Tuesday morning came and although not quite the Man that we’re all waiting for (Jesus), Andy Byrd arrived, overflowing with zeal for the pregnant Bride of Christ to give birth to a ‘Gideon army’ of “mighty men of valour”.
If that sentence was too full of outlandish biblical metaphor for you to make any sense of it, then let me point you to Ephesians 5:22-32 for the analogy between Christ and the Church and a husband and bride, to Romans 8:22-23 for the image of the Church groaning in labour pains for the full redemption of all things, and to Judges 6-8 for the story of faithless fearful Gideon being renamed a “mighty man of valour” by God and then going on to defeat the enemy with a tiny band of three hundred unarmed men. And just to top it all off, Andy’s own bride has just given birth to a son called Valour. Or rather, since he’s American, ‘Valor’.
My attempt to sketch the inimitable Andy Byrd
And he’s most definitely American. Loud, unashamedly enthusiastic, filled with visible urgency for the gospel to be heard by everyone alive — but wait, why shouldn’t that final description be true of any Englishman? And what we have been learning in these last couple of days is that if we are to be Circuit Riders who embody the call to revival and reformation, then we must be people who influence rather than being influenced by the surrounding culture.
What does that look like? Well, if you had come into The Factory at around 11 o’clock yesterday morning, you would have seen not quite three hundred people shouting at the top of their lungs. For over ten minutes. Which some would say is irreverent. And unfitting for a service of Christian worship. And most would certainly agree is unusual in British culture. And perhaps even completely culturally inappropriate.
But I have a Bible that tells me that at least once in history God commanded his people to shout at the top of their voices to bring down the power of the enemy (Joshua 6:20), and that obeying the commands of God (1 Corinthians 7:19) is always more important than being culturally appropriate — even when those cultural marks are good and God-given.
Anyway, that and some evangelism training in the afternoon — Find a partner… now you have sixty seconds to preach the gospel to them — GO! — meant that by the time it came to do outreach this afternoon most people were raring to go. I had the privilege of taking forty-nine (seven sevens!) evangelists to St Albans (where barely a month ago, just me, Taryn and a pretend bishop’s mitre were on our way to prepare the evangelistic ground), where we headed out into the fields to bring in the harvest! (Oops, more impenetrable biblical metaphors. Matthew 9:37 this time.)
My small group was supposed to be headed to St Peter’s street, but by the time I got there they’d all vanished in a blur of instantly obedient gospel enthusiasm. So I headed over to the same spot where I’d done some street preaching back at the start of June. But being a little bit tired (culturally appropriate and biblically justified or not, all this shouting does make you a bit tired) just sat down for a while. And found myself in the middle of a couple of groups of teenagers, rolling cigarettes and talking among themselves. I struck up conversation and was able to spend about an hour explaining really clearly the simple gospel.
Meanwhile, Sidney came and started sharing with the other group her testimony of hearing the voice of God and coming to know Jesus. One of the girls questioned whether God could really speak to anyone, and Sidney replied that indeed He could. At this point the Holy Spirit prompted Sidney to invite the girl to take a little walk with her. Sidney heard and obeyed and asked the girl if they could walk and talk. The girl accepted, took three steps and burst into tears. And the girl gave her life to Jesus.
Anyone else feel like singing Hallelujah with me?