Questions of personal identity run right through us every day. On Saturday afternoon June 8 at about 3:45 I had to answer the question before 350 people.
The context was the public, formal welcome to the Pastorate at Lansdowne and the opportunity to explain how I had come to be standing before the congregation.
How did I self identify? In these terms.
I am a servant of the Church.
In my case of four previous churches, three of whom I served in Pastoral ministry (Above Bar Southampton, Romford Evangelical, Highfields, Cardiff), the other my home church (Malpas Road Newport) where I came to faith.
This means that I belong to the Church and believe it locally to be the hope of the world. An advocate of Mission agencies, theological training colleges, para-church ministries and denominational structures, I am first and foremost a local church man.
None of the former would exist without the latter.
So I go where the Church needs me, I live to build the Church, to serve its purpose in the plan of God as a blessing to the nations.
Secondly I am a servant of the gospel.
The Church came into being because of the gospel. This good news of a Saviour who died and rose again is the main agenda therefore of every self consciously biblical Church and Christian leader. There can be no other focus than a Christ centred, cross shaped, grace filled message within which all our energies are to be directed.
We die and live by a gallows and an empty tomb. No other truth rescues, no other emphasis has the power to forgive and change for ever our character and destiny. So baptism, the gifts of the Spirit, the return of the King, while important elements and convictions of Christian faith are not the main thing. The job of the Pastor is to keep the main thing, the main thing. He serves the gospel.
Thirdly, I am a servant of the Lord Jesus.
It is after all the Lord Jesus who is the good news and whose good news brought the gospel and therefore the Church into being. No Jesus, no gospel – No gospel, no church.
And if we seek to understand why this particular servant of the gospel has moved from one church to another four times in his 30 years of ministry, the answer is found there. I am ultimately a servant of Christ. When He calls, I listen. Where He sends, I go.
Therefore what to many may seem inexplicable, to the servant of Christ is a matter of simple, if painful obedience. The servant of Christ is not interested in a stellar CV so much as doing His master’s will, whatever that may mean and wherever He may take him.
This is not to minimize the cost of obedience. We have to let go of all our securities when we follow Christ and even those questions “Why now?” “Why here?” are not necessarily answered immediately. Like Abraham faith is spelt RISK – we move on without knowing where we are going.
I am grateful to Highfields Church for releasing a servant of the gospel at what may appear to be his optimal life context in terms of experience and energy. I am grateful to my family for following me . I am grateful to Lansdowne for calling me.
Actually they didn’t. God did. God called me to trust Christ many years ago. He called me into ministry first to England, then to Wales and now back to England. Who knows where God may call me next? For in the end I am answerable to Him. I live my life before an audience of one.
Here I stand… I can do no other.