Reflections – Then and after with James Bowen

Where did you grow up from and tell us a bit about you?

Basically I grew up in Netherley but all my friends were from Norris Green, and as you know the area is known for quite a few problems. I always hung out with the wrong crowd, that is, the friends I had were not the best, due to the influence they had on me as a person. So at the age of 13, I was involved with the wrong people, making wrong decisions and doing things, that I knew were not right but did it anyway because that is what I had grown up with and was normal at that time.

When was that time when you decided something had to change?

Well, when I was young I didn’t go to church and I never took Christianity seriously. But when I hung out with the wrong friends, there was always something at the back of my mind telling me that life shouldn’t really be like it was. I also did not like it because I was always used by friends to do the wrong things for their own benefit. This did not help, because it caused trust issues in my life and low self esteem. I knew that I was in a bad place and ruining my life, but it was very difficult for me to let go.

Why do you think it was not an easy step for you to let go?

The people I lived with and hung out with were just associates, not real friends. But they were all I had at the time so deciding to do my own thing would mean losing the only people I knew and had which was not an easy place to be, because everyone wants to have a sense of belonging, regardless of where it comes from.

When you look back, what has changed now?

(Laughter) I remember the first time I entered Grace Family Church, I was drunk but still the warmth and love I received from the members in the church was lovely. I was also shocked with how lively the music was and I saw a completely different side of Christianity. That it was not boring but was actually fun. I also remember a guest speaker Howard Morgan who preached once about not judging. Which made my heart glad and I felt at peace. I am definitely more confident in who I am, happier and at peace with myself. It is also great to connect with people you can actually trust and to know that they have a genuine love and interest in you is amazing.

Where do you see yourself in the next 2-3 years or so?

I love rap music a lot and I find that I express myself more through this. So my desire is to reach out to people and tell them about God through Rap. I have talked to some of the people in church who are already doing, it like Jamie, and they have been very helpful and encouraged me to pursue my dream. I hope that some time in the future my dream will become a reality.

What lessons have you learnt from your past and present life? What advice would you give to those people who are struggling to find that inner peace or be better people in life?

When I reflect on the things I used to do or think of where I would be if I had not come to this church, it makes me realise how fortunate I am and how far I have come. I encourage those people who are still searching for peace, to give church a go and talk to someone. They should also remember that when they enter church, there is a reason why they walked in, in the first place. These are people who will connect with you, help you and not harm or use you.

Being a Kid

I count it a privilege to have worked in kid’s ministry as it gives you a chance to build a positive influence and an opportunity to join in the laughter and fun with our kids. Being a mum, it’s helped me to better understand how kids think and behave; it keeps me humble and makes me forget about issues in life. Kids are a blessing from God and have simple faith in Him. It’s interesting and refreshing hearing heartfelt prayers of a child, they have innocent faith and ask God for everything from toys to spacecrafts and it gives me a picture of how easy it is to relate to God in every situation.

Working with kids is inspiring and fulfilling as it helps shape their lives and brings out the best in them. There is such joy in making a real difference in a child’s life as they are our future leaders. It’s an opportunity for children to get to learn and experience God’s unconditional love for them and learn to love others in return. 

My daughter absolutely loves kid’s church as she gets to play with others and listen to bible stories and join in the activities and fun each Sunday.

I used to go to Sunday school when I was a child and loved meeting all my friends, I always looked forward to the rewards for being well behaved or participating in class. I used to spend my offering on sweets and chewing gum as a child and hoped God wasn’t watching. At times I thought God was going to get really mad at me but I learnt He is a merciful and loving God and forgives even before we ask for forgiveness.

I encourage parents to bring their children to kid’s church as it helps train our children in the fear and love of God, shaping their lives and helps bring out the best in them. Our children are a gift from God and it’s great for them to find the joy of a fun loving God whose faithfulness and love is beyond measure.

To all our lovely children, you are fearfully and wonderfully made and loved unconditionally and for all who work with kids, you are doing an amazing job as kids are precious and important to God. Jesus said: let the children come to me for theirs is the kingdom of God, Matt 19:14. 

Where does your passion lie?

How passionate are you about God’s house? How much do you value the church? Whenever our passion for God’s house is out of balance it is time to re-evaluate our attitudes and concepts towards the church.

Some foolishly say “I love Jesus but not His church”, but that is a contradiction since Jesus is the Head of the church! You see nothing matters more to Jesus than placing value on God’s house. Jesus shows His passion for God’s house (John 2:13-17) by driving out the money changers with a whip!

So where does your passion lie? Some people sacrifice to give of their time, gifts and finances. Do you? It’s not just the job of the Pastor, but do you do what you can to protect the church from gossipers, complainers, strife, disunity, critical attitudes etc? Even with all her imperfections and impurities the church has been the vehicle which God has used and is using since the day Jesus rose from the grave, to carry the message of salvation.

The church is God’s plan A and there is no plan B

So what is your attitude about church? Have you allowed familiarity to set in and church to you is just another event you attend or place you visit? Instead, church life is about getting realigned recharged and refuelled towards loving God and serving Him with all of our heart soul and mind.

Hebrews 10:25 says “And let us not neglect our meeting together as some do but encourage one another”. Do you see your role as encourager to others in the church? Are you planted in the house – “Those that are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.” Psalm 92:13. God wants to use each one as we position ourselves in the House ready to get involved and watch Him work through us. Like Jesus we should be in love with the House of God (Zeal for Your House has consumed me Psalm 69:9) it is where we continue to fall in love with God and experience His continual grace restoration and healing for our lives.

And so – can I challenge you to go to another level of commitment towards God’s House.