george hancockstefanSometimes, during a week, a particular word comes to the surface and stays in the air for a long time. The word perishing came around the Advent Season and hung in the air like a balloon that just refused to pop. But instead of presenting the joy that balloons usually bring, this word perishing had a frightening, ominous presence.

While talking with a seminary colleague, he mentioned that at a certain level in academics, it is publish or perish. The seminary as an institution, the academic dean as the leader of the seminary, and the colleagues in the promotion/tenure committee, above all, expect faculty to publish. Publish or perish. Publish and be advanced, or do not publish and be asked to leave.

As though the first conversation was not enough, a couple of days later, a colleague in church ministry concluded his conversation by saying to me, “It is time is to change or perish!” There was that word again. Church attendance is decreasing, budgets are getting tighter, younger couples come less to church when their children would traditionally start the Sunday School classes, and people have less time to volunteer for activities that are important for the church development. We need to change and that change factor is pressed hard upon ministers. Change or perish!

It was in the midst of this troubling word that John 3:16 came to mind. The message of the Advent Season is so triumphantly presented in this well-known verse, “God so loved the world that he gave His Only-Begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not PERISH, but have everlasting life.” This message came like a zephyr, a sweet Mediterranean wind, and then increased in power until it dominated my thinking.

As much as the world around us changes and we need to change with it, we preach a Gospel that has an unchanging God – one who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We can count on him and we can count on his eternal love and on the fact that His goodness is manifested to us each morning.

To deny that the church is going through a crisis in the USA is to reveal one’s blindness. At the same time, we are talking about the church which is not only local or provincial, but global and at the global level; God is doing great things in the church. Moreover, we have the promise of Christ that He will build the church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against her. In one way or another, the church in the Western world is assaulted by the forces of hell in so many different forms. Some of the assaults are even made in the church, which in some places, has proclaimed that there is no more Satan, God will never be angry with His creation, and there is no sin. Nevertheless, the truth of God will stand and it is that God does not want anyone to perish and the ones perishing are the ones that are not willing to come to Him and take his presented offer in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I hope to be able to write some books and though that I will get another promotion. I hope that we will have some changes that will bring more people in this congregation and congregations around the world. However, my position as an adopted son of God is secure. I can trust in that because that is the Word of the Lord, and that is the Good News of the Kingdom of God.