My brother and I recently took on the famed ‘Yorkshire Three Peaks’. The challenge: cover 24 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation climbing Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough and make it back to the Pen-y-ghent Café in Horton for a cuppa within 12 hours. It’s a stiff challenge. To add a little further spice, my brother and I decided to run it.
Many years younger than me and several pounds lighter, I thoughtfully let my brother lead most of the way round. His light, silky strides the prelude to my pained and exhausted stagger for any of those we passed on route. Reading running magazines seemed not to have made me as fit as I was hoping. Maybe I should have actually done some training. But I digress.
The miles ticked by and within four hours we were enjoying the sunshine atop Whernside – our second summit of the day – tucking into peanut butter and jam sandwiches, encouraged by our progress, and taking in the beauty of our surroundings.
With the wind in our sails our descent of Whernside was swift and gazelle-like, and before long we were taking a deep breath and locking eyes with the day’s final summit: Ingleborough. Its distant peak now circled with dark, swollen clouds – majestic, moody … and menacing.
And then we must have gotten chatting. Or dreaming about that cup of tea (with a scone. and a cake and maybe a fry-up). Or perhaps we were imagining the heroes’ welcome back home.
In any case, we missed a signpost. It must have been quite an important signpost.
Within a short while, the path we were on petered out in an area of shake holes and marshy heather. We could still see our final peak, but we had no idea how to get there. Dark clouds spread across the sky. The sun began to set. Our food and water ran out. Our aching bodies started to cramp. We were cold and exhausted. Hungry and thirsty. And lost.
Signposts are important.
As a church, we need to be looking for God’s signposts. We need to be diligent about seeking his direction and guidance. Without that we may be able to see where we should be going but be unsure about how to get there
The church in Acts leaves us great example in this. They prayed. They did their best to listen for God’s voice. And when they heard, they did what they felt God was asking of them. They followed His signposts. (See, for example, Acts 13:1-3
So, what is God saying to us at EMC
One of the things, we believe, is to strengthen and sharpen our focus on mission. We’re so grateful for the fantastic foundations that we have in place, and the good work already being done by so many. But our vision is to grow still further in this, reaching out with compassion to our local community and sharing with more people the message of hope and new life in Jesus. The Mission Action Group has now formed which will play a key role in this, and I’m also excited to announce to you that on January 13 next year we will be having a Church Away Day called ‘IGNITE’ – a day of worship, fellowship and teaching to inspire and empower us for mission! Look out for more details coming soon. We would love to see you there!
A second signpost is leading us to focus in on prayer. Prayer was both prized and prioritised in Jesus’ life and in the life of the early church – leading not only to a greater power in ministry but also to the deep joy of richer connection and closeness to God. This is so important for us to take hold of as we look to grow in our personal walk with God and in our life and mission as a church. Among our initiatives and activity in this area, we’ll be teaching on prayer in our morning services throughout November – please do join with us!
And a third signpost would lead us to focus on one another. We’re very blessed by our small groups and our pastoral care team at EMC. Our huge thanks to all those involved who play such a key role in standing alongside others in fellowship and support! Over the coming months we’re looking to grow ever further in this with the launch of new small groups and an increasing sense of connection and community with one another.
There are other signposts too. We all have a role in looking out for them. And we look forward to all the ways in which God will direct and guide us as we continue to move forward in his purposes.
And as for the Three Peaks Challenge. Yes, we did make it. Just. And I got my cup of tea.