Pastor Barry Robinson

Letters to the Camberwell Congregation from Pastor Barry Robinson

Jesus Up Close

Jesus Up Close — January 2009


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Dear Church Family,

Shortly after David Cameron started his leadership of the Conservative Party, Michael Portillo, wrote in the Times:

"The aim of politics is to get into power. David Cameron's duty is to propel himself and the Tory Party into government. In a few short weeks he has jerked the party onto the centre ground."

Whether or not you agree with this assessment, or the Conservative's policies, or anything else in that debate, it's interesting to observe to what extent politicians and parties will readjust their position and their policies in order to be elected or re-elected.

Of course, this approach isn’t limited to the Tories, just witness the emergence of ‘New Labour’.

Now I’m not trying to make any political point, but it's interesting to consider because any church that is bothered about attracting new people will have to consider its ‘policies’ - to use a political phrase.

The catch phrase, common in Christianity at the moment, is "New Expressions of doing church."

The point being that we need to try new ways to reach the outsider, welcoming imaginative thinking on reaching those who have no knowledge of the gospel, and who will never darken the doors of a church.

But as we consider how to ‘win the unbeliever’, we must ask, how far will we go to get a hearing? What are we prepared to do to attract people to Jesus? Because as we seek to win people to Christ, there will always be a temptation for us to subtly shift what we believe, or to adopt methods that themselves deny what we believe - to be ruled by pragmatism.

Paul faced exactly that temptation, and yet he repeatedly makes it clear that ‘our policy’ must be to preach Jesus:

‘For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified’. (1 Corinthians 2:2)
‘For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake’. (2 Corinthians 4:5)
‘It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,’ (Philippians 1:15-18).

Paul was simply not prepared to shift or compromise on the preaching of Christ and neither should we as a congregation.

It was Paul's resolution in Corinth. And I'm going to borrow it as my resolution here at Camberwell. And may I suggest it would be a great resolution for us all to have and to own, so that, our faith ‘...might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.’ (1 Corinthians 2:5)

Over the next few next weeks we’ll be starting a series of sermons entitled ‘jesus Up Close’ with the aim of getting to know our Saviour more intimately. As Paul said, ‘I want to know Christ...’ (Philippians 3:10), I hope you do too.

With love in Jesus’ name,

Barry Robinson

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