It’s often said that the opposite of uncertainty is not certainty – but hope. One of the biggest challenges we face at this time of uncertainty in our communities, nation, and globe is to try and remain hopeful.
Back in February, we saw an end to all Covid-19 restrictions, and we also saw the outbreak of war in Ukraine. As one huge chapter of our lives ended, we were faced with a different threat. But the repercussions of both are now being felt in our cost-of-living crisis.
What fuels hope?
In the early days of the pandemic there was very much an adrenalin-fuelled drive to keep the show on the road. This was true of both our community response and our church gatherings.
You can’t fuel hope, however, with adrenalin. Hopefulness is fuelled by God’s Spirit.
The writer of Hebrews talks about hope being a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:19). It is in these times that we need to know the presence of Jesus, our sure and steadfast hope, to ensure we don’t just keep responding to one crisis after another.
The Bible Society, in its excellent Bible Course, describes two kinds of hope. There is the hope of the far horizon – knowing that there is a place for us where we will dwell with God forever and not experience the pain and tears of today.
We do, however, need to be bringers of hope to the near horizon, to the here and now in our communities.
Seekers of shalom
There is a call on all our lives as followers of Christ to ensure that we are seekers of shalom and bringers of hope. Good News is not restricted to an eternity with Jesus – it is also working in the dirt, dust, and decay of our world for Jesus.
Our communities and churches need to catch glimpses of hope where they can. Those first gatherings together after Covid-19 were for me a glimpse not of where we had been before lockdowns but a glimpse of what is to come in terms of building a greater sense of community.
My own commitment is to ensure that our quality of relationships as the family of God goes deeper so that no one gets left behind in the challenges ahead.
As we keep our eyes fixed on the far horizon of hope let us make sure we don’t ignore the glimpses of hope we see in our communities.
People desperately need some good news in the here and now. Our local churches can play a pivotal part in being hubs of hope for those around us.
You are not a superhero
Connected to being hopeful is our obvious need to be prayerful. I talked a lot about this in my first blog a few weeks back. Of course, being rooted in communities should be a priority, but before that, we need to be rooted in God.
The prophet Jeremiah tells us to build homes, plant gardens and have families in chapter 29. But he goes on to tell us to work for the shalom (the welfare or wellbeing) of the city we have been sent to and of course to pray to the Lord for it.
I’m trying to learn in my own prayer life, that I cannot transform, heal, and redeem. It’s my job to simply enter into the presence of the transformer, healer, and redeemer.
There is a character in The Incredibles film called Edna Mode who warns her superhero friends to not wear capes. When crisis comes, there is a temptation to head straight for the cape and believe that we can save the day. But, in my head are the simple words of Edna Mode – “No Capes”.
Too many of us as church and community leaders head straight to the action believing that we can save the day. In reality, our first job is to be hopeful and prayerful and remind ourselves that this is not our work and that we are not alone in this ministry of transforming lives.
Prayer and action
We need to be connected to God and to each other in this long haul ahead of us. We must allow God to take us on the adventure where we connect our prayer and our action together.
If you want increased action in your church, which I passionately do, then I think we need to start with an increased passion for prayer and for knowing God’s hopeful presence in those communities we are called to be with.
Pause and reflect
As we look ahead to the challenges, I want to leave you with a couple of questions for reflection.
FAITHFUL AND WATCHFUL
- What are the challenges for local churches in establishing deeper roots in their communities?
- How does the cost-of-living crisis impact people around the churches you work with and what choices are people having to make?
SKILFUL AND EXPERIMENTAL
- What assets do you think can be shared and released by churches into their communities?
- What, if anything, do you want to see churches try out for the first time that can address the impact of the cost-of-living crisis?
HOPEFUL AND PRAYERFUL
- Are there any signs of hope that you are seeing during this crisis?
- How well are we connecting prayer with our action so that we work for and pray to the Lord – what examples do you have of where increased prayer has led to increased action?
Gareth Brown, Co-Head of Church Engagement, Cinnamon Network
Gareth Brown is the Advisor Team Manager at Cinnamon Network and Director of Smethwick Church Action Network. He and his wife Beth are also Interim Team Leaders of an inner-city church in the Cape Hill area of Smethwick.