Each month we’ll be hearing from one of our Regional Ministers, to encourage us along the way as we continue empowering missional disciples in our communities across the West of England.
Be the church! That’s my fundamental answer to the growing list of questions concerning what shall we do? Let’s be honest, many of us are struggling with knowing what we must do. Will we face another lockdown, do we put everything back on-line, do we ask everyone to mask up, do we discourage people from meeting in small home groups?
As we set off into 2022 the questions appear never-ending. Now, let me let you into a secret before we get out of January: they are. This time next year the questions we face may well be totally different. However, questions there will be, as will the people looking at us as Christians (particularly those of us who carry some leadership responsibility), for answers.
Being the church, aspiring to be all Jesus has called us to be as his people across the West of England must be the essence of our focus, prayers and activities, as we move forwards into 2022.
Hope has been a big theme for us over the last two years and as Peter reminds us: our hope, rooted in Jesus Christ, provokes questions. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15) Yet how do people spot someone who has the kind of hope they’re looking for?
The answer is by being who we’re called to be by God. Individually we are called to be holy (1 Peter 1:13-16) and collectively be the church (1 Peter 2:9-10).
The headings the NIVUK translation uses to summarise the first four chapters of Peter’s first letter are very helpful:
Praise to God for a living hope (1:3-12) Whatever has happened, or will happen, in the face of the reality of death we have a living hope through Jesus.
Be holy (1:13-2:3) Whatever the circumstances, we can be who Jesus calls us to be and live focused on the fullness of the glimpses we have already seen.
The living stone and a chosen people (1 Peter 2:4-10) Whatever threatens us we are being built on a solid and unshakable foundation.
Living godly lives in a pagan society (1 Peter 2:11-3:7) Whatever the dominant culture which surrounds us, we can be the light of God for everyone.
Suffering for doing good (1 Peter 3:8-22) Whatever suffering I might endure for being a follower of Jesus, or what life throws across my path, we have an everlasting inheritance ahead.
Living for God (4:1-11) Whatever challenges are presented to us, sticking to the pathway of God is as God intended and places us in the light of his blessing.
Suffering for being a Christian (4:12-19) Whatever we suffer for being followers of Jesus, we are kept by the faithful Creator.
Peter’s letter addresses the most common reasons we might want to avoid God’s calling to be his people in both theory and practice, both gathered and scattered.
We might say we’re being singled out for being a follower of Jesus, but Peter’s first hearers were in the throes of Nero’s persecution.
We might say we’re not up to it, but Peter reminds us we are all ‘chosen’ and ‘God’s special possession’.
We might say it’s too hard, so Peter reminds us how Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
So how do we decide what we need to stop doing, or start doing, or keep on doing, as churches? I suggest you put your challenge or question alongside those headings above and ask one another: will this activity/meeting/gathering help us to achieve one or more of them more, or better? In other words, will doing this together help us to be the church Jesus Christ has called us to be for his glory and our generation?
There’s no one answer, but if you focus on the answer to this one question you will not go wrong. Be the church.
With love in Jesus’ name
Regional Team Leader