How River City Church came to be – Part 3

As a church Jubilee felt they had heard God say EAST EAST EAST (Part 1), meaning we should start a church in the East of Hull. Then John and I had felt God speak to us as a couple and say EAST EAST EAST (PART 2) to us, confirm we were to lead the church plant and take a team with us from Jubilee to do it.

We now knew beyond all doubt that God had a plan for us and that it was separate from our beloved Jubilee Church. Whilst it was awe-inspiring that the living God had spoken to us and in such a clear and loving way, we felt completely overwhelmed. How could we possibly start another church? Jubilee was everything to us. It did everything we felt a church should do well. It was hard to imagine ourselves every being able to carry a vision for something different. What did God have in mind? Were we to be Jubilee mark II? It was clear from some of the prophetic words God had already spoken that the two churches would relate to each other like sisters with the same DNA but different personalities. So what personality was the new church to have?

We knew we needed God to speak clearly, yet again. And we simply asked Him to.

Joining the Dots

John and I spent time discussing all the significant things we felt God had used to speak to us over the last few months of our journey. During a missions trip for South Africa John had been given a prophetic word by the team of leaders that ran the church out there as they prayed and sought God for our little church plant.

“When this church (in Clarens, South Africa) got started we had an renowned artist as part of the team that started it. They set up their studio here and slowly over time the poor township of Clarens has become known for the arts through this persons work and he work of the church. In a similar way I see for you culture being grown in East Hull as the church plant arrives. I see old canals and unused waterways reopening and water flowing into the east of the city. As the church plant goes we will bring culture and prosperity and life to that part of the city, see that part of the city regenerated through the presence of the church.”

This word got me thinking about three scriptures God had given me, in a row, at a worship night I had been at:

Isaiah 55:
Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. (Isaiah 55:1-2 NIV)

Ezekiel 47: 1-12
The man brought me back to the entrance to the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the EAST (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar. He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing east, and the water was trickling from the south side. As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in—a river that no one could cross. He asked me, “Son of man, do you see this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds—like the fish of the Mediterranean Sea. But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt. Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” (Ezekiel 47:1-12 NIV)

The first two had come as though my bible had ‘fallen’ open on those pages and as I began to read I was gripped with a knowing that God wanted me to pay attention as He was speaking those words to me. At that point I knew that Jubilee were going to plant into East Hull and so any mention of the word East was arresting me. The third scripture came as a man in the church emailed me a prophetic word he felt God speaking to him about me.

‘On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.’ (John 7:37-39 NIV)

The man felt streams of living water were about to start flowing out of me and that others were going to want to experience this too. What was more amazing was that as I reread these three verses over the next few days I realised along with the word from John’s time in SA a clear theme was emerging!

John and I prayed about these scriptures, knowing that God had been clearly speaking to us long before we’d been ready to listen. We knew he wanted us to plant a church and now a clear theme was emerging about water and rivers. We began to study these themes in the bible and were amazed by what we found.

What do rivers and water represent through the bible?

Over and over again throughout the bible God uses the image of a river to explain something of Himself to the human mind, so we can grasp who he is and what he does. From genesis to revelation. The themes of water and rivers, often represent life both morally, spiritually and physically. Conversely the desert or dry lands represented death and the judgement of God on morally corrupt people. He often describes those who have wronged God as like dry bones in a parched land. This was very significant to the people of that day – if you didn’t live near a river you would die. Your crops wouldn’t grow, your animals and your family would have nothing to drink. You would die. You had to be near water to survive and flourish. Dwellings, towns and cities sprang up wherever there was good access to a life giving river. From reading the bible Gods people understood him to be the source of life. And if they drank from his water – ie did what he asked of them – they would be made morally and spiritually pure.

Genesis 2 – four great rivers run out of Eden. Eden was the starting point of the rivers that brought life to the surrounding lands. Eden was where God first dwelt on earth with his people. God shows us that he is the source of life. Gods people (Adam and Eve) dwelt with him and be enjoyed his life giving presence. But this is ruined by sin.

Then the prophet Ezekiel (Ez 47) prophesies that God will create this again one day. God will dwell again on earth with his people in the temple and they would enjoy his life giving presence – like the rivers that watered the lands around Eden, the water flows out of the temple to the lands around –  speaking of a prophetic picture that other lands and people were to benefit from God’s life giving presence. The Jewish people were supposed to to be the ones that shared Gods life to others.

Jesus stands up on the feast of tabernacles and claims that he is the fulfillment of this prophesy:

He is now the temple – the place where God dwelt on the earth. And then he says anyone who believes in him would then have the living God dwell at his core and put in him a pure heart that would always desire to keep his ways. The living water they would experience would be the power of the Holy Spirit, making them spiritually pure, right before God and it would flow out of them to others around them. Sharing with others Gods life giving message.

What is God trying to say?

Put simply:

God sees the people of East hull and they are thirsty. Only he can satisfy their thirst. He calls them to a spiritually pure life, one washed in his blood, but also a loving obedient life, life in all its fullness, one characterised by freedom, success, joy and hope. As Christians, those coming with us to plant a church in East Hull are like water carriers in the desert. If we choose to keep the life to ourselves others will die. It is our job to take the water to the people God is sending us to.

It has been so helpful to record all God has said and done in getting us to this point in our journey. Thanks to those that are reading, please pray for us that we could put all of this into action!

Abi held a funeral for her design career after birthing two churches and three children. She now helps lead a local church alongside her husband John and a team of great people, as well as working for her larger network of churches as their Communications Manager. Life is full but fun.

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