Ian's story

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I sometimes wish God would let himself do a little sky-writing when he wants to get his message across. It would just make life so much easier for mere mortals like me to find out what he wants me to do next. To emerge from the shower in the morning and be able to see God's will for me written across the sky (OK, an e-mail would do) would save so much heartache. The trouble is I have this sinking feeling that it would also make me lazy. I wouldn't then need any discernment, any wisdom,any real ground-hugging faith to live by. It would take the risk out of life and drain it of much of its excitement.

I will not easily forget a day when rose with anticipation about a meeting with an architect. The church I was leading was working towards a major expansion of its buildings and this was crunch time. Of the three designs he'd crafted we had to settle on one that would see the church into the future, provide much needed additional space and say something to the sceptics about the grandeur and excellence of God.

As I delved into my Bible that day I read about king David who was preparing to build a temple in his capital city that would speak about the grandeur of God, just like we wanted our church to speak of his greatness on a smaller scale. But before the plans had even been finalised God told David that he would not see the finished article as his son would complete the work he had begun. In what felt like an intense daydream I thought I detected the voice of God saying “Ian, that's you – you're not going to see your building completed”.

Surprised, I rejected the thought as the random wandering of an over-busy brain. Maybe I'd been watching too many movies or eaten too much Stilton the night before. But the thought wouldn't go away.

The meeting had gone well, we'd made our decision and I could detect a mounting sense of excitement in the church that we were embarking on something entirely new and adventurous. About a fortnight later I was reading my Bible again and this time was studying Moses' life (I recall I was preaching about him at the time). One of Moses' many encounters with God was when he was taken to high place to see the whole magnificent span of the promised land in the distance. I am sure Moses expected to hear God's invigorating voice of encouragement saying “Go for it! Lead my people, Moses, take possession of the lot!” But to his surprise Moses detected God saying that in spite of leading the nation to this point he would never enter the land he'd just seen. At that instant the same thought I'd had before came back to me just as intensely “Ian, that's you – you will not see the promised land you've prepared for”.

I was mystified. Could this be the word of God for me or just a random coincidence of ideas? Somewhat aimlessly I said to God “If this is you I really need to know for sure otherwise I'm just going to ignore it all”.

I think it was the following day that the letter arrived. Most minister's mail is fairly predictable so to get a personal letter unexpectedly places it at the top of the pile to be opened for that day. The letter was from a Basil Barkworth who was writing from Victoria Baptist Church and making a request that put all this uncertainty into context. “Would you” he wrote “be willing to consider discussing the possibility becoming the senior minister of Victoria Baptist Church”. I shuddered with a mixture of fear and anticipation. In an instant I could see what God appeared to be loosening my roots and giving me a new direction, a direction that I was to find as challenging as it has been enthralling.

And the staff team and people of Victoria have made that a decision I do not regret.

Youth and Children