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03 August, 2022

Partner Church Day Review

Partner Church Day Review

Since relaunching our Partner Church scheme at the annual conference last November we’ve been delighted by the enthusiasm and uptake from local churches.

Our heart and hope behind re-engineering the way we partner is that churches engaging with us will have more opportunities to refresh, reflect and grow in the area of social action.

Over 30 churches have committed to partner with us in recent months, and our first Partner Church Day (held in Bedford) provided a great opportunity to gather social action teams from 18 of those partner churches for a day of worship, prayer, teaching and discussion.

These times together provide an opportunity to learn from one another, as well as take stock as a team, and consider what’s next.

Here are just three testimonies from the day:

"Being in the same room as people who have a heart for the poor and vulnerable and who are motivated by God’s mercy and compassion was very powerful."

"It’s always so helpful to meet other like-minded Christians and hear how they are getting on. So often, there are nuggets of gold in the conversations that God puts there, in the “iron sharpening iron” process!"

"It has reignited a fire in me."

Natalie Williams, who leads the Jubilee+ team, set the current scene in the UK; the particular context being the strain so many families and individuals are facing with rising household costs. The focus was especially on how our churches will need to step up what we are currently doing to serve our communities, and consider how resources can be released to meet the inevitable increase in demand that is coming.

Although we are likely to face difficult challenges, Natalie reminded us of where our focus should be. There are three distinctive things that Christians - working through our social action ministries (though not confined to these) - are able to offer. Simply by their nature, secular groups do not consider and cannot have this same approach. We need to focus on God’s mercy, on His great power, and on the hope we can offer those we serve, both for the present and beyond.

First, mercy. More structured support systems, especially government agencies and even many charities, rarely have flexibility in the way they can engage with those they serve. The approach of Christian ministry is different and we can create ways to be flexible and merciful as we serve, especially to help those who don’t necessarily fit the mould, or who have run out of chances.

Secondly, we have the power of God; but are we expecting the miraculous? How can we become more intentional to see God come in power, to see God astonish us, not only in providing resources but impacting the lives of the people we serve?

Thirdly, we can offer hope. We have the ultimate hope of Jesus Christ. Many times, in history, revival has been sparked on the margins. Revival precipitates societal change, sometimes via changes in national legislation, and always through increased church activity (we can see historical examples of this in the setting up of orphanages, improvements in education and so on). It is critical that we don’t lose our spiritual compass, and that we continue to tell people about Jesus, and expect to see ‘oaks of righteousness’ established.

As we consider these three things, we will begin to see the relevance and necessity of the Ephesians 4 ministries being integrated in our social action. Offering mercy, the power of God and hope needs prophetic direction, the evangelistic cutting edge and a deep pastoral concern for people.

A good portion of the day was allocated for group discussions, and we felt the benefit of reflecting on our own local church context, and then considering the challenges that lie ahead. Taking stock of the changes we have seen, even in the last six months, we recognised the likely increased pressure on ministries on the frontline and the resources and people power needed over the next few years.

The challenge, however, is not simply to increase the number of social action activists, but to see all our churches having mercy and justice - care for those in poverty, the marginalised or those otherwise in need - in their DNA. More than that, Biblical justice is not simply to be a part of a church’s vision statement or a series of ‘projects’, but something that needs to rest in the hearts of all Christians.

The afternoon session focussed on the ‘Social Action MOT’; a tool offered to partner churches to help teams understand how their social action activities are progressing and offers guidance to help strengthen local work. As iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17) there is much to be learned as we share experience and good practice with one another. We hope that annual structured reflection like this will help promote a healthy pattern and pace to social action ministries.

The Partner Church day demonstrated to me that there are churches across this nation rising to the significant challenges we currently face, and that there is real benefit in connecting these teams and raising faith for all God has called us to in this generation.

Is your church struck by the scale of the challenge ahead, and keen to learn and grow in the area of social action? We would love to hear from you. You can find out more about partnering with us, and ask any question you like(!) via JubileePlus/Partners.


Written by Richard Wilson

03 August, 2022

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