“… let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Hebrews 11: 1-3
How often do we find that an important but non-urgent task is dropped because the urgent thing gets in the way? That’s just the commonplace of ministry. The phone rings, the email pings, and two funerals arrive in quick succession – clearly vital, but requiring a focus that often prevents us from settling into the rhythms of work and life.
Mission Planning requests add to this – meetings with congregations and Presbytery; with colleagues who might be partners; conversations about what to do, how to make it work, and whether ‘it’ can work at all. Sometimes it feels like we’re drowning; certainly growing weary and losing heart.
The impact of all of this is real – on us, our colleagues and our congregations. What will the future look like? “I thought I was called here?”
I recently spoke with a friend who reminded me of his previous charge where he had served for many years. He reckoned he had three different seasons of ministry during his time there, as significant change took place which reshaped his relationship both with the congregation and the wider church. That makes sense to me as I approach the 20th anniversary where I am.
We should expect to grow and change with our congregations. As the years pass, I keep being reminded of the need to renew vision. My own vision, certainly, but also the vision of the Kirk Sessions, and the congregations as a whole. Today we are all being asked to review and renew our vision for ministry, for the life of our congregations, and for God’s mission in the world. It’s costly, and often hard to discern.
Above all, I find I need to heed the call to ‘return to my first love’, or as the writer to the Hebrews has it, to ‘fix my eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith’. When I’m weary, when I feel that the tasks are running away from me, then I need to look upward.
Seeing through Jesus’ eyes doesn’t mean we ignore Presbytery Mission Planning, nor the myriad tasks of ministry today. It means I focus through those tasks and these plans into what His mission is. We begin to find peace in the chaos of our times.
If that’s true for ourselves, it is also clearly true for our congregations. Many of them feel confused by the speed of change they are facing. This is seen of course in the loss of buildings that have been loved and cherished, but also in new ways of working with other congregations and sharing their minister or receiving someone new as part of a team. With Presbytery Mission Plans being approved or finalised, our challenge in the coming season will be putting these into practice.
Our preaching needs to take these challenges into account, of course. It also needs to keep our members focused on Jesus and His call on all of our lives. That will be particularly true as we work with our Elders in the months ahead – giving time for exploration both in conference meetings and informal or social gatherings will be vital. Space to articulate concerns and worries needs to be there, so that the sense of shared vision can be renewed with both realism and hope.
Most of us, myself included, will not be able to achieve this on our own. I’ve been encouraged again by the work of Solas CPC (https://www.solas-cpc.org/) as they seek to enable local church members to recover confidence in sharing the message of Jesus. We need the resources and support of others, including Ascend, for this crucial time.
In all of this, “let us run with perseverance…”