Great Faith for a Great Future
I was just in Ukraine for our annual conference, but this year, it was with a special note of celebration as this was the 25thanniversary of our church plant in Ternopil. I won’t describe all the people and efforts that went in to that process – births can be quite messy! But in February 1994 I set a pastor in to lead this small and fledgling congregation that has now grown to be a major source of gospel advance, planting churches in western Ukraine and into Europe, including Spain and Italy.
Being in Ukraine and celebrating this anniversary prompted me to ponder on the significance of generational faithfulness. We wonder – what will the next generation do with the spiritual inheritance we leave them? Most generations – including the ‘Joshua generation’ – are mixed. It’s too easy to drift – from God, yes, but many Christians who haven’t drifted from the Lord have drifted from his mission, turning to the right or the left, devoting their lives to other things.
In reflecting on the challenges we face – faithful gospel advance and church planting in increasingly secular contexts – key lessons from the book of Joshua give us guidance. I shared these at our Ukraine conference and share them with you know so that together, we might serve the purposes of God in our generation.
Great Faith for A Great Future:
A Proactive Posture for the Next 25 Years
Introduction: The context of all that follows is the simple observation, ‘for you have not passed this way before’ (Joshua 3.4). The Lord is leading a new way, and it requires a new perspective in several key areas. If what we already knew worked, we’d already be doing it.
- New Leadership: ‘Moses my servant is dead. Now arise, cross this Jordan …’ (Joshua 1.2). The difficulty with new leaders is that they are unfamiliar to old people. But new kingdom territory requires new leaders.
- New Memories:‘And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground’”’. (Joshua 4.20-21) Their fathers had crossed the Red Sea, but that was God’s work for a previous generation. God wanted the new generation to experience him and to develop stories about it. Every generation has to experience God.
- New Commitments:‘At that time the LORD said to Joshua, "Make flint knives and circumcise the sons of Israel a second time." So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the sons of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth’ (Joshua 5.2-3). The new generation had not been circumcised; they had been living in the wilderness without the sign of the covenant. Before God brings people into his promises and purposes, he cuts them – he does a deep work in their hearts to mark them as his own. Every generation has to be cut by God.
- New Provision:‘And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year’ (Joshua 5:11-12). Manna was great. Apart from having the exact same thing for breakfast, lunch, and supper for 40 years, manna was great. An entire generation only knew the kind of provision of waking up and finding what they needed. But as they learned how to farm, they discovered a different way God meets needs. Every generation has to discover God’s abundance.
- New Vision:‘And the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor” (Joshua 5:11-12). Before Joshua took Jericho, he had to see with the eyes of faith. The Lord always draw us to his promises before we experience his promises. What we see becomes our destiny because it becomes the focus of our effort, attention, and faith. Every generation has to see God’s promise.
- New Strategies:‘Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. … For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai. ... Set an ambush behind the city” (Joshua 8:1-2). Sometimes we want to march around the city and blow trumpets, hoping the walls will fall. But the only time God told his people to use that strategy was in Jericho – every other city had a different key. Every Generation has to discover God’s plan.
New leaders, new memories, new commitments, new provision, new vision, and new strategies. The difficulty with moving forward is that we draw on the past to navigate the future, and there are times when, like Joshua and his generation, we encounter situations so different we have to embrace a new paradigm to participate in God’s programme.
This is what so inspires me out about our CBU family. When God first opened the door to Ukraine in the early 1990’s, we had never been that way. But we extended our faith anyway – and through the generous giving of God's people, we planted churches that continue to bear gospel fruit.
We are again extending our faith for something new – a missions training centre. We believe the Lord is calling us to touch Europe from the heart of Scotland by training and equipping leaders, church planters, and pastors, sending them into God’s harvest in this great but challenging context.
As we continue to trust the Lord – as we continue to dream big dreams, extend big faith, and give with big generosity - we can trust that the fulness of God’s purposes will prevail, even in the next generation. Together, the fruit of our labour will echo in eternity.