An Unchanging Calling for Uncertain Times

John & Laura Caldwell

John Caldwell lives in Perthshire with his wife, Laura, and two sons, Ethan and Caleb. John is a bi-vocational pastor; a gifted preacher who also teaches English at a local high school alongside planting Kairos Church which is part of the Apostolic Church UK. A prolific author, John’s books include Christ, the Cross and the Concrete Jungle (personal testimony), Vision from the Valleys, and The Lion’s Roar: a Prophetic Wake-up Call.

If the reports are true, 2021 will see a vaccine for Covid19 begin to be rolled out. Assuming the vaccine is as effective as hoped, we may just see the world emerging from a year of lockdowns, social distancing, and economic meltdown. Yet, even if the vaccine is effective, it is going to take some time for society, individuals, and families to rebuild. Whatever 2021 holds, and whatever ongoing changes and shifts are on the horizon, as the church we can be confident that God’s purposes have not changed, and that also means God’s purpose and calling for the church have not changed.

The unchanging nature of the church’s calling might sound like a strange way to think about entering 2021. Wasn’t 2020 the year that the church was fast-tracked into innovation? The year when even the most archaic congregations were dragged kicking and screaming into the world of digital communication? Surely 2021 will require us to be more innovative, more creative, more flexible, and more fluid when it comes to understanding our purpose and calling as the church?

Yes and no. Whilst we need to remain flexible in our methods and adaptable to our ever-changing context, we also need to become more rooted and grounded in our foundations.

God has revealed his purpose for his people through his Word. For me, there is no clearer revelation of God’s purpose for the church than Ephesians Chapter 4.

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service…

Ephesians 4:11-12

It would be a foolish writer who attempted to dot the ‘I’s and cross the ‘t’s of what means to be a church ‘fit for purpose’ in 2021. Each church needs to be faithful to Christ in the various contexts where God has placed them. We need to be flexible and adaptable. However, it is a short-sighted church and immature church that does not realise that the church has a DNA. There are underlying and unchanging principles that remain the same from age to age. The key to the church’s vibrancy is not in reinventing itself, it is in discovering who God has the church to be. The revelation contained in Ephesians 4 is a blue-print that will help us build our churches on a solid foundation – a foundation that will help the church not only survive the storm but rather enable us to thrive in the storms.

First, the church is called to be apostolic

The church is not only built upon the foundation of the first apostles, but the church by its nature is also apostolic. The word ‘apostle’ means ‘sent’. The apostolic church understands its identity rests not simply in preserving the status quo, it expresses itself in breaking new ground and moving out of the comfort zone. Whilst everything in society is currently forcing everyone towards isolation and separation, the church must always be seeking ways to reach out and connect.  Whilst we may be in a season where the old order of things is dying, the apostolic DNA of the church means we will continue to plant, build and break new ground.

Second, the church is called to be prophetic

2020 has left a lot of ‘prophets’ with egg on their faces. Many have now adopted a line: ‘God is keeping his cards close to his chest’ – yet not so long ago many who are saying this were making all sorts of claims in the name of the Lord. Being a prophetic people does not only involve foretelling (although it can and does include that) it primarily means forth-telling. To tell forth the purpose and mind of God. From this perspective, the most effective prophets are the prophets who are rooted and grounded in the fulness of the apostolic revelation. Their theology is Christocentric – it is rooted in a vision of Christ crucified, risen, and ascended.  The true prophet recognises that God’s current prophetic word to the world and the church is eternally connected to the revelation of Christ: “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev. 19:10)

Third, the church is called to be missional

In terms of mission, Covid-19 has sparked two things: evangelists and excuses. Some of the most impressive examples of mission I have ever seen in my 20 years as a Christian has been from the reactions of evangelists in the midst of this pandemic. Whilst the majority of Christians have hidden behind fear, isolation, and the safety of their home, I know a handful of evangelists to have taken every opportunity to sow hope into individuals who are choking in a climate of fear. Evangelists have always thrived in times of crisis, 2020 was no different, and 2021, by God’s grace, will present us with the need to rediscover our evangelistic DNA. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, and he calls his followers into that very same mission.

Fourth, the church is called to shepherd the flock

The reformation restored to the church the pastor and the teacher. And whilst this office has been emphasised to the neglect of the apostle, prophet and evangelist, it is no less essential. Paul says: “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28) Pandemic or no pandemic, the sheep need to be shepherded. Pastors are key workers whether the government officially understand that or not. When we stand before Christ and he asks us to give an account for how we looked after his sheep, we won’t be able to use Covid as an excuse for pastoral neglect. I’m not suggesting we break any government restrictions where these are in place. I am saying that love will find a way to care for those whom the Lord has entrusted to our care.

One thought on “An Unchanging Calling for Uncertain Times

  1. Jesus’ Spirit-filled people will always ‘find a way’! It’s in the DNA of an apostolic, missional people to adapt. Looking out for testimonies of God’s people not just adapting to, but becoming primary agents of, the changes God alone can deliver – as you put it across so clearly, through an unchanging calling. Thank you for posting this excellent article, John.


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