of its transformational grace and for the love and mercy of God to pour out upon his lap. 

I have prayed for him to be intrigued by my multicoloured florescent highlighting and encouraged by my random scribbles. May he have entered a rabbit hole or two and found joy in Jesus much like I did. 

And I pray that as you read this book you will experience the same. May you be captivated by the upside-down kingdom and the radical king that would give his all to secure our place within in. 

Written by

Sam Ward

Sam is desperate to see urban areas impacted with the gospel. Having moved to Openshaw over 20 years ago to lead an Eden team, Sam still calls the town his home today, and loves seeing how God is moving in the lives of his neighbours and community. Knowing first-hand how tough urban mission can be, Sam wants no-one on the frontline of mission in estates and communities to feel under-resourced or alone, and this is the heart behind Proximity.

Alongside being called to urban mission, Sam is the UK CEO of The Message Trust and a well-known speaker at conferences like New Wine and Spring Harvest.

An Image of Sam Ward
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