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'God of all creation is concerned with everything related to education'

 


Throughout the Bible story, God was filling spaces, and does so today. The school assembly hall is a great space I long to see God fill. And while we have no right to stand in front of a school, we have something far better: the opportunity.  By Martin Sweet 

 


School hall700

 
My favourite Psalm is 24. It is where David must have shouted:
 


1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
    the world, and all who live in it;
2 for he founded it on the seas
    and established it on the waters.

 
As a member for the Free Church Education Committee, I have been privileged to take part in the preparation of a paper entitled Life in all its fullness, to be finished later this year. My prayer is that the significant challenges it inspires will impact our churches, encourage many more to engage with school communities.
 
I was struck when reading the Church of England's Vision for Education that was published in July 2016. Some of the statements within it are worth repeating and reflecting upon. When challenging the reader as to why the Church of England should be committed to education, they write: ‘the God of all creation is concerned with everything related to education – wisdom, truth and knowledge’ (page 5). Later, in its conclusion, their report has a great ambition - that pupils should ‘leave school with a rich experience and understanding of Christianity, and we are committed to offering them an encounter with Jesus Christ and with Christian faith and practice in a way which will enhance their lives.’

This should be the ambition of every church for its local schools.
 
I recently heard from a former member of Spinnaker’s team who is now a curate in a city up north. I read with joy their statement that his church ‘are considering offering something different .. we would like to do Church in School’. 
 
Music to my ears, for I long to see God fill the spaces in our communities that don’t get filled. Yes, we have plenty of great churches with vibrant congregations, so why can’t we do this within the wider community? Within the local school?
 
We need to see this ‘filling’ not merely as an inspirational missional task, but rather, from the perspective of this generation that are wanting to find out the reason why they are here – because they get very few answers.
 
The well-thumbed passage of Romans 8 speaks to this issue:


22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first-  fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

 
And if, like me, you feel inadequate for the task, Paul takes us a step further:
 

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

 
And then one step further:
 

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 
Throughout the Bible story, God was filling spaces. So I see the school assembly hall as a great space that I long to see God fill. Our God is the God who fills spaces. From Genesis , when God filled the unending space of space, to other examples of when His Spirit filled the tabernacle and the later the temple in Jerusalem, (2 Chronicles 5:11-6:2), he fills spaces.
 


14 and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.

 
John explains eloquently that even the darkest places cannot stop the light! And like the searing light of the first day of creation, our God is a God is a fills spaces. This is God doing what only God can do, and it is what we long to see in the local school.
 

I had a recent email from someone who was on my team from a few years ago. He is now a curate and he wrote:

 


I still get to do some assemblies and I was asked recently to do a funeral because the granddaughter of the deceased knew me from the assemblies I do, and her mum thought that it would be more comforting if I took the service.

 
Perhaps as a result of too much sci-fi, the expression ‘time and space’ has tried to capture the unlimited size and scope of the universe. However, in our real world, both are limited. Both sought after. Both somewhat fundamental for life.

However, while I am still gratefully amazed that we have the opportunity and privilege to do this, what exercises my heart more than ever is that we live in a time and space when the church must face two searing questions. Firstly, do we occupy the space God has given? And secondly, as you will have guessed, are we making best use of the time?
 
The space we are offered is incredible. We currently have a government that is supportive and encourages active church engagement in many areas of society, including education. Yes, there are some who will continue to object to our presence in the school, but at this particular time, churches and their Christian agencies confirm that the door stays open. I am still convinced that the only agency that will cause this space to close will be church itself, either by not moving into this space, or by assuming we have the right to be here.

Let me spell it out, we have no right to stand in front of a school, we have something far better. We have the opportunity. Through invitation, we have been offered the time. So please pray that in our time, doors will stay open and the warm invitation we receive will still be there in the days to come.
 
But if we long to see a generation ‘filled’, then first we must work together, finding a unity in vision and mission. In Ephesians 2:21-22 Paul explains that ‘In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit’.
 

The God who fills time and space has no limits. Which means I still hang on to a vision of seeing God change a generation. The emptiness within this generation, of life’s goals and prospects, are a vacuum waiting to be filled. Life in all its fullness is just that. Lives full of God’s purpose, grace and love.
 
Come Holy Spirit.

 

Image | Nathan Dumlao | Unsplash



Martin Sweet writes on behalf of the Baptist Education Group (BEG). The vision of the Baptist Education Group is to encourage every Baptist church to strategically engage in supporting its local school.

Martin is director of Spinnaker Trust, an organisation with over 25 years’ experience, based in SE London, regularly supporting over 100 primary schools in London and the Southeast with RE, assemblies and much more.

Baptist Times, 19/07/2018
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