I’ve never known a year quite like 2018. It’s been a year of challenge, difficulty and opposition but also a year of incredible breakthrough. I really believe that this year has seen The Message move from being a ministry to a movement. Here are a few of my personal highlights from 2018…
Our key motivation is disciples. And in January we kicked off the year with a youth conference in the Midlands. There was such tremendous sense of God’s presence. 300 kids turned up and it was an incredible day. The kids caught the vision and wanted to play their part. These conferences give great momentum as we go into Higher tours. We also launched a couple of Eden teams – Hillhead (North Glasgow) and Hexham (Northumberland). Whenever we see a team launched I think if that’s all we have to show for the year then it is all worth it.
In February we officially launched our international Message hub in Germany. I was able to be there at the launch event and Sven and Maria, who are leading that mission, have completely smashed their targets and God is doing amazing things through them. We also launched Higher Cambridge, a mission that came about through partnering with friends in that area who had seen what we’ve been doing in Manchester and wanted the mission in their patch – through this we’ve seen amazing things.
We also had the privilege of heading down to London for the Sunday Times Best Companies Awards. In a room full of the best and biggest charities in the country we managed to win the best non-profit to work for in the UK. It was such a great opportunity to share our faith and to share Jesus in that room. For the second year running I also won CEO of the year. The Lord was smiling on us that night.
Carl Beech, who was our UK Director and Deputy CEO, handed in his notice and left a huge gap. He’s still a great friend and doing amazing work with his church plant and with CVM. This, however, has paved the way to set up a new UK leadership team and I’m excited for where this will take us as a ministry.
March kicked off with Higher in the Midlands. We were in front of over 25,000 young people. Nearly 900 young people were introduced to Jesus and are now connected to churches and being discipled. What a beautiful time.
A highlight of March was the first Greater Manchester Prayer gathering. We are one of many partners who are gathering together regularly to pray for the city. We booked a 700-seater venue and it was surprisingly full. We literally brought the traffic of Salford to a halt.
A new Eden bus arrived for Manchester. It’s an amazing mobile youth centre with a slide that the young people loved but I almost broke my back on! Many have been saved on that bus this year. They go to the toughest places in the UK faithfully week in week out but our non-negotiable is that each time we’ll share the good news of Jesus Christ.
The Mess Café was also re-launched and business at the MEC has been booming. It’s all about rescuing people, restoring people and giving people hope. If you’re local, come along and have a coffee, book our building team or come to the hair and beauty salon.
We held the Advance conference in April and got 400 evangelists together. There are around 100 partners who are now working together to help train evangelists. We’re hoping by this time next year we want to see 1,000 evangelists in the network.
In May we had our Proximity conference and it was the best yet. The room was rammed with passionate urban missionaries and it was a great time of teaching and worship. Make sure you catch up on the teaching on the Message Podcast.
We also launched a new Eden team in Dagenham and we’re already seeing amazing testimonies from that place.
In June we launched our first intentional prisons work outside of the North West region and have employed a prisons worker for a prison in Cardiff.
July saw our annual Urban Hero Awards. It was a beautiful, faith-filled evening and my highlight was hearing Sam Ward share his vision and his passion for the bottom 10% of the population. We raised over £300,000 and it was just a great night of sharing Jesus and putting the lamp on a stand.
Our work in Scotland ramped up throughout August. Alko and Miriam Stoel moved over from their home in the Netherlands to develop a schools ministry and we have a new team put in place to see Jesus move in Scotland.
The Message Academy kicked off once again in September. This is a year of intensive training, being exposed to teaching from The Message and having opportunities for mission. We also had the Higher Youth Conferences from both Cambs and South Wales and we also ran a small mission – Higher Jersey. The church leaders on the island approached us and we ended up in all 10 high schools on the islands and saw 150 young people respond to the gospel. What an impact this will have on such a small island.
We employed leaders for Eden West Bowling in September, our second team in Bradford. The team will be led by two of the volunteers from one of our first teams in Salford.
Higher headed to Cambridge in October and we saw 13,000 young people in schools with 784 recorded responses to the gospel.
We had a big injection of cash come in for our work in London. A guy came to one of our prayer days and decided to sell his Ferrari to fund a new bus for London.
We also went down to Lambeth Palace to launch Advance 2020 with the vision to train 1,000 evangelists, with many amazing partners.
We employed a leader for our Eden team in St Giles – the first team to launch in Lincolnshire.
I headed to South Africa in November and went to their first Urban Hero Awards. There were so many amazing testimonies of gangsters and very broken men and women who have been transformed in to amazing men and women of God.
We also had Higher South Wales. The team were in front of 17,012 young people in schools around Cardiff, Swansea, Newport and the Valleys and a total of 1,072 responses to the gospel were recorded with 480 of them happening in schools. During that last week of Higher, in Manchester we had a week of 24/7 prayer. It’s a part of my job to keep prayer hot and that is what we did. Two of our Ugandan brothers joined us and we had an incredible week of continuing prayer and through this saw the mission in South Wales accelerate.
Prisons ministry in Lincolnshire began in December and we’re already hearing amazing testimonies come out of prisons in the region. We launched Eden in Mill Lane, Stockton-on-Tees. We were also able to commission Sid Williams, our previous Eden Bus manager, who has a massive burden for the homeless of Manchester and he’s bought a bus to provide shelter for the homeless and to lead them to Jesus.
Our missions team alone have presented the gospel to thousands of young people this year. But we don’t just want decisions, we want disciples. So please pray for all those who have responded to Jesus this year, for their protection and for them to plug in to churches and be discipled.