As we start the New Year can I encourage you to be positive about the future. There is so much negativity about the Church in the media, in society and even in the Church itself that we are often tempted to be if not to feel hopeless. I am convinced that our first job as Christians and particularly as leaders is to put aside these things including the inconsistencies of our own life and of the Church’s life and simply live like we believe. I know this may sound a little hypocritical but I suspect we have little other choice.
When belief lives in doubt it has ceased to be belief and, while all belief must cope with doubt it shouldn’t be shaped by it. An old Rugby coach of mine used to repeat the adage ‘Hesitate and you’re lost’ as a primary rule of thumb for playing the game well. By this was meant, of course, that one had to commit to one’s chosen course of action on the Rugby field 100% or the hesitation alone would give the opposition all the chance they needed. There is too much hesitation in today’s Church; too much living out our doubts rather than our belief in a loving God; too much fear of failure driving us.
The Church doesn’t have to be triumphalist to be confident in God. We have a God who loves the Church. Why wouldn’t God want the Church to be successful in both preaching and living out the Gospel? We don’t have to become self-effacing and lack-lustre to represent the Gospel. We can be confident in it because it is the foundation of a well-lived life and a fair society and the best way to represent this is to live confidently in the Gospel – to commit to it whole-heartedly and joyfully.
Perhaps the greatest single factor in the loss of confidence within the Church is what is perceived to be the failure of the institution and of certain individuals within it. We cannot deny the statistics and the loss of status within Western society over the last 100 years. For all the work the Spirit does within us we all continue to struggle with sin and with brokenness and yet this shouldn’t be a reason for despair but for rejoicing. The brokenness of the Church and of its people and leaders only confirms and glorifies the grace of God in continuing to bless it and raise up followers from within society. We will always have to contend with less than perfect people and less than perfect leaders and yet doesn’t this enable us time and again to look upon those outside the Church with the eyes of mercy?
Living confidently out of our belief in God’s love won’t fix everything but it will encourage those around us to look also to the God whose love we are reflecting. Living confidently out of our belief in God’s love won’t change the world but it may well change the bit of the world which revolves around us. Living confidently out of our belief in God’s love won’t make us perfect but it will help us to try again when we fall because we know that God’s grace is real.
Can I then encourage us all to be confident in the gospel as we begin this year, not because we are in any way superior to others but because we believe and are committed to the God whose love never gives up.
Happy New Year!