Below are blogs about people and their current experience of being on the Form discipleship year. Have a read to get a flavour to see how being on Form is equipping people and transforming lives.
Exceeding the Expectations of a Grumpy Disciple
To say I wasn’t especially keen on the Form ‘Great Blessing Adventure’ would have been a massive understatement (the full extent of which was only experienced by my very patient husband!). I was so ready for my stereotypical idea of a mission trip; helping to build a church in a remote area, or looking after the poor and vulnerable abroad…but I simply wasn’t ready for a week of trusting the Holy Spirit to lead us in the UK! Realising that not attending and pretending to be ill wasn’t going to be an option, I arrived at Westwood church on Monday morning with the least of expectations. I’d decided to follow what God had asked me to do, but I definitely wasn’t planning on enjoying it.
We set off for Nottingham, where some of us were to be hosting a jumble sale and others painting someone’s bedroom. I ended up in the painting party, just expecting a manual task, with little challenge. Instead I was met with a woman who was on fire for God. In every part of her life she trusted him, and gave him the credit for all the good things that had happened to her – even the finding of a perfect new toaster! Here, I encountered my first challenge and invitation from God: I could live in thankfulness and experience his joy, or I could see the negatives and choose grumpiness. I decided I would try and enjoy the mission trip…at least, a little bit.
After a night’s stay at David and Caroline’s old home, we set out for Castleton for a day’s retreat. After a tasty meal together at a local pub, we drove to our accommodation for the night – a youth hostel, but not like I had expected! This place was super nice, complete with climbable trees, friendly goats and lots of sheep to photograph (well, it was my idea of a great place to stay!) I loved the sense of family as we cooked together and the long walk I took with Michael and Peter to the top of Lose Hill. God’s creativity isn’t difficult to see from that vantage point in the Peak District, it shouts from every hilltop, echoes round the valley and bleats from every sheep!
I should mention at this point how much this trip grew us as a Form family. The good times were awesome, but even through the bad God remained steadfast and strengthened each relationship as we went. We learnt to stand with each other when things got tough, to celebrate and encourage each other’s achievements and most importantly, how to have a whole lot of fun! (Castle on the hill…)
After a blessed retreat day in the wonderful Peak District, we headed for Sheffield, to partner with NCS and all the amazing projects they have there. First, we worked together, along with Josh from Form Sheffield and the Hammond family, on clearing the garden of a CAP client. This was certainly a humbling task as we dug out rubbish and sorted through rusting cans, bike wheels and old swing sets, but God was teaching us what love in action could look like – not judgemental, or impatient, but kind, gentle and with the greatest respect for another of God’s precious children. After a tough evening on the Wednesday, Thursday morning was difficult for some of us. We pulled together though and were able to help the ‘Restore’ project collect 7 pallets of bricks from an old building site for building into raised beds for their allotments.
The most challenging part of the week for me began on Thursday afternoon. As I started to get tired (and inevitably grumpy again), God brought more challenge that I hadn’t prepared myself for. In Sheffield (with Josh Cutting) and later in Warrington (with Steve Biltawi) we were challenged to be missionaries in a more direct manner – actually speaking the good news. This was most definitely out of my comfort zone…
Acts of service, tick.
Prayer walking, tick.
But actually taking to strangers about Jesus….nope.
And yet, once again, God had the most grace for me, but it didn’t come without challenge. As Steve spoke, he reminded us that everyday there are more people out in our cities who don’t know Jesus’ love for them, who don’t know their identities as his sons and daughters, who are still living a life in darkness.
And so, begrudgingly, I set off into the centre of Warrington with the rest of the team, ready to be obedient, but certainly not ready to hear from God or tell others. God, again, exceeded my expectations. Along with Scott, from King’s Church Warrington, I ended up talking with two men, both of whom so clearly needed to know the love of their Father, but instead had been scarred by the world we live in. Although we didn’t see them make any definite commitment to Jesus, I’m still praying that those conversations will spark something in their hearts and that God would use them to bring his children back into relationship with him.
And that’s really it, it’s not up to us. When we get scared and think “maybe I’m not holy enough to be a missionary”, “maybe I don’t have all the answers” and “maybe I’ll look stupid”, God just says “share my love”. And for me, that’s what this week was about – trusting that God’s love was enough for every person we encountered, whether that was acted out through service, words or even drama. And I’m pleased to report that it always was, and is, enough. God calls us into trusting the power of his love, that he’ll always equip us and ultimately that we have the best, best news to share.
Almost like a mantra, I continued to declare throughout the week “less of me and more of you God,” as I realised more and more that I could not do the week on my own. God massively humbled me – to lay down my control, my expectations andlet him take the wheel.
So, I am so pleased to say that God once again had exceeded my expectations. Once again, I am so thankful that God is in control of my life, that he calls me to be obedient, and still rewards a grumpy, often unwilling follower with more than I could ever ask or imagine.
My name is Michael and I am also doing Form at Westwood Church in Coventry. I’m doing Form because I wanted to grow in relationship with God, so that in all circumstances I would be better prepared to live like Jesus, a servant-hearted humble guy who invested his time in family, reconciliation and healing.
