Cantering into 2018 brought my first speaking engagement for several months. Yesterday I gave the keynote address for Oundle Baptist Church Away Day at the beautiful Madingley Hall (set in magnificent grounds just outside Cambridge). Ever since my mild stroke Carol has been concerned about, as she puts it 'my lack of sharpness'. Unsurprisingly therefore she was apprehensive when I fulfilled this commitment yesterday. Sitting on the back row she promised to keep a close eye on me because 'It's worse because you don't use notes and you could go all over the place.'
Thankfully I report that I passed this first test helped by the prayers of many and a most attentive church group. At first I used a flip-chart to record their responses to the question that the conference organizer had asked me to address. 'What are some key characteristics of fully-fledged Christians who are at the centre of the church?' It's a good idea to find out where people are when you are in a new context. Their replies went onto a second sheet. I didn't keep a record but the long list included:
Be filled with the Spirit, Unity, Welcoming, Kindness, Loving, Humility, Selflessness, Spirit power (such as healing), Commitment.... and so on.
It was extremely helpful because I then illustrated (with felt tips) belonging to the True Vine (John 15) and highlighted characteristics that Jesus identified: discipleship (v 5,6,), prayer (v.7), love (v 9,12), joy (v.11), friends (v 14) and fruit-bearing. There was much overlap in the lists, though the theme of prayer was missing. When Jesus says: If you remain in my words and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you (v 7) he is referring to expectant corporate prayer which only happens when disciples practice the discipline of wishing together. I need to comment further....but let me say how thrilled I was to be back in action. Thank you for all your prayers.