It’s good to be back from a couple of weeks holiday in Tropical North Queensland – but what a shock to the system to arrive back home on Tuesday to an arctic cold front! We had a good break and are looking forward to the second half of the year.
Reflecting on the first half of the year I can say that there is much to be thankful for, and I think there is a really good sense of God working among us as a church. Having had 5 years to get a feel for KBC and understand its particular qualities and idiosyncrasies, I have personally sensed and seen signs of God’s Spirit leading and guiding us this year in particular. It’s not just that things are cohesive, there’s unity, we came in ahead of budget, we raised more than our global mission target, there are new leaders and initiatives, there’s babies everywhere, lots of marriages, we finally started the property master plan – I could go on! But I sense that as a church, and as individuals, we have captured a fresh vision of putting Jesus and his mission at the centre of everything we are and do. I remember saying in my first year at Kew that I wanted people to be able to say “the best thing about our church is Jesus!”, and the reason I did that is that churches can so easily focus their gaze on many worthy things other than Jesus: family, history, leaders, rituals, each other, etc.
And this leads us the teaching and preaching themes for Term 3: Jesus – The End of Religion. Writing just a few years after founding the churches in Galatia, Paul is frustrated that they are augmenting and supplementing their faith in Jesus with false and unnecessary extras. He passionately calls them back to the message of Jesus and faith in him alone. Galatians has been called the Magna Carta of the Church and we can be so grateful to God for its liberating and powerful message.
What I think would be really helpful for us as a church community is if everyone engages in our weekly teaching by being present on Sundays, but also pre-reading upcoming texts (they are in Kew News the week ahead), following up in small groups and personal devotion afterwards. Why not contact the preacher for a given week to ask them some follow up questions? And pray for those who have the responsibility to preach and teach. I love what Luke writes of the early church in that “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ preaching and teaching.” The nation of Israel, and the church, have always been a people of the Book and a learning people. When we gather around the Word of God each week as a community of faith we break the deceptive chains of independence and self-sufficiency, we show humility in our need for God, we join in a rhythm of worship that is thousands of years old, and we allow our faith to be nurtured and built up as we listen to God’s Word.
So let’s look ahead to this second half of 2016 with faith, with hope and with much love both for God and for one another. There are great challenges in our world and what the world needs is the message of Christ’s love and salvation.