Just imagine for a moment a ‘dream team’, and all that could be achieved if they were to pull together towards a common goal. Exciting, isn’t it? Each person bringing a different set of skills, qualities, and experiences. Each person offering all they have so that together they achieve far more than they could ever do alone. Now that would be something, wouldn’t it?
Some of you may be imagining your favourite sport, others, a work situation, or maybe the health service. But not many of us have the skills needed to take our places in these teams. What I was thinking of, however, is something much closer to home.
Many years ago a carpenter’s son living in a war-torn backwater of the Middle East, gathered around himself a team of twelve who he planned to change the world with. It’s likely that they were all young like he was himself, some as young as their late teens and twenties. Some were possibly his relatives, others were related to each other, siblings and cousins. Some had already taken a number of wrong steps in life and would have been seen by most as unsuitable. Most were unskilled and inexperienced in the work that they were going to be doing. To any observer, they were hardly a ‘dream team’.
But they were willing. They were willing to try, they were willing to learn, to watch, and listen. They were willing to take the opportunity offered and to go for it. Perhaps most importantly they were willing to work together on the task placed before them in the place where they were called.
I have the honour of being friends with and having met and talked to many people who live in this area, in and around these North Yorkshire Dales. Many, like the first team of twelve, share their desire to follow that carpenter’s son who we know as Jesus. We all see in him, someone who is able to heal hurt, transform lives, and bring light to the darkest places. Many of us have at some time in our lives, had an encounter with him and made the decision to follow him, both his teaching and his purposes through our lives. But that is often where things go a bit grey and we struggle to discern what exactly it is he is calling us to, and where he wants us to serve him.
I think, that sometimes our greatest challenge in 21st Century Britain is hearing God’s voice over the competing claims of our increasingly intrusive contemporary culture. A culture with its own ideas and ideals as to who we are and how we should live. A culture that tells us we are first and foremost individuals with rights and freedoms, and an obligation to determine our own individualised path through life. The Bible writers had no such cultural view, and I suspect that the prophet Jeremiah would have been horrified at our personalised reading of chapter 29 of his message to the nation of Israel! Yes, we have been saved, and are known and loved by God personally, but we have been called to live in community.
I have been praying for years that God will restore his church in this beautiful part of Yorkshire, where once it was at the heart of every village community. I have prayed, and continue to pray, that he will send out workers to this field to bring good news and a message of hope to people who need to hear it. But I have begun to think I am thinking that maybe I have been praying for this in the wrong way.
Maybe, the question we should all be asking as we each face the responsibility of following Jesus faithfully, is not what does God want me to do, and where does he want me to go? Maybe, the question we should be asking is instead, what does God want us to do and become together?
Maybe God is already working on pulling together his ‘dream team’ for this place, in this time, and maybe his ‘dream team’ is not made up of highly skilled and experienced individuals drawn from all over the place, but of people, men, women, children, young and old, family members, neighbours and friends, the successful and the overlooked, the accepted and the marginalised, all together. Maybe, instead, God is drawing to him those who are willing to try, to learn, to take the opportunities offered and to go for it, and even to risk failure, together.
Maybe Jesus is calling you to follow him, where you are and with what you have to hand. It could be that he is calling you to work together with the other people he is also calling, in your street, in our towns, and across this local area.
It may be that there are bigger and better opportunities for you to serve further afield and the temptation to equate travel with obedience is strong. On the other hand, we may be encouraged to stay inside our ‘comfort zone’ and the community or style of ‘church’ we are loyal to. But just think, what God might choose to do here, in and around these North Yorkshire Dales if we were to imagine just what we could do together. Maybe, he is calling us all to be members of his ‘dream team’, today. Now that is an exciting thought!
If you have been touched by this message then please do get in touch. I would love to hear your story, to pray with you, and to encourage you.