I don’t know about you, but quite honestly, I don’t like to stand out in a crowd. Although having said that, I think for myself and as I have gotten older I care less about what others might think. There have been times in my life when I simply have not done or said what perhaps would  have been the best thing to say or do. This lack of boldness or confidence (call it what you like) was not absent from my walk of faith. To be quite frank, the attitude and to some extent the way of the world held me captive. I am confident I am not the only one who has experienced this tension.

Unfortunately, following Jesus and being part of His family the church compels us to be different and stand out in the crowd. The people of the world are looking, searching and most definitely needing a life that satisfies. Some folk just get caught up in the hum drum of life and become worn out and weary from the search. Some of these just grind their way through life, others can’t bear the pain so they find ways to escape, drugs, sex, money, gambling, suicide (and many other options). Others are satisfied. Where is the Church in the midst of this drama and tragedy?

It would be more than unfair to say the church is absent. The church continues as it has always done through the centuries. The church is present and active throughout the world. Its influence and capacity to shape and challenge society seems to come and go. However, despite the apparent reality, the church is obsolete to so many. The true reality is that church is the custodian of good news that brings life, abundant life, and eternal life.

John Stott observed that the world as it observes the church, would struggle to find significant difference between it and society at large. He commented, “It is urgent that we not only see but feel the greatness of this tragedy. For in so far as the church is conformed to the world, and the two communities appear to the onlooker to be two versions of the same thing, the church is contradicting its true identity. No comment could be so hurtful to the Christian than the words, ‘But you are no different from anybody else.’ For the essential theme of the whole Bible from beginning to end is that God’s historical purpose is to call out a people for himself; that this people is a ‘holy’ people, set apart from the world to belong to him and to obey him; and that its vocation is to be true to its identity, that is, to be ‘holy’ or ‘different’ in all its outlook and behaviour (Message of the Sermon on the Mount pg16-17).”

This year as we journey together at Lilydale Baptist Church, I believe God wants to encourage us and challenge us as we explore the meaning and purpose of the church. Will we dare to be different in the way we live? Will we dare to be different in the way worship? Will we dare to be different as we engage the society in which we live? Will we be a light on a hill and will others know we are disciples of Jesus by our love for one another?

Pastor Stewart.