Jo Saxton is Chair of the Board for 3DMovements, and co-pastor of Mission Point Church, MN with her husband Chris. They have two wonderful elementary school aged daughters.
I was 17 years studying A level History when I first gained a glimpse of the power and impact of missional movements on a huge scale.
We were in class studying epoch making moments in 18th Century European history, such as the French revolution. My textbook introduced me to Elie Halevy, historian who argued that England was more poised for revolution than anywhere else in Europe, the social and economic condition were dire and people were desperate. He contended that the reason why England didn’t have a revolution when other countries did was due to the influence of Methodism. The textbook introduced other historians who agreed and believer that it wasn’t just Wesley’s preaching to crowds that made the impact, but his way of organizing and mobilizing people. They particularly noted how groups of people gathered regularly, asking each other robust questions about the reality and outworking of their faith. When considering Wesley’s influence, Some noted people Wesley encouraged and invested including a young William Wilberforce committed to the abolition of the slave trade.
As they reflected on the impact of the Methodist movement, some believed that this era of spiritual reform (can I call it revival?) paved the way for reform culturally, politically, socio economically.
I was aware that it was not the only interpretation of that era. But I couldn’t escape the fact that there were secular historians telling me that the power of the gospel outworked in the lives of everyday people living as disciples on mission changed the face of a nation.
And for this teenager who’d become a Christian 8 years before at a local Methodist church it was powerful.
My faith had worn pretty thin by this point of my teens. I’d become a Christian at nine years old, but Jesus felt like a childhood friend that I’d loved once, but seemed becoming increasingly uncool as I approached adulthood. The pressure of being a Christian was too hard, my church seemed too dull. I felt vulnerable and lonely.
When I read my history book I felt something I’d not felt for a long time. HOPE.
I said to myself: This is what God can do with a nation; this is how God can move. The gospel is real; it does change lives it does make a difference. And I know I was speaking of the past, this incredible testimony found in a History textbook, but I was also speaking to my little conflicted teenage heart, layered with passionate ideas and powerful insecurities, pulled in so many contradictory directions.
I knew immediately I wanted to belong to this kind of a church; a church that took discipleship seriously, took mission seriously and labored long and hard to see the world changed in the name of Jesus. I’d been so ashamed of being a Christian – it wasn’t the popular thing to be amongst my peers. But I wasn’t embarrassed when the Church was like this:
A church that fought against transatlantic slavery, racism and bigotry.
A church that told people about Jesus, with words and deeds, and changed the face of society because they thought that’s what Jesus would do.
A church where everyone got in on the action.
A church that reached into a broken world a broken home a broken heart and introduced them to the One who made all things new.
I’ve though a lot about that day. I realize that God met me in a classroom and, embedded a seed deeply in the recesses of my heart. The seed lay dormant for a few years. Grace rooted it deeper during the days my faith wore even thinner, threadbare. Yet one day it would be watered, in a community of very ordinary believer trying to work how to tell our friends and our city about Jesus. And the seed would grow and come to life…. But that’s another story for another time.
For now though – as I think about that afternoon in class,
It reminds me how important it is to get back to the roots of our faith, all the Father spoke to us, all He ignited within, before life and busyness and distraction got in the way.
Was there a moment, a season or experience where God ignited vision and purpose in your heart? What happened next?
And another thought:
200 years from now there’s a girl with powerful insecurities and passionate ideas reading her history book in class on a Monday afternoon.
What will she read about us?
What will she read about who we were and what we did? What will she read about our response to human trafficking, to bigotry, to brokenness and pain, to the challenges of our day?
What will be our legacy?