Imitators of the Lord
1 Thessalonians 1:2-10
I must say thank you again for all that I am hearing about churches and people praying; I am so encouraged and I want you to be too! Nearly 4,000 Beacons of Prayer bookmarks have been sent out in response to requests from churches - wow, all those people and churches serious about prayer; this is something to celebrate! I am trying to capture as many stories as possible to add to our Beacons of Prayer stories section of our website so that you can be inspired as much as I am.
Recently I have been up in the North East and was able to see first hand how Westgate Baptist Church in Newcastle has created prayer spaces in its buildings in different ways. The image for this blog post is from their foyer and was a piece of artwork created by refugee Kuorosh Edalat, a professional artist and illustrator working with local children from St Paul’s C of E school. It was also good to go prayer walking before the morning service with the lovely folk from Beacon Lough Baptist Church. From another part of the country, we were so encouraged to hear at Baptist Steering Group in October how the pioneering community '57 West' in Southend had been led in a surprising new direction as a result of a day of prayer and fasting. Click here to read more about the inspiring ministers we met on that occasion. Let's keep praying!
I have started reading 1 Thessalonians recently and I have been captivated by these verses that say we are imitators of Christ:
'You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message, with joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers...' Verses 6-7
For me there is a powerful beauty in imitating Jesus. Imitating Jesus is not content simply knowing about Jesus; it longs to be like Jesus.
All through the Gospels we see the compelling presence of Jesus as he encounters people and invites them to embrace his Kingdom and follow him. And what I notice in these verses from 1 Thessalonians is that same compelling effect, as 'ordinary' believers imitate Jesus and model something in their communities that invites others to embrace the Kingdom and follow Jesus.
I was captivated even more deeply, however, when I got to 1 Thessalonians 2:14,
'For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God's churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus...'
I had not really thought before about churches imitating one another and Jesus but I like the idea and I am going to be thinking and praying more about this in the next few days and what it means for us as Baptists Together. What is it about your church that is worthy of imitation? Do we know our sister churches well enough to imitate them? Do we have the corporate humility to imitate what we see of Jesus in other churches?
As I have begun to ponder this passage, I have not only been moved by the powerful beauty of imitation, I have also felt the challenge that this involves. How much of what I do and the things that I invest in are actually about imitating Jesus? It is so easy for us as believers, leaders and churches to get fixed on our own version of God's agenda and our own ideas of what is important and what is not.
So in the next few days, as I dwell in this passage, I am going to be praying that the Spirit will draw me into a deeper and more authentic imitation of Christ and at the same time asking myself the challenging questions about whether what I am doing practically is really imitation or merely self-justifying activity. As I said earlier, I shall also be praying about what it means for our churches to imitate Jesus and each other. As always, I invite you to pray with me.