A Story about Step-Up

Dan Hetherington reflects on what God is doing in Step Up,  the discipleship year we run with a number of other churches.    You can find out more about Step-Up here.

The original plan for Step Up was quite different to what currently have. The thoughts when starting out was to fill churches in the area with young interns who would help to go out and plant seeds, develop vision and infuse congregations.  In fact I was given a brief in my first year to research internship schemes with the plan on developing a year out option for the northern half of the then diocese of Ripon and Leeds.’
Even after the first year, and only having people ‘half-time’, we struggled to hear God, and continued pressing into the initial thoughts and plans for the scheme.  It took until the end of the second year, after trying to run with a full-time and part-time balancing act, with disastrous recruiting, and appointments made for the full-time internship positions.  Halfway through the year we saw more mature people who had decided to make the journey really start to grow, and this started to turn heads.  The Management Team were really encouraged to see that even though this was not what we had planned, God was using us.

LIGHTBULB MOMENT: God wanted us to be discipling people in their context, not trying to take them away from where he had placed them, and bring them to Harrogate.

From that point we have worked solely to the brief that Jesus gave the apostles: “go make disciples.”  We believe that this is what God is wanting us to do in and through Step Up, and since following through on this conviction we have seen steady and continued growth.

One of our early Council of Reference Members
decided to step down because they thought that Step Up had no future.  When they did that, I would be lying if I said I didn’t also feel that it was not working and that what we were trying to do (offer an internship scheme similar to those offered by churches serving universities, without any of the churches in our area actually having a university) was just not the right thing.

Thankfully God stood by our intentions.  We needed to allow Him to change our hearts away from a scheme that could benefit the churches involved in the short term, toward a scheme that would benefit his people and his kingdom in the long term.   Discipleship is what it’s all about!

It’s also interesting reflecting on the need to go where we find the peace.  We tried for years to ‘push’ step up, to get people and churches involved.  But there was little peace there.  When we changed the approach, and went fishing, it was amazing that in the space of a day or so, we had our first real bite.  We invited people in, and let them have the opportunity to ‘suck it and see’.  And it’s amazing what God has done.

This year we have 3 hubs, 5 weekly groups, 42 participants, and a growing team of people who are able to disciple and mentor others in an effective way – all this by the Grace of God.

What’s my lesson in all this?  Don’t let the devil pull the wool over your eyes.  It’s fine to have dreams of what things could be, or even what you want them to be, but these need to be grounded in what God’s overriding vision is.  Jesus told his disciples

to throw the net over the other side of the boat, and they caught fish galore.  We need to be prepared to do the same thing, to change approach when we feel God’s prompting.  Happy Fishing!