We are nearing the conclusion of 2020. Much has happened, and I don’t intend to revisit all the things that we have had to navigate as a a broader church, local faith communities, nor individuals. We each have our own stories to tell.
As we reflect on 2020, we should ask ourselves: what did we learn about God? Ourselves? Our churches? Our leadership? What lessons of leading through crisis can be applied to the future? As individuals, have we reignited our hearts for the community in which we live and minister?
Reflection on the past provides each of us a reminder of where we have come from. However, we can spend too much time in what has been. In reflecting, our focus must be on the lookout for any gold discovered in the dirt of past challenges. We must determine to not allow what we have been through to be wasted. The past should not be a mire, but a mirror to see ourselves – warts and all.
Unlike past years, when the ball drops (if it does), ushering out an old year and bringing in a new year, 2021 may seem much the same. COVID restrictions may continue, challenges to our ministry will loom and the temptation of anchoring ourselves in the past may weigh heavy. But we must get our eyes set on the horizon.
This year I have been doing my devotions in the New Revised Standard Version. I have found reading Scripture in a different translation than I typically use births new insight. Such was the case as I was reading through the Gospel of John.
In John 14, Jesus is giving the disciples instruction concerning his being the path to God and the future gift of the Holy Spirit. Then, in verse 31, Jesus says this, “Rise, let us be on our way” (NRSVA).
At this time in kingdom history, that phrase really struck me. He is letting them know it is time to get about doing the business of the kingdom. There were still many challenges ahead. But, regardless, it was time to move out. They could not stay where they were.
In other translations it says:
“Come now; let us leave” (NIV).
“Come, let’s be going” (NLT).
“Get up now! Let us leave this place” (JB Phillips).
Regardless of the translation, the intent is clear: Leave where you are, and move toward what will be.
It is time for us to do this in The Wesleyan Church. It is time to move out and move on. It is time to capture the vision God has for us and the churches we lead and the communities in which we have been placed.
We must not linger in what outside entities say we cannot do; instead run after what we can do. Resist becoming overly concerned regarding our religious freedoms; instead live and act in the freedom we have in Christ to carry the gospel to every person and every part of society, regardless of the cost. Refrain from diluting the Word of God; instead recommit to encouraging clear and convicted preaching.
God has a future for us all in his Church. There is opportunity on the horizon. There is a clear call to be the people of God and the bride of Christ.
Our mandate is to be yeast, seed scatterer and have the faith of a mustard seed. This is the kingdom of God. We are kingdom people! The kingdom in which we reside is not hampered by restrictions, blunted by resistance, accommodating to critics, compromised by threats, nor molded by culture.
We serve the King of Kings. We honor the Lord of Lords. We follow the leading of the Spirit. We are a kingdom people!
We worship God the Father. We are captured by God the Son. We are the residence of God the Spirit. We are a kingdom people!
We are a holy priesthood. We are the image of Christ. We are ambassadors. We are living stones. We are called to be holy. We are Christ’s hands and feet. We are a kingdom people!
Our identity is in Christ. Our challenge is the cross. Our strength is the resurrection. Our power is the Spirit. We are a kingdom people!
We may be down, but we will never be defeated. We may be weary, but we will never wear out. We may be criticized, but we will never compromise. We may be misjudged, but we will never be misunderstood. We are a kingdom people!
We will never give in, give up or give over. We will not be contained. We will not be overcome. We will not be silenced. We will not allow adversity to avert our mission. We are a kingdom people!
We will love others. We will show compassion. We will live with courage. We will take care of our weaker brothers. We will not be bullied by culture. We will represent our Savior with purity of purpose, strong character and unabridged conviction. We are a kingdom people!
2020 is drawing to a close. What will 2021 be like? I don’t know. What I do know is that we are to rise and be on our way. We are a kingdom people!
Dr. Phil Stevenson is district superintendent of the Pacific Southwest District.