December 2022

From the Pastor’s Pen . . .

The Great Relaunch
“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
—Galatians 4:4–5

Many of us have had the experience of buying a new car (or at least one that’s new to us), only to see others just like it seemingly everywhere we look! Psychologists call this the ‘Baader-Meinhof phenomenon’ or the ‘frequency illusion’. The basic idea behind this phenomenon is that, once something (e.g., a new car) suddenly becomes important or valuable to us, our faculties of attention undergo an ‘awakening’ of sorts that leads us to take note of what we might otherwise have simply overlooked. I confess that I might be experiencing a version of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon when it comes to relaunch. Since our church has embarked on the journey toward relaunch, I seem to see something having to do with relaunch everywhere I turn. I’m finding books on relaunch that I didn’t even know existed. I learn churches undergoing relaunch in various places. Even the political globalists are describing the ‘new world order’ as the ‘great reset’. And, to top it all off, as I was praying about article, it came to me that as we enter the month of December, we are about to celebrate the greatest relaunch in the history of mankind—the incarnation of the Son of God at birth of Jesus Christ—Christmas!

Now, before you lament, “poor old pastor, he has come down with a bad case of relaunch on the brain” and stop reading, hear me out. The more I meditated on the idea that the first Christmas was really a kind of relaunch for humanity, the more I realized that there are too many parallels between Christmas and our relaunch to ignore. While we cannot consider them all in this space, a brief look at several points of correspondence just might shed some light on the process of relaunch. It might even help us see Christmas in a new light, too.

Most books I’ve read on the subject agree that, for a church relaunch to be successful, the timing must be right. If the church is not ready—perhaps because it does not yet recognize the need, perhaps because it wants to try half-measures, or perhaps because it has not yet come to the place where it is willing to embrace God’s unique mission for the church—no amount of effort will bring about the kind of genuine renewal that leads to meaningful relaunch. Simply put, the conditions must be right. On that first Christmas night, the conditions were just right for the first time since the creation of man. The “fullness of the time” had come. The ‘Pax Romana’ or ‘Peace of Rome’ prevailed and the Roman empire made travel and commerce possible. Even though the religious climate in the empire was thoroughly pagan, Jews were able to practice their religion unmolested so long as there was no disturbance to the peace. The Greek language, perhaps the most precise and expressive of all tongues, was spoken throughout most of the known world, much as English is the lingua franca today. The Jewish people, having had no word from God for 400 years, were about to be introduced to the Word of God incarnate, the very Son of God. Prophecies were being fulfilled. Miracles were taking place. And the Jewish people were watching and waiting as never before for Messiah, the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:45), to be revealed. Jesus came into the world, the old ways were soon to pass away, and with Him a new day for mankind had come.

It is also true that successful relaunch must begin with God. God must provide the impetus, and God must provide the power. Such was the case that first Christmas. As Paul reminds us in Galatians 4, when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman. It was at the initiative of the Triune God that the Son came to earth, sent by the heavenly Father. And was by the power of God that the very Son of God became man, born of a woman, and she a virgin. That first Christmas was an unfathomable display of the power, the initiative, and the love of God that He might save us from our sin. As we move forward with relaunch in the church, I stand ever more convinced that the impetus to move forward was from God. And I am more convinced than ever that success can only come by the power of God, and only as we remain true to His grand, eternal purpose—the redemption of mankind.

Finally, we should note that relaunch should lead to something better, a more excellent way. Paul reminds us in Galatians 4 that Christ came into this world “under the law” in order to redeem mankind from under the law, and unto something better—adoption as sons of God. It is not that the law was bad, as Paul affirms in Romans. Rather, the law was absolutely necessary to prepare mankind for the coming of Christ. There could be no New Testament without the Old. But the way of the New is infinitely better. The law could only reveal our inability to keep it. The sacrificial system revealed that God would provide the perfect Lamb as the final, once-for-all sacrifice to atone for the sins of mankind. As we reflect on relaunch at Glenwood, we must be mindful that the old served the purposes of God. Without the old, there could be no new. But the time has come for us to begin anew in order to more effectively fulfill the purposes of God. Does the message change? Has God’s plan for redemption ‘evolved’? God forbid! Salvation has always been by grace, through faith, i.e., through trusting in the gracious provision of God. So shall it ever remain, and so shall it be the constant that unites old and new.

This Christmas season, as we prepare for the celebration of the birth of our Savior, let’s remember that we celebrate not only the miraculous birth of a sweet little baby some 2000+ years ago. Let’s remember that in truth it is much, much bigger than that. We celebrate the ‘relaunch’ of mankind into possibility of a profoundly new, profoundly better relationship with Almighty God. It is because of Christmas and the cross, that we can exclaim with the apostle, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). Praise God! He is in the business of making old things new!