Now is the time to repent and believe
Synod General Secretary, the Rev. Dr Andrew Williams, in his June Newsletter says we stand on the edge of sparkling possibilities but we must change direction, act decisively and risk all.
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:15)
Our church is at a kairos moment; a brief window of opportunity, possibly only a few years at the most, in which to turn the church around, or to be more accurate “to repent and believe”.
To repent is another way of saying we need to face reality and change decisively. To believe is another way of saying we must trust God and risk all.
I believe that we are standing at the edge of Pentecost and that growth and change are possible. According to Orlando Costas there are four features:
- “numerical” growth;
- “organic” growth where the organisation and structure becomes fluid and flexible enough to take account of the Church’s context and the movement of the Spirit;
- “conceptual” growth. If there is no theological, emotional and spiritual development then despite numerical increase, the church is not growing;
- “incarnational” growth. This relates to the degree in which the church is prophetically participating in the afflictions of the world through prayer, action and identification with the powerless and marginalised.
At a meeting recently I was asked something along the lines of “Don’t we need a vision first to know where we are going?”
I respond with three thoughts. First, you can’t, and shouldn’t, worry about vision and long-term transformation when the house is burning down!
Vision is important but, as John Kotter, the Harvard Business School change management expert, points out, vision is the third step in the process to getting lasting change.
First comes creating a sense of urgency and second getting a guiding team together. Only when these things are in place can we begin to develop a strategy for how we can move forward.
We need to have people realise that we are at stage one — creating a sense of urgency. There are still many people who seem to think everything is okay in the church!
Second, there are several meanings to the word vision. The one we are most familiar with and the one we tend to think of first is “foresight” — the future oriented capacity to perceive what is not. Foresight means being able to look responsibly into the future and to describe changes that would be faithful to the purpose and the call of the church.
But that is not the only meaning of vision. Vision is also perception — the capacity to perceive realistically what is present. The ability to see, and to help others to see, the way things actually are.
We require both senses of vision, both foresight and an accurate and caring perception of the current reality. The essential task in a time of change is to keep the conversation going between the voices of perception and the voices of foresight.
Vision then, has to reflect our discerning the will of God for our future — a discernment which arises from a continuous and healthy conversation between the reality of perception and the possibility of foresight.
Third, we have spent a great deal of energy on trying to produce “vision statements” and plans to change the church and re-structure parts of the Synod. In my view, though, there is little evidence that all that work has produced lasting results. I have a pile of papers — statements, theological reflections, reports and so on — on my desk. Now I want to see some action and some change!
We stand on the edge of sparkling possibilities, but the time is short and we need to cast our nets on the other side.
We must change direction, act decisively and risk all. That is what repentance and faith are all about.
Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
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