Today, I attended for the first time a breakfast meeting with Christians from all over our region of the Black Country in the West Midlands organised by “Love Black Country”. For those who may not be familiar with the Black Country it is an area outside of Birmingham which takes in the four boroughs of Sandwell, Dudley, Wolverhampton & Walsall. I myself live and work in the Dudley borough in the town of Stourbridge.
It is an area with a great industrial heritage, rich in coal, iron and other minerals and many specialisms developed in local industries of glass making, iron & steel works, chain making, leather working etc. A little known fact but the chain for the ship Titanic was made in the Black Country in Netherton and the first steam locomotive to run in America was built right here – it was called the “Stourbridge Lion”.
The area has, like other industrial areas, suffered over the years through various recessions and loss of manufacturing jobs etc. and areas within the boroughs have been and are still classed as deprived. However, as Christians we believe in a God who can bring about transformation. The churches in the boroughs have joined together as a network with a vision for transformation of the area through:
“Listening to God. Working Together. Pursuing Transformation.”
Their logo is below and you can access their site here to find out more about them and the vision at https://loveblackcountry.org.uk
The Big Breakfast today was the first opportunity for, what I understand was a smaller than usual group, to meet together since the Covid restrictions were implemented and certainly for me was the largest group of people that I have met with for the last 15 months. It was a great time and I’m glad that my friend encouraged me to go – it was a very early start!! There were Christians from all denominations and sizes of churches represented. A great opportunity to meet other believers – we may have some differences in how we do things but we can still come together in unity with a common purpose to see our borough changed by the love of Jesus.
It was a time to remind ourselves how much has changed for Christian fellowships and believers during this time of Covid. A time to take stock. There has been, because of the enforced changes, great innovations and flexibility in delivering church meetings and fellowship online and the opportunities to use new technologies. We were certainly moved out of our comfort zones big time and for many it was a scary time, unsettling and difficult but there were great things achieved for God’s Kingdom. Today was a chance to hear about the experiences of others and reflect on what has happened during this period and thank God for the good things that the Churches were able to do to show God’s love and help their local communities. When people were looking for help they turned to the churches because there already existed a network of volunteers and programmes in place. Many churches were prepared and could connect with other local organisations to facilitate and provide help where it was needed. On line church services became more accessible to those who would not usually have entered a church building.
It was also a time of reflecting on the sad things which have happened – the losses, deaths, times of grief, isolation and difficulties which people have encountered. The speaker talked about us moving into a season of rebuilding and restoration but just as in the time of Nehemiah, it was important to go out and survey and ascertain the true state of the Church. Take stock of the damage. Nehemiah did exactly this. He went out before he did any rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem to inspect and review their actual condition which had been reported to him but he needed to see it for himself. He also wept over their condition. I thought that was a very wise and thought provoking statement. Before going forward it is important to look and assess our true condition and any damage or hurts sustained in this period which sometimes unless it is obvious to us can only truly be revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. The hidden cracks in the foundations. It is good to have a time of reflection and assessment of the true state of where we are in God whether that is in the corporate sense or individually.
For some years previously, I had received a number of words and encouragements when praying about being in a season where God was wanting us to move out of our comfort zones. I know that this resonated with a number of people that I regularly pray and fellowship with. There was a sense that as Christians we had become too comfortable whether that was in our fellowships, in our buildings, in our traditions and programmes. God wanted to shake us out of our comfort zones. Like the mother bird stirring up her nest and pushing her young out – she does it for their own good – they have to learn to fly and leave the nest. As Christians, God is encouraging us to leave our comfort zones – move out of nests- the place we may have made our security and put our trust Him. He truly knows what is best for us and what will enable us to grow and develop in Him and to reach those who need to encounter Him. Covid has brought about an enforced period of change and this is an opportunity which many people have taken hold of to do just that – they have tried new things, new experiences and taken new risks. They have moved and I believe God wants you to keep moving forward, trying new things in Him and not going back to the familiar ways of doing things. It is certainly a time of change which isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Change will bring about transformation.
Have a blessed day in the Lord. Perhaps a day to take stock and reflect.