There was a team from The Living Well at the County Show this past weekend and it was a great privilege for us to pray with visitors to the event. Here is a short item on ministry at County Shows that was sent to us as inspiration…
Making a Show of Particularity – Gordon Banks – Staffordshire
I have been involved with Church Tents at County Shows for over twenty years, in Cornwall, Devon, Sussex and now Staffordshire.
I know at first-hand how much hard work and effort goes into putting on a good show. Even today with pop-up gazebos there is still a job of work to be done even for the most modest of displays, including the Farming Community Network. (Some make a sterling effort and win awards!)
The question that always sits there at the back of your mind is that we have to take all this lot down at the end of the day or two/three days and is it all worth the effort, time and expense.
At times like that, I reflect of the Tabernacle of Moses – see Exodus 25- 26 and various other places for the very exacting standards.
If you have ever struggled to put up a gazebo or party tent then spare a thought for what the Israelites had to do!
The Tabernacle represented the place where God met with his people.
Exodus 25:8 ‘Then let them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.’
Psalm 24.1 declares; ‘The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein…’
God is omnipresent but chose to reveal himself in particularity.
That is in part what we do when we erect our own temporary tabernacle to display the work of God through the ministry of FCN.
We are saying in effect, God is here, God is present, and God cares.
God cares about farming and agriculture. God cares about animal welfare and TB and late payment and milk quotas and about families in dispute. God cares about the farmer who has become so defeated that they are contemplating taking their own life. God cares about all of this and we by being present in particularity are demonstrating that very fact.
Another question that may be asked (and it is a perfectly proper question to ask) is about the cost, the time and effort and the volunteers, etc. Is it viable?
Well I would suggest that you do not turn to your Bible to try to answer that question.
A shepherd has a 100 sheep and just one wanders off so he sets off, leaving the 99 to search out the one!
This is the other particularity, not of place this time but the particularity of the person.
You may not be a great fan of Billy Graham and that style of evangelism. However, a story is told of Billy being interviewed shortly before a big rally. The interviewer said, ‘Well Billy, all is set, the stadium is filling up, how many do you expect to turn to Christ tonight?’ Billy thought for a moment and then replied, ‘Just one, and if just one person turns to Jesus all of this will have been worth it.’ (Interestingly the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has a resource programme called ‘My Hope’ – ‘The Worth of a Soul.’) http://myhopewithbillygraham.org.uk/
(You might also like to consider the story of the outpouring of Nard, the Widows Mite being worth more than all the other wealth, and the workers in the vineyard,)
God does not appear to be very good with sums and values!
However, God is good with outrageous love, mercy and grace shown to individuals.
Jesus lived in particularity, in space, time and geography. In this setting, Jesus met and ministered to individuals as well as to crowds. He gave a mother back her son from death, dealt kindly with a woman with a deeply personal medical problem, and picked a woman up out of the dust where she had been thrown at Jesus’ feet, accused of adultery and facing being stoned. He met a woman at a well and spoke into her life and he met a tax collector who then gave most of his ill-gotten gains away in restoration.
As God’s representatives upon earth, in our temporary tabernacle and set in the particularity of a Show, Ploughing Match or some other Event, we are called to do the same.
Yes, it may not add up – all the time, effort and cost. However, it could make all the difference to that one farmer who does not know which way to turn in their desperation, or that wife of the farmer concerned for her husband’s well-being. I hope, like Billy Graham, you might be able to say, yes, it is all worth it for the one!
Lord Jesus, in the particularity of your earthy ministry you met and filled individuals with an outrageous abundance of love, mercy and grace. So fill us with the Holy Spirit that we may also be agents of that very same outrageous abundance of love, mercy and grace, freely dispensed to all whom we meet. Help us not so much to count the cost of doing something, but consider the consequences of doing nothing! Amen