I wrote this article summer 2013, and am reminded of it today, after a church service I attended in Northern Ireland which brought me close to tears with gratitude thinking back to this all, in June 2007, when John Kirkby and I met, and we prayed to declare in the spirit that Northern Ireland was now open to CAP.
The original clip I wrote of from Channel 4 does not seem to be easily accessible, so if you want to know more of John Kirkby, here is a good interview on youtube:
Hope this is useful/ encouraging to some people / person out there potentially reading this tonight
Is Jesus really relevant to the 21st century poor?
For anyone living in the UK, tonight you may well have seen the “4 thought” clip – a five minute television clip allowing someone of faith to talk on a matter he or she wishes, which this national television channel in the UK then broadcasts to the nation for all to see, usually at 7.55pm after their nightly main news bulletin.
As I happened to be watching Channel 4 tonight, at the time when this little snippet about faith came on, I continued to watch, to my great interest, as someone I knew from having met him a number of years ago during my time living in the north of England, appeared before my eyes.
Mr John Kirkby, whom many may or may not know as the founder and visionary behind what is now one of the UK’s biggest charities, “Christians Against Poverty,” was speaking for a few minutes on the show tonight, about whether Jesus is really relevant to the poor today or not. You can access it online if you want, too, after this. (See link at the end of this article).
As I watched and listened to John, a flood of personal memories and stories I have of this great and humble man of faith impacting me through personal conversations whilst we interacted in 2006/2007 came flooding back to my mind. I was once again inspired and encouraged deeply by his story, as here is a most humble man, from really poor beginnings, who has now gone on to do immeasurably more than probably all he could have ever asked or imagined, from his desperate days of crying out to God in a dire state of immense sincere life and soul destroying poverty in Bradford all those years ago. If you want to hear his story, and the very short clip I viewed, you can access it via the link here, and at least get a tiny taster of this man who is so full of integrity and good, all of which in themselves reflect Jesus so admirably and make me want to represent him better too.
Back in 2007, I met John for the first time, as we both attended the same church for that year, during a period when I was living and working for a church in Bradford, England. John was someone a bit different, even from the first time I came across him, and I loved to watch him worship with his girls at his side during passionate praise times.
This was before I even knew his story.
John was an overseer of the Charity I helped out in within the local community that year, and our paths crossed one Saturday evening over dinner at a lovely local Indian restaurant, eating hot and fiery curry (I seem to recall vividly,) and sharing phenomenal peshwaari naan bread!
I had the pleasure of chatting with John all evening, as it ended up that we were paired to sit opposite one another and we soon began to chat about church, God, life, faith, poverty, Northern Ireland, Bradford, the world and everything in between!
It was then followed by John inviting me down to his ‘CAP’ (Christian’s Against Poverty) HQ building in Bradford for him to kindly show me around, and then to have a further cup of tea together on Tuesday morning near the end of my year there, back in 2007.
As we connected and he faithfully followed up his kind invitation to show me around the rather impacting old renovated mill building where his growing world-wide charity is housed, I was feeling rather privileged to be invited in and made a cup of tea by this mighty apostolic leader, yet so full of real Christ-like humility and warmth, especially to a ‘no-body’ like me.
Soon, John and I discussed a few more things, and settled on my passion of Northern Ireland, as John conceded he really wanted for CAP to be able to break into Northern Ireland and set up some debt centres in this little part of the world, but up until that point, it had not yet been able to do so. I said I would help him and would love to see this vision fulfilled, and so we chatted some more and I said I would write an article for him and put it into one of the local media outlets, and help him also by praying, which we both knew to be the real important thing it is. So we prayed together that morning and I invited CAP proverbially to come to my country, to Northern Ireland, and I followed it up with the actions backing up my earlier words. The article was written and John also encouraged me with other words that morning which impacted me deeply and encouraged me to go do the things on my heart to do.
After this rather significant cup of tea with John Kirkby in Bradford, I was and am extremely glad to be able to see the answers to these prayers myself as CAP began to receive favour not experienced before with several churches in Northern Ireland, including the one I grew so much in as a young adult, and with a deep heart connection to, where a good friend and leader there took on the challenge of helping set up a CAP centre that would serve and impact the local area in this manner. As well as the one I sat in today, in Magherafelt, Mid-Ulster – 23/10/2016.
I still marvel at what God has done and continues to do here in Northern Ireland through CAP as I think back to that amazing blessed cup of tea with John Kirkby back on a rainy summer’s morning back in Bradford in June 2007. God is amazing and we give him all the glory for what He is doing in changing lives, one life at a time, setting them free from debt and leading them into life and freedom and wholeness in Christ, one life at a time, not just in Northern Ireland, but right across the world.
Channel 4 were asking a pertinent question tonight through showing this 2 minute clip of John Kirkby’s story, to a society we live in currently dogged by debt, and yet so empty of spirituality. Many long for a Jesus they’ve never known, who IS relevant to their 21st century life, problems and all. Sadly, so often we – the church – are so much a part of the problem, not part of the answer, not showing this real Jesus who really does care so passionately and poignantly for the poor in our society. (Who by the way can be driving BMW cars and living on nice houses down the street). So John Kirkby’s answers and story, tonight, I believe, hold much weight and significance for all in the 21st century struggling to make ends meet or cover costs of essential living.
Jesus was all about helping the poor, and feeding the poor and enriching the poor. And who ARE these “poor” anyway? It is you, it is me, quite often, if we cared to admit it, as all too many of us continue to overstretch ourselves each month and fall deeper into subtle hidden debt ourselves, and yet care to not admit it. Is it just me, though, or do you hate it when churches simply talk down to people calling them, “the poor,” and fail to see how shockingly patronizing and middle class such language even is?
It is all too often our middle class wealthy Christian churches here in the UK and West in general which make Jesus less than accessible with our conveyance that perhaps Jesus and Christianity are really only for the middle classes and those who do not have any real worries financially.
Nothing could be further from the truth, and as John Kirkby said tonight in Channel 4’s tv clip, with his desire to convey to people out across the UK and beyond whom he and CAP work with, that Jesus is very relevant to these people’s situations today. John conveyed that their identity and value is not in what they own or what they wear, for example, but that, “Their value is in God.”
No one can argue with a transformed life. The discipline and profession of Psychology, for example, holds personal stories and experience in the highest regard. I love John Kirkby for many reasons, but not least because his is a life totally beautifully transformed by God, and God alone, who took him out of his messy debt and deep problems, and transformed his life so he could then be a trophy of grace, able to be empowered by his Father God to help thousands and thousands of others, with the comfort and help he himself had received.
If you’re struggling with debt, as in fact perhaps many of you may be reading this, do not let the weight choke you. Just as John shared, debt is soul destroying. Choose to fight this. Reach out for help. Reach out for God. Get practical help if you need it from CAP or other practical charities out there designed to help others. Don’t suffer in silence. Jesus is indeed relevant to our 21st century poverty issues. And have you ever known Buddha to come and meet with you in your silent tears and bring comfort and love in ways Jesus by his Spirit and his people does?