At this time of year, many people make transitions from one phase of life to the next. Children move up a year at school; many of them embark on new GCSE and A-level courses, or start at a new school. Older students start to make the break from home as they head off to university, or leave school and get their first full-time job. In order to minimise disruption to their children’s education, parents often time the start of new jobs and house moves to coincide with these transitions in their children’s lives, with the result that churches often see an influx of new worshippers around this time of year (and the departure of others).
Life is full of transitions, and the Christian life is no different. Early church leaders focussed their ministry on those transitions by helping people to come to faith, to grow in their faith, and to discover and use their gifts for the good of others.
Think of Peter at Pentecost urging the crowds in Jerusalem to ‘Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…’ (Acts 2:38)
Or think of the writer to the Hebrews rebuking their readers for their lack of spiritual maturity in an effort to encourage them to grow in their faith:- ‘You [still] need milk, not solid food…’ (Hebrews 5:12)
And think of Paul mentoring the young Timothy to become an effective leader:- ‘Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.’ (1 Timothy 4:14)
At our away day earlier this summer, we identified some very similar transition points that we need to focus on in order to help people to come to faith and to grow in faith. As we continue to work out what that means in practise, it’s worth asking ourselves two questions:- ‘What am I doing to help other people grow in their faith?’ and ‘Am I growing in my own faith?’ To quote Mike Pilavachi, speaking to thousands of young people at the start of the Soul Survivor festival to which we took a youth group from Slough and Dedworth last week: – ‘My desire is that you go home closer to Jesus than when you arrived.’
That is my desire for you; and I hope it is our shared desire for each other, every time we meet.
With my love and prayers