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What should the church do now?

As tempting as it is to huddling together, we should not forget our mission as we exit lockdown, argues Gary Gibbs.

Moscow, October 1917.

The leading priests of the Russian Orthodox Church were holding a top-level meeting. The main issue on the agenda that day was: what colour should be used on clerical robes when conducting church services?

Meanwhile, just outside the building where they were meeting, the Bolshevik Revolution was taking place, led by Vladimir Lenin.

This was the beginning of a five-year-long civil war which led to the establishing of the Soviet Union, and  a brutal persecution of churches.

One of the greatest challenges for us as believers is to be constantly on the alert to the possibility of 'playing church', rather than being committed to the mission of God.

William Temple, arguably the greatest Archbishop of Canterbury in the past few centuries, made this fantastic statement: "The church is the only society that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members."

I wonder how many church people truly believe this in the 21st century?

If we are to be the missional church which Jesus has called us to be, how we exit the Covid lockdown through autumn and on into next year will be all-important.

The temptation will be to huddle together in our Christian communities, sing our songs, listen to live preaching, hug one another and drink coffee.

Let me say that there is nothing wrong with any of that. As Jesus-followers we have our own emotional and psychological issues to deal with after such a long time of isolation.

But my appeal to all of us is not to forget why we are still on planet Earth. After all, our citizenship is in heaven. (Philippians 3:20).

We are here as ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).

You may have heard the story about the British ambassador in Washington DC who received an email from the Washington Post newspaper asking him what he would like for Christmas. Not wanting to come over greedy he replied, "A small box of chocolates would be just fine."

The Christmas Eve edition of the newspaper appeared with the following story: "We asked the German ambassador what he would like for Christmas. He replied, 'World peace.' The Canadian ambassador replied with, 'An end to world hunger.' The Brazilian ambassador said, 'The cure for cancer.' The British ambassador said he would like a 'small box of chocolates...'"

As ambassadors, we represent our King and his kingdom. We are to stay 'on message.'

And what a scintillating message we have for so many who feel broken, alienated and purposeless after a year-and-a-half of isolation and stress.

The message is not complicated: 'God loves you. He has shown it through the crucifixion of Jesus to pay for your rebellion against him. If you turn to God and put your trust in the living Lord Jesus, you can be rescued.'

The truth is local churches all over the UK have done well at being good news to our communities, and will continue to do so. Let’s ensure that we speak good news as well.

No playing at church; no thinking that church exists solely for us; no lack of representation of the Kingdom of Light.

We go as revolutionary emissaries of love – for Jesus’ sake and for his glory.

First published in the September 2021 issue of Direction, Elim’s monthly magazine. Subscribe now to get Direction delivered to your home.

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