If you’ve been part of the Message adventure over the last couple of years, you’ll know that God has been speaking to us powerfully through the book of Isaiah, and especially chapter 60, which contains the verse, ‘Your heart will throb and swell with joy’ (v5). There have been so many moments this year where this has been true for me. It’s such a privilege to see God turning this ministry into a movement, using ordinary people like us to change the world.
It’s become a bit of a tradition at the end of each year for me to give a few of my personal highlights. So here are just a few from 2015…
After Eden’s ‘fallow’ year in 2014, it was a joy to start January with the launch of several amazing new Eden teams. And although all of our Eden teams are doing amazing work, some of this year’s new teams are particularly exciting. Our team in Parkhead, Glasgow, for example, is seeing some amazing breakthroughs among drug addicts, the former homeless and ex-offenders with their partner church, Parkhead Nazarene. Jesus’ kingdom is breaking out there and it’s a joy to see a flourishing Eden playing its part.
In February we launched a brand new Eden Bus, remodelled here in Manchester by our own team. It thrills my heart that we’re now seeing multiplication in our Eden Buses. This amazing new Eden Bus arrived fully funded and is already starting to see kids saved. Our team has a desire to see a Bus in every region of the UK – and before our eyes, it’s starting to take place.
If you’ve been following our journey with the Message Enterprise Centre over the last three years, you’ll know that at times it’s been an uphill struggle. Launching excellent businesses with employees who have never worked before is not easy. But things started to turn a corner in March as we started to hit our budgets, then even to beat our budgets! We need to pay tribute to the hard work of our amazing managers – Tony, Abi, Peter and Dave – who have poured their hearts and soul into our team members this year. I also want to honour our wonderful business mentors, Colin, Simeon and Gordon, who give their energy and expertise for free, just because they love our vision.
My heart definitely swelled with pride watching this year’s Genetik Showcase in April. Not only do we see young people growing rapidly in their skills of music and dance on Sessions, real salvation and discipleship is taking place week by week, too. I felt the same way when I first saw Kinetic IV perform. To have four talented young evangelists fly half way around the world to train with our Academy and then get sent back to serve with Message South Africa was a significant historic moment for us as a movement. I believe we’re going to see dozens training each year and being released into God’s mission.
In May we launched the Higher Tour. What an unforgettable night that was, especially if you were backstage and part of the prayer meeting which happened before it – a really incredible time of revival prayer with over 100 leaders from pretty much every stream and denomination who are standing with us. You’ll be hearing much more about Higher this coming year as we seek to reach tens of thousands of Manchester young people with the good news of Jesus.
June was the month of our best ever Urban Hero Awards – best in terms of stories and best in terms of our confidence in the gospel. Story after story revealed the miracle of Christ at work through our teams. This year we also saw another miracle unfold before our eyes: the miracle of The Oaks, our 13-bedroom residential home of hope. For a long time, all the odds seemed to be stacked against us: the police said no, the council said no, the residents said no, planning office said no… but Jesus said ‘yes’! That’s why we’re so excited about all God is going to do through it, restoring lives and springboarding people into mission.
During July and August we had the usual opportunities to share at New Wine and other festivals. Thanks for coming up and saying ‘hi’ if you were there. It’s always so encouraging to hear stories from our supporters about how God has used The Message to change lives.
September saw our new Academy intake arrive here in Manchester. It’s a real cause for celebration that this year we welcomed 20 new students – because we know from experience that this means new leaders in the pipeline. Our Bus manager, our Prisons team leader and many members of our missions teams are all Academy graduates. God is doing amazing things through Academy.
In October, I had the chance to visit Message South Africa and help to fuel all that God’s doing there. It really is an extraordinary thing to see the team bringing our mix of creative mission, community transformation and Christ-centred enterprise in completely unique new ways, to fit their specific context. We are going to see wonderful new things emerging from South Africa – watch this space! Plus, the launch of Message Wales was a tremendous night and pointed the way forward for new Message ministry hubs all over the UK. We’re excited that this is going to be spearheaded by Carl Beech, our new UK Director, starting in January. We also welcomed two new Edens to the family – Tremorfa (Wales) and Pelican Park (South Africa).
Our Vision Night this November was an opportunity to launch our first worship album. It’s been such a beautiful thing to see, songs naturally emerging from within the life of our movement and to sing them month by month on our Prayer Days. Singing them on Vision Night in between amazing testimonies and performances from our bands was a real moment. I came away from Vision Night with such expectancy for all that’s still to come.
And we’ve rounded the year off with a really exceptional December. In Yer Face surpassed themselves with a fantastic reboot of the ‘Christmas Message’ play, seeing dozens of people giving their lives to Christ, and even physical healings as people were prayed for. And we have also had the most exciting month of the MEC so far thanks to the ’12 Days of Christmas.’ I’m so proud to be part of something that not only puts on events like the December TNL and Winter Market with real excellence, but which can also pull off the massive collection for Syrian refugees and a homeless meal to bless the poor and needy.
Speaking of which, it always gives me great joy each year to share the amount of our tithe towards ministry to help advance the gospel and serve the poorest of the poor. The figure – £268,214 given in the year just gone – is simply amazing. It’s just one of a long list of things to praise God for this year.
Towards the end of this year I was asked to put together a presentation which looked back over the past five years and looked forward to the next five. It was a defining moment for me as I realised how far we’ve come – and where we could be if God continues to open the doors and friends like you continue to stand with us.
The vision of countless new disciples through the Higher Tour, of dozens more Eden teams transforming local neighbourhoods, of new Eden Buses all over the country and even new Enterprise Centre projects… it really is ‘more than we could ask or imagine’ stuff.
If you’re excited by this vision, please stand with us again this year.
I’d love it if this Christmas you’d review your regular gift – or begin a new one. Click here to get started. And as a thank you, in the new year, we’ll send you a copy of our fantastic new worship album, Message in a Bottle: Jesus, The One Who Saves.
Thanks so much for all your support throughout 2015.