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Life, Hope and Transformation

 

“We’ve got to do mission, we can’t wait for people to come to us, we’ve got to go out to them.”

 

Roger Simpson has been vicar of St Michael le Belfrey in York for the last 11 years.  In the last year, he has changed his role at the church to take on the new role of the Archbishop’s Evangelist to the Northern Province.

In this new role, he describes himself as ‘a practitioner’. He says: “I go and explain the Gospel to people and try to help them come to faith.”

As he prayed about his new role, he felt God say to him: “Think big, don’t think small, think big!”

 

Spreading the Gospel

The challenge for Roger was how to reach the North of England with the Gospel.  He knew he had to work with the cities and the towns and he also knew that the key to this was to work with the local churches. On a recent mission to Scarborough, he and his team worked with 24 churches and together they held a series of 50 home, street and pub meetings.

Initially these meetings were with the church leaders from a variety of churches and then with the people. They took the message of the Gospel out to the people in all sorts of ways including some special services.

Over the 5 days that Roger and his team were in Scarborough, he said “around 150 people made commitments to Christ, so it was a real sign that God was working.”

These teams have carried out Missions at Coventry Cathedral, at Universities of Liverpool and Edinburgh as well as hosting festivals in small villages in the North East.

He has loved being the vicar of St Michael le Belfrey but had a growing sense that he wanted to go back on the road.  In the early days, Roger did missions all over and he says: “I’ve always loved trying to help people to find Christ.”

 

Remaining grounded

Roger didn’t want to leave St Michael’s as he feels that when you are doing ‘itinerant work’, “it’s very important to be rooted in a place so that people know you.”

“Being involved in a church keeps you earthed and grounded”, he says. So although he spends most of his time at St Michael’s, he is now starting to do more on the road.

Roger is accompanied by teams of lay people.  None are professional evangelists; he says they are “just a team of ordinary Christians sharing our faith in different contexts.”

His role is to try and strengthen the churches, work with them and then move on. Clergy and local people then continue the work that was started during the Mission. Courses like Start, Alpha and Christian Explore are set up.  Roger wants people to make a commitment but more importantly, he says: “We want to draw them into groups because they’ll only stick if they are in groups, where they get to know people.”

 

What challenges does he face?

Because culture is changing all the time, Roger feels that “being alert to the changes and not just going back to the old ways of doing things” is important and as well as being willing to be flexible. He feels his role is to work more with young evangelists; to work alongside them and to help and encourage them.

The other challenges he identifies are to stay alive and fresh spiritually and stay confident.  He says “there is a lot of apathy and a lot of struggle and it’s not easy.”

Despite the apathy, Roger says that there is a lot going on.  He is excited to have discovered that there are 40 prayer movements across the country in different towns. Groups of Christians are meeting to pray for revival and 17 of these groups are based in the North.  He says that “these would be great places to do mission in.”

 

Where is God at work?

Roger talks about the ‘thermals of God’s spirit’.  Similarly, as a bird catches a thermal of hot air and rides it, Roger knows that he needs to ‘look for the thermals’.  He says: “You’ve got to look for where God is at work. Go with him don’t try and go where he is not working. The thermals are all over and you just have to find them and when you catch them, you ride them because the spirit of God is already working there.”

He says these ‘thermals’ were evident during the mission in Scarborough.  When church leaders prayed together as they did in Scarborough, he felt that there was a ‘thermal of the spirit’ there.

For the last 11 years, Roger and around 40 church leaders from all denominations meet in various locations in York to pray every week for revival.  He says that they are “all crying out to God for the City.”

 

The message

Roger’s message is the Gospel, the Good News.  He says: “In our culture, people need to know that God is with them; He’s on their side; He loves them; they need to turn to Him and they need forgiveness.”

“I feel that the message is one of great hope, of life, and transformation. Jesus Christ can transform your life, and transform the community.  That’s really what we’re handing on.”

Is this message being well received? “Yes”, he says, “but not everywhere.”

“I’m very optimistic actually, I’m not at all pessimistic”, he says.

Roger and his team work alongside the Bishops.  They work out how they can reach out to the Diocese and work together.

He is aiming to 3-4 missions a year and there are plans to go to Sheffield, Doncaster, Liverpool, Newcastle, Rotherham, Hull and Cumbria during the next two years.

He says: “I’m really excited about it.  Since that prayer a year ago, it’s really beginning to open up in all sorts of really exciting ways and I feel that it is God doing it, not me.”

 

Video footage of the Scarborough Mission courtesy of Dan Abel.