I have a dream. In my dream, I am sitting beside Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear in an Aston Martin DB9 travelling at 150 mph. The corner is approaching faster than the speed of light, and Clarkson casually enquires about my desire to ‘take her for a spin’. Foolishly ignorant of the consequences, I reply in the affirmative, only to find Clarkson halfway out of his seat, offering me the wheel.
“What happened to stopping?” I ask.
“No time!” he replies.
We are travelling too fast; the corner is too close. My vision goes blurry, then wavy, then slightly charcoal with little points of coloured light that might be fairies if only I could focus, before clearing again. Clarkson has morphed into Tony Payne, and here I am, driving The Briefing. I suspect I’d feel more comfortable driving the DB9! At least Clarkson (sorry—Payne) will be shouting instructions.
On a more serious note, it’s a great privilege to be here. I’m a huge fan of The Briefing, and have been for a long time; I have every issue arranged neatly in numerical order on my shelf at home (and I’ve even read some of them). I am keenly aware of standing in the shoes of individuals who have, under God, been significant in shaping and moulding my life and ministry. And so, in many ways, my prayer for The Briefing is that God will continue to do what he has already been doing through it—that he will cause godly men and women to write biblically, theologically and practically about clinging to Jesus as Lord and making his glorious name known in the world.
It has been a joy to stop and think with Tony and others about what The Briefing stands for and how to keep returning to those roots. Somewhat paradoxically, I’ve been reminded that you progress in the faith by returning to your roots, and you return to your roots by seeking to progress in your faith. So what are the key issues as we face the future? Tony has already set out our new statement of ‘Gospel Convictions’—a statement that, hopefully, is as old as it is new. What I want to do here is talk about the implications for The Briefing and introduce you to some new things we’re going to try in the coming months.
As we’ve discussed the central truths of the Christian faith again, the most challenging thing for me personally has been the connection between what you might call the grand truths of the gospel and the mediocrity of life. Jesus the Son of God died on the cross for my sins and rose again to give me new life. God has poured his Spirit into my heart to make me one of his children, and my life is now lived for Christ’s glory. This means that when I stumble bleary-eyed into my kids’ bedrooms to try and get them up for school, I will live, talk and act in a certain way. The Lordship of Christ is not an abstract reality; it’s a truth that affects every moment of my life—from how I relate to my workmates to emptying the household garbage—from being concerned for the salvation of my family and friends to how I spend my money.
That’s why our Gospel Convictions statement ends with three key calls to action: to abandon our lives to the Lordship of Christ, to pray for the fruitfulness and growth of his gospel, and to speak the Bible’s life-changing word whenever and however we can. We want The Briefing to keep putting those calls front and centre.
So in order to encourage you to reflect and pray, we’re planning to start including discussion questions and prayer points at the end of the key articles in each issue. The Briefing achieves nothing if it isn’t reflected upon, responded to and prayed about. Use them to respond to what God is saying, and to talk about the issues with others. We want The Briefing to be a tool for your ministry.
Secondly, we want to encourage every person to speak the Bible’s life-changing word in every situation. So we’re starting a new column called ‘Jars of clay’ that will be about our brothers and sisters doing just that. It will highlight our successes and failures as we work to share God’s truth with others.
Thirdly, we want to encourage you to take the lordship of Christ seriously. So we’re starting another column called ‘Give up your life’. We want to feature stories about people around you who have made significant decisions to put Jesus first in their thinking and decision-making.
Finally, we want to ask you to keep contributing to The Briefing. Our new columns will only work if you keep telling us about God’s servants in your neck of the woods who are patiently and faithfully serving Jesus with everything they’ve got. If you know someone whose life would encourage us all, get their permission and tell us their story in up to 800 words. Or if you don’t feel that you can write it, let us know who they are so we can.
May God help us to so speak his truth that our whole world might abandon themselves to the lordship of Christ.