Breaking Ground: The Church and Cultural Renewal
At LICC, we’re passionate about seeing everyday followers of Jesus make a difference right where they already are. Monday to Saturday, we’re the scatter...
A space to be equipped and encouraged…
Whether they’re huge, multi-stage campsites, ‘house parties’ in boarding schools, or something in between, Christian summer festivals and getaways are a key part of many churches’ annual rhythm. And for good reason. If you’re anything like me, gathering with a large group of Christians from different churches, workplaces, and parts of the country feels like a taste of heaven.
I love the opportunity to get away, encounter new ideas, and spend uninterrupted time with God – without having to think about rotas or responsibilities. I love the opportunity to share stories and meals with others knowing there’s all the time in the world to have deep faith conversations. I find I always come away feeling richer – that God has done something in and through me, whether in conversations, the meetings, or prayer.
I’m so grateful to so many leaders (including many of you reading this) who have worked and continue to work hard to help their church family attend these festivals together, so they can focus on God and enjoy life-giving moments. From my own experience, I know this is no small task. It means working late into the evenings preparing talks, shaping family summer plans around your festival commitments, reorganising rotas to cover time away, and the physical feat of packing up equipment, props, and supplies for the event.
At the same time, as leaders we need to be careful to keep festivals in the right perspective. Particularly when we personally enjoy them, it can be tempting to talk as though this is what the whole year’s been building up to – as though we’ve slogged through 50 weeks of ‘ordinary’ church and now finally get the reward of the summer festival. Of course, none of us really think that – but it’s worth considering what message is conveyed from the front. Are we excited for the opportunity to refocus and get re-energised before re-joining the mission God’s given us where we are – or are we leaning towards escapism?
…for a wider purpose
Because as wonderful as these festivals are – they end. We return home and go back to the places where we scatter throughout the week. Each one of us arrives at a street, picks up the day’s work (paid or unpaid), and tackles a mountain of laundry. And this is the key thing: how we come back from festivals is as important as what happens when we’re away.
Scattered across villages, towns, and cities, we come as the body of Christ. The things we’ve learned and the moments when we’ve felt the presence of God aren’t isolated from the rest of our lives; they’re not holy islands in a sea of boring, ordinary stuff. Quite the reverse. The whole point of spending time away as a church is to be re-energised for the places, tasks, and people God has given us. Our mission doesn’t happen at the campsite – it happens in the mundane, God-ordained moments that flow past us week in, week out. In the work we do, the relationships we nurture, the moments when we stand up for justice, the way we shape the culture around us to look more like heaven. When God’s people return from these ‘on fire’ moments, we should be excited for all he’s prepared them to do in their lives.
When we return, we also join back in with the gathered worship of those who’ve remained at home. By choice or necessity, they have stayed – and some will find this reunion hard, as we bounce back full of joy and fresh ideas into their possibly weary normality. Perhaps some will wonder why we aren’t this excited when we come to the end of a ‘normal’ church service. Are these weekly gatherings not good enough? Does God not work in these moments, too? And others will be delighted to hear our stories, filled with fire and inspiration, hopeful that they too will see and feel what we have seen and felt.
So, if you’re one of the ones coming back this summer, from whatever festival, camp, or house party, be ready for re-entry. Look for things to celebrate in the community as you return, remembering it’s the same God we encounter in the valley and on the mountaintop, at the desk and in the celebration. Keep celebrating those weekly gatherings: they may not always be as slick or feel as significant as a week away, but in them God is doing his work in us, shaping us as his people.
And pray that as we scatter into our everyday places, we’ll know God’s presence with us – and that the things he’s shown and taught us in our gathered times would flow out through us to bless the places we’re in and the people we’re with.
Revd Jo Trickey
Church Advocate, LICC
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