We’ve been praying ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ together, more frequently, since last year. Hopefully, we shall continue to pursue this, both as individuals and in prayer gatherings together … after all the kingdom is not yet fully realised!

One of the noticeable themes which we’ve observed in our ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ prayer gatherings over the past twelve months so far, is that we tend to focus our prayers on those people who we already have a relationship with.

This may well seem obvious, but the question I want to flag up now for every church and group within every church is this one: ‘how can we become the answer to the prayers of those around us?’

We believe in Jesus Christ; the Son of God, as our saviour, redeemer and friend (and many more things as well), but we’re not simply in the business of promoting propositional truth in order to engage in a theological debate, are we? When we become Christians, we enter into a meaningful relationship with the one, true living God whom we encounter as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

When I’m engaged with my friends, family and anyone else I rub shoulders with, it’s more important to me that they encounter who God as He really is, rather than that I win an argument about what they need to believe about someone they don’t yet know.

I’ve found that our churches are full of people like me – we just want people to find Jesus.

Our lack of confidence however has become a barrier. Confidence in ourselves: we feel we lack the right words, the right tacks for an argument, a consistent enough lifestyle, etc. Confidence in God: our gaps in understanding have become a rationale to withdraw from bringing up the subject of God, and disappointments in our own life experience have translated into an avoidance of issues which are too close for comfort.

When I get below the surface however, I discover that everyone (whether they know God or not) shares the same aspirations on an emotional level: we want to love and be loved, we want to give and receive, we want to accept and be accepted, we want to trust and be trusted, as human beings who are as special as the next person. How do people discover such things?

Typically, when they see them mirrored in someone’s life. When people in the UK today discover Jesus, it’s invariably through meeting one of his followers; someone sufficiently like them, who they can identify with, and someone whose life has been touched by God in a way that gives them hope that these deepest needs of theirs can be met in Him.

When these people meet one of His followers; someone who engages authentically with them – their deepest prayers, previously prayed to a God they didn’t know, collide with the reality of who God is.

If we could encourage one another to step out in relationships, conversations and engagements with more people who don’t yet know Jesus, wouldn’t that be great? Imagine the potential impact we could have together across our region.

This is why ‘Talking Jesus’ will be our theme for the year. We shall encourage one another at the Network Gatherings and no doubt there’ll be further initiatives others can be involved with through clusters and local churches into 2019 and beyond.

By Nigel Coles