Priorities for the year to come
Last night I was at the GSF team meeting. A smaller team for GSF at a different time, a symbol of three aspects of our existence which are shared by our Sunday services and the ministries that reported at our All Leaders Meeting last Tuesday
1. Covid adaptation, in this case moving GSF to the Easter school holidays because of the omicron outbreak in January
2. Moving to normality, being able to hold GSF in person as opposed to being on-line as we were in 2021, and as we would have been in January
3. A shared determination to keep on doing what our Lord Jesus has called His disciples to do – make disciples, in a time of opportunity. Despite the difficulties of many not having holidays in April and many planning to take needed holidays, GSF will run, Lord willing, to share the gospel with boys and girls and help them learn what it is to be a follower of Jesus.
I would encourage you to support GSF in prayer and any other way you can, just as I strongly encourage you to plan to be at the picnic on Sunday week, March 27th.
I would encourage you to support GSF in prayer and any other way you can, just as I strongly encourage you to plan to be at the picnic on Sunday week, March 27th. This will be the first opportunity we have had to all be together.
This will be the first opportunity we have had to all be together, to remember that our congregations are part of a larger church where we are enriched by the gifts of many whom we may not yet know.
And gatherings, like the picnic – simple, outside, easily transferable if the weather is not right – are an important part of what are our priorities for the first half of the year, and probably for the whole year – regathering, reconnecting and reenergising our ministries and collective witness after the damage of disruption and isolation brought by Covid, regathering, reconnecting and reenergising as we seek to sustain ourselves in being followers of Jesus, people who are to be salt and light in our community by living in obedience to the Lord Jesus, people who are to be known as Jesus’ followers by our love for one another
Regathering, reconnecting and re-energising
Regathering, reconnecting and reenergising are our priorities because our times, pre and post covid, have not changed. We still live in the last days [1 Cor. 10:11], the time between our Lord’s ascension and pouring out of the Spirit on His people, and His return in glory. This is a time when God’s wrath is being revealed against ‘the godlessness and wickedness of people who in their wickedness suppress the truth’ of God [Romans 1:18]. It is also a time where God’s grace is being revealed each day in the preaching of the gospel and He is saving His people through the gospel, a time where what our Lord would have His followers engaged with, making disciples through preaching the gospel and teaching all that He has taught us, has not changed [Matt. 28:18-20].
Regathering, reconnecting and reenergising are our priorities because our times, pre and post covid, have not changed.
And in this time church, our gathering as believers in the Lord Jesus and our common life as His followers, is important. Local congregations are described in Scripture as Christ’s bride [2 Cor. 11:2], His body [1 Cor. 12], God’s temple [1 Cor. 3:16-17], all descriptions that tell you they matter to God. They become, in an increasingly secular and pluralist age, visible testimony to God’s saving work, that He hasn’t left the world and is living and active to achieve His purpose, saving people from every nation and tongue. And in our gathering the means of grace, the means God has given to sustain the faith of His people, to sustain your faith, are concentrated. In our gathering we can hear the word read and preached, see the gospel acted out in baptism and the Lord’s Supper, pray and be encouraged by the encouragement we receive from each other. Church is important for each one of us.
Our gathering as believers in the Lord Jesus and our common life as His followers, is important.
Local churches matter, and our local church matters because of its commitments and opportunities. Commitments to the truthfulness and authority of Scripture, to the gospel that can save from judgment and hell, to the doctrines of grace that sustain faithfulness and perseverance in preaching the gospel, and its commitments to practice the one anothers of Scripture in our life together – the loving, encouraging, serving, teaching, and admonishing of one another.
And its opportunities – for evangelism in our local community, for discipling our children together in a world that wants to, in Murray Campbell’s words, ‘educate them away from Christianity’, for continuing involvement in the evangelism and discipleship of university students, for sustaining each other in doing good in our various fields of work - matter. These are opportunities developed by years of sustained investment as a congregation, opportunities to keep taking together.
Regathering, reconnecting, reenergising are our priorities for this year, Lord willing, expressed in a focus on our common activities – our services, our growth groups, our ministries with children and youth, mums and babies. Strengthening them by increasingly regular participation as the threat of sickness decreases, which may only happen over twelve or even eighteen months. Providing for their continuity by recruiting and training leaders, something that has been particularly disrupted by the last two years. And expressed also in deepening our relationships with each other as we love in deed and truth, not just in words, and as we seek to encourage each other to live as Jesus’ followers in our daily lives.
The work of the Board
That focus on strengthening our common life also includes what we might think of as the nuts and bolts of our common life, the work of the Board, and the budget. There is need of one or two others to serve on the Board and help manage the property and money entrusted to us – and if you think you can serve in that way talk to Andrew Harrisson, Todd Sprague, or myself.
And as part of strengthening our common life the Board is seeking to bring in a balanced budget at this year’s annual congregational meeting. We have run deficit budgets since we increased the staff in 2019, fully expecting that growth would come that would allow us to meet the costs involved. But we all know what happened in 2020 and 2021. We hope in 2022 to regain the momentum we had at the beginning of 2020 but that will take time even if, Lord willing, there are no further disruptions. Balanced budgets will give us confidence that the ministry can be sustained in the coming years, and allow us to take new opportunities as they arise.
As part of balancing the budget the office staff hours have been decreased to 45 hours, having been expanded in the previous two years to meet the Covid challenge. And the BOM is looking for an increase in giving, again as the Lord blesses us. Copies of the budget will be available from this Sunday in the pigeon holes and I encourage you to get one, ask any questions you have, and plan to be at the ACM on the 29th March – we need a quorum to pass the budget, and the budget enshrines our ministry priorities. Supporting the budget is supporting the ministry of the congregation.
Supporting the budget is supporting the ministry of the congregation.
Changing to three days a week.
In the budget you will also see an anticipated change in my own circumstances. From July 4th, when I return from long service leave [Lord willing], I will be going to three days a week. The aim of the change is to give me two consecutive days off, Monday and Tuesday of every week. I will be turning 67 shortly and, while I am in good health, I have been finding it increasingly difficult to sustain the 50-60 hours a week I work as senior Pastor. That is just a reality, even though my conviction of the importance of the work and of the congregation has not changed. It has made me think that after twenty years the time is coming for the congregation, for you, to start thinking about a new senior pastor. The selection and calling of a new senior pastor will require careful thought and preparation if it is going to happen without disruption to the congregation’s ministry, and I think it will take some time both to work out who you want and to find that person. Session has started to engage with what is involved in that change, and my moving to three days a week is just the start of that process. I see that move as preparing you for change while at the same time helping to preserve my usefulness and providing continuity while the process is underway. Even talk of change can be unsettling, and I would encourage you over the coming months and years to be committing this change to our God who loves to do good to His people, asking that He would provide a faithful, godly and able person for the role, and that it would be a process that clarifies our commitments as a congregation and strengthens our unity.
Talk of change can be unsettling, and I would encourage you over the coming months and years to be committing this change to our God who loves to do good to His people
I am happy to answer questions about this, preferably before the annual congregational meeting, and preferably in person. But voting on this change is another reason to be there on the 29th. And as you think about this, remember that our God is able to supply all our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus [Phil. 4:19], and is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to His power at work in us [Eph. 3:20].