In our last GBC Connections Magazine, we wrote a lengthy report of many of the good things that have been happening in our midst during this unique year so I won’t focus on looking back this time. I want to focus on looking forward.
Where is God leading us in 2021? What challenges lie in store for us? How will we thrive? I heard, very recently, a claim that the veil between Heaven and Earth is getting very thin...meaning that God’s presence and power is being seen more often in the daily lives of those who are seeking it. It means that our country’s decline into moral darkness is being matched by the increased activity in God’s Kingdom of Light, resulting in healings, prophetic messages, uniting of Christian Churches in city-wide events, a growing hunger for more of God, a commitment to pray and humble ourselves before God, and people being brought to the end of themselves in preparation for reaching out to God. It means that God is on the move in a fresh movement of His Spirit like NZ experienced in the 80’s and the 60’s, but this time it is going to be Global. It means more change…not just business as usual as we move into 2021.
That is the first challenge we will face as we move into the New Year. Many of us prefer the familiar to the uncertainty that comes with change. But allow me to encourage you to focus on our guide rather than on the uncertainty. Because the Spirit of Jesus, our guide, is courageous, capable and compassionate. He will not lead us anywhere that the Grace of God cannot keep us. If I was asked to go on an expedition with Gideon Geerling, I would be happy to go. Not because I feel overly capable in myself but because I know that Gideon has the character and capability to lead me through the challenges and to bring me safely home. And, as good as Gideon is, the Holy Spirit is even better :). Another challenge we will face is increasing opposition from those around us who don’t share our trust in God. Many in our society strive to be in control of all areas of their life. The very idea of yielding control to an invisible God who would challenge their sovereignty over their own life is confronting to them. Even some within the Church who are focused on finding their security and pleasure in this life will resist the call to break camp and follow Jesus into uncharted territory.
What does it take to be a thriving faith community? In the early days, Christianity grew in the Roman Empire at a rate of 40 percent a decade, growing from around 1,000 (0.0017 percent of the population) in A.D. 40 to nearly 34 million (56.5 percent of the population) in A.D. 350.1 The 2018 census tells us that in NZ, 38.6% are Christian and 48.6% hold no religion.1 The meaning behind these numbers is complex but certainly we would do well to learn from the early Christian communities’ experiences. The bible has a lot to teach us about being a thriving faith community. There are 47 ‘one another’ commands given to followers of Jesus,1 the most repeated one by far is ‘love one another’. Not only is ‘love one another’ good for us as a faith community, but our love for one another is what will make us stand out in the world as followers of Jesus (John 13:34-35).
How do you think we’re doing? We want to encourage you to keep taking the next step toward activating the ‘one anothers’ in our GBC family. What’s one small thing you can do this week that fulfils a ‘one another’? What’s one bigger commitment you can make this year? We’ve introduced Connections Corner to our weekly newsletter. This is designed to be a tool we can use to improve our ‘one anothering’. ‘One anothering’ does mean knowing and interacting with one another. Some of us find it tough to strike up a conversation with someone we don’t know or even harder to talk with someone we’ve been attending church with for years, but struggle to remember their name. Here’s a small thing you can do to improve our ‘one anothering’: check out the question in the Connections Corner of the newsletter and use it to start and conversation with someone you don’t usually speak to at church. In a church family the size of GBC, most of our ‘one anothering’ happens in smaller groups: ministry teams, life groups, interest groups. If you’re not in a life group of one kind or another, you’re missing out on a lot of the ‘one anothering’ we can offer each other. So, here’s a bigger commitment you can make this year to improve our ‘one anothering’: join a life group! It will change your life. Whatever steps you take, big or small, keep moving, increasing your ‘one anothering’ and showing the world His love for them through our love for others. Blessings as you continue to walk with Jesus in 2020, loving His fellow followers at GBC and the people in your wider community. Wendy Geerling
