In many countries, keys are given as a present on a 21st birthday. It symbolises being a key holder to your family’s home and having keys to open doors of opportunity into your future.
As we entered 2021, I had a sense of God giving His church a set of keys. Being physically locked down does not mean we are spiritually locked down. Keys unlock doors. In fact this year may see more doors unlocked than in previous years as we see more of what God is opening up and step up into it. So with this conviction in mind, I asked God to show me the names of the keys.
Key No 1. Is called Hope. Hope says “This too will pass. Nothing lasts forever.”
There is of course human reason to be hopeful as we hear more news of vaccines being rolled out, but ultimately our Hope is beyond all of that. Even if there’s a glitch this year in the vaccine being rolled out or in its effectiveness, our deepest hope remains rooted in the one who loves us dearly.
Rom 5:5 “And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
Our Hope rests not in being able to see what is ahead, but in putting our trust in the One who fills our hearts with His love and who does see what is ahead. Just after this country had entered WW2 King George VI quoted this in his Christmas message to the Nation in 1939:
‘I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown’ And he replied. ‘Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.’ Minnie Louise Haskins
Our hope in holding onto God’s hand as we walk into 2021 is better than a light and safer than a known way.
Key No.2 is called Opportunity. 2021 will present us with greater opportunities to practically love, serve and meet the high felt needs of our local communities. As the threat of the virus retreats there will be the following waves of huge need that will emerge: financial hardship, unemployment, food poverty, mental health crisis. One article I read recently challenged christians around the area of job creation stating that a key part of the church’s mission going forward in the post COVID era will be the championing of entrepreneurs and job creators. We have the inspiration of the great social reformers of the 19th century like Shaftesbury, Wilberforce, Butler, Cadbury, Quaker, Wedgwood and William & Catherine Booth who, motivated by their faith, understood the dignity of work and the part that job creation had in social renewal.
Key No. 3 is called Perseverance. God wants to give us a key that is supernaturally charged with perseverance from Him. Just the ability to keep going and keep going and still, to keep going.
For many, there’s been a fight everyday to resist returning to previous addictions. For others
anxiety has been crouching at the door and a huge effort has been needed to still the mind and use the power of worship and scripture to decree and declare out loud what is true. Our thoughts are not always our friend.
For others still, the mountain of loneliness and disconnection has felt huge. We need that key of perseverance knowing that a day will come when we can meet up without masks and social distancing, when we can worship our hearts out together in the same space and when we can gather around a table and share food and laughter and enjoy community again.
Key No. 4 is called A New Era. This is obviously the start of a New Year but much more than that, this is a new era. An era is a fixed point in time from which a series of years begins, defined by certain distinctives and characteristics. I do believe we are at the start of a new era in history where seismic jumps have happened and what would have taken 10 years under ‘normal circumstances’ has taken 10 months.
As a society we have been altered and as a church we have been altered.
In this new era, we will (eventually) be post COVID and post lockdown. We are changed because of walking through this. We have become more rooted in our localities than ever before. We have adapted to working solely online. We have spent much more time with our households and much less time with friends, church family and wider family. We are different.
In this new era we are post BREXIT. Our relationship with Europe has changed after more than 40 years of UK membership of the European Union. The free movement of people, goods and services between the UK and the EU has ended in the way it used to work. Newly issued British passports will look different. Travelling and working abroad will involve some changes. We are different.
In this new era we are post the murder of George Floyd and are now living in an era which has accelerated the outworkings of racial justice. There has been more listening to hidden pain, more commitment to relational connection across ethnicities leading to a greater understanding of race and culture and more room created at the table for everyone’s contributions. We are different.
In this new era we are post church life being ‘in-person’ only. We are now living in a hybrid era where online is here to stay, allowing church to be more accessible to those who can’t attend in person and more accessible to newcomers checking out church at home first before turning up at a gathering. We might find some small groups continue to use a mix of zoom and in-person. Small group on zoom means babysitters don’t need to be found!
In this new era we will find church growth will be more about multiplication rather than simply addition. Smaller more missional expressions of church will be planted into different networks and neighbourhoods. We are different.
These are all seismic changes. 2 Helpful questions to reflect on as we think about these changes:
1) What have we gained that we want to take with us into this new era?
2) What have we lost that we want to leave behind?
For some, 2021 isn’t just a new era for society and for church, but is actually a new era for them personally, defined by a distinct characteristic. God may be inviting us all to step up into more of our calling at this point in history as we ourselves begin a new era of a God assignment.
So 4 keys for 2021:
and a new Era.