Another Open Letter to the Church in Gateshead.
Hi in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
You may remember that I wrote to you earlier with an invitation to be included in the proposed directory of the church in Gateshead. So far response has been rather unenthusiastic, but I am not daunted.
Anyone wishing to be included and receive an updated copy of the directory has only to get in touch.
It may be that the prospect of the whole church in Gateshead being knit together in love seems a bit fanciful at this moment. However we do know that it is the will of God that we are one, that it is the prayer of Christ that we are one and that if we agree concerning anything it shall be done. While we remain carnal, living out of our own strength, and not spiritual, we will continue to be divided. As we put to death our own lives, take up our cross and follow Christ, He will lead us to one another and commit us to one another. When we are individually connected to the Head we will be corporately connected to each other, all synchronized with Him, ‘having the mind of Christ’.
In the meanwhile, those who are strong must bear with the weak. (Hopefully you bear with me.) Let us pray and be in hope for one another, knowing the grace and forbearance of God, which He has extended towards us all.
I would love to hear from the prophets and teachers that Christ has set in the church in Gateshead. I am looking out for them and I need the ministry they have been trusted with. Such ministry is for the whole church in Gateshead.
I am looking for those who have spiritual maturity and authority so I can follow their lead. Those who are ‘elder’ have a responsibility to the whole flock.
It would be good if some of the saints could come together to pray for the church in Gateshead to really be one. I’m game.
I am aware of how alien the concept of our membership of one another may be. Many of us have mostly had relationships within the body of Christ limited to co-membership of a formally identified group. Such relationships may well be limited to polite friendliness as and when contact may be made at a regular gathering.
Also the identity of the church in Gateshead may yet be fuzzy to many. The New Testament record is of one city, one church. One region, many churches/cities. A quick check through a concordance will show this. Titus was instructed by Paul to recognise elders in every city in Crete. In Acts they recognised elders in every church. The physical boundary of a church is the same as the city it is in.
While we read about the church in Jerusalem, the church in Antioch, the church in Corinth etc in the scriptures, our experience mostly has been of something less than a geographically defined body of Christ. More likely it may have been of a group of folks centred on a building, meeting or weekly program. Some may even think that my purpose is to ‘start’ another group called ‘the church in Gateshead’. I have no ambition other than to see the body of Christ in Gateshead growing up into Christ the Head and for each member to live out their function within it. I want to function as Christ intends and as I ought as a member of the body of Christ in Gateshead.
I remember when I was first converted to Christ, aged 17, living at home with my parents in Lobley Hill, and attending meetings at Bethshan, Newcastle. Coming home after a midweek meeting, walking up our street, I would be thinking, ‘There must be other believers around here in Lobley Hill. Surely it would be better and more effective if we were in fellowship with one another locally as the saints were in the New Testament?’ As I didn’t know any better at the time and because the folks at Bethshan were such a blessing I continued there. I still thank God for those faithful saints and for all our brothers and sisters everywhere on Tyneside who are faithfully ‘assembling together’ to the best of their ability.
The next time I was challenged about the identity of the local church was after I realized that I had become one of the group of people I was associating with, rather than a disciple of Jesus Christ. At the time I was an elder of the A.o.G in Morpeth. Mercifully I was given the opportunity to repent of following the good men I was with to follow Christ instead, even if that meant I may not end up as stereotypically Pentecostal as I had been! Once Christ had my attention back He pointed out that He saw His church differently to how I had seen it. He saw every man woman and child who had trusted in Him in Morpeth as members of His church in Morpeth. I didn’t know how things might turn out but I stopped going on about ‘my church’ (the A.o.G.).
Obviously being a member of any organization is simple and straightforward enough. We gradually learn the objects, methods and norms of the group and adhere to them as we wish. Being a member of the body of Christ is a different matter. First we don’t choose to join, Christ chooses us and calls us. Then our performance within His body is dependent on the Life which He supplies as we abide in Him.
We can see various religious organisations easily enough, but to see the body of Christ takes spiritual sight. To engage other members of the body of Christ, on the ground of membership of Christ and being in the same locality, is only really possible with that spiritual sight. There is no program to refer to! Challenging stuff, eh?
As I was compiling the list of our brothers and sisters in the church in Gateshead I was struck with the fact that I need the ministry of each one of these precious members of Christ’s body here. In fact we all need each other’s ministry, as Christ has given them for the building up of each part.
Accepting responsibility to be knit together in love, receiving one another as Christ received us, may be daunting if not downright foreign. In fact, if we do not possess the love of God, shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, we have no possibility of fulfilling Christ’s commandment, that we love one another, as He has loved us. Rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who sorrow, involves spending some time together.
I am writing to ask if you will pray with me for the body of Christ in Gateshead. For this body to be revealed as ‘Christ in us, the hope of glory’.
We may sometimes get a bit disappointed with our spiritual lives. We may hope for some ‘super church’ with ‘super champions’ that will sort us out, thinking; perhaps they will lift us up to a higher level.
Well. We have each other. We have Christ. This is His plan. His plan is that each of us fulfils our calling within this body that we are part of - His church in Gateshead. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 4;
“I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to walk worthily of the calling with which you were called, 4:2with all lowliness and humility, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love; 4:3being eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4:4There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you also were called in one hope of your calling; 4:5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 4:6one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in us all. 4:7But to each one of us was the grace given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 4:8Therefore he says, "When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men." 4:9Now this, "He ascended," what is it but that he also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 4:10He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.
4:11He gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, shepherds and teachers; 4:12for the perfecting of the saints, to the work of serving, to the building up of the body of Christ; 4:13until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 4:14that we may no longer be children, tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; 4:15but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, Christ; 4:16from whom all the body, being fitted and knit together through that which every joint supplies, according to the working in measure of each individual part, makes the body increase to the building up of itself in love.
Please pray that we be encouraged to see that each one of us has a vital role in building up the body of Christ in Gateshead. As each role is vital, that means that it cannot be done without. If you or I are not functioning in our calling, then that job will not get done. But we know that whom He has called, He has equipped with all that is needed to fulfil that calling. ‘Without Him, we can do nothing, but if we abide in Him, we will bear much fruit, and our fruit will remain.’
Please feel free to contact me in person or by post, phone or at firstname.lastname@example.org
All the best,