Thursday, 22 January 2009

Dear Friends - January

Dear Friends

Church has been cancelled. Not for ever; just February. And a bit of March as well. But why? What on earth could justify taking such a drastic step? Evangelism; that’s why! We’re so committed to helping enquirers get to grips with the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ that we’ll do what we can to get them to hear it. And so, as much as we love Sunday Evening Church, we’re prepared to suffer a bit of mild personal inconvenience just so that others might be able to join us.

Personally I’m very excited by the initiative to run Christianity Explored in place of Evening Church. The last time we did this, one of our elders got converted! What I mean is that one of our current elders, [who wasn’t an elder back then], came along on a Sunday evening, heard the gospel and was converted. Who knows what the Lord might decide to do this time? I’d love to see the same sorts of numbers of guests that came to the Bedford Carols at Christianity Explored, wouldn’t you?

I guess some of us might be asking, ‘what can I do to get ready for February 1st?’ Let me suggest that there are three ways that we can get involved so that we take part as a participant rather than simply as a spectator.

1. We can pray!

That great first century evangelist, the Apostle Paul, knew that the success of his missionary activity depended to a very great extent on the prayers of others. So in Colossians 4:2-4 he pleaded with his friends to pray. He wanted them to ask God to open the way for the gospel and to help him be clear in his explanation. He might have been in possession of the finest evangelistic course ever written and could have had the best gospel opportunities afforded to man. But that’s not enough. On their own that won’t produce a single conversion. He needed God to be behind his evangelistic endeavours. And so do we. Evangelism is ultimately God’s activity. He has chosen those whom He will save; we don’t know who they are. But He uses our prayers coupled with our evangelistic efforts to bring to saving faith those whom He has chosen. And so we’re partners with God in one of the most exciting responsibilities given to humanity. So lets’ pray; as a church, in our congregations, in our small groups, in our triplets and on our own. Let’s ask God to give His backing to our Christianity Explored project this year. In particular, why not think of two or three people whom you would love to invite so that they might follow Christ as you do. And pray for them every day.

2. We can pitch up!

The church remains the single best apologetic presence to challenge the sceptical assumptions of a secular world. In Matthew 5, Jesus said that we’re a city on a hill. And so it’s by looking at us and observing how we live that people will be drawn to the lifestyle with Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Christianity Explored provides a wonderful opportunity for our friends, colleagues and neighbours to come into the city of God, walk around and meet its inhabitants. They can chat to us, ask us questions about why we believe what we do and enter into lively debate about the big issues of life. But if we’re not there then they’ll assume the city is deserted and they’ll have no one to talk to. We’ll look like the Square Mile at the weekend! Of course, not everyone will be able to come every week. I imagine it’ll be problematic for some from the All Age Congregation to join us because someone’s got to bath the kids, do Bible story and put them to bed. But I suspect that some of us will be tempted to take a few weeks off. That’s human nature. The sinful bit! We need ‘all hands on deck’. There are lots of things that need doing even if none of our friends were willing to join us. And so, do come, I want my friends to meet my church family. Collectively we may not be that impressive but we are attractive. God has brought together a very ordinary group of people who love Him and love one another, and that’s powerfully persuasive to those who otherwise might normally be very dismissive of Christianity.

3. We can pull out all the stops!

In Matthew 25:26f Jesus berated the wicked slothful servant who’d done nothing with Jesus’ investment. He cast him out into the outer darkness to experience unparalleled torment. For my money this servant was a servant in name only. He showed what he thought of the Kingdom of God and its’ ruler, Jesus Christ in his refusal to do anything with Jesus’ investment in him. He went to hell because he didn’t belong to Jesus or believe the gospel. The Bible is clear that no genuine Christian is going to lose their salvation, so don’t panic. Our ungodliness will not undo the work of Christ in securing our salvation. But let’s not be functional unbelievers. Let’s not be guilty of doing nothing with the responsibility that Jesus has given to every single one of us to be using our resources, abilities and opportunities for the growth of the gospel. Of course none of us will go to hell for failing to bring anyone along to Christianity Explored. But imagine how wonderful it would be to hear from Jesus those words of affirmation and appreciation when he says, ‘well done good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master’. So let’s really pull out all the stops. We may never have tried to invite anyone to church before but let’s get hold of an invitation, think about what we’re going to say, pray and then step out and see where God takes us. We may have had little success with our friends in recent months but let’s pray and give it a go once again. If we brought friends to Christmas events let’s see whether they want to follow up on that. Let’s invite everything that moves because the good news of adoption by the Father, forgiveness of sins through the Son and transformation of life through the Spirit is too good to keep to ourselves!

With best wishes in Christ