Dear Friends, Colleagues and Churches,

Welcome to 2019. We are expecting an exciting year as we seek to value-add the mission of our movement together for the Kingdom. 

Each year we gather as a part of the broader Fresh Hope Movement to mutually encourage one another to continue the journey of mission on the frontline. Our teams are constantly seeking to partner with you, to believe in you and to assist, where we can, to make your vision and mission clearer and more vital for your community.

I suspect you probably understand that the challenges of local mission are becoming more acute, as are the demands on leadership to serve both church and community. Into this space, Fresh Hope is intentionally doing all we can to use our broader resources to assist you in this journey. We will share more about this in the coming months as we listen, reflect and support you and your teams for future impact.

At the start of 2019, I have been reflecting on the early missionary journeys of Paul and others (recorded for us in the Acts of the Apostles) as they engaged locally with churches in many of the cities of the then world. A common theme emerges – their visits were not fleeting – they sought to genuinely form community with believers for an important reason.

This reason is particularly highlighted in Acts 14: 22 and Acts 15: 41 – they were there to ‘strengthen’ the believers or disciples.

The Greek root of the word ‘strengthen’ is στηρίζω. Among its meanings is this idea of ‘making fast’. When a large ship prepares to dock at port, a crew works diligently at its moorings with ropes and winches to ‘make fast’ the vessel so that it safely nests along portside to allow both embarking and disembarking. Initially, smaller ropes are flung with a monkey fist onto the dock, themselves tied to large heaving lines that draw the ship closer into port where ultimately it is made fast and steady. Different lines called ‘springers’ cut tangently back from the bow and stern to bring tension to the mooring constellation, thus ensuring the ship won’t buffet or move once alongside the wharf.

This analogy works very well for ‘how’ we cultivate discipleship environments. There is skill required, the process is all about strengthening the vessel so that in ‘making fast’ everything is secure and solid for the future.  

Young believers need to be secured into the reality of God’s Kingdom and understand their strengths, gifts and rationale for belonging in church. A failure to ‘make fast’ believers results in pseudo community where genuine spiritual transformation is stymied and faith stalled.

Discipleship is not a quick fix journey. When we strengthen others, we must be committed to relationship and community. We must also be willing to travel through mess, pain and fear. When we strengthen others, we facilitate their growth in Christ, thereby enabling them to courageously embrace their future with God present, even if their own plans don’t eventuate. Our discipleship environments reflect surrender to Jesus as both Lord and Saviour. This is less about therapy and more about spirituality. This journey is perhaps the most treasured and special gift we can offer one another.

In a world that is increasingly anxious, hostile and isolated, the gift of ‘making fast’ into community is indeed precious. I pray you have the courage to put ‘discipleship’ into your strategic plan for both the short and long-term horizons.

Much grace and intention to you.

Dr Andrew Ball
Executive Ministry Director