Pope Benedict XVI will be remembered for many things – and the shock announcement of his retirement is always likely to be one of them! No Pope has retired for over 600 years, and it would seem that no-one at all saw it coming. Within days the process for electing his successor was under way and it a new Pope will probably be installed within a few weeks. Those who claim that the Church of Rome moves slowly need to think again!
This certainly seems to be a season for new appointments, and during the coming month I look forward to attending the enthronement of Justin Welby as the new Archbishop of Canterbury. I am sure that it will be an amazingly grand and joyful occasion, but nothing can mask the enormity of the role and the human impossibility of the task. After his ten years in office Rowan Williams must, at times, have reflected on the apparent impossibility of getting anything right. The press was always ready to pounce, and display him in the least attractive light.
Baptists are also involved in making new appointments. The search for a new General Secretary for the Baptist Union of Great Britain is well under way now. During the coming month applications will be considered by the Nominating Group with a view to interviewing candidates during April. If you have read the job description you will may well have gasped at the enormity and breadth of the role. The General Secretary is not a Pope nor even an Archbishop but it is a vital ministry amongst us and we need to pray earnestly that the Lord will lead us to the right person.
I acknowledge that the role of General Secretary – now and in the future – is impossible. It is beyond any human being to tick all the boxes. This is a vital observation and it applies to every single ministry. Everything that God calls us to do is impossible in our human strength. Teaching a Sunday school class is beyond us. Working as a church administrator is completely impossible if we are relying on our own resources. Ministering in a church, whatever its size, is beyond anyone's ability. None of us is able to do God's work on the basis of our own skills, strength and abilities.
Last summer I had the privilege of preaching at a church convention in the East End of London and I was given a red wrist band which I haven't taken off since then. It has five words taken from Luke 1: 37 'Nothing is impossible with God.' Serving God in any capacity is beyond our human ability. We are simply not up to it, whether we are called to be youth leader, Pope, church secretary, Archbishop, play group leader or General Secretary.
Whatever your calling remind yourself constantly of its sheer impossibility without the grace and strength of God.
Never forget – 'Nothing is impossible with God.'