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‘I don’t want to waste my life doing this – I need to go and do some Christian work!’
These were the words of a youthful Jules Gadsby, LICC’s new Church Engagement Specialist, as he surveyed his nascent career in banking. Having seen his faith flourish in his university CU, he knew he wanted to serve God completely and full-time ministry felt the best option. But looking back now, he reckons 24-year-old bank worker Jules may not have been totally on the money.
‘I didn’t understand at the time that me doing my banking job enabled others to have their jobs, to be blessed, to earn and save and invest money in good projects. I didn’t clock that doing this job well had a good spiritual element to it. My perspective was: “this is just my workplace, but my worship is somewhere else.”
‘I thought I had to be in full-time ministry, rather than knowing I could minister in and through my work. I didn’t necessarily have a full grasp of what whole-life discipleship really meant when I worked there.’
If this all sounds a bit self-deprecatory and depressing, don’t worry. Jules won’t be going round telling church leaders to hang up their sermon notes and get back to the office – partly because after leaving banking he spent 17 years as a Church of England minister in Essex and Berkshire, and absolutely loved it. It was the right decision for him, as it is for many.
‘It’s shaped me, and it’s been a privilege,’ he says. ‘Ministering to people and seeing them wanting to go out and be ambassadors wherever they were is a joy – even if church leadership does have its challenges as well.’
It’s telling that when Jules talks about his time in paid Christian ministry, he focuses on seeing people ‘go out’ from church into the world. It points to the reason he’s joined LICC, and why he wishes he’d had a bigger vision of the gospel when he was younger. He’s so excited about what it means to be a whole-life disciple, he wants to help others discover it too.
‘One of the things that struck me when I was a minister was how often people weren’t being helped to see the big picture of God’s kingdom purposes. We often end up thinking the gospel is basically: “We live our lives, die, and go to heaven.” Don’t get me wrong – that is the hope in one sense. But God’s purposes are for a redeemed, restored world, not just a ticket out for his people. His future includes our present. And that means everything we do matters! Overseas mission, leaving everything behind to preach the gospel, is vital – but it’s not for everyone. I want people to see that they can be ministers and missionaries in their own places, wherever they are.
‘During my time as a vicar, I began to see more and more clearly that we need to encourage Christians to really believe that not one part of their lives is uninteresting to God, or outside his purposes – that they can make a difference with Jesus through their management job, or their studies, or their driving, or their chats at the local pub. Personally, I don’t like it when people tell me, ‘You can change the world!’, because I can’t – not on my own. But I can make a difference to the world around me and leave the rest to God. And that’s a deeply freeing and inspiring idea.’
Jules’s passion for the whole-life vision doesn’t stop with helping individual Christians get that liberating perspective. He’s also convinced of the wider impact a movement to grow whole-life disciples across the UK could have.
‘I believe this is really the only way for us to reach the nation for Christ – if we stand up and be the church where we find ourselves, out in the world. And I believe this is how the church will grow. For some church leaders, the idea of encouraging people to see their everyday contexts as mission fields can feel like a threat – perhaps they’ll have less time to spend on church ministry if they do lots of ministry at home or through their work? But that’s very likely not true, and it may in fact be the thing that helps grow the church so those ministries flourish too.’
Which leads us on to the crucial question. What does an LICC Church Engagement Specialist do – and why should church leaders want to chat to Jules?
‘I’ll be working as part of LICC’s Church Team, who are great people – they have a huge amount of experience and wisdom, and really know what they’re talking about. I’m here to get alongside church leaders and churches of all sizes, demographics, and denominations, helping more of them to embed a whole-life disciplemaking culture, and encouraging those who are already on that journey. We want to see church leaders encouraged, given confidence – to be a blessing to them.
‘I’ll not just be offering support but listening and learning from those we’re privileged to work alongside. I’m hoping to see how we can build communities of church leaders and churches who can encourage one another, iron sharpening iron. I’ve got my own experience of church life, but I don’t know it all. Not by a long stretch. I want to hear from others.
‘There’s a line from a musical called Newsies that my daughter loves, which goes something like: “Being a leader doesn’t mean you have to have all the answers. You just have to recognise the right one when you hear it.” That’s the hope for our work with churches across the UK – that together we can support each other in growing resilient whole-life disciples.
‘Ultimately, it’s about that big gospel vision – a world transformed for Jesus. Encouraging those who aren’t confident in their faith to see that they’re engaged in a ministry, they’re part of this big vision. And equipping them to join in God’s kingdom work wherever he’s called them.’
So, church leaders: whether you need a consultant, help connecting with our resources, or just someone to chat to – get in touch at [email protected], or check out how the Church Team can support you. With God’s help, it could be the start of something truly… world-changing.