The final part of our three-part series, shared with the permission of Rev Dr Steen Olsen. You can read all three parts here.
Where is God in all this?
What is God up to, for heaven’s sake? I have questions, not answers. Have we grown fat, arrogant and complacent? Is God driving us back to first principles? Have we started to think that it depends on us and what we do, as we apply the best techniques and programs in the hope of getting the results we want? Is God recreating a new, humbler, listening people who will go into their communities as fellow travellers who don’t come with all the answers but only with a relationship with the One who created the whole show? Is God refocusing us on relationships rather than structure and programs? OK, those are also statements, not just questions, but the point is still that I don’t know what God is up to. But it is still the right question to ask.
When we ask what God is up to, we move into the area of discernment rather than planning. We focus on God and what he is doing, rather than on ourselves and what we might do. We therefore need to listen to God and his Word. To do that we also need to listen to one another, as we pray together and seek to navigate the seas in which we are now sailing. We don’t have maps and charts. There is no master plan. It reminds me of the story of the early church in the book of Acts (which should be renamed from the ‘Acts of the Apostles’ to the “Acts of the risen Lord through his Spirit’). Unless God is true to his promises and continues to lead and guide us, we will sink without a trace, except perhaps as a historical footnote. But God is good in Jesus Christ. His promises are good for all time, even our confusing times. We can bank on that. We are totally dependent on our God, and that is the best place to be. Always!
Some things don’t change
One final point. When we talk about change in the church it is important to note that some things don’t change. We are not starting with a blank piece of paper, we are building on a foundation laid by the prophets, apostles and the Lord himself, and we stand on the shoulders of those who have walked the Way before us. It is—to change the metaphor—just that the good ship church has also picked up some barnacles along way, and they need to be removed as they are now hindering our progress as we sail fresh seas. Other good things, which were appropriate in their own time, no longer deliver and so we need to move on from them.
My summary of the things that don’t change includes seven items. Everything the church does is always to be…
- Externally oriented
That is a secure foundation on which to continue to meet and worship and build our new life together.
Questions for reflection and discussion:
How do you discern what God has planned for you?
How do you listen to God?
What is God doing? What is He up to in your part of the world?
Which of the list of things that the church always should be is easy to measure or assess in your situation?
How would you go about measuring the other ones?
Would you like help to dig more deeply into this discussion and possible next steps? Contact Pastor David, Kathy or Tom from your LCAQD Ministry & Mission Team via firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07 3511 4000. Or see https://qld.lca.org.au/ministry/ for more resources.
Rev Dr Steen Olsen is a retired pastor of the LCANZ, a former director for Mission of the LCANZ’s South Australia-Northern Territory District, former president (bishop) of the Lutheran Church of New Zealand and director of its Media Ministry.
Riding the Waves of Change Conference Videos Available for Viewing
Have you found Steen’s posts helpful? The we suggest that you check out the following ….
The waves of change have battered the church for many years, gradually eroding our beaches and clifftops. The pandemic increased their size and ferocity. Instead of bemoaning the carnage we see around us, what can we do to learn to ride these waves of change so that we use their power and strength to grow our ability to share the good news of Jesus Christ? The LCA hosted a world-class one-day missional conference in Adelaide in June this year. You can view the video recordings here: