You read this on the eve of another year. Linda and I would like to thank you for your help and encouragement to us personally and others during 2013. It was a year that had many and varied significant points, I mention but two.
The first was the sudden passing of Mr Harrison; none of us were in anyway prepared for that. He is still dearly missed, because He had such a significant input into the lives of all who knew him. We thank God for Him and reflect on his life realising that He served the Lord in such a special way in many areas of Christian service. He has left us an example to follow, and we therefore have to move forward seeking to imitate the example of his faith (Heb 13:7).
The second I mention is the Real Lives experience. We had prepared for this for over a year and it provided a great opportunity for all to be involved in outreach at various levels. Most of us found it difficult to get friends and acquaintances to come along, but the opportunity was there for all to hear. As a church in fellowship with 6 others we sought to be obedient to the Great Commission and all we can do now is to continue to pray that the Lord would use the message preached and printed to draw people to Himself.
What do these two recollections have in common? They were wider than the immediate or local. Mr Harrison served passionately at Emmanuel, but he taught at training centres so that another generation might be prepared. He visited other lands that he might take the message to the nations. In Real Lives we invited EMW, Roger Carswell and Vinnie Commons to come and help. By doing so we recognised their gifts and our limits. We worked with other churches so that we might enjoy their support and similarly we were able to help those who needed help. Our ministry moved beyond limited geographical boundaries, in order to develop a greater and more Biblical vision.
How do these prepare us for a new year of ministry? They remind us of William Carey’s text:
Enlarge the place of your tent,
and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out;
do not hold back; lengthen your cords
and strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left,
and your offspring will possess the nations
and will people the desolate cities. (Is 54:2,3)
Carey had such a vision to reach the people of India that he constantly read and gained information about India then preached a sermon on these verses to fellow ministers exhorting them to – “Expect Great Things from God; Attempt Great Things for God.” He wanted to go forward. If we rest on our efforts and accomplishments then we have lost one of the key lessons of 2013, the church must constantly be seeking to make the Message known.
David Ollerton in his book “Ministry on The Move” writes, ‘Church planting studies have shown that churches that do not re-plant in their first five years are unlikely to do so afterwards. It is either built into a church’s foundations, its DNA, or it will not happen.’ (p.77) The general indifference and at times opposition to Real Lives shows us that South East Wales is resistant to the Gospel, therefore we have to seek God and with His help do all that we can to further the Gospel. We are to maintain our fellowship with stronger churches, while at the same time seek to support weaker churches and so fulfill the law of Christ (Gal 6:2). We need to face the challenge of this insight. In February we will begin our 5th year together. Will we make significant changes and progress in our ministry, so that Gospel work might go forward or will we rest content with our Christian experience?
With a new year ahead of us let us commit ourselves to pray, so that nothing we do will be done in human strength, but at the same time may we be seeking every avenue whereby we might cooperate with our Lord Jesus Christ as He continues to build and revive His Church.
Bernard Lewis January 2014