It would be hard to imagine a more anxious beginning to a New Year. Politicians have lined up to parade their fears and forebodings, and even the anticipation of the Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee has done little to take the edge off the gloomy mood. Meanwhile, as a Baptist family, we have just launched a consultation into our life together spurred by our own financial challenges.
It would be easy for us to get sucked into the mood of hopelessness and despair which is gripping our society, but I am convinced that God calls us to be counter-cultural. He calls us to renew our confidence in him, and to reaffirm our faith in his transforming presence whatever the circumstances. With our eyes fixed on him, we are able to look to the future, with all its inevitable challenges, with a deep peace and an unshakeable confidence.
This is where our thinking must begin as the people of God. If we begin with the statistics and the problems then we will soon drive into sand. Before anything else we are a people of faith, and we can only make good decisions together when our eyes are firmly fixed on God. I visited a church recently where they begin their Church Members’ Meetings with an hour of worship. I’m not suggesting that it has to be an hour, but I am convinced that we need to ensure that all our decision making is firmly placed in the context of worship.
Emboldened by worship, we can then face the problems before us with peace and energy. God wants us to give the best of our minds to our work for him, so we should expect to reflect deeply and imaginatively as we move forward. The Baptist Union Council has set up a Futures Group which is charged with bringing forward proposals to enable us to work towards a balanced budget. At present we are seeking the opinions of as many people as possible in the firm belief that God will speak as we listen to one another. We are not seeking to be democratic (with power placed in the people’s hands) but deliberately theocratic (with power placed firmly in God’s hands), affirming our confidence in God to lead us to a good place.
None of this is going to be easy. Difficult decisions will have to be taken, and it is inevitable that some of the work that we do at present will be discontinued. This will be painful for us all, and we will need to be very supportive of one another and deeply prayerful as we face the challenges ahead.
Without God we would be entitled to feel despairing and hopeless. But with God, we can, incredibly, move forward together with confidence in him and with the sure knowledge that he will continue to guide us just as he has done for the last 400 years.