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March 2014

March 10, 2014

 

Thoughts From The Cottage

 

Dear Friends

Before God called me into the ministry of the church I worked for ten years in local government computer departments. In Manchester I was involved in developing computer systems to enable more efficient and better operation of the bus company and this meant visiting different departments and talking to managers about their needs. I have never forgotten visiting the senior operations manager. He had a framed letter in his office. It was the response of one of his managers to a letter from a lady about the persistent late running of the first bus into Manchester from her part of Oldham. The framed reply, which not unnaturally found its way into the Manchester Evening News, said that after observation and investigation ‘I can assure you that the bus always leaves the terminus on time and if it did not have to stop to pick up and set down passengers it would arrive in Manchester on time’. The manager who wrote that had lost the plot, the raison d’etre of the company had been lost. The purpose of their existence was not to provide jobs for drivers but to pick up and set and set down passengers. 

The job of the NHS is not to provide work for doctors and nurses but to provide healthcare for the United Kingdom. The job of the armed forces is not to provide work for pilots, sailors or troops but to ensure the safety and security of the UK. The job of Morrison’s is not to provide work for shelf stackers and till operators but to supply food to the UK. Organisations that forget their raison d’etre do so at their peril. William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1942 to 1944 said that the ‘Church is the only society on earth that exists for the benefit of non-members’. We forget this at our peril.

Jesus commissioned the church with these words ‘go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you’. (Matthew 28 vv 19/20). Jesus did not tell us to run activities for Christians, this comes from Paul and Peter who encouraged the fledgling church to meet together for worship, prayer, study of the scriptures and pastoral care. Today we concentrate on, at least part of, what Peter and Paul said and forget Jesus’ commission. Yet, without heeding the commission of Jesus, there will be no need for heeding the instructions of Peter and Paul. 

The task of the church is to tell others about Jesus, or to use the big word, to evangelise. Herein lies a massive problem, it is not simply that we are embarrassed about sharing our faith or are not confident of being able to answer questions. It is that we have, consciously or sub-consciously subscribed to the popular view that all religions are equal and if you don’t question my religion I won’t question yours. It may sound nice, respectful, loving and understanding but it completely ignores the words of Jesus and also those of the patriarchs, priests, psalmist, prophets and epistle writers. In short it is a crippling heresy that has disabled the church. If I do not believe, like Jesus, that my religion is the one true faith, if I believe that all roads lead to God, then what reason have I got for telling others about my faith? It is precisely because I take Jesus seriously and believe that Christianity is the one true faith that I believe that evangelism is so important. I want everyone to share what I have got – faith in Jesus.

Ian

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