Confidence in the gospel
Our calling from Christ to go and make disciples must begin and continue in prayer, writes Lynn Green... in the knowledge that God often works through you and me
One thing that I am often asked when I am visiting local churches is, “What are the greatest challenges facing the church at the moment?” Now that is a big question and all sorts of answers spring to mind!
But for me, by far and away the biggest challenge and opportunity for the church today is that something like 94 per cent of the population are not followers of Jesus. Our biggest challenge is one of mission and evangelism.
I was at a minister’s conference recently and was encouraged to hear of people being baptised through our churches. These were not isolated stories, but more examples of the faithful mission and evangelism that our churches engage in all year round. Yet while there is much to encourage us happening in our churches, we also need to take seriously the enormity of the task and seek the resources of heaven to witness to Christ in our generation.
Our calling from Christ to go and make disciples must begin and continue in prayer. One minister from one of our larger churches shared with me his concern that the church was not seeing growth through conversion. His conclusion was that programmes can only do so much; what the church really needed was to seriously seek God in prayer and have a hunger for Him that would flow out in authentic daily witness. We live in the midst of an era where we are seeing huge changes and I believe that God is shaking the nations.
As other generations before us have done, we need to cry out to the Lord in prayer, and sacrificially align ourselves with His Kingdom purposes. Our response to the challenges and opportunities we face must always be the prayerful pursuit of Christlikeness.
As we pray, we would do well to heed the instruction of Jesus in Matthew 9:37&38: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” In the face of our mission and evangelism challenge we can and do trust that God is at work, by His Holy Spirit, convicting people and bringing them to faith.
But there is also a vital connection here to people like us! God can work directly and amazingly to transform lives, but he often works through you and me. As already highlighted earlier in this magazine, this is seen clearly in our Declaration of Principle.
As Baptists Together, we need to mobilise everyone to be living as authentic disciples in the places we find ourselves. We need apostles and pioneers, prophets and preachers, evangelists and witnesses, pastors and teachers; all working together to bring in this vast harvest.
And so I believe that we need to re-discover (or discover!) a sense of confidence in the gospel. In 2015 Baptists Together shared in the funding of a major piece of research which was led by The Evangelical Alliance, The Church of England and Hope called Perceptions of Jesus. Visit http://www.talkingjesus.org/ to see what was discovered, including a summary booklet of the key findings of the research to enable local churches can begin to engage with the issues.
A couple of things stood out for me. Firstly, a significant proportion of the population don’t believe that Jesus was a historical person or are not sure if he was. Our first step is so often simply the task to tell people about Jesus!
Secondly, I was encouraged by the openness of the millennial generation (18-35s) to exploring Jesus and faith. What I have found though is that this needs us to learn new language. Sharing the Good News in terms of love, forgiveness, hope, peace, life, sacrifice and so on engages people in themes that are of universal concern.
I shall be attending a baptismal service myself next week and celebrating God’s grace and salvation with new followers of Jesus. My prayer is that there will be many, many more like this up and down our Country; for the glory of Christ’s name.
Picture of Lynn: Dinu Bucur Photography
The Revd Lynn Green is General Secretary of our Baptist Union
This article appears in the Summer 2016 edition of Baptists Together Magazine