Ask ‘Why?’ Humans are unique in creation in seeking meaning. God has created us with an innate desire to explain things. Children are an excellent example of this feature of human nature. Ask any mother of a 4 year old girl who has to answer an average 390 questions each day! Yet, most of us grow less curious as we grow older. We live in a society with roots in Christianity. For the most part, there’s been synergy between our culture’s values and those of Christianity. But the gap between Christian values and society’s values is widening. There have been shifts in the fundamental beliefs and worldview of society at large which have resulted in an increasing divergence between values of Christianity and society. In the past we have not had need to be highly critical of social values. But as these values diverge, the onus is on us to critique our culture, to implement that God-given human inquisitiveness and ask, ‘why?’ It’s said that you need to ask ‘why?’ five times to get to the root cause of a problem. It turns out the same principle applies to finding the root cause of a behaviour. If we start with a behaviour we’ve observed and repeatedly ask ‘why?’ we will discover the value behind the behaviour, the belief behind the value, and the worldview behind the belief. Everything we do is informed by our worldview, even when we don’t consciously realise it. There are values and beliefs behind every behaviour. It is axiomatic that people with changed attitudes change their own behaviour. When people understand why they’re doing something they are much better at regulating their own behaviour. So, if we want to see change, or even if we want to take a relationship to the next level, let’s start with asking ‘why?’ and listen to the answer. You may find common ground you can build on. You may be able to point out inconsistencies in the beliefs and behaviours of others. You may even change your mind! Be creative in how you ask ‘why?’ Sometimes it doesn’t even take a question. If you reflect back what you’ve heard, i.e. “So you think it’s good that…?” you will likely get a response that effectively answers the question ‘why?’ What other ways can you think of to ask ‘why?’ without asking ‘why?’ It’s good to practise on yourself, too. The more you understand your own behaviours, values and beliefs, the more consistent you will be in applying them and the more confident you will be in explaining them to others. Let’s equip ourselves to be confident Christians, sure of our beliefs and able to engage the world, by using our God-given inquisitive nature and ask ‘why?’
I have this picture on my office wall. It’s good to be inspired by our church vision and mission. I’m easily attracted to the petals, and often reflect on what we are doing and what we could be doing. But recently, God’s been drawing me back to that first leaf - us being transformed by Jesus -and I’m reminded that there is a flow, an order, to this picture. All the things we do and want to do for Jesus and His kingdom are meant to flow out of our own transformed life. In this busy-obsessed day and age, it’s too easy to focus on the things we’re ‘doing for God’ or ‘doing for the church’. And getting the order of things - the first leaf before the petals - out of order happens almost without us realising. While this is certainly an easy trap for our culture to fall in to, it’s not a new problem. Listen to what Jesus says to the Church in Ephesus: Rev. 2:2-5 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: you have forsaken the love you had at first.5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
As we enter into 2019 there is an air of anticipation and excitement as to what our Father has in store and we are all in it together … “He waka eke noa” (Together in one canoe with no exception). So, where are we going together? God is transforming each person in GBC and building us into a loving, all-age connected community, so that He can flow through us to bring transformation into our community and city. We are being transformed to be transformers. One of the best images of transformation we see in nature is the process that changes a caterpillar into a butterfly. Likewise God’s goal for each of us is that we no longer seek only what we want and what is good for us but we think more about doing and saying what is helpful for others. Then God’s life-giving Spirit is free to flow through us into the lives of those around us. This is similar to what John saw in heaven as recorded in Revelation 22:1-2 where the living water flowed out from God’s throne to bring healing to the nations.
Jesus is the source of life and love in us therefore faith, love, hope, joy and peace flows out from our church family, into our community and beyond, bringing God glory and pleasure.
It starts and finishes with God. And He loves us too much to leave us as we are. His plan is that, through the church, including through OUR church, His great wisdom will be displayed. (Ephesians 3 verse 10)
One of the exciting things is seeing how God has been transforming many within GBC, especially over the last few years. New opportunities to take this transformation out into our community have been popping up around us like daisies on an un-mown lawn…like God is confirming that we are ready now.
The sunflower below illustrates how this picture all fits together. We can do nothing apart from Christ’s transforming life in us (the stem). First we are transformed (left leaf) so that we may be agents of transformation for others through loving service (right leaf). Motivated by God’s love and for His honour we may feel called to serve him through any one of the opportunities for service represented by the petals.
I only have room for a brief description of each, but if any one of these opportunities tugs at your heart strings please see me for more information....
