“Whether I come and see you or only hear about you…I will know that…” (Phil 1:27)
Here are some things I hope to hear from you (or from people who keep us up to date)!
1. The Word is going out as it should
Of course I will be glad to hear that the Word is being proclaimed – and people are wanting others to hear it.
The pastoral team here is as faithful as you could want and you know that not only will the truth be told lovingly but the preachers are making “progress”. (1Tim 4:15)
The minister who is appointed here will be a fresh voice in the same task and as you pray for him the Spirit will use the Word to change people.
Spurgeon was asked once for the secret of his ministry and he said “my people pray”. If you find yourself stale or bored or cranky or empty you know who to speak to. And if you are fed and thankful and growing… you know who to speak to.
2. The Sunday gatherings are “well” in every way
Someone once described Sydney church meetings as “clunky”. This is a great word meaning awkward, embarrassing, amateurish and badly done. Of course the church is never as slick and polished as a stage production or a circus arena – but things should be done as well as possible. I think St Thomas’ works hard on good music, prayers, reading and everything that takes place in the ‘hour’. We try to steer between stern and silly – to be serious but joyful. It will be a joy to me to hear that things are being planned, prayed for and done well.
3. The members care for one another
It’s a long time since I heard “this church is unfriendly” and I attribute that to God’s kindness at work in His kind people. To see people cross the room to seek out a new face and make them feel welcome is a delight. To hear of the prayer and care that goes on in hospitality, support and many sacrifices is a cause for praise.
But here are some things to work on:
(a) If you are coming every third or fourth week (and could be more regular) you can hardly grow in truth and love as others do. Change your thinking from “is it clear to go to church this week?” to “we’re going”.
(b) Rethink how you use the 90 minutes or so when you gather. For example – and I’ve only just heard this challenge – do couples need to sit together? You’re together all week so why not search out a single or new person to join?
And after church why not be the fresh help to others by asking them
– has the Lord helped you this week?
– what was helpful in the service today?
– is your faith going well? etc.
Break the tendency to only talk of passing things!
4. More people should become a new ‘convert’
They should break away from what used to be (very) unkindly called “Roseville Christianity” – in which church going is like wine tasting – and get dirty at the coalface of the ministry – the Prayer Meeting. If you can’t make it be at peace, but if you can, be at prayer (with the church). As the Lord draws near to us when we draw near to Him (James 4:8) there is something special about the Prayer Meeting but it’s also the place where mature Christians know the real work is done and the real blessing found.
5. You stand firm in one mind and heart for the gospel
This is what the apostle wants to hear from his beloved Philippian church and nothing puts it better (1:27)
There really is one mind and heart for the gospel at St Thomas’ and I long to hear it is always so. This priority will direct the business and the money as well as the property and the people – and the Lord will stamp it with His favour.
Paul goes on to say (1:28-30) that even opposition will see your unity as a “sign” the Lord is with you.
So what could be more important?
There are lots of other things I look forward to hearing – love for the new pastor and people believing and growing – but those five are enough for now
May it be so.