Are you wondering what lies in store for us in 2021? This year has been an unforgettable one.
Who could have guessed that a virus one thousandth of the diameter of a human hair would cause such chaos? God knew about it.
In a year when everything stopped; church, football, work everything – when plans, strategies, programmes and eagerly expected events came to a shuddering halt as global lockdowns were activated the thought may come to mind, what of 2021?
Is God saying anything?
He is, and there is some good news.
I’m not convinced by the idea that because of COVID and the course of action taken that forced us to distance ourselves and re-evaluate how we do things, that the Church is going through a metaphorical ‘reset’.
My hesitancy is on two levels, the first being that we are allowing a virus to determine the direction of the Church – undermining the Spirit-led and apostolic leadership of the Church.
The second reason is that of necessity, all society is experiencing that self-same ‘reset’ and to find our prophetic calling extrapolated from society’s knee-jerk reaction means we are in danger of becoming irrelevant. By implication, moreover it questions our great mission (Mark 16:15) and mandate of reaching the nations, somewhat redundant.
Have we absolutely overlooked the focus of our great mandate (“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons”) that a global reset is a necessity? Considering the astonishing church growth in some areas, that could be an offensive proposal. God has better ways of stirring the heart of the Church and revival-not reset is always a more heart-gripping and inspiring one.
It’s not a time to change direction or start again – God’s plan for the Church is bang on target and Christ’s leadership is impeccable.
Yes, some things need to change, and some things are more important than others, but not all congregations and fellowships around the world are the same. I don’t doubt there are things we struggle with in Church, or that there are projects and plans that have had their day that we need to let go of. Neither do I discount the notion that the Church is sadly not carrying that awesome, weighty “chabod” (glory and presence) to the degree that we should or could do. There is still time for that.
A prophetic sound bite for 2021
My prophetic sound bite for 2021 is found in the brilliant account of Nain found in Luke’s gospel (Luke 7:11-17).
I love the story of Nain – in fact, I was to preach on it on the very weekend Lockdown arrived. During this year that narrative has been something (along with Psalm 40) that has encouraged me immensely. In brief, Jesus turns up unexpectedly at a funeral in Nain. He has all of His disciples with him accompanied by a massive crowd and walks into another crowd that is mourning the death of a young man, the only son of a widow from Nain.
Here comes Jesus
Filled with compassion, Jesus stops the funeral procession, touches the dead body and the young man comes back to life. You can imagine the clash of emotions, the wonder and the amazement. When all hope is gone, when despair, grief and heartache falls like a heavy curtain on them, Jesus steps onto the scene.
There are lots of things they could say and do in reaction to the divine intervention that did the impossible. The Bible tells us that fear seized them and they glorified God! Caught up with the moment they exclaimed that a great prophet had risen among them, but then more tellingly was a phrase that has gripped my heart recently, “God has visited His people” When God visits His people, everything changes. I have it on my heart that 2021 is going to be a year that we will experience Him so much we will also exclaim with joy, “God has visited His people.”
I suspect that it may be a year where we experience an unusual and prevailing awareness of the Presence of the Holy Spirit, giving us a collective sense of an unprecedented move of God that is regardless of the constraints we find ourselves in. My late friend Paul Cain often talked of a move of God that incorporated the ministry of a nameless, faceless generation. No big names or celebrities, but the people of God responding to the leading of the Spirit. I think we are seeing something of that in these days as we move away from the spotlight of church platforms, smoke machines, programmes and instead begin to share the gospel, our lives and our Saviour over the fence with neighbours and new friends.
May 2021 be the year wherein we have a renewed and heart-felt sense that God has visited His people. Amen.