As I write this letter we have just had our Sunday with John Palmer and Lloyd Pritchard. It was a wonderful Sunday, many have expressed their appreciation for the ministry and all who chose to stay to lunch enjoyed our time together – A big Thank You to all who contributed to the preparation, presentation and clearing of that meal.
It is obvious that some are not clear about what is happening. We are on a journey with God and that journey is seeing and responding to change in our church. Since 2010 we have seen 9 members and others who worshipped with us regularly, taken to glory. We praise God that some have been converted and baptised in the same period. Neither of those events is under the control of human beings. Others have moved into the area and joined us; marriages have taken place and babies have been born. Change is happening, beyond our control, but as a church we have to respond to that change.
As deacons and elders we are reading a book called “Ready, Steady, Grow” by Ray Evans in which Mark Driscoll provides useful insight when he writes,
1. Growth causes change;
2. Changes causes complexity;
3. Complexity causes chaos;
4. Chaos causes concern;
5. Concern causes conflict.
As elders we want to address the complexity of the situation so that we minimise chaos and totally avoid conflict, therefore we have 2 unchanging priorities,
1. The glory of God;
2. The good of His people, both the saved and those yet to be saved!
The Bible gives us examples of the church responding to change and growth. Acts 6 shows us an experience in the early church where they had to respond to the demands of church growth. They saw the need; the church leaders (apostles at that time) gathered the church together and said in effect “Things have to change if we are to care for all our members and continue to spread the good news that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” In discussion with the church other Christians were recognised to serve the church in a ministry different from that of the apostles. As a result, “ … the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly … ” (Acts 6:7).
When Paul dealt with church growth in his letter to the Ephesian believers he wrote this, “… he (the risen Christ) gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:11-13) The point he was making was that God has used different ministries and different approaches to ministry with the focussed purpose that the Gospel should continue to spread and that Christians remain united as they grow towards maturity in their knowledge and love of God.
We are responding to growth in the hope that God is glorified; that we take our responsibility in the spread of the Gospel so that people are saved; that we do all that we can to strengthen Christians and equip them for service in our country and overseas. Many say that apostles, prophets and evangelists ceased with the death of Christ’s apostles. Others however would see that an apostolic ministry, where people are ‘sent out’, which is what apostle means, continues. No one has the right to claim prophetic authority and by so doing add to the completed Bible, but the great need of the day is for men to preach with prophetic authority. Evangelists, those who emphasise the preaching of the Gospel, are vital in every period of the church.
At this stage there is no plan that I step down from ministry as (shepherd) pastor/teacher. We are simply looking for ways to provide more help within the ministry at Emmanuel and further afield, so that sinners might be saved and believers built up. There are needs within the valleys and if possible we would like to help other churches as we are currently doing with Noddfa, Abersychan.
Many are concerned that it will impose an incredible financial burden on the church. It may well do, but Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Mt 6:33) We can be confident that if we keep in step with God, He will supply all our needs. 150 years ago when God used Hudson Taylor to establish the China Inland Mission (now OMF) he said “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.” Many in our church today have proven the truth of that statement.
Yes, this is a change in the approach to ministry, but we want to go forward together believing that the greatest need of our world is faith in the God who loved us and gave Himself to save us.
Together please pray that God will give us all
• especially the elders, Wisdom;
• Faith to trust Him,
• Courage to walk in paths never before experienced.
Bernard Lewis February 2015