An ‘updraft’ in meteorology characterises a storm’s early development as warm air rises, eventually bringing the rains that offer sustenance and life. Rick’s hope for this monthly updraft column is for it to be a catalyst for change, ultimately contributing to the transformation of our faith communities. This regular column first appears in the Northern Baptist Association monthly newsletter, ‘Northern Lights'.

Over the past year or so, we have been sending out our monthly edition of 'Northern Lights'. I have been considering the purpose of the 'encouragement' piece I have been contributing – What is its purpose? What value is in it? What do I hope to see happening because of people reading it? 

 As I look back on previous contributions, reflecting on their content and feedback received, I see an underlying hope that they are contributing to our national vision: faith communities bringing gospel renewal to people and places in our local neighbourhood. Such gospel renewal brings to life the presence and power of God lived out in our communities, a sign of his love and Spirit bringing transformation. 

With this, I'm reminded of the meteorology term updraft, characterising a storm's early development. During this time, warm air rises to the level where condensation begins, and precipitation starts to develop, bringing the rains crucial to watering the earth and giving and sustaining life. In many places, rains continue to be a sign of blessing.

What would it be like for us to be caught up in an updraft, inspiring our churches to become people associated with gospel renewal? For me, Ezekiel's vision of dry bones in Ezekiel 37 provides a perfect example of an updraft's effects. Here we see Ezekiel confronted by a valley of dry bones, representing the people of Israel in exile, lost and without hope. As the Sovereign Lord instructs Ezekiel to prophesy, the bones begin to join, coming to life as breath enters them. The significance of this vision is highlighted by God's promise that his people will return to Israel and that 'I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live.' 

We will experience further significant changes in our approach to living with COVID-19 in our community as restrictions on our Sunday gatherings lift. But that doesn't mean people will return. Some will be fearful. Others who are vaccinated are hesitant to mix with those unvaccinated. Some have dropped away from church online and may never return to our physical gatherings. It is a time when we need to allow God to rebuild his church, bring life out of something that seems dead to us, and see new works of his Spirit, evidencing life and transformation.

As we seek to lead his church in this season, in whatever role we play, may we discern the workings of God leading us into life. As we do, he will enable us as his people to become an updraft, inspiring a new move of God that transforms our faith communities. In this, we can be faith communities bringing gospel renewal to people and places in our local neighbourhoods! As we have seen, our God can bring dry bones to life. May he do that for each of us and for his church, for his glory.  

Rick Pierce is Minita-a-rohe mō te Hauoratanga me te Whakawhanake, Network Pastor, Health and Development, Northern Baptist Association. You can contact Rick by email: [email protected]

For more editions of Updraft, click here.

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