The year is 2003. I was part of a television crew looking to expose a conman in Wales. It was exciting. I’ve always thought of myself as a character in a James Bond movie (I’ll leave you to guess which one); here I was living the dream.
We were holed up in a hotel working on an action plan. I was asked to don a secret camera, fitted to the underside of a specially made jumper and spy out the territory. As I researched the map, working out how I was going to do it, one question kept running through my head: ‘What if I get caught?!”
This might sound like a far-fetched story, but it’s a genuine dilemma I faced a little under a decade ago. To be honest, the lesser challenge was the one of stealth, the bigger issue was my integrity, because if I was caught and confronted by the conman, how could I tell the truth and not ruin the plot to expose him? Surely the only option was to have a pre-prepared lie to cover my tracks?! Surely a little falsehood was for the greater good?!
It’s in moments like these that I really need God’s wisdom and good friends around me. It’s situations like this, where living a life full of integrity becomes the path of most resistance. It’s places like this where I’m most grateful for the church.
This year we are zoning in on three aspects of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, which we’re calling Up, In and Out.
Up – our relationship with God.
In – our relationships with each other.
Out –our relationships with those don’t follow Jesus.
A healthy and effective lifestyle will have a balance between these three elements; time with God, relationships with those in the church, and time spent with those who don’t know Jesus. We need to get that balance right if we’re to successfully navigate the challenges of life.
This is what the Cross Roads series has been about – exploring how to follow Jesus effectively in these three areas; this is our thinking behind a short series in April called Soul Food; and it’s why in May we’ll be teaching on Faith Conversations – how to talk about your faith and make Jesus accessible to those who don’t follow him. More info to come…
We’re also hoping that the other events we’re running this term, including the Everything Matters Breakfast on March 16, with guest speaker Professor John Wyatt (see the calendar for details) will add to the repertoire of teaching and help us to effectively follow Jesus.
But as well as the events and teaching, we’re also encouraging people to ask each other these Up, In and Out questions in Life Groups and Connect Groups on a regular basis, to provoke and support each other to live well-rounded lives.
Which brings me back to the conman exposé. The story ended as all great stories do – the bad guy got caught; the good guy (that’s me, by the way – some might call me ‘the hero’) navigated the challenges and kept his integrity intact (you’ll have to wait for a sermon sometime for some of the juicier details!) But I couldn’t have made the right decisions without a crowd of others around me, helping me do Up, In and Out well.
My prayer is that a decade from now, there’ll be a load of people in this church who are able to say something similar, that written into our story will be battles that we’ve fought and won, and that those victories came by asking this simple question:
“How are Up, In and Out going in your life right now?”