Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while. These were Jesus’ words to weary apostles in response to the work report they had given him when they returned from a ministry assignment. The need for this is explained by Mark: For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. So, they went away in a boat to a desolate place by themselves (Mark 6:31-32). These are soothing words to read, for in them we recognize that Jesus understood the need of quiet, solitude, and rest. Many times he demonstrated his own desire to be alone in prayer with his Father amidst the expectations of people as he ministered to them. In this, we too are encouraged and permitted to withdraw for the sake of body, mind, heart, and soul. I do hope that over the summer you were refreshed with some time off, or away, to especially be still and know that God is God. The Lord was certainly gracious to grant this to my family, for which we are grateful.
With the last few days of summer upon us, we know that rest and relaxation are not a permanent state. In fact, the disciples realized this all too well, for Mark records that by the time their boat reached their destination, it had been transformed into an overcrowded beach. So much for vacation! Yet, Jesus’ response is compelling, inspiring, and beautiful. Mark writes, When he went ashore he saw the great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things (Mark 6:34). When evening came, he fed them miraculously with the fish and the loaves. While we all need downtime, we must return to the great work Christ has called all of us to, namely, making disciples of all nations as we seek to walk worthy of the gospel. And so, with this in mind, it seemed appropriate to provide a ministry update for the Fall.
As pastors, we are thrilled at the prospect of beginning a new preaching series in the gospel of John, entitled That We May Believe. This, of course, is taken from John 20:31, where the apostle states the reason for his account: These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. [Hint: you should probably memorize this. There will be a test.] We look forward to fixing our eyes on Jesus as we preach our way through this biblical book. We would encourage you to get reading! At the same time, we’re excited to test drive a Q&A session shortly after our morning services. This will give Christians and non-Christians alike opportunity to ask the preacher questions that arise from listening to the sermon, and almost certainly keep us on our toes in the process. There will be a prize for whoever stumps Pastor Roger first.
On Sunday evenings I will be teaching a short four-week series entitled Real Deal Zeal. I hope and pray you will come because we need to be challenged in the ways our apathy for God plague and cripple us. Are we really, truly satisfied with our fire and passion for God, for His glory, and for the spread of His fame at home and abroad? More importantly, is God? Could any of us honestly answer yes? I know that Sunday evening services are not a priority that everyone commits to but I would challenge you to change that for at least four weeks (Sept 18th & 25th; Oct 2 & 16), especially if you are a ministry leader. What better way could you spend those hours than by considering with us what God thinks of spiritual apathy, his call to repent, what real zeal is, how we cultivate zeal, and what it looks like in all of life? Can you imagine what our lives, our marriages, our families, our work, our love, our evangelism, our sacrifice, and our church would look like if we submitted to the Holy Spirit for the stoking and sustaining of greater zeal in each of us? I pray that the prospect of this would intrigue you enough to join us. May the Lord breed holy discontent among us so that we would have “one pure and holy passion to know and follow hard after him.”
In a different vein, we would covet your prayers as we plan to gather as elders in the fall. We will be spending a day away together again to pray and evaluate the ministry of our church. As I continue to be challenged, poked, and prodded through the seminary courses in the Church Health and Evangelism certificate, there is much to consider. Here are two questions for you to ponder that give a small taste of what my mind is chewing on these days. First, what does a disciple of Jesus Christ look like? Second, how are people becoming and growing as disciples of Jesus Christ through the ministry of Hespeler Baptist Church? Answering these biblically has less to do with the quantity of our activity and more to do with the quality of our activity. In other words, how does all that we do align with the church’s mandate to make disciples? This is what we look forward to digging into together for an evening in September and a full day in October. Please pray for that we would seek the wisdom of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit!
Speaking of activity, there are many ministry opportunities for you to engage in over the course of the Fall, Winter, and Spring. Sunday school for all ages begins on September 11th. As kids continue with the Desiring God curriculum, adults will be kicking off with an update from Teresa before she heads back overseas to the mission field. Afterwards, Mike Putt will lead us through a study on justification by faith alone. Between now and January, you’re going to start hearing about an exciting new venture in Sunday School called The Gospel Project. Pastor Caleb and Jared Patus have been working hard over the summer to breathe new life and vision into what we believe is a vital ministry. I would also encourage you to prayerfully consider joining a Life Group for the purpose of greater opportunity to keep the many one another commands of the New Testament, and for accountability in your walk with Christ. Beyond these, I trust you will keep your eyes and ears peeled for additional ministry endeavours that will get underway.
Amidst the return of routine and the excitement of sinking my teeth into a new ministry year, most of all, I’m looking forward to all of us being together again. There is always a sweet joy when vacations and travels end and everyone winds back up in the same place. I especially look forward to that first Sunday after the long weekend to lift my voice with yours to the praise of God’s glorious grace, even as we humble ourselves under His Word. To help us realize the blessing of belonging to the family of God in a different setting, Bob and Kendra Kallonen will be hosting the church family on their property on Saturday, September 17th. I hope you’ll mark that date and take time to gather with your brothers and sisters so that we can catch up with each other.
Until then, grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.