Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.
We follow a roaming God. For a great deal of his ministry, Jesus didn’t stay long in one place. He was on a mission. To teach, proclaim and cure. To share the love of God, to share himself whether he went.
He also took time out, to pray and be with his father God.
As his followers, as his brothers and sisters, this is our mission. And do you know? If we follow his way, we will not only be obedient to his call, we will also see growth. Growth in numbers, growth in love and growth in people opening up to transformation.
This year, I have started to be a bit of a roaming Bishop. I have begun the Bishop’s Audit in response to the needs in the parishes as expressed by the Ministry Area Leaders. Help us, Bishop, to make the bold steps to move us from decline to growth, from being paralysed to being a Church on the move. The Bishop’s Audit is a team event. Clergy, lay people, senior staff and members of the Diocese Office. All are working to see how we can release the assets of the Church, in people and in buildings to be fit for purpose for the mission of God.
Its prime purpose is to clarify our motives and set out a vision that returns to our original calling to be followers for Jesus. To share in the venture of God’s love.
In practical terms, this means each Ministry Area setting out a vision which centres on our engagement with those who have not responded to the love of God in their lives. I want you be roamers, wanderers for the Kingdom. Jesus must have covered many miles, but he did it at the right pace, stopping to teach in his churches (the synagogues) sharing the reality of God’s love in the towns and villages and healing those he came in contact with. I want us to be like Jesus. Not just to stay put in our church buildings, but to wander out, to connect and work with those in our communities. To serve others, not only in social action but by listening, caring and proclaiming (in a gentle, Anglican way) the love of God. It’s getting the right balance. Our buildings are not our mill stones, they can be our friends in mission. It depends on our Vision. Jesus roamed. **He had purpose in that God way which would take in and be deflected by the need of others**. He came to his churches, then went out and then came back again. There was a cycle of intent, organic and spiritually-led in love.
And so, it may be for us. As Bishop, my main call at the moment is to encourage and make the Diocese fit-for-purpose for the ongoing mission of God. The Bishop’s Audit will be a primary vehicle for this strategy. The other is to promote nurture groups.
Nurture groups are groups whereby we can share our faith with those who are exploring life and spirituality. They are not bible studies though the bible will be a reference. They are, at their best, places where people can be themselves and discover a way of life that is good and transforming because of Jesus. They are places where there is an intent to nurture, **a desire** to share in the mission of love. In their contexts, with their needs. A newly formed Diocesan Evangelism group has been working to provide help and you will find details in the New Grapevine. Nurture groups work. Evidence has shown that churches that have them will grow in number. Why? Because they engage people, with themselves and with God and help people to find a sense of purpose as followers of Jesus.
It is my hope that all of the ministry areas will have nurture groups up and running next year. I would like to visit some of them and share in their experiences.