God at Work

Dave Lovell

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors,” writes the apostle Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians, “as though God were making his appeal through us.”

Since that letter’s first reading in Corinth, a lot of things have changed. God has not; today he is still making his appeal through human ambassadors.

For almost a decade, Church Army’s Research Unit have been studying how God is at work through fresh expressions of church in the Diocese of Leicester. In our most recent work, we’ve surveyed over 70 fresh expressions and distilled our findings into six key learning points:

  • Fresh expressions grow the church
  • Fresh expressions develop disciples
  • Fresh expressions are for everybody
  • Fresh expressions are part of the wider church
  • Fresh expressions enable new models of leadership
  • Fresh expressions can be sustainable

A report of this research God at Work, has just been launched at a national event. The report encourages readers to engage with six questions about their involvement with God’s continuing work. For your reflective enjoyment, here is just one of them:

What new thing is God doing in your context?

It’s a question that hides an assertion. The assertion is that God is doing something. One of Church Army’s core values is ‘Expectant’. We expect God to be working, so we are not entirely surprised when eight years of research confirms that this is the case. We collect and analyse the stories of human beings, but we testify with Paul that God is ‘making his appeal’. All very well. But what does it look like in practise?

Among other things, it looks like everyday Christians, empowered by the Spirit, being ‘Christ’s ambassadors’: in Leicester, 74% of fresh expressions leaders are unlicensed lay people. 85% are unpaid and 66% are women.

It looks like the powerful invitation of God himself drawing new people to Jesus: in Leicester’s fresh expressions more than half of attenders are those who had not been to church for at least a year until they started attending a fresh expression.

It looks like the unconditional love of the God who welcomes all people; our geographical analysis of the diocese of Leicester shows that there are big differences between the central and peripheral deaneries, but fresh expressions and pioneering missional activities are taking place across all of them.

If we trust that Jesus is alive, then we can trust that God is at work. It could look like a lot of things: Children learning God’s character as their parents love them selflessly; teenagers trying to pay attention when the Bible is taught; believers bumping into people who are puzzling over scripture; single mums feeling involved in the life of the church; families opening up their homes and pioneers doing something new to bring the good news about Jesus to people who wouldn’t otherwise have heard it.

God is at work: keep your eyes peeled and your hearts prayerful, and know that whenever anyone shares the Good News about Jesus, God is making his appeal. He is at work.

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