A while back I was representing NZCMS at a conference. During a worship time we were invited to ask God to speak about the group we represent. I wasn’t necessarily expecting to hear anything, so was a little surprised when a couple of Bible passages along with an image popped into my mind. As I’ve pondered this, I believe it captures an important element of where we are as a nationwide community.
Picture a small group of soldiers with their shields, chain-mail, helmets, swords. These soldiers have truly ‘fought the good fight.’ They’ve been in the battle so long that their armour is worn and tired and dull – it’s not going to last much longer. But unlike the rest of their set-up, their shields are glowing and bright. There’s something about who they are and how they’ve fought that, though everything else has aged as you’d expect, their shields have become almost supernaturally illuminated – rather than wearing out, they have become stronger.
Through this image I felt God was speaking of the loyal NZCMS family who have been committed to this community for decades. Many of you have fought the good fight and are nearing the end of your race (2 Timothy 4:7). This raises questions for both you and for the wider NZCMS family: what will the future of our community be like? Who will rise up and ‘take your place’? How will we be sustained into the future? For years we’ve been seeing decline across the church and fewer people are picking up the mantle of mission. If something doesn’t change, is there a future for mission in and from New Zealand (… and is there a future for NZCMS)?
At the end of the image I’m describing I felt God ask, “How can you hand on your ‘faith’”? In Ephesians 6:16 Paul describes the shield of faith/faithfulness, one of the key pieces of the Christian’s ‘spiritual armour.’ The question to you is, what would it mean to hand over this ‘shield’ to the next generations? Are there things you can do so that your years of faithfulness and faith will be, in a sense, passed on to those stepping into your place in the battle?
These questions make me think of my friend Stewart Entwistle who passed away earlier this year. He dedicated the final years of his life to various research and writing projects, ensuring stories of faithfulness in mission endured. Now that he’s joined the great “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) he’s no doubt cheering us on, knowing that he did what he could to make sure this ‘shield’ was passed on. Let’s all do likewise!