FORWARD. ALWAYS FORWARD. EVERYWHERE FORWARD!
When the Lord gave me this archiepiscopal theme from the words of Boniface Wimmer upon my election as the Archbishop at St. Vincent’s Basilica in 2014, I had no idea how many times during these years we would need to draw upon them. Now again is such a time!
1. This is a challenging time in our history!
As Christian leaders (servants) we are faced with unprecedented challenges as we seek to fulﬁll the ministries God has entrusted to us. However, these are also opportunities to trust, follow, and obey the Lord.
A. The Pandemic
B. Civil Unrest
C. Election Season
This season has created a level of exhaustion and fatigue among many of our clergy and lay leaders as we have had to learn new ways of doing our ministry, dealing with technology, caring for the sick and wounded, and making so many important and pressurized decisions. Part of our fatigue also has to do with the anxiety and complexity of not knowing what is coming and where we are going in our ministry before the Lord. The following is not meant to add to our fatigue but actually free us from part of the burden as we develop a godly plan for the days ahead. Walk through these suggestions and questions writing down what the Lord reveals to you about your specific situation. Then, work it through with your leadership team and vestry and with much prayer casting all your anxieties and burdens on the Lord (Ps.55:22; 1 Pet.4:7).
2. How can we maximize this time so that after the pandemic and after the election we can have the most inﬂuence for Christ and an explosive impact in our ministries?
A. Keep the Main thing the MAIN THING – Jesus Christ and His Gospel!
1. We all are going to be tempted to spend a lot of time and energy on the cultural concerns which are at the forefront of media. Not that these are not important, but as the Church, our focus and our mission is Jesus Christ and His Gospel.
2. Speciﬁcally, regarding the pandemic, clergy and vestries should work together following the guidance of their bishop and the speciﬁ c local, state, and demographics of the parish.
3. Speciﬁcally, regarding racial issues, we now have a Provincial Working Group on Race, Racism, and Racial Reconciliation which has begun meeting and who will present their results to the bishops in several months. Until then, it is time to listen and not to pontiﬁ cate our speciﬁc political positions. Let us love our neighbors as ourselves.
4. Speciﬁcally, regarding the upcoming election in the United States, clergy should attempt to minister to both the democrats and the republicans in their congregations and to not take public stands for one candidate or another. God is more concerned about our love and servant spirit than He is for us preaching that He has taken sides. Sadly, every issue is now politicized and the “cancel culture” attitude of writing off those who don’t agree 100% with one’s point of view is pervasive. Let us do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
B. Review Your Mission Statement.
1. The ACNA: Reaching North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ.
2. Our Diocese: ______________________________________________
3. Our Parish: _______________________________________________
4. A Particular Ministry: ________________________________________
1. What has been hindering this mission that is within my control?
- Lack of focus?
- Infrastructure for mission not in place?
- Lack of discipleship/catechesis?
- Lack of training of leaders?
- Too much emphasis on the Sunday worship service?
2. What can I do now (in this season) to lay the foundation for this ministry so that when we move out of the pandemic, the ministry can explode in the purpose of the Lord?
3. What do I need to change in my priorities and use of my time during this time so that I can accomplish the above mission?
4. What do I need to be teaching/training my flock to accomplish the above mission?
- Basic Christianity?
- Spiritual disciplines?
- Community mission to the poor, homeless, and jobless?
- Care groups for the sick and for those who have lost loved ones?
- How to pray?
- Evangelism training?
- Leadership training and development?
- Prayer ministry in our city?
- Healing ministry in and outside local hospitals/clinics?
5. From a personal perspective, how does God want me to use my gifting this season to prepare others for the next season?
3. Philippians 3:8-14
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ my lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection of the dead. Not that I have already attained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own because Jesus Christ has made me his own. I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal of the upward call in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way.”
- Paul is speaking about his personhood, his prestige, his popularity, and his position which he had lost because of his commitment to Jesus Christ.
- Paul says it’s all garbage compared to knowing Jesus by faith and being “made His own.” We know Paul didn’t have it easy (see 2 Cor.6), but he was serving and obeying the Lord under the leadership of the Holy Spirit in gratefulness for what God had done for him because of his faith in Jesus.
- We have lost many things during this season, but what is most important flows out of our faith in Christ and our obedience to him. While we grieve our various losses, we keep our eyes looking toward the Lord’s will for us.
- Like Paul, let us “strain forward” to what is coming, and let us press on “toward the goal” of his upward call in Jesus. If we seek and ask, He will give us goals and objectives to move forward in our ministries, moving them toward his upward call and his eternal purposes.