Next weekend, we will both have the pleasure of attending the annual Baptist Assembly in Bournemouth. It’s an opportunity to revisit the town where Matthew grew up, to meet up with family there for the first time in over two years, and (hopefully) to take a stroll along the seafront. Above all, though, it will be a chance to find out what God is doing in and through other Baptist churches up and down the country and to be encouraged that we are but a small part of a much bigger family.
Looking back at the last time the event was in Bournemouth, we were reminded of one of the sessions we attended on that occasion. The speaker was reflecting on Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15, and pointed out that the economics of the world would say that we should protect the 99 safe sheep to prevent any more from getting lost. However, he went on to argue that the economics of God’s kingdom says just the opposite – it exhorts us to go out and find the one sheep that is missing, because people matter to God and the real party celebration lies in bringing home the lost.
We each have the privilege of being part of the church family that is Dedworth Green Baptist Church. The church is part of the wider family of Baptist churches in Great Britain and across the world, which in turn is just part of God’s family, His Church. The apostle Paul writes that ‘The only thing that counts is faith (in Christ) expressing itself through love.’ (Galatians 5:7) What unites us as God’s family – regardless of individual or denominational differences – is therefore far stronger and more important than the trivia that can sometimes threaten our unity.
When we prioritise our unity by concentrating on the only thing that counts, we find that we have a church family to which we actually want to invite the ‘lost sheep’ around us in our homes, offices and neighbourhoods. Our family is still incomplete, and it’s one worth joining, because it has the perfect Father – so let’s remember to look out for the missing family members, rather than simply enjoying time with the 99!
With our love and prayers
Matthew and Pauline
(PS – you can also enjoy time with the ‘99’ by joining us at the main service from the Baptist Assembly, which will be shown live at DGBC at 10.30am next Sunday)