The Lord Said Go North 2
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The next day Matthew and Gary travelled to the community house in Birmingham. They joined a meeting that was discussing the setting up of an International Christian Centre.
"Who would lead the IT class? Magnus, you know a lot about computers," said Chelsea.
"Well, no more than anyone else."
"Yes you do. You got that television to work. No one else could."
"Television?" Ruby asked, looking very shocked. "Does somebody in your community have a television?"
"It's for the specific purpose of showing Christian films at evangelistic meetings," said Chelsea.
"YouTube was all right but it couldn't get BBC or ITV," said Magnus. "The signal wasn't strong enough. So I got rid of that useless piece of cable, which wasn't doing the slightest bit of good, and put the television on a stand with the router six inches behind it."
"Do you watch BBC and ITV?" asked Ruby.
"You get films with a Christian ethos," said Magnus, "and David Attenborough."
"Nature programmes," said Chelsea.
"Be very careful what you watch," said Ruby. "There's a lot of depressing programmes on television that might darken your spirit."
"Magnus is an IT genius," said Chelsea. "He could easily teach someone to use a computer."
"I'm not sure I have the patience," said Magnus. "I'd probably lose my temper and shout and scream at anyone who did anything wrong."
"Since when has that mattered in this church?" asked Sam. "It's normal behaviour, Magnus, especially if you're a man and you're a church leader."
"All right, I'll do it."
"If the congregation catch on to it, the International Christian Centre will be a success," said Sam, "if they don't catch on, it won't work."
"How many people do you have in the congregation?" asked Gary.
"Six," said Sam.
"You can't run an International Christian Centre with only six people," said Matthew. "Piddledon Newtown struggle to do it with 45. My business rents an office in their International Christian Centre. It's a terrible feeling when I arrive at work at 10 o'clock in the morning and I realise I'm the only one there. Great big building. So many things could be going on there. But it's empty."
"The Lord will provide us with the volunteers," said Sam.
"Have you got a building yet?" asked Gary.
"I've been to look at the old Catholic church in Rupert Street," said George.
"We can't afford the old Catholic church in Rupert Street," said Magnus. "We don't have two million pounds."
"Have faith," said Chelsea.
George glared at Magnus furiously. "Magnus, I accept that it would be a miracle if we got two million pounds to buy the old Catholic church in Rupert Street but miracles happen."
"God's work done in God's way will never cease to have God's supply," said Chelsea.
"I wonder if our church has ever considered whether it is doing God's work in God's way," said Magnus. "Perhaps we are not doing God's work in God's way at all. We always impose our plans on God. When was the last time we fasted and prayed before we made a major decision? If we want to be like the church in the book of Acts, we should fast and pray and listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit."
"I'm sure the senior leaders in this church do that," said Chelsea.
"I'm sure they don't," said Matthew. "Why should they fast and pray for guidance? Even if they did, God wouldn't answer them. They know what they're going to do. If an angel came down from Heaven and gave them a vision, Pastor Boris would be shouting at the angel, shaking his fist in his face and telling him he was wrong."
After the meeting, Matthew and Gary sat with Magnus and they had a cup of coffee together.
"How are the church plants going?" asked Matthew.
"Well, it would be quite difficult to plant 200 churches," said Magnus. "There's only 160 people in the church."
"But Pastor Boris planted 200 churches at the meeting last year. Didn't 200 people volunteer?"
"No he didn't. He only planted 50. He intended to plant another 150 churches by the end of the year but never got around to it. Of the 50 churches he planted at the meeting, only a dozen have actually happened. But spreading a quarter of the people in the church around the whole country gives the impression that something is going on, it gives the impression that we are a national church. Our job is to pretend to establish a church here. If we've got a congregation, however small, if we do evangelism, however few people actually join, if we eventually rent a church hall for two hours a week and call it Birmingham International Christian Centre, we have succeeded, as far as anyone can tell. In fact, Tony and Carol have gone down to Blackpool and just give the homeless a hamburger at their church barbecue on Friday night. That's their church."
"We're going to plant a church in Inverness," said Gary. "What advice would you give us?"
"Do some evangelism on a Saturday afternoon in the city centre. That will make you visible. People will know you are there. Don't book a hall for the Sunday morning meeting. Just hold the meeting in the house."
"What if there are too many people to get into the house?" asked Matthew.
"The community house will be quite large. The living room would hold 50. Pastor Boris thinks the whole world and his wife are going to live in community. Unless your wife's a non-Christian, of course. That's the only excuse he would accept. Even then, you probably went against the testimony of Scripture when you married an unbeliever. Very few faithful Christians won't live in community. Pastor Boris buys huge houses because he thinks community is going to be huge. After you've done the Saturday evangelism, if you have any interesting conversations, invite those people to the house for tea, that afternoon. You can have a little tea party at the house."
"Is that effective evangelism?" asked Matthew.
"It's an effective food bank. It's useful for all the homeless people in the city to know where your community house is and when they can go there for food. You'll find an awful lot of local Christians coming along just because they're curious. Try to get one or two of them to come on a Sunday morning. Get half a dozen local Christians to come on a Sunday morning and you've established a new church. Then you can bring them down to a national church meeting and people can meet your new congregation. You don't have to be a great evangelist. The homeless people come for food, the local Christians come out of curiosity, you will probably see a few non-Christians find Jesus over many years. That's all you have to do."
The next day Simon gave Matthew and Gary a lift to Birmingham Coach Station.
"Magnus was telling us it was all a load of rubbish," said Matthew. "Church planting doesn't work at all. The poor come because they are cold and hungry. The local Christians come because they are curious. Get six of those people in two cars and bring them down to a national meeting and you've created another church. That's all planting churches is."
