In a Movement, People Move…
Despite the recent raft of books, conferences and articles on Movements there is surprisingly little on the role of Travel and Travelling Workers…
Surely for there to be more Movemental Churches…there needs to be more people…well, willing to move…becoming less stationary…not necessarily everyone…but a whole lot more than what we currently have now (particularly here in Britain and Europe)
A [Short] HISTORY OF TRAVELLING WORKERS
History shows us that at the start of radical movements that mobilise the masses and reach the unreached…someone starts moving…and then they, in turn, are followed by more and more trailblazers who start moving too; going from place to place…to pray, preach, make many disciples, form new churches and appoint leaders from amongst them
Where are the itinerant workers in the 21st Century? And I don’t just mean one or two well known conference speakers.
When new movements begin…there is a pattern of hundreds, if not thousands of travelling workers being sent out from place to place until there’s literally #NoPlaceLeft where Jesus hasn’t been heard
Consider St. Patrick, the 5th Century missionary known as the ‘Apostle of Ireland.‘ During his travels across the length and breadth of Ireland, he was beaten, robbed of all his possessions and imprisoned. As a result, thousands of people were baptised, priests were ordained to lead the new communities and he was welcomed into ‘housesholds of peace;’ including those of wealthy women and sons of kings.
Or what about John Wycliffe and his ‘Lollards’ (‘Poor Preachers’) in the 14th Century. Johh Wycliffe sent ‘Poor Preachers’ out 2-by-2 to preach the gospel to the people. They were Street Preachers who left worldly possessions behind to set out on the Path to Pioneer Mission. It’s therefore not surprisng that ‘The Establishment’ tried to surpress these itinerant ‘rabble rousers’ by passing bylaws against their teaching and from distributing the bibles they had helped Wycliffe translate from latin into English so the ‘common people’ could read and obey it for themselves.
George Fox and the Early Quakers also faced strong opposition and persecution in the 17th Century. Fox preached publicly in market-places and fields. By 1651, he had gathered other preachers around him and continued to to travel the length and depth of the country. From 1660’s-1670’s Fox stepped up his travels; setting up an infrastructure of montly (local) and quarterly (regional) meetings to pull together the scattered groups of Seekers and married Margaret Fell who was also very active in the movement and campaigned for equality and the acceptance of women as preachers. Fox, and many of his followers, were thrown into prison constantly for ‘causing a disturbance‘ so that by 1657 there were approx 1000 ‘Friends’ in prison. The Quakers maintained that God could speak to ordinary people without them having to pay tithes or come under ‘churchmen. This of course, didn’t go down well with established churches and their leaders who held power locally at the time! But whilst in prison Fox continued to write and preach, as his fellow prisoners also needed to hear the gospel!!
John Wesley and the Early Methodist ‘Circuit Riders’ of the 18th Century had over 300 itinerant preachers…many of them came to faith through Wesley’s preaching and he appointed them them because of their passion for evangelism and wilingness to follow Wesley’s instructions. John Wesley callled these men his ‘sons in the gospel.’ Their main task was to travel and preach outdoors and to instruct the emerging groups of people…most of the them were unordained ordinary people and were given ‘unofficial’ authority to preach outside parish lines. This, of course was perceived as a threat to the status quo and these ‘lay preachers’ were attacked by clergy in sermons and attacked on the streets by riotous mobs. The genius of Wesley (and Jesus before him) of sending out ordinary people to preach and lead was one of the key factors in the growth of Methodism so that by the time of his death there were 135,000 ‘methodists‘ and 541 itinerant workers but by 1957 there were 40 million Methodists worldwide. Wesley had rode over 250,000 miles on horseback, preached over 40,000 sermons and wrote 5000 pieces of literature including sermons, tracts and pamplets of every kind
One of Wesley’s most well known ‘sons’ was Methodist Circuit Rider Francis Asbury who moved to America to repeat the pattern there and by doing so increase Methodism in America to 214,000 by the time he died in 1816
We now travel to the 19th Century to join William and Catherine Booth and the Early Salvation Army who were real fire-starters. William started open-air preaching in the East End of London preaching to crowds of people in the streets and outside of notorious pubs. This was one of the first movements to appoint an army of women preachers…In 1867, Booth had only 10 full-time workers, by 1874 the number had grown to 1,000 volunteers and 42 evangelists and between 1881-1885, 250,000 people were ‘converted’ through the Army’s work! In 1906 Booth innovated again by hopping into a motor car and stopping off in cities, towns and villages to preach to the assembled crowds from inside his open-top car. William traveled extensively during his lifetime, and at the time of his death had established Army work in 58 countries and colonies.
How about The Jeffreys Brothers and the Early Pentecostal Movement in Britain in the 20th Century. George and Stephen Jeffreys came to Christ during the 1904-1905 Welsh Revival and later began travelling preaching with reports of miraculous healings and other wonders following. George travelled throughout Belfast and all over Northern Ireland with a group of travelling workers known as the Elim Evangelistic Band and founded his first church in Belfast and another in Monaghan birthing tthe Elim Pentecostal Church Movement…Throughout the 1920’s as a result of their evangelistic and healing campaigns, public halls were filled, thousands converted, many healed and dozens of Elim churches were planted all across the UK
I HAVE A QUESTION…
When are we going to do this sort of thing again?
