Some years ago we had a holiday in France, towards the end of which I said to Joanna “It’s a nice place for a holiday, but I don’t think I’d want to live here.”
God certainly has a sense of humour! But how did we get from looking at France only as somewhere to go on holiday to being convinced that God wants us to live and work there for Him?
In the Autumn of 2012 there was something of a crisis in our Church, the upshot of which was that I became part of a small group tasked with transitioning the Church to a new Eldership team. As part of the work of that group, I began researching how we could move forward as a Church.
The research I was doing was in the New Testament and also into the experiences of other Churches and movements. It seemed that the useful information I turned up was within Bible passages, documents and so on which were mainly to do with Church planting.
“Odd,” I thought, since there are a great many Churches in South East London and new ones are popping up all the time. I’m not saying there is no need for new Churches, but it’s not the first thing you think of in such a Church-rich location.
Well, the group did indeed transition the Church to a new Eldership early in 2013. A new full-time Elder was appointed, and God is moving! Although at the time it was rather painful, in retrospect God did a lot of very necessary work in us as a Church at that time.
Fast-forward to the Autumn of 2013. God had seemed to be putting on my heart an increasing burden for Joanna and I to be able to make more of a difference in the Kingdom of God. More than we could make just by carrying on with our work in our local Church, whilst I continued my secular work and Joanna her work in the voluntary sector.
As I prayed about this, Church planting seemed to be what God was putting on my heart, which made sense of the stuff God had been leading me to in late 2012 and early 2013. OK, so where should we go? It seemed too late in life for us to start learning complicated languages like Arabic or Japanese! What about the UK?
When I looked at the needs in the UK, although there are places where there is a real need for more gospel work, the nature of the need did not really tie in with the kind of Church planting that God was talking to me about: pioneer planting in locations where there are no evangelical Churches.
We thought about Ireland: there’s a great need, we could start with just English (though learning some Gaelic would be handy of course).
What happened then was rather like falling in love. There was a time when we felt “Yes, France would be a logical place to go, there’s a clear need, it seems a suitable place for the kind of Church planting God is talking to us about.” All very calm and rational. As we researched, we moved from that condition to one of “We must go to France and be involved in planting Churches; somehow we just have to do it, whatever it takes.”
God put a real passion for the French people into our hearts, which has grown stronger and stronger over the months. Which is why we’re moving to France…