Author: Sarah Lineham

Should you be wearing that!

Recently, I was asked the question: ‘how do you tell your non-Christian friend to come to church dressed modestly?’ 
You can see the picture can’t you.  You’re so excited, your good mate is coming to church for the first time.  She is coming to hear about Jesus.  This could be what brings her to faith. But wait, what is she wearing! Lycra and not enough of it!  Your excitement switches to anxiety.  You know that your brothers in Christ battle with keeping their eyes to themselves.  A gorgeous girl looking a bit too gorgeous isn’t gonna help right?  What do we do?

We want our non-Christian mates in church don’t we?  We want them to hear the gospel don’t we?  But at times what they can hear is law.  We give them the conditions … ‘It would be really helpful if you didn’t do that, wear that or say that – particularly in my church’.  But that isn’t what Jesus does is it!  We are calling people to repent and believe, not change to be acceptable.  At times this can be hard for us as Christian – it can feel uncomfortable.  It can feel like a distraction.  But it is so good for us to guard our legalistic hearts and sacrifice all we can for people to hear grace.  I guess as our love for the gospel grows we will not want to give people a to do list, but show them Christ Jesus died to save sinners.
Let’s not worry about our friends’ wardrobes and keep praying about their hearts.  Let’s pray for ourselves as we are the church in the world.  Pray that we will be in the world but not like it.

YLC2011 reflections: Unreal

In the mayhem of the Christmas season I had stupidly forgotten what my wonderful coleader said on the first day of YLC “this is the highlight of our year!”.  She was so right! God’s people being equipped from His word.  This might sounds like torture to some, but if you’re ministry minded – this is what it is all about!  This is the work of eternity!  How wonderful to see people of all shapes, sizes and denominations desire to know God and make Him known in our wee world of NZ.  How wonderful to have seen Jesus fulfilling the psalms – being the forever king and the forever priest.  To have seen Matthew show us Jesus fulfilling the prophets and His own words.  How wonderful to have 200+ who want the rest of their lives of service to be one where they faithfully teach God’s word. 

To me YLC seems real & unreal! Let me explain. Real, because it’s a place where God’s people are equipped from His word.  Where His praise is sung, where His word is preached and His people are changed, where we are equipped to service Him by faithfully teaching ourselves.  But it also seems unreal, because we don’t necessarily have a question panel, or strand leaders each week! Unreal because the work of YLC is actually done all over NZ for the rest of our lives. Our prayer is that God’s scattered people tirelessly over many weeks and many years will practise what we have learned of faithful teaching so that gospel is heard.  Surely this gives every reason to be there. It is the highlight of my year – and I do hope it will be yours also.  Like me you may need to remind yourself of that in August!  Why not put it in your diaries now, so you can save, plan leave, and have something that will help you for a life of ministry. That is my plan!

Highs and lows

I don’t know if you are someone who has ‘that’ end of year conversation. You guessed it – it’s the ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ chat! A conversation which bizarrely turns to laughter if it’s been an amazingly awful year or joy if it’s been good! Dave Clancey helpfully recommended a book which helps us look at 2010 rightly to see the real ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ – ‘Liberating ministry from the success syndrome’ by Kent and Barbara Hughes.

The opening chapter had me hooked. A ministry wife, seeing her husband almost walk away from ministry, listened as her friend glowed with her relief of leaving ministry. It’s a chapter which asks “why should we keep going?”

Well fortunately the book goes on! It highlights our wrong thinking. Ask yourself the question – what are the ‘lows’ in ministry of 2010? Write them down. Then ask yourselves – what are the ‘lows’ the Bible talks about? See any differences!! Well my two lists are embarrassingly different. The book challenges us to get away from our people pleasing, numbers driven mentality to one where faithfulness is our marker. With this marker our lows become our lack of prayer, trust and hope in God.

Another book I would recommend any woman involved in ministry to get on her Christmas list is ‘High Call, High Privilege’ by Gail MacDonald. She polled women in ministry their top 5 challenges which were loneliness, balance, expectations, criticism and finances. Often our list would be the same. There was no mention of the challenge of our sin. See the wrong thinking?

This has all been a great encouragement to me to get my ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ right. The ‘highs’ of seeing godliness in others and the truth of the gospel should fuel me to praise. Why not write down a list of how you have seen the truth of the gospel this year? And keep praising God for them. The ‘lows’ should lead me to repentance for living before men and judging by reactions or results.

How wonderful that when the gospel is the glasses we look through, there’s hope for service. Hope as we look to Jesus who came to serve and not be served. As we see the truth of life eternal and forgiveness of sins. I hope this year is one where the end of year conversation is done through those gospel glasses.