Observer of a Season - Spring 2020
From the Pastor
Observer of a Season
I can still clearly remember how I came to believe that the Lord was calling me to be the minister of St Andrew's Street Baptist Church. I was living and ministering in Norwich at the time. I felt a deep emo-tional stirring one night and – with hindsight – recognised it as a feeling I've received at key moments of the Lord calling me on. When I received this 'stirring' I found it very unpleasant and this prompted me to pray, long into the night, asking the Lord to remove the feeling. When I finally went to bed I had a sudden clarity in my mind about three things I should do, without delay.
What the three things were is not so important as the fact that I took this all to be from the Lord. The next day I got on with doing what I firmly believed my Master was telling me to do.
It seems amazing, but I received a call from the Regional Ministry team almost the very second that I completed the last of the tasks. Richard Lewis, the team leader, told me that my name had cropped up in prayer as they had been asking the Lord about the future min-ister for St A's. This had coincided with a mention of my name in a prayer meeting in Cambridge itself. They felt that the two mentions warranted further investigation to see if it was from the Lord. My story of stirring, prayer and tasks added a third strand (Ecclesiastes 4:12) and the process of my eventual appointment began.
I arrived in Cambridge in 2014 at Easter time. I'm writing this, my last and 46th article for the Messenger, almost exactly six years lat-er.
You might be wondering why I called this farewell message, 'Observer for a Season.' It's a phrase that certainly needs some clarification. I suppose it sums up that enigmatic situation that most ministers find themselves in during their tours of duty with churches: neither abdicating nor claiming responsibility for the various goings on. I feel like my Father has given me a front row seat while He has
done things. Some of these things have been wonderful to behold and easy to enjoy. Other things have made me feel more like a man observing a terrible storm as he stands on the edge of a crum-bly cliff.
I believe and I regularly preach and teach that it’s of paramount im-portance to seek the Lord’s will. In one of the first leadership meet-ings that I attended and in one of the first services that I led at St A’s, I unfurled a map and gave a simple visual demonstration: if we, as a church are at point ‘A’ and the Lord wants us to go to point ‘B’, we need to know where point ‘B’ actually is so that we can travel to it. If we have no idea where point ‘B’ is and just start travelling re-gardless, we will probably be heading in the wrong direction. We need to pray, “Lord, show us point ‘B’!” We need to pray, “Lord, show us the direction You want us to travel in!” We need to pray. We need to pray.
It’s the kind of thing that every Christian feels peace about when they hear it. The cry of, “Amen!” rings out swiftly and clearly and in unity from God’s people. However, a little time of really praying and seeking after the Lord’s will soon leads to far more mixed respons-es. These responses can be broadly divided into two categories: threatened or thrilled. There are myriad reasons why different peo-ple at different times might feel threatened or thrilled by what is go-ing on.
Why threatened? Perhaps, you feel as though your position of pow-er or authority is being challenged. Perhaps, your own will and per-sonal desires are being left ignored or unfulfilled. Perhaps, you con-sciously or subconsciously detest change and depend on things ba-sically staying the same – a nice rhythm, friendly faces, familiar songs, no alarms and no surprises.
Why thrilled? Perhaps, seeking after the Lord is already inextricably woven into the
fabric of your life – your first question is, “What is Your will, Lord?” and your first request
is, “Lord, please reveal my part in Your great plan.” Perhaps, there has been a time or
times in your life when you’ve had to take a step of faith and ‘let go of the reins’, when
you’ve done so, you’ve joyfully discovered our heaven-ly Father to be faithful and good.
Perhaps, you’ve found yourself
standing in opposition to God’s will in the past and you have a recol-lection of that being
a bad place to be – you’ve become as cautious as Gamaliel who said these words in
Acts 5 (ESV translation):
38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For
if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not
be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
Sooner or later, all churches must grasp a simple truth: the Church belongs to the Lord.
This isn’t bad news. We are defined in this manner by Paul: ‘fellow citizens with God’s
people and also mem-bers of His household’ (Ephesians 2:19 NIV, italics mine). How
easy it is to get it completely wrong and imagine our redeemed selves to be autonomous
and masters of our own house. St A’s is-n’t my church. And it’s not yours, either.
I thank my Lord and Master that He called me to be the minister of St A’s for six years.
For the inspirational love, deep friendship and regular forgiveness I’ve received, I’m truly
May His kingdom come, may His will be done at St A’s. May you be richly blessed. In
Jesus’ Name, amen.