Finally getting back to blogging. The twists and turns of my sabbatical have been surprising and challenging. But some clarity for the way forward is beginning to emerge (more on that in future posts). During the summer, I have traveled a lot (unusually for me) - to different parts of the Philippines, and to Illinois and California in the US, and to Ireland for our family holiday. During my travels, I was struck by the fact that really the world I have been living in for many years has been far too small. But I am not talking in terms of geography. It is possible to travel the globe often and still live in a small world. I am thinking in terms of the Christian world, the body of Christ across the globe, the diverse and varied expressions of Kingdom communities in different parts of our world. And not only because of recent travels, but through reading and discussion with others over the last couple of years, I have realized that for many years I was stuck in a small - though really good - segment of the Christian 'world'. And I guess I ending up thinking that, even if it wasn't all that there was, it was enough; and that it was central to all that was happening in the Kingdom. But frankly, that's like someone living in a small vicinity of Huddersfield and thinking it's the epicentre of world affairs!
Alison and I have recently visited a small church in Manila, linked to NFI in the Pacific Rim; and a fantastic work among orphans and abandoned children in the rural parts of Puerto Princesa; we have visited Wheaton College, one of the bastions of mainstream evangelicalism in the US - it was attended by Billy Graham and there is a Centre in honour of this remarkable man who, as well as preaching the gospel to millions and advising and praying with Presidents and world leaders, helped to break down the divisions between Christians of different tribes; we visited the impressive campus of Willow Creek Church, one of the largest churches in the US and were blessed by their friendliness and sense of community and concern for the poor; and of course we have visited the amazing Bethel Church in Redding, California. We absolutely loved our time in Bethel, but just a little word of warning: while it is important to know the people and ministries that God brings into our lives to help us at a particular point in our journey (individual and corporate) and for us to learn as much as we can from them, let's not exchange one small world for another. Let's be open to learn from a wide range in the Body of Christ, and not just one part of it. Do you know I met great Christians in the US who had never heard of Bill Johnson!!?
I also want to add that I think it is important to know and honour your roots and heritage, while still being open to learning from across the whole Body. I am thankful for the neighbourhood I grew up in - but there is a big world out there!