Minister’s Letter – January 2020
9“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1 NIVUK)
This is our verse for 2020.
Each year of ministry at Clincarthill, I have tried to prayerfully discern our theme and verse for the year. This helps guide my thoughts when planning our times of Sunday worship, but I also hope this impacts our ministry-focus.
The theme for my first full year of ministry was “What kind of church is God calling us to be?” The answer was: a missional church.
Then, we focussed on the theme of prayer, understanding that, in order to become a missional church, we needed a solid foundation of prayer. Indeed, prayer is not just the foundation of being a missional church: prayer is THE foundation for all aspects of our faith. To quote Martin Luther, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Or perhaps Corrie Ten Boom, “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tyre?”.
The theme of this past year was a simple one: “why?” My hope had been that we would be bold in asking that question of many aspects of our faith and church: why do we believe what we do? Why are things a certain way in this congregation? Do they need to be this way? Should they be this way?
We, perhaps, didn’t explore these questions as bravely as we could. In any case, it was still a worthwhile theme: we learned, through Jesus’ own teaching in the Sermon on the Mount what He expects of His followers, and we discovered that, ultimately, whatever we do as Christians, it is to be for the glory of God alone. If it is not for His glory, then bluntly, it is not worth our time and we should not be doing it.
Throughout this journey, I’ve had the feeling we’re building toward something. I do not know what, exactly, but I feel that 2020 is the year we will find out. In the final sermon of 2019, I articulated that I have a sense of arriving at a God-given destination, much like His people did when they arrived at the Promised Land. Hence, for 2020, our first series is the book of Joshua: the recounting of the arrival and settling of the Promised Land. My hope is that, through the experience of God’s People in the past, God’s People in the present will be well equipped for our own destination.
Which, to my mind, means we need to start out as the people in Joshua’s day did: by hearing God encourage (no, command!) His people not to be afraid nor discouraged. Instead, we are to be strong and courageous, and trust that He will be with us throughout all this.
It can be tempting to remain stationary; even harken back to the past. These things are familiar and safe. The future is unknown and, dare we say, even threatening? But the future God has for us is far better than the past or the present: even if the journey to get there will be hard.
Let us, therefore, support one another and step forward in faith, for God is with us wherever we go. Be strong and courageous!