I have a vision, a dream for this parish. I can see a thriving vibrant church, with children, teenagers and people of all ages walking or sitting together engaged in animated conversations. The overall sense or feeling I have when I see this is joy. The bible reminds me God is able … to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, (Ephesians 3:20). So if I can imagine this vibrant overflowing joyful people – God can do more.
In our Sunday series Measure Up - looking at the letters to the churches in Revelation - we have been considering one of these each week and asking, how do we measure up spiritually? If you were to measure the spiritual health of our church using these, would you see us as fit and healthy or in need of emergency treatment?
Like our changing physical fitness, our spiritual health and fitness will change over time. It may improve or decline. People we meet, situations we face, stages of life, and challenges that are before us will all impact upon our spiritual health. Our spiritual health will improve as God works in us, making us more Christlike. It will strengthen as we exercise spiritually using our gifts, labour in prayer, become involved in Christian service and when we read the bible.
In recent years our church has had many significant changes which had the potential to affect our spiritual health. These include leaving the Mt Eden church and moving to the hall, amalgamating the Epsom and Mt Eden parishes, becoming intentionally cross-cultural, employing new staff; as well as the day to day challenges our teams face. Some of these have made us stronger. But having our attention focused in one direction means we may have overlooked other aspects of ministry, areas where we are not so spiritually healthy. So it is useful to consider our spiritual health and see if we measure up or need to do some work to improve.
We can also use these signs of spiritual health to help us connect with the community around us. Each person in our city is facing different issues and trying to find a path through life. If we become aware of a person who is asking questions of faith, because we are a church Growing in Faith, we could invite them to our café service, Converse or growth group where they could explore faith with us. If a person has just moved to the city and is looking for a place to belong, because we are a church Sharing in Fellowship we could invite them to BBQ church or a welcome lunch to introduce them to new friends. Each of these signs of spiritual health can relate to different people in different ways; people looking for purpose, people who want to serve others, people looking for place of worship, or people needing to hear good news. Our church has healthy ways of connecting will all these needs.
We can consider how we measure up using our own judgement, but I wonder how Jesus sees us? We might be able to understand this if we pay attention to the Holy Spirit and listen to what he is saying to the church (Revelation 2.11). When we are open and welcome the Holy Spirit he will speak into our lives about many things. He does this primarily as we read the bible and ask him to give us understanding. To consider how we measure up as people living in love, we could read in the bible about God’s expectations of a loving life and ask the Holy Spirit to help us hear about this from him. We might read, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, (Ephesians 5:1–2). Or we might read verses about faith, worship and service to listen to what the Holy Spirit might say to us about those aspects of spiritual health and how we measure up.
Jesus wants us to measure up and has provided us with his Spirit, his word, and surrounded us with his family so we can measure up as a spiritually healthy church.
Perhaps you could take a few moments this week either by yourself or with others to prayerfully consider one aspect of Greyfriars' spiritual health.
Rev John Malcolm