"Don't take any notice of Magnus," said Simon. "He's always being cynical. You'll meet Pete Apostolic in Newcastle. He's a very successful evangelist. He's got one of the fastest growing community houses in the country. He'll show you how it's done." On the way to Newcastle the coach was stuck in the traffic because the Tyne Bridge was closed. A passenger looked out of the window.
"There's two men up there. They've got this big banner that says 'Stop Electricity.' Gary suddenly remembered that he was a member of the Labour Party and a citizen journalist. The battery on his mobile phone was fully charged. A sign that God wanted him to do this. Gary left the coach and climbed the Tyne Bridge to where the two men were standing with their banner. A policeman was up there and gave Gary a funny look. The policeman shouted into his radio, "There's two demonstrators on the bridge and now a third man is coming to join them."
"News reporter," said Gary to the policeman. Gary looked at the two demonstrators. "I'd like to interview you for my website."
"Okay," said the man wearing a red jumper with long hair and earrings.
"If there was no electricity, we'd all have to sit in the dark."
"I appreciate that, but if we don't do something about global warming we're going to see the kind of climate change that wiped the dinosaurs out."
"But if there were no electric lights we'd have to use candles. Wouldn't that produce more carbon dioxide?"
"Try using an LED torch," said the other demonstrator, who was wearing a suit jacket. "They're very efficient. But make sure you take the old batteries to a shop that recycles them, don't just throw them in the bin."
"If you had no electricity you wouldn't be able to cook."
"Live on sandwiches," said the man with the long hair and earrings.
"The ingredients in a sandwich have to be cooked and the bread has to be baked somewhere."
"I live on salad," said the man in the suit jacket. "I pick most of the ingredients myself in the woods. I use a small amount of tinned beans and vegetables, no more than absolutely necessary, and no meat. I'm a vegan. I minimise my carbon footprint."
"How did you get here today? You didn't get the Metro, did you?"
"And travel on an electric train to a demo called Stop Electricity?" said the man with the earrings. "That would be really pointless."
"I walked for an hour," said the man in the suit jacket.
"I cycled," said the man with the earrings.
"Well, I'll say one thing. At least you're true to your convictions."
"It's because we're unemployed and we've got nothing else to think about," said the man in the suit jacket. "You've got to do something with your life when you've got nothing to do. Some people just think that climbing up a bridge and stopping the traffic is better than watching television all day."
"Become a political activist," said the man with the earrings. "Save the world. Gets you out of the house. Breaks the monotony."
Matthew and Gary arrived at Newcastle coach station to be met by a middle aged man in a liveried Jesus minibus.
"Are you Pete Apostolic?" asked Matthew.
"That's what the church call me. That's my virtue name. Most people just call me Peter. Do you have virtue names?"
"He's Matthew Romantic," said Gary.
"And he's Gary Son of Thunder," said Matthew. "Member of the Labour Party and political activist."
"Indeed. I've got some excellent footage of those men who were standing on the Tyne Bridge. I'll have to show it to you tonight," said Gary.
"Does the television use electricity?" asked Matthew.
"I've got a big bluetooth radio that runs on batteries," said Peter. "We can listen to it on that."
Peter drove everybody back to the community house in Newcastle. Three men were sitting in the lounge. One was holding a can of cola and pouring it into a cup. Another took a small medicine bottle out of his pocket. The other man looked at the bottle and nodded his head. The liquid from the bottle was added to the cola. Behind them was a patio door with a crack in the glass and an iron with what looked like a strangely shaped slice of black plastic stuck to the bottom. The iron stank. For some reason no one had ever thrown it away. Matthew felt as if he was in a police programme on the television, at a crime scene, and a police officer was about to walk in through the door.
"Hello," said the man drinking the cola.
"We just arrived here from Dorchester," said Matthew.
"Is that in London?"
"About 3 hours further than London on the National Express coach."
"3 hours further than London? That's a long way."
"And we're going to Scotland as missionaries."
"We're hardly missionaries, Matthew," said Gary.
"Yes we are. Scotland is one of the least evangelised countries in the world. If 5 per cent of the population are nominal Christians and 2 per cent of the population are born again Christians, you're an unreached people group."
"I think the phrase is least reached people group," said Gary. "And I think that more than 5 per cent of people in Scotland consider themselves to be Christians."
"Many people in Scotland don't that Jesus died for their sins."
"That is probably true anywhere," said Peter. "People in Scotland know who Jesus is and they know whether they believe in him."
That night the church went down to the city centre to do some evangelism. Peter carried the barbecue out of the van and connected it to the gas cylinder. He then began to cook some burgers. A small group of homeless people came and warmed their hands around the fire.
"Can we have some burgers?" one of them asked.
"When they're ready," said Peter. Some much cleaner and tidier looking people arrived.
"Hello," said a middle aged man in a zip up Marks and Spencer's jacket. "I haven't seen you here before."
"We've just come up from Dorchester," said Matthew. "That's where this church started, on the south coast. Are you members of this church?"
"No, we're local Christians."
"We think that what this church is doing is wonderful," said a woman with long hair in a black duffle coat who was probably the man's wife. "I wish more churches would do it."
"Would you like a burger?" asked Peter, as he tossed some slightly burnt button burgers into some small bread buns with slices of cheese. The man took a burger and handed one to his wife. 3 homeless people eagerly grabbed their burgers. A few hours later it was time to pack everything away and set off back to the community house. Matthew and Gary helped Peter carry the equipment into the minibus. There were still a few homeless people gathered around.
"Does anyone want a free bed for the night?" shouted Peter. "Come on, there are 14 seats in this thing." At least half a dozen homeless people got into the minibus. "I'm Pete Apostolic," he said to Matthew. "I'm the greatest evangelist in the world ever. I've got the fastest growing community house in England. You wanted my advice, Matthew? This is how it's done."
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