Posted by: Postordinandy | June 18, 2010

“I do not pray for success, I ask for faithfulness”.

Looking at the next fruit of the spirit, we come to ‘faithfulness’, sometimes translated as simply faith, in the Message paraphrase it is listed as: “being involved in loyal commitments”.

Faith and faithfulness are qualities much admired throughout the Bible. Both Testaments are littered with stories of, and calls to demonstrate them:

Abraham faithfully follows God to a new land, making some pretty tricky decisions along the way; Moses discovers that faithfulness is one of God’s key characteristics; It is something rewarded; there are almost 50 references to it in the Psalms; Jesus tells parables to illustrate it’s importance, and criticises the religious leaders of his day for their failings in this area; John writes with almost childish excitement to Gaius, enthusing about his; and Paul commends Timothy to the Corinthians with praise of his faithfulness.

We asked ourselves what we consider the nature faithfulness to be, and here is a selection of our speculations:

  • Faithfulness is demonstrated when we remain with something or someone we have made a commitment to.
  • Some tenacity, discipline, commitment, and concious choice is needed for faithfulness to flourish.
  • Faithfulness is something that grows, but in what way? Principally, it feels, faithfulness is something that grows by being put into practice, like the weight-lifters’ muscles, or the footballers’ silky skills.
  • Faithfulness is something that has many facets to it.
  • Loyalty and truthfulness are intimately connected with faithfulness.
  • Rewards can motivate faithfulness, are maybe a key in many situations (Christians usually believe that they will receive a reward for faithfulness in some form or another).

Faithfulness and St Luke’s:

We reflected on the fact that Jesus often gave his disciples opportunities to escape if needed, faithfulness was demonstrated by their willingness to remain in the situation, following the call, in difficult as well as more straightforward times.

What are the rewards for us? Is there some kind of criteria of success?

We wondered if those we encounter at the Farmers’ Market see faithfulness in us. Perhaps our consistency, presence and acts of generosity are received in this way – the small things we do for people, expecting and wanting no reward or service in return from them. Some of the regular visitors to our stall, and the other stall holders, have encouraged us by telling of how positive their experience of us has been. Some individuals have moved from a place of distrust of all things religion based, to a place of warmer feelings, simply by seeing us each week, drinking coffee with us and chewing the fat about issue large and small. Their perspective of us was of a consistent kind and generous presence.

This encouragement is always welcome, but was especially timely as one of our members reported a conversation with someone in the wider parish of Walthamstow who considered that our ‘little experiment’ at St Luke’s to be one that ‘is failing and weak’. Certainly we are not causing any church growth statistician to have heart flutters, (although numerically we have grown by almost 50% in the past year); but this person was judging us on criteria that we do not recognise – certainly as key at this stage of our community life. This caused us to reflect on a wider question of faithfulness: how can we encourage others to be faithful to us?

Our conclusion was to revisit a reoccuring theme for us: telling our story.

Faithfulness makes sense in the context of story, and stories are a great way for churches to grow in any number of directions. For our story is not principally about us, but the ever-faithful God who provides for, nurtures, and guides our existence and purpose.

  • We must tell our story to ourselves – for these tales remind us of things we otherwise might miss, and encourage us to keep going.
  • We must tell our story to those in other churches – for their encouragement and support, and to enthuse them to help us in our mission at the Farmers’ Market, and/or to keep working in different ways to reach those outside of themselves.
  • We must tell our story to those outside of church communities – so that they can hear the good news of a faithful God.

Perhaps ironically, we found ourselves encouraged by this negativity – intended or otherwise. We found the comments about our perceived failure were the very things that raised our shackles and helped us to put into focus on what it good and growing about what we do and who we are – and encouraged us to remain faithful to our call at this time and in this place. Our call is to be on the high street, to grow and nurture an accessible Christian community, to be consistent in all if this, to ‘hold out hope’.

The title of is blog entry is attributed to Mother Teresa, and I think it neatly sums up our stated position on the matter.

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