I was chatting with my father recently about his experience during the Second World War. Because of frequent bombing raids, he was evacuated as a young lad from his home in Bristol, England, to a small village in South Wales. A caring couple named the Yerburys welcomed him into their humble home and became his wartime family. They lived on the grounds of the Abertillery Park, where Mr. Yerbury served as one of the park caretakers. Times were hard and food was scarce. Mr. Yerbury helped transform the fertile portions of the park down by the Abertillery River into small allotments where the locals could grow food. Then once fallow ground became a source of life and hope.
As I listened to this fascinating story, I thought about our lives today. Are there places where the ground has laid fallow for far too long? Is there fertile ground that, with diligent work and loving care, could become a source of life and hope?
Marguerite Shuster begins this issue of Ministry by reminding us that Jesus is the ultimate Source of life and hope. This is the gospel message that we are called to proclaim. Though some may object that the gospel is too easy and others claim it is too hard or too implausible, the good news about Jesus is still the power of God to salvation for all who believe. There is no other name under heaven whereby we must be saved. Jesus is our Life and our Blessed Hope.
Richard Daly serves as a pastor in the metropolis of London, England. He firmly believes that Christian churches can become sources of life and hope for entire communities. He advocates that pastors and their churches should live in and pray for their communities, get to know the key leaders in their communities, hold a community leaders’ appreciation day, make the church facilities available for community events such as adult education classes, support local organizations that share common objectives, and assist in times of local crisis. Just imagine what a difference God could make through a church that was willing to become a healing stream to its community.
Unfortunately, not all churches are sources of life and hope. Elizabeth Ostring challenges us to identify the lethal habit of murmuring discontent and address it in a constructive way. We can learn lessons from Scripture and contemporary case studies that help us move from murmuring discontent to a vital and vibrant faith. Lynette Frantzen writes candidly about the issue of sex offenders in the church. Rather than ignore the challenges and potential dangers, we need to address them with the wisdom and love that only God can provide.
Eliezer Gonzalez takes us back to early church history and discovers lessons that are valuable for our lives and ministries today. In his article “After the Apostles: Lessons From the Post-Apostolic Church,” he emphasizes that “popular pressure, numbers, and votes do not decide truth; neither do the eminence of people who hold to particular views; nor the antiquity of established beliefs and practices. The Word of the Lord must reign supreme; Jesus must be Lord in our lives and in the life of the church.” Christ is our Life, and He is our Blessed Hope. Even today, He builds His church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it (see Matt. 16:18). We have the privilege of joining Him in His life-changing, world-transforming work. With Christ as our Head, our lives and churches can become wellsprings of life and fountains of hope.
The current residents of Abertillery probably don’t need allotments in the park anymore in order to provide food for their families. The ravages of war have passed and the grocery stores are well stocked. The park can once again be utilized for cricket, football, and family picnics. But there are still some places where the fallow ground needs to be ploughed, and we find it still possible and necessary for once unproductive territory to become a source of life and hope. My prayer is that the articles in this current issue of Ministry will challenge you personally and professionally. Perhaps you will hear again the words of the Lord through the prophet Hosea: “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD, till He comes and rains righteousness on you” (Hosea 10:12, NKJV).