After five years planting and labouring with The Community, a New Venture amongst the youth of Esquimalt, there have been so many lessons that I’ve learned: I’ve learned that New Venture could easily be interchanged with New (ad)Venture or, many times, New (TERRIFYING) (ad)Venture, or, (Not-so) New Venture as we simply do what Jesus’ people have always done: care for people’s needs¬-–physical, emotional and spiritual.
In fact, one of the most amazing things I’ve been learning over these five years is that the Spirit has been at work long before we got here. Our “New” Venture is something that he’s been working on far before we arrived. I know it seems obvious but often times we have the supreme foolishness–especially when planting a work amongst a group of people that is not being reached or even an unreached people group–to think that when we show up the work is really going to get started. We neglect the fact that the Spirit of God has been working in situations, civilizations, and hearts long before we ever came on the scene. We simply get to be a part of His work, not the other way around.
I have seen this so clearly in a number of ways and I’m humbled each time I do. I remember speaking with a youth who had very little background or understanding of the gospel and him expressing to me a longing for a place where everyone could be together in peace for all of eternity, a place where he wants all his friends and family to be, where there’d be no sickness or death or sadness. He was explaining the new heavens and the new earth to me right before my eyes and later put his faith in Christ. Another time, during a meeting with a youth worker from a secular organization, this worker began quoting the words of Jesus to me, with no knowledge that they were. We have prayed for certain doors to open and then walked into the meeting all ready to make our pitch to an organization and before we open our mouths they’ve suggested the very thing we were about to pitch. One of our youth who has recently become a Christian shared that over the past months before putting his faith in Christ he had been audibly hearing God call him by name but had been unwilling to listen. I have had the pleasure of being called in by school counselors and social workers to answer questions that youth I’ve never met or spoken to have about Jesus. They saw something on TV or online that sparked all sorts of questions and they wanted to know more about Jesus. The Spirit was already at work.
Perhaps the most amazing example of this happened during one of our youth nights. A youth who had been regularly disruptive, and aggressive anytime we talked about Jesus–yelling at me, swearing at me, stomping out–stopped me during a discussion on the depth of Christ’s love for us. I was preparing myself mentally for what was about to happen when he shocked me by saying that he has an even better example and then proceeded to give an amazing illustration to the whole group for the very point that I was trying to make. He shared from the movie Blood Diamond that there are diamonds that are worth so much that people spill their blood for them and that we are worth so much to God that he was willing to spill his blood for us. I was stunned! The next week he put his faith in Christ. When he shared that news with our youth group: “I finally gave my life to God,” everyone started clapping and cheering and patting him on the back. The funny thing is, almost all the youth clapping for him and cheering for him are not Christians.
The Spirit of God is at work, eternally. Before we arrived in a given culture, situation, location, discussion, or ministry he has gone before us. Yes, we need Him to empower our work and our very lives yet we must not forget that we are joining Him in His work that he started long before we showed up.