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God is at work

Steve Clifford reminds us that our God cannot be boxed in

A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to visit SPAC Nation, a church which meets in a central London hotel. I would have loved for you to attend with me, although I suspect, for some, it would have been a bit of a shock.

I described it to a friend as church, but not as we have known it”. Led by pastor Toby Abegboyega (or PT, as he is affectionately known by the congregation), SPAC Nation is a vibrant, colourful, high energy, loud church, with approximately 1,000 mainly 16 to 35-year-old young adults.

Many in the meeting had found God and left behind violent gang and drug cultures. Their testimonies are powerful, and their faith is infectious. What also emerged as their stories were told, was that here are lives that have been turned around, no longer facing prison or selling drugs, but getting themselves sorted out, pursuing higher education and successful careers and businesses. 

At the end of the service, pastor Toby invited those who didn’t know Christ or needed to get right with Him to respond. More than 60 people immediately went to the front to receive prayer and pass on their details so they could be followed up. As I have reflected back on what I experienced that Sunday afternoon, I am so thankful that God is at work, often in ways I would have not expected. 

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It seems to be a hallmark of the God we worship; He will not be boxed in.

It seems to be a hallmark of the God we worship; He will not be boxed in. Indeed, He has a habit of using surprising people in unpredictable ways. As one reads scripture time and time again, I am surprised who God chooses to use: a murderer, an adulterer, a sex worker. He chose a number of fishermen, among others, to be His disciples, and a persecutor of the church to preach the gospel to the Gentile world. 

If I were God, would I have selected this team? I’m not sure I would. (Thank God I’m not responsible for making these decisions.) And, of course, God’s rescue plan for humanity, a crucified Messiah, did not match people’s expectations. He was supposed’ to lead a heavenly army, defeat the Romans and establish His earthly rule. This crucified Messiah was a scandal to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23).

As I look across the UK church today, I am so thankful God continues to work, refusing to be put into a box. I love watching some of the videos that come out of the Evangelical Alliance’s Great Commission website; lives are being changed and churches are making a significant impact on their communities. Take the story of Joyce at Whitefield Methodist Church overcoming fear and creating a gospel-focused toddler group which has enhanced the lives of adults and children. Then there’s Adele, who, by telling her own children they were special, touched the hearts of all the children in her street. I could go on.

Day in and day out, often in surprising ways, God is with us, using His people to make a difference for good, transforming the lives of millions of people. As I reflect on all this, there is just one common factor I have observed: individuals or small groups of friends making themselves available to God and taking the risk of obedience to Him in the setting in which they have been called to work as they are empowered by the Holy Spirit. So, let’s be thankful to our surprising God, and let’s be available to commit ourselves to him. Who knows, He may surprise us.

About the author

Steve has been general director of the Evangelical Alliance since April 2009. He is chair of HOPE Together and has previously been international chair of March for Jesus and chair of the leadership team for Soul Survivor. Steve continues to give advice and support to churches and has worked in a variety of church roles, including many among the Pioneer network of churches. Currently, he is a member of the leadership team at his local church.

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