His opening cry was that “this is the day of the evangelist!” Andy said that we are not seeing enough and that he is tired of living in the one bit of the world that is not seeing real church growth. Andy stated that it was his belief that God isn’t finished with us yet.
He talked a little about his work in Manchester – a place he referred to as having been “the fag-end of Christianity”. Billy Graham once said that it was the hardest place in which he had ever worked. But today there has been an incredible shift, and Andy was able to share a series of newspaper cuttings with good news about church growth in Manchester.
Andy told us that whereas it is good to see churches growing – but it is not enough – we want to see communities transformed. He shared a very moving quote with us: “The church has given bread to the poor and kept the bread of life for the middle classes”.
Andy shared these personal touchstone scriptures with us:
Isaiah 43:18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. 20 The wild animals honour me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, 21 the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise. NIV
Ps 37:5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: 6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. NIV
In the strength of these scriptures, with the backing of concerted prayer and with positive action Andy has seen 9 Eden projects, 300 Christians moved into inner city estates and a huge impact on deprived areas of Manchester. His model for this is simply “Community action and proclamation with an emphasis on young people”.
For 2008 the plan is for the whole church to go to the whole nation for a whole year under the banner Hope 08.
Hope 08 must:
– have prayer at the heart
– provide an identity
– positively engage with local authorities and the police
– be for the whole church
– be flexible and expressed in a multitude of ways
– and be a catalyst for doing more.
Hope 08 is endorsed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of Westminster, the President of the Baptist Union and many more senior Christian leaders. Archbishop John Sentamu of York has called for everyone who names the name of Christ to be a partner in Hope 08.
Hope 08 has some key points which are:
– Do more (evangelism, community service, good works)
– Do it together (Let the whole church show its unity of purpose)
– Do it in word and deed
Hope 08 involves
– Grassroots action
– Prayer at the centre stage
– Young people taking the lead
Hope 08 will start with a night of prayer on New Years Eve and have 6 high points in the year. Fresh Hope will start the year with training in resolution areas like credit/debt , health & lifestyle. Easter will have a major focus on the cross – especially in schools. Pentecost will feature 1 million hours of kindness, there will be a summer of action and the Autumn will feature ‘Exploring Hope’ – linking with Alpha and any other enquirers class that is out there. Finally the year will end with ‘The Gift of Hope’ featuring the message of Christmas.
Andy warned us that unity without purpose can be just self serving for leaders. Out of our prayer and unity it is important that purpose comes.
Andy reminded us that the need is to put most of our resources where most of the problems are – not where success is.
The session ended as we prayed for Andy. Without doubt we realised that we had been challenged by his words, his vision and his deeds.