Riches to rags
We love a good rags to riches story. This time of year, is usually pantomime season (oh yes it is) (sorry) when we enjoy stories like Cinderella, Aladdin and Dick Whittington. Then there are classic films like Rocky, Pretty Woman and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory. All feature an ‘ordinary’, often hard-up person who through a combination of ambition, hard work and an opportunity end up as ‘successful’, making it in life, living happily ever after.
How we think about and describe the Christmas story can often sound like a rags to riches story: baby Jesus born to an ordinary family in a stable, then growing up to become the King of the Kingdom through what he said and what he did, his life, death and life.
But rags to riches is not the full story. It is also a riches to rags story. Philippians 2 v 6 – 8 is not a usual Christmas reading in churches. But it gives that wider perspective that Paul so often writes about:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
So, it was riches, being in very nature God, before the rags, taking the very nature of a servant – literally, a slave. Before then the riches of v 9 – 11. The Christmas story shows us that God is not just high and mighty in heaven, but gets down and dirty in the world. But He doesn’t leave Himself there and doesn’t want to leave us there. There is more to come.
Especially after a very tough year for everyone with the impact of Covid, that’s an even better, even more amazing, and true story.
‘Carols to you’ by Life Church was an initiative that took carol services to 39 streets in the Chelmsford area in the last two weeks. I was leading it one night – dressed as Father Christmas of course.
With a team from my church, I have run a six week online enquirers course called Puzzling Questions. This is a course aimed for people with no knowledge or belief just interest in Christianity. Despite wide social media promotion, we only had a small group but some fantastic discussions about life and faith. This resulted in both people growing in their desire to know more and put faith into action more.
When the lockdown was eased, I had the opportunity to preach in person at Chignall Smealy church near Chelmsford about the practicalities of sharing our faith from Colossians 4 v 2 – 6. Some really positive feedback about people feeling motivated to do it, helped with realistic ideas and excited by the wisdom of the passage.
A friend of mine who is a Primary school teacher asked for a Christmas assembly that could be played to each of the classes. I was a bit out of practice but some Christmas hats soon got me back into it. You can see it here if you want to!
- Continuing to meet monthly with other evangelist types in the Chelmsford area to share and support each other, with a growing sense of unity in mission.
- More engagement with atheists and sceptics on Twitter: I tend to have 4 or 5 ongoing conversations with people at any one time.
- Some Christmas preaching about Joseph and how God uses ordinary people at Broomfield road Evangelical Church and Great Leighs Free church.
If you would like to receive some evangelism related resources emailed to you regularly, here are some recommendations that you can sign up to:
Thinking church – gives strategic advice for evangelism and discipleship, starting with a 10 day heath check (form half way down the page)
European Leader Forum – sign up for online forum resources with quality teaching about a range of relevant evangelism issues.
Great commission – by the Evangelical Alliance will send you ideas and stories of encouragement to witness to Jesus (form at the bottom of the page).
Christian Vision – produce video and online resources for personal evangelism and churches.
Evangelism Coach – useful for encouraging the welcoming of people to church in particular.
New normal evangelism
Life is going to be different for a while with Covid; some aspects of life will probably never be the same again. For some practical thinking about what this means for evangelism, please see my blog. Please point it out to your church or other churches that you are in contact with and encourage them to contact me if they think I can help with turning it into action.
After 18 months at Oak Hill College as Marketing and Communication Manager, I will be starting a new job after Christmas. I will become the manager of Motorvations, a vocational training centre for young people with complex social, emotional and behavioural needs in Romford, Essex. I had been feeling that it was time to get back out into the mission field in my ‘work life’. Then I was approached by someone and it all came together.
Please pray for this opportunity. Whilst I settle into this new pattern of life, I won’t be pursuing Evangelism consultancy opportunities – but won’t be turning anything down either!
Thank you for all your prayers, social media likes and supportive comments this year. May you and yours know God’s peace and purpose in this season and in this challenging time.
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