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
The second church was smaller and in the inner-city. It was a quite divided church, with several factions,when I arrived. The largest of these were a group of fairly conservative and predominantly older Christians and a group of younger, newer and brasher Christians. I spent a lot of time trying to bring about reconcilliation; a couple who had been ‘key’ in keeping the split alive left the church and we seemed to be making real progress. Members of the local community were beginning to join the church and plans for a much higher level of community involvement were in hand.
Real progress and growth. New people were coming into the church
Then, following the discovery that my wife had pursued a number of affairs, my marriage broke up (this is an understatement, but I’m sure you know what I mean). Some of the more conservative members of the church, who had kept in contact with the devisive couple, and who were less than happy with some of the new people coming to the church seized their opportunity. I was tired and damaged after trying to keep my marriage alive over several months, and in no fit state to stand up to the onslaught, so I resigned.
Within a short space of time the couple who had left were back in the church. The church disintegrated as factions re-emerged and tore it apart.
From a distance, I was devestated. I’d thought the rifts had been healed. I could see lives being changed and people being added to the church. Had I been kidding myself? Was it just an illusion?
Once again, not much to show.
But, with the benefit of hindsight I can now see things more clearly.
Albert Holtz, in his book “Walking in Valleys of Darkness” says,
“To be honest, ever since that experience I’ve never been quite the same-but then, I’ve come to realise, maybe that was the idea: I wasn’t supposed to be the same.”
Churches die, marriages end, dreams and ambitions are disappointed…but God is in it all, and in all the change he is working for what is truely the best…”We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Paul’s letter to the Romans, Chapter 8 verse 28. These situations always present us with opportunities to learn, grow and change for the better.
So what lessons have I learned about “building something that lasts”?
Well first of all, many of the people I worked with are still living for Jesus. Many have moved away from Manchester and are serving God where they are now. Quite a few have gone on to serve God in a full-time capacity, while many others bear witness to the love and grace of God in their everyday jobs and lives.
Then there are the lasting friendships, the love, prayer and caring support that we enjoy although we are now widely dispersed and the events of thos years are receding into the past. God has been, is and will be part of our ongoing life and friendships.
Then there are the lasting changes brought about in my own life by the experiences of those days, which make me more effective as I live for Christ today, and as I serve him in the context of a local church.
And I have finally come to see that in God’s much bigger picture, what I might see as “something that lasts” may, from God’s perspective, look very different. God is, after all, much bigger than our personal ambitions or even our ‘failures’.