Imagine how we might shape the future of Elim
As Elim moves into its second century, what does the future hold? Times are changing, but opportunities are great. We can only imagine what God is going to do in 2017, writes General Superintendent Chris Cartwright.
As I stepped into the role of General Superintendent at the leaders' summit in Harrogate last May, I took the opportunity to call our leaders to a season of seeking God for the Future.
I have a strong conviction that it is time for Elim to come together in order to listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, to renew our commitment to the core issues of our calling and purpose, and to step out with faith and renewed commitment into the fresh adventures that the Holy Spirit has for us in the seasons ahead.
We are beginning a year where we are seeking to call every Elim leader, church and member to join us in Imagining that future, and in starting to take the first steps to shape what Elim will look like, how we will respond to and engage with the people and communities around us in order to make Jesus known and to spread His transforming love and life.
'Imagine- Shaping Elim’s Future' is more than just a theme for our Summit this May; it is a timely call for us all to join together in the shared task of knowing and fulfilling God’s plan for the Elim movement.
Following on from our centenary, we have entered our second century and just completed year 101 of Elim’s story.
In American Universities and Colleges, 101 is the number given to introductory level courses in each subject. History or Physics 101 will give an overview of the subject including the foundational principles and issues on which to build a fuller understanding.
In the well-known TV programme 'Room 101', celebrities from various walks of life are invited to bring objects or ideas that they believe are no longer useful or required and to cast them into room 101.
In a sense, this stage that we are at in our story gives us an opportunity to looking again at the core foundational issues of our calling, identity, and purpose. It presents timely challenges to how we can fulfil that calling in a rapidly changing society and culture, and it provokes a genuine willingness for us to look at aspects of our ministry, mission and methods which may no longer be fit for purpose.
In Leviticus 26, there is a remarkable passage where God speaks to the children of Israel concerning his covenant promises with them. Calling them to walk intimately and closely in obedience before him, God promises his blessing. He promises provision, prosperity, abundant supply, security from their enemies, peace, rest, fruitfulness, strength and success. In verse 11, God says “you shall eat old store long kept, and you shall clear out the old to make way for the new.”
Drawing on what God has already worked within them as people and as a nation, the 'old store' kept in the storehouse from ages past speak so much of the deep things of calling and promise. Much of what God has given to them in the past is still fruitful and he urges them to feed on those things.
I am absolutely convinced that the same is true for us. As we have looked back at our history, we have seen again and again how the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit committed to those past Pentecostal pioneers is still is relevant for us today.
Those core issues of spiritual DNA are still the things around which Elim's future will need to gather and from which we will need to grow. They are not outdated or outmoded, but absolutely essential. I believe it is vital that we become ever clearer about the foundational revelation of Gods word and ways based on what we have called 'the foursquare gospel'.
Yet God also calls them to 'clear out the old to make way for the new'. The future as a nation would require new solutions to new challenges. Not everything from the past could be taken forward with them nor would it be fruitful.
God was establishing that it was going to be important for them to sort and sift out what was still significant for them other things which were no longer required. Yet He was making it very clear that they were to not merely go for the novelty of the new at the expense of the precious things that he had given them in the past.
A changing landscape
As we move forward, we must recognise that the speed of social and cultural change is so dramatic that the world in which we are living in seeking to serve Christ and proclaimed his gospel is becoming unrecognisable from the landscapes of the parts.
A growing number of Christian leaders are recognising that this is one of the most critical times in church history as, after 1,700 years of holding a privileged position - at least in the western world - the Christian Church is facing a dramatic change in the spiritual climate. The future simply will not be more of the past but a landscape increasingly hostile to the gospel.
It’s certainly not the first time that the Christian Church has faced a time of such profound change. Yet we must not underestimate the impact of such change. We need to be like those men of Issachar who came to David - a people who understand our times and know what we are to do.
Clear vision and values
In a landscape that consists of 'unchartered territory', it will be increasingly important for us to know who we are in Christ and our identity as a Movement of Pentecostal people.
It will be vital for us to be clearer about our calling and vision, and to establish the values and principles which bind us together. It will be helpful for us to be able to describe our calling and purpose clearly for others, so as to help us join together in 'a spirit of unity and purpose' and so that others can join with us in the days to come.
It’s not a case of 'any dream will do', but a time for listening to one another and to the Holy Spirit concerning what we believe God is bringing before us as His preferred future.
Again and again in the New Testament, the Early Church faced times when they needed to know what to do. In the midst of real situations, they had to discern and decide the right steps to take and came to their decisions based on a growing revelation that God wanted to work with them to reveal His will and purpose. The Jerusalem church in Acts 15 spoke of seeking what 'seemed good to us and the Holy Spirit.'
In order to be clear about our future vision, we need also need a clear and honest view of where we are now. We will need the courage to be able to look at ourselves and to pay attention to areas where we may need breakthrough, new strategy, extra resources.
In times past, the Elim movement has consistently come back to these issues and paid a price in order to look afresh at challenges such as bringing growth to static or declining churches and ministries, reaching children and young people and planting churches in previously unreached areas or communities. They have done so with humility but also with courage and realised that the real answer is usually not just a new program but a deep dependence on God combined with our availability to start again.
Seeing what God sees
The good news is that there is much life and health in Elim churches, and people all across the nation and the world. We have so much to give thanks to God for and to celebrate. We certainly can’t afford to be complacent but we recognise much of what the book of Acts describes when Barnabas is sent to Antioch as 'the evidence of the grace of God.'
Vision for Elim future must begin with a fresh encounter with God in our present. It must begin with prayer and worship and open-hearted this before God. That’s why we’re calling all our leaders together this month for a day of prayer and seeking God for what is ahead. That’s why also the Elim Prayer Network has put together resources and we are calling the whole of Elim to a month of prayer for our Movement throughout January.
We will be asking that our vision becomes His vision and that He gives us new perspective and fresh perception of familiar things.
It was Jesus who said to the disciples, "Open your eyes, see what I see: 'The fields are white unto harvest – Do you not perceive it?” He wants to see what he is already doing and to go into that harvest full of expectancy and faith.
My prayer is that this year will be a remarkable year for us as a Movement – a year where we regroup around our core calling and identity as a Pentecostal movement. I believe that as we move forward together God will speak to us and He will confirm the ways that we are to take. He will empower and equip us for what He is calling us to do.
That will involve adventures in re-encountering the Holy Spirit in all His purity and power. It will enable us to re-discover the urgency of our call and vision as a spirit-empowered missionary movement. It will stir us to re-engage and release every person, ministry and resource at our disposal to see His kingdom come through the Elim movement across the world.
I urge you to Join us in shaping all that Elim is called to be and do in the years ahead.
Chris Cartwright - Elim's General Superintendent
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