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The church: the matrix of change
By Matthew Waterman
Jun 05, 2020
In the wake of events in Minneapolis, Wycliffe College Principal Stephen Andrews reached out to some of Wycliffe's black students to ask them how they are doing. One student, Matthew Waterman (who graduated from the Master of Divinity program at Wycliffe in 2020) took the time to jot down his thoughts, and he has given Wycliffe permission to share a portion of his reflections here. Matthew writes:
"As for the situation in the States. We have spoken about anti-black racism in the past, and I believe the current turmoil clarifies my thoughts from that time to emphasize that the church alone can be the matrix of change. While I applaud the general movement in our society to recognize sin and evidence some zeal in avoiding it, that does not change the fact that our culture drinks down iniquity like water every day.
Racism isn't an anomaly in our culture but merely a single manifestation of its darkness. When people reject the Author of life, how can we expect anything but evil and death? That being said, the church is not automatically living in the light by contrast.
My brief experience of pastoral ministry (and life as a Christian) has shown me that Christians live up to their gifting and calling only a fraction of the time and can look almost identical to the world the rest of the time. But the hope I have that energizes me is the endurance and encouragement of the Scriptures. Our whole life as Christians is enduring various trials and difficulties individually and corporately, fuelled not by our own zeal or strength but by the living and abiding Word of God and its timely encouragements.
Promises from leaders that they will do better, rash character assassinations, joining ranks with the dissipated and wrathful hordes will all peter out, because their fuel is human anger, which does not produce God's righteousness, and fear, which is a deficient experience of God's love.
But Christians are trained for endurance, patience, and long-suffering, which will all be required for change to happen, along with faith, hope, and love. My passion is that we don't need the world's messaging to interpret the signs of the times - it also isn't promised that the world will want to hear our words. But the words that encourage me most in ministry are Ephesians 4:13 "Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God's Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ's fullness." Honestly, I don't believe that has or ever will happen in a congregation; but the word "until" means we never stop speaking the truth, repenting, learning, and praying until there is progress, and the words "we all" mean that we are all on the same side and we do this as a family.
And that's basically what I believe the church has to offer, on a structural level, to the present situation, and I think it's worth giving our lives to this. There are obviously specific issues that need to be dealt with, but there must be relationship first, and that to me is the church of Jesus Christ."
Matthew Waterman is featured on page 6 of the Winter 2019 edition of Insight magazine. There, he concludes his first person piece with these words which feel appropriate to the moment: "My prayer for the church going forward is that 'the God of endurance and encouragement would grant [us] to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together we may with one voice, glorify the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ.' (Romans 15: 5–6). Amen."