In November 2020, Andrew Vertigan led the Facebook Lives for us and inspired the network with his passion for God and his bigger than big vision. Here’s the gist of what he said – but it was HOW he said it that was so gripping – do check out the half hour on Facebook or YouTube.
Good morning/evening! My name is Andrew Vertigan. I’m a minister in the Salvation Army and am married to Andrea, who is, like myself, also a minister. We have three grown-up children: Aaron, Nathan and Esther. Aaron is a qualified electrician and runs his own property maintenance company (and has ADHD). Nathan is married and is a car salesman. Esther is a paediatric nurse and works in intensive care in a major London hospital. All three are profoundly dyslexic, you will see later why I mention this detail. Almost all of our ministry has been involved in church planting, pioneering and creating expressions of church which engage with people beyond the known church walls.
I have quite a strong ADHD shape myself. So I can be a bit of a nightmare, get bored easily, like to have fun and tend to mess around. I guess I’m the teacher’s nightmare in the class, the vicar’s distraction in the pew and basically the challenge to the way we do things, especially in the church! So why on earth would you put me in charge of your denomination’s pioneering and fresh sxpressions strategy? I mean, honestly, I’ve often felt like in many services I don’t come here to be spoken at and bored! No surprise, therefore, that I connect with the ethos and values of Messy Church! I’ll return to this later, when I share some of my experiences.
As you know, Messy Church is an all-age fresh expression of church that offers countercultural transformation of family life through families coming together to be, to make, to eat and to celebrate God. This methodology makes total sense in a world that is grappling with many of the issues contained within this statement.
Today I want to give thanks to God for the way in which the Spirit of God has used the mustard seed of a dream and grown it into a worldwide network of people seeking to convey the love of God to people who have not yet encountered that reality of the transforming work of Jesus in their lives. rom such a seed can giant trees grow! Movements are grown from such dreams in the hearts and minds of visionary leaders like you and yes like me. Isn’t that amazing?
William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, had such a dream!
In 1912, General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, entered into the Royal Albert Hall in London to give his last, most notable address to a packed crowd of 7,000 Salvationists. Booth’s final words sum up the essence of the Salvation Army’s mission and vision and perfectly typify his own 60-year ministry: ‘While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight; while children go hungry, as they do now, I’ll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight; while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight, I’ll fight to the very end!’
Wetherby Schools Work engages with children who didn’t fit in, educated by the church in a comprehensive school. Remember how I said I was ADHD and how my children were also? God uses our circumstances to show his love and mercy!
I believe that through the connection with fresh expressions movement, something of the pioneering spirit has been reignited within the Salvation Army. I thank God for the fresh expressions movement. We have not only connected back with our roots but also with the local contexts and neighbourhoods in which we live and breathe. There is something mystical, dare I say even magical, in following the missionary spirit:
Listening to God
Listening to our neighbourhoods
And not pre-supposing that we both know the answers and even are the answers.
As we have listened and responded, the context has become critical to reaching our neighbours and communities.
You see, it’s hard to imagine that life can come back into the church.
As we inhabit this present Covid season, the church in the UK stands at the precipice of despair and even lacks hope. Floyd McClung wrote the book based upon Ezekiel 37, The Valley of Dry Bones. He entitled it You See Bones but I See an Army.
‘The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and placed me in the midst of the valley, and it was full of bones. He made me walk all around among them. I realized there were a great many bones in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”’
Can these bones live?
What are you seeing?
What are you hearing?
What are you experiencing?
I want to remind you that the Spirit can breathe life into that which may seem dead. He can give us a heart for the seeming hopefully, broken and desolate. Ezekiel was listening to the nudging of the Spirit!
Friends, can these bones live?
We are experiencing a whole renewal of the Spirit in these days, as we listen and discern the missionary Spirit’s leading, respond and serve one another through acts of kindness, relationships are formed and disciples and church is formed.
What is God asking, ‘Can these…?’ to you about today?