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.

The challenges of our present context are having an impact on us all. If we ever wondered what on earth Jesus meant in the parable of the sower when he said: Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. (Mark 4:7) even with his explanation: like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. (Mark 4:19) we are no longer under any illusion. 

Permacrisis was the 2022 word of the year according to Collins dictionary. However, with our recent and present experience (climate crisis, economic crisis, cost of living crisis, fuel crisis, etc) we don’t need a dictionary to understand the meaning. If the reality equated to one crisis following another it would be challenging enough, but crises appear to lack our British politeness of queuing! We talk about ‘rapid discontinuous change’ with leadership teams throughout our Re-imagine process, but our recent experience has taken this to a whole new level. Permacrisis is here to stay!

How as leadership teams of local churches do we cope with wave after wave of crises, calling for our attention? I imagine it won’t come as a surprise to anyone my answer will be to point us towards Jesus. The only way I know to follow Jesus’ call to ‘seek first the kingdom’ is not to ignore everyone, or everything else, but to ensure my responses to everyone and everything else are framed by my response to Jesus.Today the priority for the church is discipleship. Always has been. As churches and local leadership teams, as well as a regional network and regional ministry team, our main focus must be on growing disciples of Jesus. However, we must not fall into the trap of thinking because we have identified our challenge we have done anything to address it. Identifying discipleship as our number one priority is not our greatest challenge: it is doing something about it. 

Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. (Mark 3:13-15) 

It’s maybe not a surprise I should be drawn to such a passage at the beginning of a new year. However, allow me to pass on what are perhaps obvious, but essential on-going challenges I and we all need to grapple with: 

Jesus called those he wanted: when Jesus called me it was because he wanted me. 

I do need to respond: they came to him. Is my response to him wanting me, or my wanting him (to answer/solve my problem)?

Jesus’ priority is to be with him: that they might be with him. I need to stop and remember he called me, first and foremost, to be with him, not to be a good leader, deacon, husband, wife, parent, employee, etc. And I need to remember this not simply at the beginning of this year, but every day.

Jesus calls me, but then sends me out: that they might be with him and that he might send them out. This strikes me as hugely significant. I know I’m sent out by Jesus, but I often assume I know where I’m headed. Unless I’ve been with him sufficiently, however, I risk going off at a tangent to his direction.  

I’m sent on his business, not mine! to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.

The servant of the good news is never in control of it. Whilst these two elements have a depth of meaning attached to each of them, for me today and hopefully every day throughout this year, I hope I shall take each of them seriously in their broadest sense. I know enough Greek to understand the essence of the word translated here as preach, means ‘proclaim’, so silence cannot become my default as a follower of Jesus! Similarly, recognising Jesus, the one to whom all authority has been given (Mt.28:18), now delegates authority to drive out demons, means passivity in the face of evil is not an option, or excuse.

Whilst encouraged by the hundreds of downloads, so far, of the Discipleship Cycle App, it needs to become thousands. For 2023 Monday to Friday,  ‘walking with Jesus’ will be the theme to guide you chronologically through the life of Jesus. The motivation behind all of this is to significantly increase the number of people who, not only regularly listen to the words of Jesus, but also live them. This is the best way I know to consciously ‘be’ with Jesus.

Nigel Coles
Regional Team Leader