What are HOPE’s dreams for the next two years?
‘Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.’
As I was thinking about this I read Colossians 4 and was simply amazed as it seemed in many ways to encompass some of the dreams and hopes that we have.
In this passage the apostle Paul starts with prayer: ‘Devote yourselves to prayer’ he says. We know that this is the foundation of HOPE that, as we start this preparation year for the Year of Mission in 2018, we need to be praying. HOPE’s Friday Focus prayers run through the year.
But, what are we praying? Paul says ‘…that God may open a door for our message …’. Our dream in HOPE is that through all that we doing together, through our prayer and activities, we would see a door of opportunity open for the church in the UK, and that we might see more people come to faith than we have seen in a long time and that the Year of Mission in 2018 will be fruitful in an amazing way.
Paul goes on to say that this door for the word might be open to declare the ‘mystery of Christ’. We have felt that the emphasis of these five years is to be on the word but not in detriment to actions. We see two parallel railway tracks, unconditional love - as seen through our actions, and the word - how we let people know what Christianity is all about. It is not either/or but both/and.
But it is more than the word; it is to declare the mystery of Christ. Many theologians around the world have been saying that in declaring the word we must talk more about Jesus. The Talking Jesus research shows that 39% of the UK population think that Jesus is a fictional person. This is a clear challenge for us to talk more about the historicity of Jesus, who he was and what he said. It has been said that Jesus is the best-kept secret of the church; it is time to let our secret out and declare Jesus and his wonder.
He then says ‘Pray that I may proclaim it clearly.’ What a challenge this is for us. As we declare the word together it needs to be clear, in language that is in modern use and understandable, with metaphors that touch people’s hearts and minds. Make it clear, make it clear should be in all our hearts and minds over these next few years.
Lastly, the apostle Paul challenges us to ’ Be wise in the way you act’, and ‘Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt’. We are challenged about the way we live but also how we talk. Many leaders recognise that in preaching the gospel and sharing on a personal level we need to change the tone of our voice, not making judgements, pointing fingers, saying ‘I am in, you are out’, but as Paul says we need to be gracious, with a softness to our tone. We can afford to be propositional, asking what do you think? But as Paul says we still want our speech to be ‘seasoned with salt’.
This is our dream for HOPE, that over the next two years we can see all of these things at work in the church in the UK.
Yours in this wonderful task