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Saints Alive! and the Church Swimming pool3 weeks ago
Co-author of Saints Alive! John Finney has us thinking about the challenge to personal commitment to Christ and ongoing discipleship in the power of the Spirit.
Before last March your local church was rather like your local baths.
A swimming pool has two ends – the shallow and the deep. The shallow end looks much the most enticing. Children shout and splash. It is boisterous and full of movement and obvious fun. It does not matter if you can swim or not. It is relaxing and enjoyable.
The deep end is a no-go for non-swimmers. It is much quieter and less chaotic. Some plough purposefully up and down doing their 50 lengths for the day. Some climb on the diving boards and dive more or less gracefully into the water. Others just float, gently stroking the water with only their face above the waves.
Shallow-enders find the deep end rather frightening and dangerous. They think the people there look down on them – and they are right, for some deep-enders think the shallow-enders are too noisy. Deep-enders often find the shallow-enders are lacking in purpose: for them swimming is an important and serious enterprise. The shallow-enders can get in the way and shout too much.
Shallow end worship can be noisy and active, full of laughter and joy. It is good for children and good for beginners. It is also good for experts who need to chill out. From the shallow end worship at the deep end can look rather uninteresting and unenthusiastic.
Deep end worship is often quieter, more purposeful. There are many different kinds: some is strenuous and needs concentration and effort while some is just floating in the Spirit - quiet and meditative and peaceful.
It is not surprising that to most newcomers the shallow end looks much more attractive. The exuberance and the togetherness of friends chatting and playing together draws them in. Deep end worship can seem a bit solemn, a bit lacking in fun, a bit too self-conscious.
But that is only looking at the surface – what really, really matters happens beneath the waves. Is that person swimming or do they have a foot on the bottom or cling onto the side? Spiritually there are some who can swim while others have never been out of their depth and committed themselves to Christ.
Last autumn Felicity Lawson and I were asked to produce a new edition of Saints Alive!. In order to see if there was a real need for this the two of us talked to some church leaders around the country. They came from many backgrounds including the New Wine network, the Vineyard Movement, Fresh Expressions and Church House Westminster.
All said there was a danger. The fascination with different patterns of church life has too often meant that one essential was being neglected - the challenge to personal commitment to Christ and ongoing discipleship in the power of the Spirit.
Emphasis on the corporate can crowd out the invitation to each individual, ‘Come to me’.
If a swimming pool is doing its job there has to come a time when every individual starts to swim. They have to commit themselves to the water and venture out of their depth. That is why local swimming pools are there - they were built so that people can learn how to swim .
Every fellowship should have groups where folk can go with others on an adventure. They can learn how to become a Christian or delve deeper into what the Christian life means. That is why Felicity and I wrote Saints Alive! - to help women and men and children to swim in the Spirit!
Look beneath the surface of your fellowship. Is that person really committed to Christ? Are they swimming with God and relying on his constant support? Do they minister in the Spirit? And how about those on the fringes, those who have joined in with on-line worship?
We are now in a situation which demands personal faith. One day in March 2020 the pools were all locked up and empty and we had to walk wistfully by. Even when they opened again we could not sing, we could not embrace, we could not hear each other’s muffled voices! And now, with the second lockdown, we can’t gather together once again.
I wonder, has the church made idols of her swimming pools and loved them more than the Lord our God? We beautified them and took great delight in them. What we did in them became extremely important to us. We were charmed by the fellowship we enjoyed. But what was happening beneath the surface?
Is the Lord now saying, ’I told you to minister outside your swimming pools and share Christ with the world. Many of you have learned how to swim – now minister in the power of my Spirit and help women and men and children to trust me’.
Saints Alive! has a proven track record of helping those within the church and outside it to come to faith and live in the power of the Holy Spirit. The new and completely revised edition is fully zoomable so you don’t have to wait until we can gather together once again in small groups. Planned before anyone had heard of Covid 19, is this the resource you need to help meet the spiritual hunger all around us at this time?