Wow, what an amazing summer we’ve had! Hot sunny weather that surpassed the heat of 1976 and lots of amazing activity in the Kingdom of God. Our normal pattern as a church is to slow things down a little during August to give everyone a break from our regular patterns of worship, ministry and group activity but as that happened the Kingdom continued to advance. We’ve heard wonderful stories from Boulder Gang where 650 children heard the gospel shared in exciting and fun ways (more of that inside), holiday club was great, over 100 children were reached, and as I write we’re preparing to go off to Soul Survivor for another week of pressing into God with a big contingent from the youth group. Add to that a phenomenal gift day and the promise of more blessings to come we could easily find ourselves in a place where everything in the world looks and feels great. But here we are at the start of a new term, indeed a new year in many ways, with much work to do and a great many more people to reach. We must not allow ourselves to ‘rest on our laurels’ as the ancient Greeks put it. Although in ancient Greece the term, ‘to rest on your laurels’, wasn’t used in the derogatory sense we use it, it was employed as recognition that a victory had been won. We tend to use it now to refer to a lack of productivity. Resting on your laurels was more akin to standing on a podium to receive an award. So a victorious sportsman was crowned with a laurel wreath made from the “Noble Laurel” or “Bay Tree.”
As followers of Christ we rest not on our own laurels but on those Jesus won for us on the cross. While we know that the victory has been won we also know that our race is not over, we are called to keep pressing on to the very end. In Acts 20:24 Luke records the Apostle Paul saying, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace.” He knew he wouldn’t get to wear his own laurel crown until his race was run so he kept pressing on looking for opportunities to share the gospel and to lead more people to Jesus.
So we must all press on. I often think of the people I know who have not yet received or understood the message of the gospel. My desire is that they find the salvation in Jesus that I have found and that they receive the promise of eternal life as I have. In John 6:39 Jesus declared that it was God’s purpose in Him that He would not lose any of those God had given to Him, as I look to see who God has put before me I pray I’ll be able to make the same claim.
The difficulty I have is that I don’t consider myself to be gifted as an evangelist. I struggle to find ways to introduce Jesus into a conversation without feeling like I just hammered a nail into a pane of glass. However, I have learned something through my ham-fisted efforts that I think helps. When I meet someone for the first time the most important thing is to start a conversation about something... anything at all… it really doesn’t matter what, before an awkward silence begins to build up. So often it’s the silence that becomes the problem not the worry about how to introduce Jesus. It builds up like a wall that’s very difficult to demolish again. At the same time I silently pray that the Holy Spirit will intervene and then wait to see what comes of it. Testimony is often the easiest way to introduce Jesus. Just as we often share the things of life with each other testimony is a more natural way of sharing the things of eternal life with someone in a way that doesn’t feel like that nail being hammered through glass that I mentioned earlier. Then when someone shares something they're struggling with it’s easier to say in response, “Someone in my church was struggling with that so we prayed for them and God did something amazing,” or give an example of how that’s worked for you and offer to pray for them. Then listen to what the Holy Spirit says and share.
So, as we begin this new term I want to challenge you to talk to someone you don’t know each week about Jesus, asking the Holy Spirit to join in the conversation, and let’s see how many new people we can reach between us.
Blessings, Paul Wilkinson (Associate Minister)