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"We must move together into a more mission-hearted walk."

We asked Elim's General Superintendent Chris Cartwright how he sees the year ahead.

Chris, last year, you said advancing in radical mission and discipleship were your priorities for Elim. How has that gone?
Before the pandemic, we already believed God was calling Elim to a decade of advancing in radical mission.

At the core of that was radical discipleship – making disciples who make disciples.

In one sense, nothing changed during the pandemic in terms of what the Lord was calling us to focus on. But Covid brought incredible disruption and many things were put on hold or had to be adjusted.

In this situation, I’ve been inspired and moved by how our leaders and churches responded. They sought to advance even though it was often more locally, in steps rather than strides.

What were the highlights of 2021 for Elim?
I was impressed by leaders and church leadership teams working and adjusting to prioritise not only their church communities but their wider communities too.

There’s been an outstanding sense of them saying, ‘We can’t go large or national, but we can go local’, so lots of churches doubled down to be good news and loving Christian communities right where they are.

In 2021, we’ve seen a more compassionate and caring church emerging, evidenced locally.

One small church had been struggling for many years, very faithful and believing God for a breakthrough. They began to see an extraordinary prayer network with other churches in their town; leaders meeting regularly during the past year and beginning to feel things changing.

Suddenly, this little church community was able to meet some needs in their neighbourhood.

One volunteer who had never set foot in a church service was giving a lot of time to community outreach.

The minister told her he’d love to see her come to church. To his amazement, she said she’d been attending online for weeks. It was like the Lord was drawing her in.

That same church leader said dozens of people were engaging with them online. It seemed like it was the breakthrough they had been labouring and praying for years.

Were there other highlights during the year?
We’ve seen more evangelistic outreach, with lots of churches beginning to think differently about how they’re going to reach their communities.

The national Alpha Online was remarkable, with 164 churches online together.

We’re also hearing about lots of baptism services. Loads of churches are seeing people come to faith, being baptised and added to the church, even if sometimes they have hardly ever been in the building.

The final highlight for me would be the number of churches seeing an opportunity to advance creatively in communications and digital technology. The walls of the church have disappeared and there is an openness and excitement about engaging with people all the time, giving them the opportunity to connect with who we are as a people of faith.

As we end the year, where do you think the nation is spiritually?
There is a great deal of instability, uncertainty and insecurity in our nation, politically and socially. It’s a time when we’ve seen considerable division and polarising in lots of areas of life and opinion.

We’ve been shaken.

It’s highlighting for us in the church that the nation is morally and spiritually bankrupt right now, and the things that many have been investing in, in terms of certainty, authority and confidence, have been shaken too.

This is a remarkable opportunity for God to move afresh.

He specialises in breaking in at times in a nation when things are shaken. Our responsibility is to focus on Jesus, to reset with him around who we are and how we live.

That’s urgent because we need him so much. The pre-pandemic church is not in a fit state to live in the post-pandemic world. We have to come saying, “Lord, here we are. Please lead us, guide us and restore us to a new confidence in the gospel.”

What’s on your heart for Elim in 2022?
I pray that we will be obedient to the call of Jesus to join him in living out our faith in local ministry and mission.

That comes with a simple call to be willing to go on a fresh journey with Jesus in our generation. It’s back to our Pentecostal heritage – how do we live as pioneers?

It’s about moving forward with fresh confidence, courage and conviction that Jesus wants us to be people on mission.

The theme of our Leaders’ Summit in May is ‘mission-hearted’. We believe we’ve been called to be a mission-hearted people.

That comes from relationship; it’s the heart of Jesus for us to be softer, kinder, braver, and to move with his compassion. I want us to move together into a more mission-hearted walk with Jesus.

If you had to pick one word to sum up your vision for Elim in 2022, what would it be?
It’s still ‘advance’. Advancing isn’t about a big push, plan, initiative or programme though. It’s about every one of us advancing in maturity with Jesus in discipleship and sharing in our neighbourhoods and communities.

It’s advancing the things that God’s been putting on our hearts around our priorities and making disciples, developing leaders, growing and planting healthy churches and reaching nations.

I’ll back that up with being mission-hearted, though. We have to be kingdom people. More and more in the next few years, I think we’re going to see evidence of kingdom partnerships and ministry in the UK that trump denominations or brands.

I think God is going to bless that and really multiply the outcomes for his kingdom’s sake.

We’re seeking to work together across our ministries and departments to resource local churches. It’s not a time to be rolling out lots of centralised departmental plans.

It’s about getting close to churches in local communities and the regions and networks within the Elim family to ask, “How can we help you? How can we resource, support and flow into what God is already doing?”

Any final thoughts?
The final thing would be that we recognise that God is calling us to have the courage to call people, even in uncertain times, to the cause of Jesus.

We’re starting to think again around the whole concept of pioneers who are willing to go first or go into new ground.

In our current culture and context, we’re increasingly going to require that pioneer spirit to be released again.

We’re seeing lots of people wanting to make a difference and pay a price for various causes.

The cause of Jesus is the greatest cause there is.

 

This article first appeared in December 2021/January 2022 Direction Magazine. For further details please click here.

 

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