At the start of a new year it is good to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. With this in mind January’s hymns will be ones which have had a particular significance at a key period, or in the context of interaction with key people, during my life, and will also have a book from the same period featured. I will also reflect a little on the main lessons learned in that period of life, or from that significant influence. Hopefully doing this will encourage you too, to thank God for the positive influences on your faith, and to ask for wisdom in discerning those areas of our past we need to leave behind in one way or another.
This weeks hymn is one from the Iona Community that I learned at Guildford Crusaders when I was in my older teenage years. It was introduced to us by the leader of the small group I was part of at that time, and sums up the way in which I was discovering Christ’s call over every area of life.
Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?
Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?
Will you love the “you” you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?
Lord your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In Your company I’ll go where Your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow in you and you in me.
Essentially what I was learning was that the Christian life is one of intentional, daily discipleship, in which I needed to think through how to obey Jesus in every area of life.
Furthermore this was an obedience in which honest participation in community is vital. I didn’t call it community at the time, but that is what it was – a small group of 6 of us, with a couple of older leaders, in which we learnt about what the bible said, thought about how to live it out and prayed for each other regularly. A key location was the fireplace pictured above, in a cottage in the Forest of Dean owned by one of the leaders, where I heard some great talks, played some silly games, and had wonderful (not to mention some extremely silly) conversation. The physical activities associated with the group – a mountain climb on my first summer camp (view pictured below) and clambering through rocks in the Forest were all a vital part of this learning and community – somehow a connection happened between physical and spiritual stepping out of comfort zones.
In the midst of that a book I found incredibly helpful was The Fight, an IVP classic by John White. I got this for regular attendance at Crusaders. It’s original audience was students in the 1970s, but as a 6th former seeking to live out my faith and understand more I found it invaluable. My reading of Christian books up to that point had been confined to Christian Biography (which I had mostly given up because it seemed so irrelevant to my rather mundane life) and Apologetics/background to the Bible – so while intellectually convinced of my faith, I hadn’t actually done that much about it.
The Fight was different, with each chapter covering a different key aspect of Christian practice, and crucuially a study section at the end focused on a key bible passage. Unusually for me I took the time to do each study, and found myself encouraged and convicted each time. Piece by piece it put the basics of bible study, prayer, holiness, guidance and other subjects in place. I still don’t know of a book that covers the same sort of ground at a basic, but serious level – and in such a biblically balanced and encouraging Spirit dependance way too. Looking back over the book I think that many of the chapters are hard to beat as concise, encouraging instructions to their subject.
This hymn and the book sum up together one of the critical, foundation laying, sections of my life, and in particular the influence of Guildford Crusaders – an influence that continued into adult life. It is difficult to summarise the influence, but I think fundamentally it is the priority of active obedience in a living relationship with Jesus.
At different points a danger in the group has perhaps been that of focusing so much on activity/organisation that understanding the basis of the activity has been pushed aside, and sometimes not emphasising enough the importance of understanding. However the balance has normally been recalibrated (an appropriate term, given the engineering background of many leaders), and the work of the group continued effectively.
For me, the group has always brought me back to the vital, primary, importance of a living relationship with Jesus. Doctrine, historical understanding and biblical interpretation are all vital, but all empty husks if Jesus is left out. Left to myself I always drift into the realm of the merely intellectual, Guildford Crusaders has frequently been one of the key influences in preventing this drift. I can always think back to answered prayers – sometimes for massive issues in the lives of leaders and lads in the group, sometimes for very simple things like the window of dry weather at just the right time on an otherwise wet day on a camp.
Therefore I thank God for the influence of Crusaders on my teenage years, and on my ongoing life – and I pray for its ongoing work under the more user-friendly label, Urban Saints.