One of the delightful things about the last few weeks has been having conversations with people as they reflect on the last 10 years. A number of people have commented to me about how much our church has changed and I have enjoyed listening to their stories and recounts of the way things were and the way things are now. I count any change for the better as a work of God and anything else is the result of the frailty and failings of humans!
Over the next few articles I want to share some personal observations reflecting on what I have seen and rejoiced in as God has done a good work in you. The first one relates to your attitude to the Word of God.
In many churches, the Bible is read and even mentioned in sermons but it is not given a place of authority and importance in the lives of people. Paul commended the Thessalonians saying “We also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.” It brings me enormous joy that I can say exactly the same thing about you.
One of the stories I love to tell is about the way the people of our church use the Bible in church. I remember during the first weeks of being here, many people would have the Bible open on their lap while it was being read, but once the sermon started, they would close it and place it back in the pew. We are encouraged to test what we hear (1 Thessalonians 5:21) and that is hard to do with the Bible closed. Some time later, I remember saying in a sermon “Look with me at verse 1” and a multitude of heads bowed to look at the Word of God. What a great delight that was.
Nowadays, I am regularly accosted by Bible wielding people after church who question my understanding of this verse or that. We have a rigorous and thought-provoking question time after 6pm church. Our regular Sermon Extra has been a great opportunity to explore the issues and applications that flow out of Sunday. Our Growth Groups are growing in number continue to be hubs for debate and discussion around the Word.
You are hungry for the Word of God and this delights me enormously. You accept it as a Word that carries great authority. You accept it as God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). You are willing to sit under it and read it and be guided by it. This is wondrously important and you must continue in this. As I have said before, Anglicans all over the world are increasingly discarding the Word of God as a word of previous importance from which we must move on. The destruction such an attitude reaps in the church and lives of believers is tragic.
My friends, whatever you do, please continue to hold firmly to the Word of Life!