Jesus is alive! As followers of Jesus Christ, that’s something we don’t simply believe, but know. When I was working for Barclays Bank, before I became a Baptist Minister, my immediate boss became a Christian. Soon afterwards he had encountered the resurrected Jesus, John asked me ‘why didn’t you tell me sooner’?  I’m guessing I’m not the only one who’s sometimes been so slow to grasp an opportunity, to either speak up for Jesus myself, or invite someone to hear more about the claims of Jesus, the opportunity goes. In John’s case, I didn’t even invite him to the event where he and his wife encountered Jesus, they asked me to take them. At least I did that, but so much for my being a bold evangelist!

The good news is God is at work despite our frailties and weaknesses. Even better news is he is alive and well and at work across our West of England region. In recent weeks, on four separate occasions, when I’ve returned home from preaching in one of our churches and Maggie’s asked ‘how did you get on’, my answer has been the same: ‘there was more people today than I’ve seen in twenty years’. Here and there, in one’s and two’s people are encountering Jesus and finding their way to our churches. One church leader after another is sharing stories of new people becoming Christians and ending them by saying ‘and we had nothing to do with it’.

My conviction is the tide is beginning to turn and we must all prepare ourselves today for whatever might happen tomorrow. People today are hungry for love, hope, peace, freedom and purpose and we have the answers, or rather we know a God not only has, but who is the answer. It feels to me, however, God is finding people, much more than people finding God. In our post-Christian culture, people no longer typically look to the Church, far less turn up at a church building, to satisfy their hunger. However, as individuals we can go to them. In fact, we don’t really need to go anywhere, as we are surrounded by people hungry for God. They don’t realise it yet, but neither are always alert to this fact either. We know from the Talking Jesus research 45% of UK adults believe in the resurrection of Jesus and there’s another 14% who ‘don’t know’. This means, if you talk to the people you know, more likely than not they’ll be at least curious to know more. I try to listen as much to someone’s heart, as the words they speak, as it’s a much more accurate indicator of their need of God.

I’m struck by the different ways encountering the resurrected Jesus in the biblical narrative, impacted people’s lives:

Mary Magdalene was Transformed by Love.

Cleopas and his wife (well I think that’s who it was) were Surprised by Hope.

Thomas and the Disciples were Filled with Peace.

Peter discovered Living in Freedom.

Paul encountered Jesus Fulfilling our Purpose.

Meeting the resurrected Jesus changes everything, so let’s make sure we invite people to meet him this easter. Second only to Christmas, Easter remains a great opportunity to invite people to join us for Sunday worship, although do ensure your plans are guest friendly. I’m looking forwards to hearing how our churches, who have decided to run the ALIVE series in the weeks following easter get on. If you’ve not caught up with this, it may not be too late and is definitely early enough for next year! Listen to Dave Smith who pioneered this here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzH3IPTb0bc You may be in a position of leadership within your church, so I’m asking you to exercise your leadership to help ensure the church you have some responsibility for gets the resurrection in sharper focus this year. You may not have any formal position, or role, so I’m asking you to ask your leadership team what they will do to amplify the fact Jesus is alive this year. We can’t do this alone; we need each other, we need the church. In my experience when a church community is littered with people who are transformed by love, surprised by hope, filled with peace, living in freedom, and fulfilling their purpose, people sense it in the atmosphere.

I don’t believe there is a human being alive who does not want the blessings outlined above. Everyone is hungry for the very things Jesus delivers as a result of becoming Lord of our lives. Your friends, colleagues, family, acquaintances don’t need to wait to come into the environment of the church to encounter such things in the lived experience of another human being, however, if they know you. If Jesus is alive in you, let his light shine through you.