A new year often opens up the possibilities of a fresh start. Perhaps last year was difficult for you or you were beset with health, money or relationship challenges. Maybe it was a year of change, transition, new starts and new things. Whatever you faced last year, whether joyful or challenging, the truth is that God calls us to trust Him in all circumstances and calls us to follow Him and live for him in whatever we face.
This truth is also true of the mission He calls us to as followers of Christ. God calls us to live for him in the world, engaging with those who do not know about him, trusting that as we model a life after Jesus, God will make a difference in peoples lives.
As many of us know the Western church is in a state of decline. The world we live in is becoming more secularised and the church, which was once at the centre of society, has in many ways been relegated to the margins as unimportant and irrelevant. The playing field which was once familiar to us as followers of Christ is constantly changing and we need new forms and ways of being the the church to impact the world we live in.
Instead of discouragement and anxiety we can be encouraged that this isn’t dissimilar to the experience of the early church in Acts. As we go back to the text, we are reminded that the early church operated from a place in the margins and grew. So what was different?
The early church gathered together centred on the risen Christ and were not so much consumed with church service structure or programs but rather intent on joining God in His mission for the good news to reach the world. The early church lived and acted like a movement, constantly changing, moving, redirecting itself as they followed the leading of the Holy Spirit. The people of God built relationships with others who did not know Jesus, prayed for the sick and modeled a way of life that challenged all who met them. The challenge for the church today I believe is two fold:
- We do not always appear very different from the world around us. How does the way you live model a way of life that imitates Jesus? Who knows what you believe and why you believe it? Who knows the values you live by and how you came to those? Who knows how you spend your money, what you do with your time and how you treat others? The reality is that often the only way people are going to see and experience Jesus is to see it modeled in relationship with you.
- We have lost a sense of our call to be people primarily concerned with the mission of God and become more concerned with how good the worship service experience is. Now I believe that it is really important to gather as the people of God to worship and remember this radical good news of the Kingdom of God, because we are called to follow Jesus in His mission in the world. Our focus therefore is not centred on ‘outreach programs’ at Christmas and Easter time but rather our energies our directed to engaging those around us, as we build relationship with them, invite people into our homes and ultimately into our lives. This is by and large the main way that people are going to engage with the good news of Jesus. It is rare these days to think that people can enter a church service and come away as a believer because a majority of people have no interest in the church, seeing it as irrelevant and out of touch with society. So the only way we are going to make a difference as people who follow the living God is to be actively engage with our neighbours, friends, work colleagues and the people who God has put us in relationship with.
So as Strathcona enters this new year, our hope and longing is that we will continue to have eyes and ears to see where God is at work, and then the courage and boldness to join God in His Kingdom mission of bringing the good news of Jesus to the world. This will happen as we continue to build relationships with those who don’t know Jesus yet and disciple others to follow Jesus, as they see and experience who He is through our lives.
If you are interested in finding out more of how we plan to do this, why not contact us or come along on any given Sunday that we are at Strathcona Community Centre. Click on our January – March 2014 calendar for our schedule.