SOME OF OUR JOURNEYS SO FAR…
15 years ago a few of us began Pioneer Mission in one small area of around 10-15,000 people called ‘Meadows‘ in Nottingham, UK. We preached on the streets, ran creative workshops in schools and community centres and hosted urban gospel/hip-hop type events called DREAM. The emerging church met from house to house throughout the area and also through church-on-the-street.. The church did not meet in one place but was scattered all across the area. It wasn’t long before I was ‘called into meetings’ by established churches for my unorthodox methods and being questioned on who had given me the authority to do such things
Not long after that I married Marsha Farmer, a prophetic warrior who had planted a church in Hyson Green/Forest Fields, and we began traveling across the city and county. We formed a small team who moved from place to place up to 3-4 times a week to pray and to preach through a variety of different methods in a variety of people groups. We referred to this as Mission Nottingham
We then began praying through the 12 Regions of Britain and Ireland going to one region per month for 12 days at a time…this became known as MissionBritain and MissionIreland…our immediate joint goal is to Plant 1000 Churches
And in recent years we’ve started travelling to the 50 countries of Europe to connect with Movement Planters looking to catalyze Disciple and Church Multiplication Movements amongst the 700 Million+ inhabitants of the continent
21st CENTURY TRAVELLING WORKERS…LET’S GO!
I think it’s about time for another full-on Pioneer Mission Movement in Europe and the West…don’t you?
The concept of church for many is that it is ‘local’ and that is certainly true, but it is also extra-local…
The pattern is that when churches become more established and particularly institutional, circuit riding tends to diminish as local leaders are appointed. However…at the start of a new movement..a type of ‘circuit riding’ is essential.
Jesus modelled a travelling ministry with at least 12 men constantly ‘on the road’…then extended it to a further 72 (see Matt 10/Luke 10 for Pioneer Mission instructions)
In one episode with Jesus, his new disciples had just witnessed the whole of a town gather at the door to see what was going on and to be healed and released from demonic oppression…afterwards Jesus withdrew to pray.. When some of his disciples later caught up with him…instead of them planning the next stage of growth for the amazing work that had just begun in that town…Jesus announced;
‘We MUST go to preach in the other towns also, that’s why I’ve come’
I’ve got a feeling Jesus is announcing that same message right now to disciples who are also getting up early in the morning to find him
Surely there’s never been a better time to take up the baton of the Travelling Workers. The direction of technology is heading in a direction that is very sympathetic towards Mobile Mission. Smart Phone technology allows you to do almost anything whilst on the move including writing journals using Evernote, communicating live on the road using Social Media and hosting multiplication based coaching for practitioners scattered across continents using Skype and Google Hangouts whilst using AirBnB
RECEIVING + SENDING TRAVELLING WORKERS
The Apostle John gives us very brief but powerful examples of how to handle the whole movement of travelling workers.
He writes to one church where there is a leader who refuses to welcome travelling workers and their message into what he saw as ‘His church’. John wrily notes that it’s because ‘he wants to be first in that church ‘ and warns them not to follow this example…(3 John)
Sadly this is still a present reality…leaders see the church as ‘theirs’ so refuse to receive ‘outsiders’ who are ‘passing through’. What’s worse…this is no longer about individual leaders…this has become a culture and an institution. Most churches and christians would see this as the ‘right way to behave’
We now see church as static and only local (an example of concepts like ‘incarnational mission‘ taken to it’s extreme but ‘logical’ conclusion)…local church, with local leaders that are fully independent bedding down into their local communities…so then, the arrival of an outsider, a travelling worker, feels like an intrusion (‘what do they know of our local context?’ afterall)
We even make jokes and snide remarks about those who are ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ or those who ‘hit and run’ or ‘fly by night’
I know that there are and have been charlatans, snake oil salesmen, prosperity preachers and charismaniac prophets who can be categorised under the broad heading of ‘travelling worker’ and so the bad gets lumped with the good and ALL Travelling Workers are then seen as suspect. But this is a disavantage to the church local and global.
Thankfully the Apostle John has an answer for this too…
In another letter (2 John) he addresses a church that actually readily receives outside travelling workers…but he encourages them to ‘test the message’ that these workers bring. If it doesn’t line up with the truth, they are not to welcome them into their house (notice the church was in the house– but that is a different subject)
CALLING ALL TRAVELLING WORKERS
Are you a Travelling Worker?
Do you sense a Call to Become a Travelling Worker?
Are You A House of Peace that Welcomes Travelling Workers?
Can You Help Support and Resource Travelling Workers?
Can You Become a Base for Training, Receiving and Sending Travelling Workers?
Do You Want to Be Trained in Movements?
God Is Calling for the Start of a New Wave of 1000’s of Travelling Workers Across Britain and Europe…
WILL YOU GO??
(Taken from www.peterjfarmer.com)