Jill Silverthorne, Echoes International Advisory Board member
Jill has lived and worked in the East Midlands ever since moving to the area from South Wales to study. She has enjoyed her career in teaching and is rather amazed to have just reached her first anniversary serving as a headteacher of a large secondary school in Northamptonshire! Jill is passionate about producing great quality resources for young people and has written a couple of teen-fiction Christian books as well as non-fiction resources for Sunday School and youth leaders. Her interest in mission is encouraged by serving as a member of the Echoes International Advisory Board.
It’s 8.55am on a normal working day in the UK, and I’ve already had the privilege of sharing the gospel with around 250 people – some nominally Christian; others Muslim, Hindu, Sikh; still others – perhaps the majority – of no faith at all.
Before you accuse me of fantasising, let me reassure you that I’m describing a real event in an average town in England in 2019.
But let’s rewind a little before I explain.
A wonderful pre-Easter treat for me over the past few years has been to attend Word Alive – a Christian event held at a pretty unimpressive budget holiday park. Despite the venue, Word Alive is packed to the gunnels with rich Bible teaching, and – as you’d expect – an extensive exhibition of Christian work from the UK and across the world.
Now it’s easy to be non-committal walking through that exhibition – or to be attracted only by the stalls with jelly beans, virtual goggles or lego (particularly if you have an adult male in tow). But if you stop and speak to those running the stalls, you’ll begin to put together a bigger picture: encouragements from the Middle East and North Africa, revelations of how serving in areas of poverty has turned communities to Christ, or the charity which connected one child with Bible stories and now has over a million engaged.
And that refreshes my perspective enormously. It’s like being given a few jigsaw pieces which fit together, helping me to understand a fraction more of God’s outrageous grace. I’m excited by The Mission and led to worship our mission-hearted God more energetically than before.
Yet when I put the miles between me and that down-at-heel-but-very-much-blessed holiday site, it’s all too easy for my eyes to lower, and my perspective to change. That fired up feeling dissipates as I get back to ‘normality’. Just like the unfortunate pot plant I left on the windowsill when I went away, so my thriving joy starts to wilt outside the near-perfect conditions of a Christian convention.
I need daily encounters with our missional God to align my eyes with his, to share his longing for the world he loves
My return from Word Alive this year coincided with the screening of another brilliant BBC natural history programme Earth from Space – episode one appropriately entitled ‘A New Perspective’. The script at the top of the programme is uncannily evangelistic: ‘At a time when the earth’s surface is changing faster than at any point in human history, we can see just what impact we’re having.’ What a great intro for a mission report!
But the serious challenge is how I assess the impact of the little jigsaw piece I hold. It may seem a bit nondescript compared with the ‘Capital M for Mission’ ones I enthused over at Word Alive, but I do have one. And it’s very, very precious.
Can I be really honest? I need daily encounters with our missional God to align my eyes with his, to share his longing for the world he loves. And to recognise that I’ve been entrusted with a jigsaw piece which is essential to completing the big picture. My little piece has a purpose – and so does yours. If we view them from the right angle, the perspective changes everything.
It’s easy to think big in mission and to miss the tailored ‘my size’ opportunities which God designs for us. I need to be content with my little piece, and be thrilled knowing that only I can fulfil God’s purpose in my unique circumstances.
So. My piece of the jigsaw? An incredible privilege I have is to work in a school where it’s still possible to speak faithfully about our wonderful God and meet with no objection. At 8.55am on a Friday, I can look back over a week when I’ve led assemblies for around 1500 students and teachers, consider the inestimable value of my piece of the jigsaw, and thank God for the opportunity to handle it accountably.
And that’s a stimulus to prayer and to action.
It commits me to asking God every day to preserve that opportunity, to keep me conscious of his eternal perspective and recognise my serving place in the world as significant.
And in the words of the BBC, ‘[I] can tell [my] story of life on earth from a brand new perspective…’