One of the things we love as a church is the power of the prophetic to bring a sense of clarity and direction.
On Friday, 29th June 2018 at the Relational Mission #ENOUGH prayer event we (Hope Church Sittingbourne) received many postcards (well over 100!!) from across the nations filled with personal encouragements, biblical verses, prayers and prophetic pictures/words.
One word in particular grabbed the hearts and imagination of our embryonic community of Hope.
God wants us to “be more like a barge than a speedboat”.
For those of you that know me well (Gordon) will understand that I am someone that tends to operate more like a speedboat than a barge - I can very quickly get hold of an idea and speed off in that general direction, going from zero to 100mph in seconds, sometimes (maybe often!?!) leaving others behind wondering where that sudden shift of momentum came from.
So to receive a word that encourages me to operate contrary to my default setting, becoming a bit more dependent on those around me and to lean into God, well, it’s quite a powerful word, and probably the sort of word that God would give to a guy wired like me in a season like the one we’ve recently entered into.
But not that this word revolves solely around me, no, far from it! This word was given to us as a community to shape and mould the way we function and relate, and I love that about the prophetic, it has the power, when heard with ears of faith, to bring clarity and direction to a whole people collectively as well as individually.
Of course every picture can be pushed to the n’th degree but the amazing thing about this image was that our family went on a barge holiday in the summer of 2016. We learnt so much about one another and about the journey that this is a picture that we’ve been each able to own quite easily as a family as it speaks directly to all of us through our lived experience.
On-and-off-and-on again - With a barge people can get on-and-off-and-on again - For us as a churchplant we’re to be happy and comfortable with the reality that many people are going to pop along for a season, maybe just once, maybe on and off. They may disappear for a while, then they may reappear. When God speaks a word it is often to bring comfort and confidence so that when things get disheartening you have something to hold onto. We’ve had friends come and friends go, some have stuck, some haven’t, some have been dependable and consistent, others less-so, but when God speaks a word like this one it radically changes your perspective, away from yourselves and onto Him.
Not everyone gets on the barge - With a barge sometimes people just walk along the side having a chat about the next section, but they never get on-board - We’ve made a number of great local friends who we so wish would personally catch the vision of seeing a thriving New Testament church planted in Sittingbourne, give their lives to that vision and come join us, but they’re about other business. It’s a fact that church planting isn’t for everyone! It requires commitment, grit and comes at high personal cost. Without the leading of Gods Holy Spirit I would advise anyone against church planting!!! We’ve loved making new friends who have helped us get our bearings in a strange new land (it’s only 15 miles up the road to be honest!) and the barge picture helps us have a realistic expectation that life on the barge isn’t intended for everyone, and that’s ok!
Everyone gets to play! - On a barge everyone usually gets to have a go at everything - There are no specialists on the barge. There’s no platform. No crowd to try and impress. There are times when different people get to be Captain and steer the boat. Everyone gets off and helps when you approach the locks or when you need to moor up somewhere to sleep or go wandering (either on adventure, to the shops, or the toilet, usually all three!) The spirit of collaboration and everyone getting to play a part is strong on the barge. There isn’t much room for passengers that aren’t prepared to make a cup of tea, play a board game or lend a hand to a shipmate in need of help - On the barge we all pull together in unity!
Enjoy the journey - On a barge there are occasional times when you have to just get your head down and make it to the next checkpoint, but the main aim of the barge is not to zoom from A-to-B (like the speedboat!), but rather to enjoy the journey from A-to-B as much as the final destination itself. There are unexpected wonders and experiences to be encountered if you will only intentionally slow down and embrace the journey of the barge. There are times when you pull over and enjoy a walk all together. There are times when you all get off and go to the pub together. There are times when you all settle down and tell stories or sing songs together - No one gets left behind and you all pull in the same direction, even when youre feeling tired and grumpy and haven’t had much rest - The best atmosphere to have on a barge is one of fun and friendship.
Enjoy one another & enjoy Jesus - The whole point of being on a barge holiday is to enjoy one another’s company, more-so than even the surroundings. You literally live every moment of every day in each other’s pockets. It’s intimate, it’s intense, there’s nowhere to hide and with Jesus in the centre it’s formative and transformational. As a community we’re to make sure we dont default to just thinking of church as an event that we commit to on a Sunday, but that we embrace the 24/7 nature of barge-like discipleship. There is such joy to be had in being part of a covenant community. A people that pledge to live their lives in union and communion with one another in close proximity to the context that Jesus has planted them and in drawing the dots up between their daily lives, experience of faith and the way these two realities intersect to the glory of God.
We’ve only lived with this prophetic word of the barge for a few months but it’s already helped bring a real depth of clarity and direction to Hope Church Sittingbourne that has shaped and formed us in ways that have made us a wider, broader and more authentic New Testament community than if I’d have shot off after my own ideas of how things might or should look with Hope Church Sittingbourne (like a speedboat!).
I cant wait to look back in years to come and see the fruit of our trusting God at His prophetic promises to us as a community as we believe Him towards being more like a barge than a speedboat.