Dear Church Family,
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
For those of you who were with us on Sunday morning, you will know that it was our farewell Sunday at Life Church. As a result, I wanted to write one final letter to you, as our friends and our church family. Lorna and I love you all very much!
I so love what God has been doing amongst us over these past eight years. I know it has not always been easy and there have been seasons when we’ve scratched our heads, wondering what God is doing, yet I can confidentially say that the testimony of these last 3,000 days has been: God is faithful in all his ways and, as Lamentations reminds us, we’ve together experienced the “steadfast love of the Lord [that] never ceases”. This truth alone is something worth shouting about and praising God for (and I’m so glad the worship team have turned this into a song that we sing).
However, it has also been wonderful to see the way that God has taken hold of us as a church and grown and expanded us, not only in numbers but also in influence and maturity. Life Church is such a different place now to the church it was eight years ago, and this is God’s wonderful handiwork amongst us. As I just pause for a moment, names, faces and stories come flooding into my mind: people who made massive and radical decisions to commit to x or throw themselves into y, sometimes at great personal cost. Yet the fruit of those risky decisions runs on and on and will have impact in eternity to come. I also think about those who have faced unexpected and painful life-altering challenges, and yet didn’t allow these to steal the joy that is found only in Jesus. I’m stunned and humbled at the way so many people have poured their time, talents and treasures into helping us as a church move into the plans and purposes that God has for us. Seriously, church family: you are amazing! I love the sacrificial serving that I see right across this church community. It really is very special. I also think about the many people who have come to know Jesus over these last few years; stories of God wonderfully saving and redeeming people; stories that will be told through all of eternity as a testimony to the triumph of Jesus at Calvary. I’m reminded of the countless faces of those people we have touched with the love and kindness of Jesus through the many and various social action outreach programmes. There is something utterly beautiful, when God’s people get caught up in grace-motivated action. And I’m reminded of those who have carried over and above what perhaps they should have, because there has been a need and no one else was able to jump in and help. Thank you for giving again and again.
Life Church, what I’ve just described in my previous paragraph is wonderfully rich soil for God to come and plant a new season of extraordinary fruitfulness into. Be assured and encouraged that the best is still to come. God’s garden/family is so much bigger than where we’ve got to. However, for these things to be fulfilled it is going require similar actions of courage, service and throwing yourselves into the purposes of God. I recently posted on Twitter this wonderfully provocative quote from CT Studd, a Cambridge-educated, tipped to become Prime Minister, who chose instead to become a missionary in China. He said:
“Christ wants not nibblers of the possible, but grabbers of the impossible”.
Life Church, may I encourage you over this coming season, in prayer together, to become grabbers of the impossible for the sake of the thousands here in Peterborough who do not know Jesus as their saviour, friend and Lord?
I want to take a moment to thank some very special people. My role as lead elder has been filled up with joy because I have been able to serve alongside such great guys as Phil Angell, Sam Tucker and Wouter Vertegaal. It really has been very special seeing them serve, lead and reach out for the things of God together. Church family, you have a great team of leaders who I know are not hirelings (doing it because they get paid), but shepherds who are being schooled by the Great Shepherd! I’m especially glad that Wouter is taking on leading the team. As I’ve said, we are very different people, yet he loves this church and I know he will bring about a new season of creative advance. Please do pray – along with me – for these wonderful leaders. We know God is going to add others into this mix over the coming season, but right now let’s pray for God’s wonderful protection, energy, wisdom and guidance to be upon them. Anointing is a very special thing. It is not the sum of your natural gifting, but something grace-given by the Father. It enables us to do way beyond what we would naturally be able to do. I’m praying for a fresh anointing to be upon each one of these elders.
I also want to take a moment to thank current and past office team members. Again, it has been a joy to see the team grow and flourish, from when I arrived and Christine, Jacki and I were crammed into what is now Nancy’s office. So, office team present and past: thank you. Thank you for pouring your lives into making much of Jesus and seeing his church grow and flourish. Thank you for living in that place of risky faith. Thank you for giving over and above what you could have. Thank you for working with – and often covering for – my frailty. Thank you for enabling so many other people to find their place in this church community. These last eight years would have been so very different without you.
Finally, let me try to express my love for you. Yes, if you are reading this letter, that means you! One of the joys (and at times heartaches) of leading a church family is getting caught up in Jesus’ love, motivated and saturated in the building of his family. I feel so utterly rich and enriched because of who you are and what God is doing among you, and that you have given me the privilege of leading for these few short years among you. Thank you.
So, as you press on together, never lose sight that you were made to delight in God, you’ve been called to be radical disciples of him in every aspect of your life, you’ve been called to demonstrate the goodness of his kingdom by caring for the poor and praying for the sick, and by declaring the unchanging gospel in an unapologetic way.
Friends, don’t allow the cares of this life to steal the joy of giving much to see much made of Jesus.
With much love