The past twelve months have forced us as a Church, a community, and possibly even you as a prospective ministry or mission student, to wrestle with questions about the form and function of what God calls us to be. From my perspective, these questions are placed in five key areas: our commission, community and congregation, and the roles of clergy and church.
Perhaps you identify with some of these questions! Perhaps you seek to discern the voice of God calling you for a life in ministry. Perhaps you search for the heart of God, pulling you towards Himself! Perhaps you wonder if He is the One calling you to join Him in shaping a future with Him. You are not alone in your thinking and questioning. The future is wide open at this point and your hunger for answers may be an indication of His call for your life!
Have you found yourself asking any of the following questions:
Commission (“Why are we here?”):
- Is preaching, teaching and baptising enough, or is it too utilitarian?
- Does caring for people form part of our commission, or is this the remit of other organisations? Where does it rank in our order of priorities?
- Should we care, even when it does not lead to preaching, teaching and baptism?
- Should we keep preaching and teaching even when no one is listening
- What should we be preaching and teaching about?
Community and the Congregation (“Who is my brother?”):
- With regular and physical meetings severely impacted by lockdowns and restrictions, who do we have an immediate responsibility for?
- Our Adventist members?
- Our local community?
- Those with immediate needs?
- Who decides which needs are more important?
- Is there even a list of needs priorities?
- Spiritual needs!
- Physical needs!
- Emotional needs!
- What happens when the priorities of the church and community differ?
- Should our artificial boundaries still play a role?
- Membership in the Adventist Church vs. non-members of the Adventist Church
- Christians vs. other religions vs. no religion
- Membership in the local church vs. a church in a different country
Clergy (“What shall I say?” / “Who will go and serve?”):
- Is it about primarily preaching, teaching and baptising?
- Is it about coordinating church services?
- Is it about coordinating people to serve others?
- Is it about rolling up our sleeves and care for people at the expense of the above?
- Is it about praying for the people?
- All of the above? More?
- Who should do all this: the clergy, church members, the community?
Church in the present day (“How will we do church?”):
- Is church, the gathering of people in a building on a Sabbath morning for traditional forms of study or worship?
- Is church, the online Sabbath School class, small group I belong to in order to pray, worship with, discuss various issues, read a book and talk about it?
- Is it the family worship environment I engage in daily?
- How about the neighbourhood where we connect with people as we meet needs?
Over 52 Sabbaths of experimentation, soul-searching, much joy but also frustration, and many of us are left with more questions than answers. There has never been a time of greater uncertainty in the recent past that challenges all the above aspects at the same time and with equal intensity. The old is broken and rebuilding it may not be what we are called to do. Through His Spirit, God is revealing Himself in a powerful way, redirecting us towards Himself and reasserting His role in leading a people. Now, more than ever God is seeking a group of leaders to follow His calling into a new tomorrow with Him.
If you are serious about engaging with some of these questions while studying Theology at Newbold College of Higher Education, you will be intentional on at least three levels: spiritual (prayer and reflection), experiential (participation in a local and national church, as well as the local community) and intellectual (reading and learning). Ministerial training at the College will equip you with the essential knowledge to help redefine and reshape the commission, community and congregation, the roles of clergy and church, as well as discerning the voice of God as you lead.
If you feel God pulling you towards Himself in wrestling with these questions and if you’re seeking the opportunity to join God in the work He is doing in the church and the community, then you’ve come to the right place.
Welcome to Newbold.