I was idly listening to some expert nutritional advice on a website. ‘The five foods to avoid in order to lose weight’ was a catchy headline. But the video message was wrong about each item it highlighted: orange juice,
margarine, wholemeal bread…’ We switched off in disgust before hearing any more. The reasons did not square with the science we knew!
The church looks like it needs to go on a diet: it’s easy to spot that it’s out of condition. But what will spare it from more bogus advice? One person has written: ‘God’s mission into this world will be more effective when we become visible signposts to the reign of Christ in our lives; when His glory shines through us. The transforming of God’s people into the Jesus we proclaim brings authenticity to the message we proclaim because people see it alive in us.’
The annual return of attendance figures to the Diocese may tick the box for some, but can in fact encourage us to pander to the wrong target. The transformation of God’s people to become more and more like Jesus Christ is less tangible. But it is the business we are to make our target: to make disciples who are growing in their likeness to Christ: ‘So then just as you received Christ as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were once taught, and overflowing with thankfulness’ (Colossians 2v6-7).
The Bible teaches us how to become mature Christians; it is the sword of the Spirit whose work changes us. We have a crucial part to play in this.
A simple project initiated in January is called “9-a-day.” It encourages Christians to shun sinful behavior and instead develop the nine fruits of the Spirit – Christ like qualities: ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is loved, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and selfcontrol’ (Galatians 5:22-23). Such a beautiful cluster of fruit will show the character of Christ. If we choose to study these qualities and pray daily that they develop in our lives, then we will show Christ to the world in both our words and deeds.
You are welcome to join us as we meet to develop these 9-a-day as local churches. I dare you to take the plunge with us.