14 Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! 15 Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night 16 so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing.
Philippians 2:14-16 (From ‘The Message’ translation)
“I want you to build something that lasts”
Word of prophecy given to me by Dave Challis at my induction as a pastor of Ivy Cottage Church, Manchester
I mentioned in a previous post that this is my 50th year as a follower of Jesus. For several of those years I worked as a full-time pastor/ minister in a couple of churches in the Manchester area. This morning I read those words addressed by Paul to the new church at Philippi…”You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing.” and it reminded me of Dave’s words to me 22 years ago. It begs the question did I produce anything that lasted or did I do all that work for nothing.
It has to be said that after I left both of those churches things didn’t go well (depending on whose perspective you see it from.
The first church, a large, successful Evangelical/Charismatic church in the suburbs of Manchester is a case in point. After I left, a new senior pastor was appointed who effectively reversed the vision and calling that the church had been following. Instead of planting out local congregations the leadership decided to pull all of those back into the original church to create a mega-church (by UK standards!). The leaders sincerely believed that this was what God was wanting.
What followed was a painful and turbulent time. The leaders branded anyone who didn’t get their vision as divisive and disobedient, and, according to one side of the story, became both overbearing and petulant, sometimes acting like spoilt children until they got their way. Lots of people were hurt and over the course of the next few years many left the church. While the leaders may have been right in what they did (and until recently, with the appointment of a new senior pastor, the jury has been out) the way it was done did not, in my opinion reflect the heart of God.
Effectively, everything I had worked hard for disappeared overnight (so please excuse my obvious bias), and a lot of my friends were badly hurt.
Not much built there that lasted? Maybe…
I met a friend who had been part of the congregation I led, who is now a part of another church. As we reminisced he commented, “Those were very special times. We built something special, a real sense of community,not like any other church I’ve ever known.” Maybe the time hadn’t been wasted…