Church Army - Inspire September 08 - Life to the full
There are over 300 Church Army evangelists across the UK and Ireland. Chief executive Mark Russell explains how words from John 10:10 define and inspire their work.
Life is a dominant theme of John’s Gospel. In Chapter 1, John says "in him was life and that life was the light for all people". In other words Christ gives life to change the darkness of our lives to light. Then in John 10:10 we have the awe-inspiring words, when Jesus says he came to earth so we "may have life, and have it to the full".
If I asked each of our 300 evangelists what that means, I would be guaranteed 300 different answers: but, of course, that’s the point. "Life" has unique meaning to each and every one of us, and "fullness" is just as subjective.
What we would all agree, though, is that life to the full is not about the fastest car or the biggest house. Jesus promises us a life overflowing with the love and joy of God. If we follow him, our lives achieve meaning and purpose, never mind the riches of this world. That is the transforming Gospel we are called to share.
Church Army exists to bring people to a place where they can discover how much God loves them, and to help them live their lives to the full. By responding to God’s call, our evangelists have discovered that life-changing love for themselves, and they work tirelessly to give others the chance to find that meaning too.
It’s a privilege in my job to travel the country meeting extraordinary people: Church Army evangelists and staff, working on the frontline of challenging projects, and those whose lives have been transformed by the astonishing love of Christ. Witnessing his love at work is truly awesome.
When I mentioned to The Archbishop of Armagh, The Most Revd Alan Harper, that we had chosen John 10:10 as a theme for Church Army this year, he told me, ‘Life in all its fullness was the very work and purpose of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. It has become the work and purpose of the Church of God. That work is both spiritual and social, and it is on the margins of society, where the spiritual and the social are hardest to unite, that we expect to see the Church Army quietly working small miracles through the grace of God.’ If ever we needed to be inspired!
Whilst we aren’t all called to work at the cutting edge, we can support and pray for those who work in the tough places. You can stand with our evangelists and show your support for us as we seek to help people find life and life to the full. Please pray for our evangelists; read Val’s story on these pages; use the coupon below to get a copy of our Prayer Diary, or visit
Join us, however you can, and your support can really make a difference!
Finally, someone asked me recently: ‘Why aren’t all Christians evangelists? Surely you should be so changed by Christ, so alive to the life he brings, that it’s impossible for anyone to keep it in?’
Now there’s a challenge for us all!
Val Thom is a Church Army evangelist in the Upper Shankill area of Belfast. At the centre of "the troubles" for over 30 years, it is now the most socially and economically deprived area of Northern Ireland.
"At first this was the last place I felt I wanted to be, but as I walked about I felt God in my heart saying, ‘This is where I need you to work’.
"Ministry here can be very difficult, a lot of people suffer. One of those was Nathan, who had leukaemia. He was a great young man and we had a very close friendship.
"Because of the person Nathan was, many of his friends just assumed he would live through his illness. Shortly before he died in March, Nathan had given his life to Christ, and now we find a lot of the youngsters want to share his hope for eternity. We’re learning that if he hadn’t died, a lot of them wouldn’t be looking to Christ for the answers. But it’s a tough and painful lesson."
In his 17 years, Nathan exemplified the promise of living life to the full. His courage in battling his illness; his inspiration to other children; and his ability to unite the community by organising events – these all show God at work in him.
In the broader community, Val works with all ages, helping to heal the deep wounds that recent history has left in the area.
"My calling is to be an evangelist, to be salt and light, and to bring Christ to people. Lots of people here have never had a positive experience of Christ, but knowing Nathan has given me hope, courage and inspiration to go on, because he had an interest in the things of God that many don’t have. I could see the evangelist in him."
Val admits that her ministry with Nathan and his family challenged her own faith. "It made me look deeper into my relationship with God. In the end it made me realise that in life there is only one hope and that is in him."