We Have a Job To Do
This COVID-19 Year is a Game-Changer
By Mission Director Stephen Baxter
As our fellow Christians and Baptists in Victoria begin to emerge out of lockdown and curfews, we Tasmanians have much to be thankful for. Except for closed borders that restricts travel and social distancing restrictions, life trundles along close to normal. So far, we have avoided many of the trials faced by much of the world.
Yet, it has not been without its challenges. We were not able to meet for our May Assembly. In fact, churches across Tasmania, Australia and much of the Western world celebrated Easter and Pentecost in their homes. Not since the early days of the church has that happened before.
Even so, God is with us. That's our theme for this year: "Emmanuel - God with us" and it has been our experience across our churches.
Truly, He is with us!
In Ephesians, Paul writes,
"There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" (Ephesians 4:6).
Although God is above and beyond our world, God is also close, not only "over all" but "through all and in all." It is a mystery, yet God is intimately involved in our lives, moment by moment.
Jesus said, "You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, (as well as) famines and earthquakes in various places". But, he says, "see to it that you are not alarmed.... all these are the beginning of birth-pains" (Matthew 24:6,8).
Despite the difficulties and challenges of this moment, we are not to be alarmed and we are comforted to know God is with us.
Therefore, it is not surprising that our churches have fared well given the circumstances. It's encouraging to hear many churches have found this moment has opened ministry opportunities.
Some have responded to the needs within their communities with food distribution, financial support and increased pastoral support. Others have had people connecting with them either in-person or online for the first time.
This moment has raised, at least among some people, significant questions about life. People are searching for meaning amid the turmoil of this moment. What an amazing opportunity to introduce them to Jesus.
But it's not all good
Although Tasmania can seem like a slice of heaven--we have the cleanest air and purest water in the world; we have beautiful parks, beaches, mountains, and forests; and world-class food, music and cultural festivals--there is another reality.
Key elements of our history, such as the Black War and our convict foundations remain unresolved. The number of children in out-of-homecare is among the highest in our country. So too is our youth suicide rate. Life is challenging and meaningless for many Tasmanians. The events of this year have only made things worse.
In many ways, we are just at the beginning. As we look forward, we can anticipate the future for many Tasmanians will be very difficult. We will see businesses struggling, government running deficit budgets for many years, unemployment rising, and anxiety and despair will no doubt increase. Our communities will have great need.
We, the people of God here in Tasmania, have a job to do.
We are called to be a people of hope and encouragement, beacons of light in the darkness of our times. For over a decade God has been calling us to be a mission shaped movement that adapts to the changing environment and community. Is it moments like this God has been preparing us for? I certainly believe so.
The future will be challenging, uncomfortable and difficult. Yet, God is with us. This is not a moment to "shrink back... grow weary and lose heart" (Hebrews 10:39). Rather, it is a time to "run with perseverance the race marked out for us.' So, let us "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith" (Hebrews 12:1-3) and full of hope and confidence in God be the church we have been called to be.
Tasmanian Baptist Union