A few months into the 15 Revolution, I began to observe an interesting and significant phenomenon. I noticed that the people who got involved early on were mainly older, long standing Christians and church members. This was significant because, having led the same local church for many years, I have observed that these people tend to have the least unchurched friend. They are, therefore, least productive in terms of helping to grow the church numerically. This is not a complaint, nor is if exclusive to our church, it’s simply an observation about their demographic and, I think, a widely accepted one. Anything that therefore mobilises this group of people outwards is of interest to me.
As the first wave of stories submitted by people about their 15 Revolution experience came on, I soon realised how well suited the 15 Revolution is to these often evangelistically dormant believers. You see, the qualities that best suit members of this revolution are compassion, inclusion of others, kindness, serving, generosity, and empathy. And these mid-life believers have it in bucket loads! This revolution is simply asking these naturally compassionate, caring people to express that a little wider without calling it evangelism.
I remain convinced that if I had initially presented the 15 Revolution idea as an evangelistic initiative, this group would have largely avoided it. That’s the strength of the 15 Revolution! It mobilises the middle ground, the believers who have years of experience, lots to offer, but which is in many instances locked up in pastoral roles within the church rather than being expressed in the community.
For the first time in years, I began receiving letters and stories from many of these long-standing church members. Many had come to life and, for the first time in a long time, had experienced the joy of connecting with un-churched people through natural benevolence and acts of kindness.
A second observation I made as the 15 Revolution gathered momentum, was that every story was almost exclusively about helping strangers. This, I realised, is potentially huge because I have always believed that the greatest harvest for our churches is among the strangers in our community, not among people we know.
Our challenge in an un-churched nation like England, is to understand how we can best approach these often anti-church strangers. Well, here was an answer!
Goodness and kindess are bridges over which anything can travel.
And older believers usually have plenty of kindness and love to give away.
It is a fact of life that we all default to keeping company with those we find easiest to be with. We all prefer the comfort and familiarity of those who know and love us over those who don’t. My hairdresser story after Chapter 1 re-enforced that principle to me, because I didn’t want to spend an hour with a stranger. I wanted the comfort of my usual, but totally unresponsive, hairdresser. For three years, I completely ignored everyone else at my hairdressers because I pre-set my mind about my usual routine, all the while praying that God would use me to reach people! It’s as if sometimes God is saying I want to use you, but you’ve got stuck in Comfortville!
Jesus told his team, don’t say ‘Four months more and then the harvest? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest’ (John 4:35).
Clearly harvest often depends on where you’re looking. So many of us are stuck in a comfortable but tiny circle of love, and to widen that circle to strangers feels particularly awkward because we think that involves evangelism. But our connection to new people shouldn’t be trying to convert them; it should, first and foremost, be to befriend them.
The language of love, grace, kindness and inclusion is universal and will pave the way for the gospel and all the connections our soverign God knows lie ahead in the life of the people concerned .
So, get out of your comfort zone and join the Revolution!