One of the joys of being a Methodist minister is that every seven years you have to take a sabbatical. This means that for three months you are excused all your usual duties, and spend some time doing something different, as well as having a break, and hopefully coming back refreshed and renewed.
The first time I had a sabbatical, I spent a couple of weeks of it working with churches in Uganda in Africa, with a team from a church in Manchester. What a wonderful time! We often get the impression in England that the church is dying out, and many assume that it is like that everywhere. Well that’s not the whole story in England, and in many parts of the world it is exactly the opposite. We had the joy of seeing many people coming to faith in Jesus, and seeing people healed as well. The joy of the people was wonderful to see. The Ugandan pastor we worked with has started over 400 churches!
Jesus sent out his disciples to take the message of the gospel to the whole world, and that continues at some pace today. Even in the most unlikely places like Iran, I hear reports that the church is growing hugely, as people find the truth, peace and freedom that comes through faith in the Lord Jesus, even in the face of persecution.
Here, though, in England, we seem to be coming under what I think of as “the deadening blanket of secularism”, as some try to silence the gospel through the excuse of it causing “offence”, and the church is tempted to compromise its life-giving truth. Jesus wasn’t worried about causing offence! He was much more concerned that everyone heard the truth and had opportunity to turn from the wrong way to the right. But it cost him his life. Let us follow Jesus with all our hearts, holding firm to the life-giving truth of the Lord Jesus Christ, and see what God will do. Rev. Richard Towle (Methodist Minister).