Go, go, go, OCC regions and teams!
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
Who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs
The autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
Till each appears before God in Zion.”
The scripture is full of the importance of keeping moving with God. This is vital for individuals and for whole communities of God’s people. Terah, Abraham’s father, stopped moving and settled when he arrived in Haran: he got stuck, and where he settled, he died. That’s a principle in our life with God; if we stop moving, when God wants us to keep moving, we die internally and spiritually, because we have stopped reaching out in faith.
The Israelites had to keep following the pillar of cloud during the day, and the pillar of fire at night, in order to keep pursuing the road that God was marking out for them. When the cloud or the fire moved, they had to up sticks, break camp, and move.
When the church started to move out, in the story told in the Acts of the Apostles, it is encouraging to find the apostles responding with a fluid strategy to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. This is true of the mission to Samaria, or the gentile mission which started in the house of Cornelius, or the mission undertaken by Paul and his apostolic friends. They were following the cloud, as much as the Israelites of the Old Testament story.
There is something in all of us that likes to settle. It gives us security, comfort, peace – and as we get older, change and movement gets harder. But if the choice is moving or dying, we must move!
At our Salt & Light European Leaders’ conference earlier this year, we had a very clear prophetic word: “All change!” The picture was the cry that used to be shouted in railway stations years ago. A train comes in, and everyone who isn’t stopping at the terminus, but wants to get somewhere else, has to change on to a new train. Nothing wrong with the old train, but it’s just not going where you need to go!
OCC prophetic vision
A few years ago, at one of our OCC leaders’ retreats, God spoke loud and clear to us prophetically that our future was not in being one area church, but in seeking to build in three regional church groupings. There is nothing wrong with the “one area church”. God just wanted to take us in a new direction, with three new groupings, three new ministry teams (after the style of the former OCC apostolic ministries team) and clearer co-ordinated strategies for each group of churches. There would still be a sense of being one Oxfordshire family, since we come from the same roots, genes and spiritual fatherhood, but there would be a greater regional release of vision.
That started us on a new journey. What we have been doing up to now is to encourage a new sense of fellowship and relationship within the new groupings: South (Abingdon, Didcot, Henley and Wantage – and sometimes The Leys), Centre and North (Banbury, Bicester, Kidlington, Oxford and Thame – and sometimes The Leys), and West (Carterton, Chipping Norton, Morton-in-Marsh, Cote, Wychwoods, and the two Witney congregations). Leadership and ministry teams are starting to emerge, and fresh vision is also coming to the fore; and our new regional celebrations have been refreshing and breathed new life into fellowship and worship together.
Time for Commissioning
We have not wanted to rush. We have wanted to build well, finding a new sense of life and mission, and not just rearranging things structurally. All change needs to flow from a new sense of wanting to touch lost people around us, see them saved, and built into Christ’s church. But we believe that the time has come to properly commission what we believe God is putting in place, not just living with the rather informal arrangement we have been following over the last few years.
For my part, as a spiritual father in the OCC family, I want to get right behind all these changes, which I believe have been initiated by God, and are his plan for our future. So there is an authority I need to hand to others, which clearly demonstrates that they are released to do the job. Equally, there is a commission that these regional leaders (Centre, Steve and Bev Jones; South, Neil and Dee Townsend; and West, Gary and Jackie Pizzey) and their teams need to hear and respond to enthusiastically and wholeheartedly in front of us all, so that we can pray for the anointing of God on them. I will still, of course, be a spiritual father, and will be received apostolically into these settings, but each team will have clear government and leadership of their own regional strategy and vision.
So at our September celebration, I will be preaching further about this process and trying to envision and stir faith for these changes. At our November celebration, when Mark Mumford, who leads the Salt & Light UK team, will be speaking, we will commission each of these regional teams and their leaders, and pray for a great outpouring of God’s anointing on them!