Minister’s Letter May 2014

Dear friends,

The ministry of Jesus did not come to an end after his resurrection. The story doesn’t conclude with the resurrection appearances and the restoration of his relationship with Simon Peter. Jesus goes on to commission his disciples to continue to his work through their witness to his ministry.

Matthew records the words of the Great Commission in his gospel.

‘When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”’ [24:17-20]

With these words of Jesus, he called upon his disciples to work in partnership with him. After Jesus’ ascension we read the story of Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit is sent to work alongside the disciples; to strengthen them, equip them, guide them and encourage them in their task of spreading the gospel.

The task of the Church is still one of mission. Our charge is to share the gospel of Jesus in any way that we can. Just as the gospel message changed the lives of the first believers- it still has the power to change the lives of people today. The call to be a Church with a mission raises all kind of questions for me.

Firstly is our Church the kind of place where believers are equipped to live out the gospel among others? Our congregation must be a place where people feel they are welcome and accepted; where they are built up in their Christian lives. If we are to be a living vibrant community of Christians (that might be attractive to non-believers) then the depth and quality of our worship must reflect the profound nature of the encounter that we have had with Christ, but it must also be evident in the relationships that we develop with one another. Newcomers can tell a great deal about how we deal with one another, whether we show forbearance to one another and the extent to which they care.  The quality of the relationships that we develop and sustain with other people within the congregation acts a bit like a temperature gauge by which other people measure us.

Next, are there signs of missional intent within the life of the congregation? There are certainly signs at St Andrew’s of our desire for mission. We are enriched by our relationship with Christ Congregation, Adentan and over the years have provided support to their mission objectives. Where we could, we have helped projects in other parts of world including our participation in the various Presbytery projects. Yet mission is much more than providing help to those who live far away- there is so much need on our doorsteps. When I walk from the Church to Place Louise I usually pass a number of people begging for money. I see the same thing when travelling on the Brussels Metro. We pray that our financial support to the Centre Social Protestante has been a great blessing to them over the years. The Church Hall provides a venue each week for two local addiction groups. The outreach work developed by one of our newly ordained elders Norbert Boukoro and supported by those within and out with the congregation, now provides help to the needy of Brussels on a monthly basis.  The efforts to touch others in our community with the love of Jesus Christ has developed in surprising ways and we should be encouraged to join in- in any way we can.

Thirdly do we have continued confidence in the Bible as the word of God? We don’t gather together on a Sunday to be do-gooders or become do-gooders. Rather we meet together to have our faith in the risen and ascended Christ renewed and recalibrated by worshipping him. We gather around the living word of God, by reading it together, hearing it explained through the preaching and having its message reinforced in us through the singing of hymns and songs. Yet confidence in the message of the Bible means that we need to believe in its truths for ourselves; see the relevance for the lives that we lead today; be willing to be changed by it and live for the one who inspired its words. It seems to me that as secularisation and pluralism advance in the western world, the Church has lost confidence in her scriptures.

In his second letter to Timothy Paul writes, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” [3:16-17a].

Recently I met a young woman who hopes to train for the ministry in the near future. I asked how she came to faith. She told me the story about the personal witness of her Sunday School teacher many years ago had a great impact upon her. We can only influence others with the gospel if we are willing to be influenced by it for ourselves. That kind of attitude requires a confidence in the Bible and a belief in its timeless message of hope and grace.

Your minister and friend