This was the question that was asked during our recent elders’ retreat. Every year the elders of HBC get away together for a couple of nights to spend some intensive time in prayer, Bible study, and ministry planning. We find these times to be very fruitful in building closer bonds and ensuring we are shepherding Christ’s church well. On the second day while deep in deliberations over various ministry changes and additions, one of the men asked a crucial question that brought clarity to our discussion. The question was this, “Where do we want the church to be in 12 months?”
The question was not referring to the physical location of our building but rather the spiritual location of Christ’s people! He was asking, if we could gather around this same table in 12 months and reflect upon the last year, what must we see that would confirm to us that we are truly caring well “for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28)?
What would you say? What would you want to see? Would you want to see more people or more ministries or more Life Groups? While these are good things, they are not the determining thing. What became apparent to us is what is articulated clearly in Scripture, that is, we want to see the life of Christ more manifest in Christ’s church at HBC as Christ lives in and through us. We want to see not so much verbal sentiments of this truth, but actual growing evidence of it.
The Apostle Paul had this very aim in mind as he addressed the church of Colossae. They lived in a culture very much like ours, full of every temptation that besets our own life (Col 3:5). Firstly, Paul reminds us of who we are as believers. He states that we are now “raised with Christ” (3:1) and our life is “hidden with Christ” (3:3). Beloved, before we consider manifesting Christ, know that we are dead to sin and as redeemed children of God we are now alive in Christ. It is Christ who is actually living through us.
Because of this, Paul tells us secondly, to “set our minds on things above” (3:2). This means that our primary pursuit in life is not to manifest Christ but to know Jesus and be captivated by Him (John 17:3). In John’s gospel Jesus uses the phrase “abide in Him” (John 15) to show our ineptitude in manifesting Christ apart from Christ.
Only after we realise who we are now in Christ and pursue a deeper knowledge of Him, are we able to rightly receive Paul’s command to put on Christlikeness. Paul goes on to provide a list of things in 3:12-17, but we brainstormed our own. Where do we want the church to be in 12 months? We want to see the HBC family growing in patience and forbearance. We want to see relational conflicts being settled with grace and meekness. We want to see a deepening fear of God and humility toward each other. And lastly, we want to see Christ’s people display a servant, sacrificial heart.
When we truly comprehend and take hold of our new identity as one who is united to Christ, and pursue a deeper, more intimate knowledge of Him, then we are on the path of bearing fruit for Christ. May the Lord be pleased to manifest Himself in and through our church body so that in 12 months we can see tangible growth in our spiritual lives which evidences our Lord’s presence. That would be a year worth looking back on!
Pastor Craig Baxter