I’ve been on a journey of discovery into my mind during my time at Form. I knew that I was very self-critical and found it hard to accept the love of other people and didn’t love myself. I was defining my identity by what I had done, notably, my sins.
I used to think that I’m not defining myself by them but thought I dealt with it by saying I’m a son of God and am forgiven, but really, I was still holding myself accountable to what I had done and not forgiving myself.
Not forgiving myself led to feeling like I couldn’t love myself or that other people couldn’t love me. I had the mentality of: ‘if people get to know me they will see how bad I am and reject me and or expose me to the rest of the world’. So, I found that I was scared to get vulnerable with almost everyone except my closest friends (but still wasn’t completely vulnerable with them as well) and it led to feeling very lonely.
Then, over Christmas, I was doing a book review on Spiritual Slavery to Spiritual Sonship by Jack Frost which was about having a heart like a son and not a slave and it made me realise that I viewed God as a taskmaster rather than a loving Father and viewed people for what I could get out of them because I didn’t trust them so didn’t grow the relationship beyond what I felt was safe.
Then at the retreat we had after Christmas, one of the things I felt God talking to me about during the time was pursuing my relationship with Him, deepening it and also encouraging me to see Him as a Father by doing more Father-son things. Another was to encourage me to share my opinions about what I notice with people and to be vulnerable as I had a prophecy that said freedom would come to areas that have been hidden, the more I bring myself into the light, the more He will bless me with the confidence of who I am in Him.
So with this in mind, I started to open up completely to my closest friends and more to my missional community and gradually a bit more with everyone else. And I started to take more walks with God. I started to see that God did value me and that people were also broken and did want to be friends with me despite my brokenness. But there was still something in me which felt like nothing had changed because although there was progress it felt like circumstances hadn’t changed a great deal.
I remembered that when I read Spiritual Slavery to Spiritual Sonship, I knew the only way things were going to change regarding how I love myself, others and seeing situations in a new light was by seeing in my heart, how much God really loves me. So, at the last weekend away, which included an inner-healing ministry time, I was desperate for God to do this with me.
Instead, leading up to the weekend away we had a lot of teaching on forgiveness and what stuck out was that I could get to choose to give myself and others grace. Fired up by this, all I ended up doing during the ministry time was letting Holy Spirit prompt me on who to forgive and explore what I needed to forgive them or myself for.
I started to realise that I was blaming myself for not only my sin but for how I reacted to others sins and keeping judgement on them and on myself for it – then I had the audacity to blame God for not stopping me believing this. I then started to work out what the lies were that I was believing and where God was in each of those situations and addressing those lies.
Currently, I am still on a journey with all these things: forgiveness; being more open; loving myself and deepening my relationship with God. But I am hopeful that knowing that I am a loved son will soon feel more than just words.
My name is Jonathan and I am on a year of discipleship called Form. This year is for me a way of setting aside time for God to grow my character and prepare me for leading a family on His mission.
God is building His temple and His people are the stones (see 1 Peter 2:5). You might not notice it, but through everyday, mundane things (as well as extraordinary events) God is lovingly at work.
On Form, we began 2017 in retreat at the Coventry Prayer House. We celebrated all the wonderful blessings that Daddy God had given us in 2016, all the ways that He had provided for us and surprised us: I am personally so thankful for my marriage, God’s provision of our house and my job, our new baby niece, and much more besides. We listened to the Holy Spirit for where He wants to lead us this year, recording words and pictures for one another. We worshipped and sang praise to God. And we also grieved that so many things in this world are not how God made them to be, joining in prayer-warfare against sickness.
(As an aside, I would like to celebrate the characters of all those in our church family who have been battling sickness. It’s been amazing to see people boldly living in the peace of God despite their circumstances.)
I spent some time on our retreat looking out over the Cathedral ruins, the Priory ruins, Holy Trinity and the new Cathedral, and the Holy Spirit spoke to me about how the glory of what He is building will take the world by surprise. Coventry is a city of peace and reconciliation, a city of rising
from the rubble and of hope. How much more so are the people of God? Through the work of the Holy Spirit in Daddy God’s children, He is building for Himself a people who will make humble, loving decisions in both the ordinary and the extraordinary. He is building for Himself a people hungry for His presence and passionate in abandoned worship. He building for Himself a people that He lives in and will rest upon, demonstrating His love through the miraculous, though the lives of His children and through the story of His Son Jesus.
I would like to invite you to dive into the Holy Spirit; to lean back into Him and rest; to know how much Daddy God loves you; to know that through the small, the big and the supernatural you get to join in showing that love.
Therefore, Daddy God, I’m praying that you would be glorified as you make your children more like you and as your Royal Family of the Universe adopts more and more lost children. I ask that you would make us thirsty for your Holy Spirit and shameless in worshipping you. Thank you, Jesus, for everything you have won for us: make us bolder in sharing the Good News! God, pour out the peace and joy of your presence.