An International Family Of Churches Together On Mission

BLOG: Building or Blessing?

The end of one year, and the beginning of the next one inevitably demands review of what we have done, successfully or not so successfully, and looking forward with greater aspiration and hope to what might be accomplished in the coming year.

In the last year, along with teams of various people, and sometimes my wife (my no.1 team member!), I have had the privilege of visiting India (3 weeks), France (several times), N.Ireland, Morocco, Canada, Switzerland, (2x), Sweden, Malawi, Norway (2x), Denmark, Belgium, Rwanda, U.S., and Gabon. In addition, I have met face-to face with the International Apostolic Team, as well as on several conference calls, have had several meetings with the UK Apostolic team, a couple of meetings with the Francophone Apostolic team, and have been in leaders’ conferences in many of these nations, and large summer events in UK and France.

Often people say to me, so what are you doing in all of these travels? Often I describe the different situations in these nations, some of which are experiencing great spiritual blessing, and growth of the church and the kingdom of Jesus. Some are experiencing considerable resistance to the Gospel message, and some considerable persecution. In all of them, we are obviously trying to encourage leaders to move forward, work for breakthrough for the kingdom, and encourage Christian people in their desire to see the Kingdom of God move forward.

Our key desire, and the phrase that we use a lot, is that we want to build God’s kingdom into nations, and see the church of Christ built up, as well as bless or encourage or inspire.
Lots of ministry is aimed at encouraging and inspiring and blessing – that is very important. The church and individuals accomplish lots more that they would otherwise, when they are blessed and encouraged and inspired! They move forward with faith and hope and positivity and dedication. But it is also possible for ministry to bless and encourage, but for the fruit to be very short-lived.
The apostle Paul uses several building metaphors in his letter to the Ephesians, where he himself spent two and a half years establishing a church in this key city in Turkey that he wanted to be built solidly together. He talked about God wanting to build a house for his habitation (Ch 2.19-22). That speaks of a long-term purpose: God was building a building in which he wanted to live permanently, not visit occasionally! In ch 3, Paul talks about God raising up a family – that’s a long-term vision, if ever there was one! Family speaks of generations, endurance, heritage and legacy. In ch 4, Paul’s speaks about the Body of Christ being built up through strong relationships, righteous behaviour, and a Spirit-filled dynamic.

Wherever we go, we encounter church gatherings without real belonging in family, independence of spirit without corporate vision, aspiration for the Kingdom without real discipleship towards it, and leadership that is more about title and position than about servanthood. In these settings, many leaders are like spiritual orphans who are crying out for fathers to help, mentor, encourage and disciple.

When we go to bless, we go to encourage people forward in what they are already doing. But when we go to build, we want to lay foundations of how the body of Christ is built relationally, through spiritual and servant leaders, who understand the Kingdom, and what Jesus wants to produce in terms of character in his followers. This is a long-term engagement, this building process, not a short-term foray. It takes leaders from where they are to where God wants them to be, and equips them with the skills to do the building job that God has called them to, where they are not on a personal egocentric celebrity trip, but seeking to build family long-term into the church of God.

So I am praying for 2016, that our Salt & Light family of churches may see the values and life of God’s kingdom built into all of our different apostolic spheres and families. We want to see this as permanent building and growth, and not just temporary blessing. We want to see this in nations where church is advancing strongly, and in nations where we need pioneering teams to see breakthrough for the Kingdom. We want to see the Kingdom of God built and established corporately wherever we are, not just individuals blessed and inspired. And, of course, both these things together would be better – the kingdom built corporately in many nations, and the life of nations permanently transformed by this, but individuals blessed and inspired to go on living for Jesus with 100% of their being, their energy and their resources.

May God bless us with that in 2016! And may he bless everyone who reads this article with permanent blessing that leads to his kingdom being built in every sphere of their lives – in their family, in church, in their community, in their work and in national life. The Kingdom of God wants to affect all of this!

Steve Thomas
International Team Leader