I've told a few people this story already, but I enjoy telling it! Way back in March last year, on a lovely sunny morning, after we had been in Tasmania about twelve months, I was with a few other young pastors in Launceston and we were about to go off for a coffee. I was feeling pretty happy - the sun was shining, I was not on my own, and there was coffee coming (three sure-fire criteria for a happy Andy!).Just as we were about to leave, we were each asked to do a quick five-minute interview about the churches we were leading for Launceston's Christian radio station - WayFM. Well, like I said, it was sunny, I was not on my own, and there was coffee coming… So in a wonderfully cheery voice I optimistically described Barney's as a small church plant with a big future - there were young families as well as older people, we were excited about developing missional communities in the northern suburbs of Launceston, we were keen to develop mission among uni students and all the rest of it. Wonderful stuff. Then I went and had coffee. With other people. And the sun was shining…
Three months later... Three months later, it was mid June. Sunday morning, about 8.30am. It was not sunny (or warm!). I was on my own. I was not about to drink coffee. I was not a happy Andy! Furthermore, the small core at Barney's was dwindling fast, through illness, age, and even death.
I was in no mood to go and lead a service at Barney's that morning. I was seriously wondering whether the right thing to do was to stop the services altogether and see what else might emerge instead.
I resorted to one of my favoured strategies in such moments - I got in the car, put the radio on and went for a drive. "God, please speak to me," I thought / prayed / grumbled as I drove off. "I really don't feel like going to Barney's this morning, or any other mornings. Surely it would be best to pull the plug…"
I decided to put WayFM on (which I was really not in the habit of doing). It was the Sunday morning 'old worship songs from the 1980s' programme - which didn't exactly overwhelm me with joy and euphoria. Nevertheless, I left the station on. As I listened, they played a couple of old Vineyard classics which I could remember playing as a child in various youth bands and on camps and so on… "Ah well, I thought, I guess God' was with me back then, and he's with me now. Perhaps it's not as bad as it seems."
At about 9.00am, the presenter came on and announced that it was time for their regular 'Church Connection' segment now, "and this week we're talking with Andy Goodacre - from St Barnabas' Anglican Church!!" She then proceeded to play the five-minute interview I had recorded earlier that year, in the sun, with some friends, before a nice cup of coffee!
My prayer "God, please speak to me," was answered in perhaps the most blatant, clear, loud, obvious way possible - here was God, speaking to me, in my own voice, at 9.00 on Sunday morning, while I was driving around the countryside feeling miserable and sorry for myself.
Here, in my voice, was God reminding me of the vision he had already given, the hope I already had experienced, the sense of what was possible through Barney's if God had his way - and if I went along with it instead of doubting, grumbling and getting IN the way.
Here in my voice, was a clear sign that God did indeed want us to invest ourselves in Barney's. He had called us to be there. He hadn't made a mistake! There was hope, there was a purpose, there was a future. I just need to trust in God instead of doubting in myself.
Half an hour later, I was back at Barney's. Faced with the very real possibility of death, I decided change was absolutely the best option. We had the first of what has become mini-tradition for us now - a simple gathering of God's people to worship him, sit informally on sofas, and learn to tell stories of what God was doing in our lives, share our burdens and concerns, and pray for one another.
And last but not least, God proved conclusively, that he does indeed speak with a northern-English accent. Eee bah gum!
Note: I will try to dig out the original audio that was played that day. Here is the audio from that first interview. Also, a couple of weeks ago, I got the opportunity to go back to WayFM and share a bit of the story of the last two years here in Launceston. You can listen to the interview (all 18 minutes of northern English bliss) here.