Two Bible verses and passages have really gripped me afresh this year. Verses that I’ve know so well but have seemed so relevant for 2019.
The first one is Ephesians 3:20:
‘Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us’
Our God is able. I’ve felt the weight of this verse throughout the year as we’ve seen the beginnings of The Message becoming a movement. We’re seeing God do immeasurably more as we aim to reach millions of people with the gospel across the globe.
The second is from Matthew 25 – the parable of the talents.
I don’t know about you, I long to hear the words ‘well done good and faithful servant’. And this comes with investing what we’ve been given into God’s kingdom. I also want to enter the joy of the Lord which is to see heaven populated!
Here are a few of my personal highlights from 2019…
In January we saw the launch of three new Eden teams – St Giles (Lincoln), West Bowling (Bradford) and Mill Lane (Stockton-on-Tees). That’s three teams of people moving into deprived communities to bring Jesus into these areas. If that’s all we had to show for the year then it would all have been worth it! SoulBox also released their single C’est La Vie and was propelled into the mainstream with young people listening to these gospel filled song. This year, songs from our bands have been streamed well over two million times and we’ve heard stories of people coming to Jesus after hearing our music and the preaches on their albums. I love this.
It was also great to hear about the work of the Message Bus in Scotland and their partnership with youth Alpha as they run the 10:10 project – seeing many young people come to know Jesus and become passionate about sharing their faith!
We kicked off February with the Message Conference. This was such a beautiful occasion of gathering together in God’s presence and we’re ready to go again in October 2020.
Over in South Africa, our team held their vision night and it has been so exciting to see their work excel. I do believe this is the beginning of multiplication across that continent.
Our new Message Bus for Yorkshire also arrived. This mobile youth centre is now in action and taking the gospel to hundreds of teenagers across the area.
The second Gangstar café in Cape Town, South Africa opened in March. When visiting these cafes I love to hearing the testimonies of the guys who work there – these are people who were once living nightmares who have been completely transformed after Jesus steps in.
This month, we were also honoured with a St David’s Award – the national awards for Wales – for our work with the Cardiff Street Pastors.
We saw amazing testimonies of salvation when the Higher Tour headed to Yorkshire. Our teams were in front of 26,762 young people and what’s really amazing is that our partner churches continue to have a presence in the 48 schools that we visited throughout the tour.
The first Greater Manchester Prayer Gathering of the year took place in April. These meetings represent such a significant movement of prayer across Manchester as churches from across the city gather in unity. Andy Burnham, Mayor of Manchester, joined us as we prayed for him and all he oversees in the city.
Back in South Africa, we launched a Message hub in Nyanga – famously the murder capital of South Africa. We’re believing that this will become the salvation capital of South Africa and we’re already starting to see a drop in rates of crime in this area as God continues to transform lives across the community.
Another Eden team was launched in the capital – Eden Churchill Gardens which is a pocket of deprivation amid one of the wealthiest areas of central London.
In May a bunch of us headed to Canada and for our most successful sponsored event to date. We cycled 913km across Canada and raised over £206,000. We finished in Vancouver and got to visit Downtown East Side – an area so broken it almost felt apocalyptic. But within that community is a beautiful Eden team working tirelessly to make Jesus known in that place.
2019 has been a significant year for Advance Groups, that are equipping and resourcing evangelists. In partnership with the Luis Palau Association, the first international translation of our Advance Groups Guide was created in Spanish. This really felt like a moment of kingdom breakthrough, and since then the materials have been translated into 18 different languages and are being used to aide the multiplication of the evangelist across the globe!
It was also great to gather hundreds of urban missionaries together for our annual Proximity Conference – this is always a great time of being equipped and stirred to take the gospel to broken communities across the country.
Our most successful Urban Hero Awards took place in June where we celebrated the stories of some amazing people who we have worked with over the past year and raised over £300,000 to support our work. Sarah Small, Head of Eden, visited Germany to begin work on launching their first Eden team in Chemnitz. And our Academy students soon followed as they spent a couple of weeks on mission with our Message Germany team. We heard some amazing testimonies from that trip with many people responding to the gospel and being fired up for Christ!
Sam Ward and our Eden teams headed to New Wine in July, to run a café and deliver Bible teaching. Sam smashed it and despite the wet weather we were able to create brilliant new connections with supporters and new Eden workers.
Our first ever Midlands Youth Conference also took place this month. It was special to see 300 young people gather together to be fired up to share the gospel with their friends and families.
A real highlight of the year, as always, was commissioning our Academy students. Celebrating what they’ve achieved throughout their time on the course and praying for them as they head into what God has in store for them.
In August I was delighted to welcome Bill Hogg to lead the charge for our work in Canada. I’m really excited to see this work grow in Canada with Bill heading it up.
September was a super busy month, as it so often is. The first Higher Tour in South Africa happened in Parkwood, and it was so beautiful to see the incredible response to the gospel from the young people! Another Eden team moved into Whitmore Reans (Wolverhampton) and a new intake of Academy students joined us for the year.
The Advance Summit took place in October and what a time it was! This was the largest gathering of evangelists from across streams and denominations in my lifetime and felt like such a significant event. Off the back of this, so many precious things have happened. Doors have opened up and opportunities across the globe have been created. I’m so excited to see the work of Advance take off in 2020.
The foundations of the new Manchester House of Prayer were laid behind Message HQ in October and we’re committed to partnering with these guys. I’m so excited to see night and day prayer stepping up in my home city.
October also saw the Oaks launch in South Africa – an incredible blessing from God to house ex-offenders and support them in their discipleship.
We took Higher to Drakenstein Prison in Cape Town in November and saw God move in that place. 75 former gangsters gave their lives to Jesus. While over there visiting I got to go to the prison and had a conversation with one guy who was truly on fire for Jesus. He was about to be released after spending several years in prison but felt convicted to admit to all of the crimes he had never confessed to to the parole board. He will now be in prison for life, but he rejoices as he wants to spend his life multiplying the gift of the evangelist and sharing Jesus with those he meets in prison – how amazing is that?
And in December we held a Wales Youth Conference, acquired a building for our work to be based in Yorkshire and almost completed the refurbishment of Neal Street Espresso – our first enterprise to be launched in London.
Can you see why I think God is doing more than we could ever ask or imagine?
Thank you so much for all of your support this year. Please pray that we will see God do immeasurably more in 2020 and that the work of The Message will go to the next level.