“Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life” Philippians 2:15-16
As the seasons change at this time of year it is easy to feel the gloom descend. Packing away the summer clothes, turning on the central heating & adjusting to less daylight hours. As the skies get darker, we are aware of how much we need the light. We know that light is good for us, it is essential and life giving. The darker it gets, the more we appreciate the light. It’s so often the fairy lights, the fires, the candles which bring joy during this season. People are drawn to the light.
When I was a student, we’d often head off into the Peak District at night and lie in the grass in our sleeping bags for a little bit of star gazing. And most of the time it led to spontaneous worship. The stars were so powerful and awe-inspiring, the night sky was transformed because of them. They were ‘wow’ moments. Light is transformative, and beautiful.
You don’t have to look very far to see the darkness in our world. One glimpse at the news, and even in our own communities, and we are very aware of the generation we are living in. And yet at the same time there is a hunger that is occurring, a sense of looking for the light.
During the last 18 months I have taken walks with friends who don’t yet have a faith in Jesus, and they have allowed themselves to be vulnerable as they’ve let down their guard and asked me questions about the gospel, forgiveness, prayer, healing, eternity, purpose. More than I’ve ever known before.
You may be familiar with the statistics showing the increased search for prayer & spirituality: a 50% surge in prayer, described by The Telegraph as a global phenomenon. One in four people across the UK have engaged in some form of online worship since lockdown began. Online Alpha Course sign ups tripled during lockdown. And a poll that came out just recently has found young people are particularly engaged spiritually with half of 18-34 year olds praying to God at least once a month.
This is indicative of a new season that we are in and one that we cannot ignore. The spiritual temperature appears to be rising. As people are aware of the darkness, the mess the world is in, they are asking more questions, searching for greater meaning. We are still faced with a world of unknowns, and we are still processing the trauma that we have all journeyed together, and this will continue to trigger spiritual searching. People are being drawn to the light.
In the third spaces where we work, we are noticing this shift. At Third Space Ministries our focus is on places that are not home or work, but what sociologists describe as the ‘third place’: environments where people meet to develop friendship, discuss issues, and relax; places of leisure and entertainment. It is often in cafes, pubs, gyms, clubs and similar settings where people are generally more open to meaningful conversation. Their guard is down a little more, and intimate conversation flows more freely in these non-threatening, relaxed environments.
Third Space Ministries seeks to demonstrate God’s love and enhance his presence in these ‘third spaces’. We seek to be intentional and incarnational. God has put on our hearts places of spiritual poverty. Industries such as sport, music, nightlife, and entertainment can look glossy on the surface, but scratch beneath that and there is a real spiritual hunger. At Third Space Ministries we love being in places where people are least likely to expect a God encounter, whether that is in the middle of the Wimbledon tennis queue, in a gym, or on a dancefloor.
Many of the people we meet are highly unlikely to walk through the doors of a church on their own. We aim to represent Jesus to them wherever they are. We have discovered many who are spiritually searching, struggling with all sorts of life issues, and our role simply starts with being a listening ear and showing a radical type of love.
God calls us all to be very public and visible with our light. Whilst it is true that as Christians people should naturally see God in us because we have the Holy Spirit within us, there is also a calling to a greater intentionality. How we can be light bearers is something we need to actively consider and pursue in our lives.
How can we light up the world? How can we shine in the darkness? How can people see Jesus in us?
I understand that sharing faith can feel quite a big step for many of us, so I have written a course for those of us who find evangelism hard, who need the initial steps to get started. “First Steps: sharing Jesus in your everyday” aims to remove the fear of evangelism and explore how we can share our faith naturally. Over 6 weeks there is space to develop new habits, try things out, and be released into an evangelism shape that works for you. I am passionate about making evangelism as accessible as possible to the whole church. You can find out more by going to homegroups.org.uk
Light is powerful and it is important to remember that it only takes a tiny spark of light to dispel the darkness. You may feel that you are not shining very brightly, that you’re not a good witness, but even the smallest light can make a difference. We don’t need to know all the answers or be gifted communicators. Trust that God will use the little that you offer. We don’t all have the gift of an evangelist, but we are all called to shine. And you really can shine! This is something to be excited about, not daunted by. Don’t underestimate the part that you can play. And remember, people are drawn to the light.
I wonder where God might be calling you to shine. It doesn’t have to be the darkest of places. But it might simply be in your street, in a regular place you visit, a third space, within your own family, with a group of people who have yet to encounter the light and love of God. How can you be more intentional and prayerful about this over the coming weeks? Maybe a seasonal challenge is exploring where you might be able to shine the most as we approach Christmas. And I encourage you one evening to walk outside, take a look at the sky, notice the stars and ask God where he wants you to shine.