The Alpha and Omega

This is the last in a series of ten letters written to our local church, unbundling what we understand our future to be in the Lord. It’s vision, if you like, but more than vision in a way. It’s a way of seeing and thinking about being and doing church.

My prayer is that everyone reading these letters will be provoked in the best sense of the word, and challenged to ask themselves the hard questions around being and doing local church.

Dear Highway

Jesus said of Himself, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev 22:13). All things begin and end in Him.

Which in turn means that nothing begins or ends in His church, let alone the local church. She is a means to an end, and never an end in herself. She finds herself between Heaven and earth, best serving earth by stewarding Heaven’s plans and purposes, and doing so using heaven’s means and methods.

The implications are enormous. Any message we proclaim must be His word, and not our own. Any vision we pursue must be His vision, and not our own. We being His hands and feet in this world is not some religious platitude. We are His body – hands and feet and everything else in between. My increasing suspicion is that we’ve become a little self-absorbed, focusing so on our respective roles in the body as to have lost sight of the role the body as a whole has to play in the purposes of God.

That role is ambassadorial. We are who we are and do what we do in His name, and not our own. Best we aspire to represent Him well. The flip side of the ambassadorial coin is an intercessory one. We’re not on God’s side against His world, but on God’s side for His world, no longer of it, but in it for good reason. We remain in His world for His purpose and for its sake. His agenda is salvation, the One Mediator having performed His perfect propitiatory work once for all. The Scriptures are emphatic about that. God has already reconciled His world to Himself through the cross of Christ. Our ambassadorial role announces the goodwill of Good God, and our intercession works with Him in drawing men and women into putting their trust in all that He has done. There’s no place for personal agendas or petty fiefdoms in all of this. The work of the cross is finished, but the work of the Gospel is ongoing, bringing the Kingdom, until all of Christ’s enemies are under His feet.

This all sounds so obvious as to be self-evident, but think it through with me for a moment. What of one of modern Christianity’s ubiquitous maladies – spiritual dryness. More often than not it besets the faithful who are fully involved in their local churches, bearing its burdens and carrying its loads. Jeremiah makes poignant comment on the dynamics at work: “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer 2:13). No local church has life in and of itself, and when it becomes an end in itself, it can become one of the most desolate places imaginable. Many a congregation has fished all night but caught nothing, labouring with the best of intentions, but to its own ends and in its own strength.

The God-factor is a not negotiable. The word of the Lord to Zerubbabel in the days of old is as much a word to us today: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts” (Zech 4:6b). That flow of Spirit and life is easily tapped into; abandon the cistern of human ambition, agenda and endeavour, and remain embedded in the Fountain of Life Himself. The lesson to be learned is to live from rest; from union with God; from victory; from Life. This truth has application individually and corporately. We’re always the bride on the dance-floor of life, allowing our groom to lead. He is the initiator, we are the responders. In this dynamic vision is revelation that empowers, rather than a goal-orientation that drives. When our mind-sets correctly position us between Heaven and earth, placing us squarely on God’s redemptive team, much is clear. We know who we are, and we know why we are. From there the what and how unfurl with ease as we recognise what God is doing, and having availed ourselves to Him, simply join in.

The question then is what it is we are seeing and hearing? What is the Lord doing, and how do we join in? So explicit has the Lord been, that there can be ne‘er a doubt. The time of the Lord gathering His people is upon us. It is time to build the house. Highway Christian Church is to rise up. We are a city on a hill, and it is our time to shine.

In writing I’m rolling up my sleeves and rounding up the troops. It’s a new day. Let Highway arise. Promise is over her and destiny awaits her. Everyone’s invited to join in. To reiterate what I said in my first letter: Let’s gather – in Him, to Him, with Him and for Him. I’m asking for you to show up on Sunday mornings more often than not, and on time at that. I’m asking you to come to the gatherings with intent to engage. Come to lift your voice, to raise your hands, and to hug a neighbour. Bring a friend. Drop something in the offering plate. Come to find someone to encourage. Pray a prayer; break bread; help someone, somewhere, with something. Do whatever your hand finds to do, and obey the Spirit as He prompts. This is not rocket-science. And on your bad days? Come anyway!

As we do, Jesus will build His church. He will reveal what we are yet to see, teach us what we need to learn, and lead us into being a far more substantial expression of what He has in heart and mind for the local church. We’ve only just begun! It’s not our ability He seeks, but our availability. May we be numbered amongst those who fulfil the prophetic mandate of Psalm 110:3a: “Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power”.

So be it. Amen!

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