Here I am again, frustrated of Wakefield, but with a Truth to share. In all my disappointments and doubts, there is Truth staring me in the face. It is as though Jesus is alongside me.
“Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’” (John 18:37, NRSV)
At last I can see those amazing Christians who belong to the Truth and witness to the Truth by listening to Jesus’ voice. Of course, we have always had the testimonies of saints, whether in history, or living in horrendous situations today – stories of humbling Faith and commitment to the Kingdom of God, often involving miracles and wonders. Amazing as they are, they can depress me even more, as I look at my life, and my pathetic response to the Gospel, feeding off a world of affluence and freedoms. But let me share one or two encouragements of the Church around us working together as the body of Christ – very ordinary, almost mundane, yet spiritually powerful and a witness to Truth
A recent meeting of Northerly Synods was one of the best I have ever attended in the United Reformed Church! Five different groups – Buildings, Lay Leadership, Deployment, Children and Young People and I.T., met over three days to explore how better we can work together, organise our resources and develop common plans and training all for the sake of God’s mission in our local churches and communities. Here were people, who each had specialist experience and wisdom in the area we were looking at, but more than this – they all believed Jesus Christ is working among us, were all determined to find His way forward, came away with definite plans, with each person responsible for some aspect of its delivery. It was all well-facilitated, and though the synod moderators and clerks were there, they were released to stand back, see the overall picture and discern the direction God is leading us together. It wasn’t long ago that there were walls between the synods, a sense of parochial independence, with suspicion, maybe even rivalry between the synods. If they were there, these barriers have broken down and we are sharing our vulnerability and our strengths for God’s sake.
I have seen this in Yorkshire, as churches discover, not only the realities of deployment and decline, but also the real possibilities of working in new ways together. Many ways this has meant letting go of private agendas and history of hurts, but here it has happened there is a discovery of new Life. In our own synod office, we followed Appreciative Inquiry to build on our strengths, and with the willingness of all of our synod staff, we are pulling together and supporting each other as a team.
As General Assembly Moderator I have been thrilled to meet so many people who are following Jesus in amazing ways. Some belong to churches which are struggling to survive, and yet find the time and commitment to serve their communities week in and week out. But there is a growing need to release these from buildings or money-worries or a local church no longer able to continue. Others have found new and exciting ways to be Church, engaging with their communities in life-giving ways. These need the support and resources of the wider Church to encourage and develop this local mission. Yet others are discovering local ways of working with other churches, denominations and partners to serve their communities. Here we need to remove any denominational restrictions to set the people free for their context.
Apologies but I love mnemonics – so here is mine for seeing TRUTH standing in front of me
T for the amazing TRUST I have seen – trust in God to seek God’s will, and discern God’s provision for us to live out God’s purposes. But also TRUST among each other, as sisters and brothers, to be open to share our weaknesses as well as our strengths so that we can support, and build up each other. I put this first because this is the first step in Walking the Way.
R for the REALISM and RELEVANCE in the way I have seen Christians working through their challenges – with ways forward that are do-able using what resources they have. Therefore they become so encouraging when they are achieved and you can see the differences in people’s lives.
U for the UNITY as I see folk pulling together. It is when people recognise we may be in a mess, but we are in it together, and together includes God!
T for the TEAM as I know that we may be called by God individually, but we are discipled together- as the Holy Spirit builds the body of Christ, this amazing partnership – in modern parlance – TEAM JESUS!
H for the HUMILITY I have witnessed, and no more need be said, and let the glory be God’s!