Recently I was asked “what was on my heart” for us as a church community. What sprang to my mind immediately was the excitement I am feeling as I am seeing God working out His plans and purposes in the Gleniti church family right before our eyes. Outward focus: We, as a church have been seeking to be more outward focused. We wanted to get more involved in serving our local primary school and kindy. God has given us the desire of our hearts. Recently a practical project was offered to Simon Erskine and our woodwork group to help our local primary school extend their sandpit. Then we received a request from our local kindy to help them engage more with the Gleniti community. Just last week we hosted a shared lunch to welcome the Syrian family we have sponsored to settle in Timaru and asked them to invite some of their Muslim friends. Well, they came and we shared an anointed time over delicious food and warm fellowship. They requested that we continue to engage with them, so a shared picnic and football game down Caroline Bay is on the agenda. :) God has put a vision on our hearts for GBC to develop a strong culture of caring where all ages are valued and engaged and for us to become a faith community that provides a strong network of support for many in our wider community and city who are struggling to find the love and support they long for. We live in a society where many people are experiencing loneliness and depression.Some great things have been happening within the various ministries that connect the different parts of our church family. Children’s ministry: Thanks to Anne Garrett who so faithfully served the needs of GBC children for many years. The baton has been passed to Simon and Louise, Mark and Lisa, Martine, Carmen and Wendy who are already making an impact with their creative ideas and events to engage the wider church family. Recently, at their request, GBC ‘unplugged’ and we held our service in the bush setting of Gunn’s Bush (Waimate). What a wonderful time of worship, fellowship, food and fun with everyone being engaged and connected.
Lately, I have been seeing Gleniti Baptist Church as a yacht that is becalmed out in the ocean. Past events and experiences have ‘taken the wind out of our sails’ and left us bobbing up and down on the vast expanse of water without a clear sense of direction. However that is changing. The breeze is picking up. “The winds of change” are beginning to gather strength and with certainty a storm is coming…change is coming. All over the world there is a quiet movement of the Spirit of God that is causing believers to re-examine how they “do church” … It’s about making a significant and sustainable difference in the lives of people around us…in our communities and in our cities.”
Bob Gass, in a recent devotion, described the dangers facing the sailors in the days gone by. There were concerns about pirates, storms and diseases, but their greatest fear were the ‘doldrums’. This was an area around the equator characterised by calm and very light shifting winds. It could mean the death of the entire crew as their supply offood and water would dwindle while waiting for a breeze, sometimes for days or even weeks, to put them back on course.
God is stirring individuals among us to do business with Him and to respond to this new move of His Spirit. He intends for us to bear His transforming love into our community and work places. Consequently a clear sense of vision and mission is coming into focus for us as a church.
“There will be love, joy, peace and hope in our church family, community and beyond because Jesus is the source of life in us.” Seems simple enough at first glance. But if you think about each part of this statement long enough, you will begin to understand just how transformational this vision is. When you think of the radical transformation that God will need to do in us and through us for this to become reality, and the far reaching, positive impact that it will make in our city, we see that this is only something God can do. And this, of course is the whole idea of a vision…it is to be something huge and worth investing into, and God gets the glory ...
God never promised that life would be fair nor that it would be easy.
What he did promise us, was to never leave us nor forsake us. And it is that promise that makes life bearable for hundreds of thousands of Christians around the world today who are suffering. It is this very characteristic of God, as revealed in the Bible, that sets Christianity and Judaism apart from all other religions. God is knowable, personal and absolutely trustworthy. He is Immanuel, God with us.
But, in Christianity, God takes this amazing truth to a whole new level. Not only did He break with all ‘God conventions’ by entering into His own creation as a baby several thousand years ago, but for all who trust Him as their Saviour and Lord, He comes and fills their “God space” that He created in each of us. It is a custom designed space that only He can fill. We can try to satisfy our deep inner longing with entertainment, pleasure, wealth and success but they don’t even come close. When we have ‘God life’ inside us, we can pass through the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil because of His presence with us.
If life has been a struggle for you lately, I invite you to read the life-stories revealed in this magazine. Be encouraged. God is alive and well today and in the business of “connecting you with life.”
My prayer as we enter the second quarter of 2018 is that many people will find God is sufficient for any need that they have and that He will use the Gleniti Baptist Church family to be His agents of hope for many in our city.
PC makers claim their computers have “Intel Inside” Christians claim we have “God Inside” … I know which I prefer.