Going by Faith
By: Alistair Brown
Have I had a great summer? The answer is an unqualified ‘yes’. I’ve spoken in churches and at conferences, vacationed back in the UK with family, and been a proud parent watching our youngest daughter, Catherine, graduate in Aberdeen with a Masters in Human Resources. What this summer has not been is quiet, and I’ve been using the old joke about coming back to work for a rest.
Except it won’t be a rest. We have many new initiatives launched or launching, and news about those is on our web site or soon will be. We have new courses, new approaches to how we deliver our programs, new partnerships which open up new ways of studying with Northern, new scholarships and – praise the Lord – new students. I’m excited, and I never say I’m excited about something unless I mean it.
I’m also nervous. Please don’t rush to condemn me for lack of faith. Faith and nervousness are not incompatible. Soldiers who have felt very afraid have risen above fear to do amazingly heroic acts. Courage can triumph over fear and faith can triumph over nervousness.
You’ll see the photo alongside of Alison and me standing on the ‘ledge’ of the Willis (formerly Sear’s) Tower in downtown Chicago. We had a friend, David, stay with us in early August, and took him to see the city for a day. Naturally that included the Tower. And we stepped out on the ledge. That wasn’t easy. It’s on the 103rd floor of the Tower, 1,353 feet above ground. It’s not natural to walk four feet out into space at that height.
The mind can rationalize that it must be safe. They wouldn’t build it unless it had a load capacity many times the number of people who could stand on it. Every day thousands go out there. I know I’m overweight and shouldn’t have eaten that ice cream, but why would it collapse just when I stand on it?
But it doesn’t feel safe. I look down and see all the way to the ground, and that’s a long way down. I’m not used to standing on glass. Glass breaks. I can’t escape thoughts from when I was ten of breaking a club house window with my golf ball. Even though this glass is massively strengthened, can I really stand on it? At this height?
But, as you see, we did. I was nervous, but we stepped out anyway and all was well.
The way I see it there’s no good future for the church in America (or anywhere) without risk, without walking by faith and not by sight. This is not a time to protect what we have and long for the good times to come back. It is a time to review what we’re doing and how we’re doing it—our heart for all our activity, our love for God and people—and find better ways to be Christ’s people in this world.
The same is true for Northern Seminary. I have brilliant colleagues who are brimming with creativity and energy, and we have superb encouragement and support from our trustees. We have a centenary to celebrate in three years time, and we will, but we’re not looking back. Our eyes see a future where Northern plays a major role in equipping the church with well trained, godly leaders, and they will play a major part in how God will use his church to change the world.
There are lots of small and big steps of faith. We don’t have proof in advance that every step will work. But we will not be immobilized, and looking to God we’re walking forward. I’m still nervous, but it feels very, very good and very, very right.