When I was at high school I used to run middle distance — mainly 800m and 1500m. I had a “love-hate” relationship with the sport; racing was an adrenalin-fueled buzz, but the training was hard and pushing your body to its limits was painful. But there’s a sound from those days that I’ll never forget, which was the bell for the final lap. At that moment, you were always faced with a big decision, either to give it away and ease the burning in your lungs and legs, or to lean in and leave everything on the track. I’m happy to say I never chose the first option, but it was always hugely tempting at the time!

Last Sunday in our morning services I spoke about the many ministry and missional opportunities we have as a church, particularly new plans to equip and empower our people for life and ministry. I also described a very specific challenge that we face right now. Over the last six months a group of former leaders and congregants at St Paul’s have formed a new worship gathering nearby. When a number of people leave the church all at the same time like this, it has some knock-on effects for our congregation. One obvious result is that this group has taken their financial contribution with them, which has left a gap in our finances of around $125,000 over the course of the year. As I described last Sunday, we have met this challenge by cutting our costs and running on a tight shift as a staff team.

Recently Esther spoke about God calling and leading the Joshua generation of God’s people into the land He had promised them under Moses. What we find throughout Scripture, and in our own experience, is that God’s opportunities often come with a challenge. For the Israelites, the land was already inhabited and most of their scouts were tempted to exaggerate this challenge into an insurmountable wall. But faith requires strength and courage.

Last week I invited us as a community of faith to see our current financial challenge as an opportunity for God to move us into the things He’s prepared for us. I set the target of raising $150,000 of new giving over these two Sundays. I felt that it was important to articulate that specific figure and to reach it together. Although it’s an ambitious goal, like a giant tug-of-war if we all grasp the rope and lean into it, it becomes easily achievable.

I want to thank all of you who responded to this bold call to bless, protect and grow our church. We had an incredible response last Sunday morning with over 70 people raising around $100,000 from just two services. That’s a huge level of participation and was a big encouragement to us. Thank you!

Returning to my teenage track experience, we’ve reached the exhilarating challenge of the “bell lap.” We’ve done most of the hard work, but the finish line remains ahead. The one event I always looked forward to in the track season was the relay meet. There was something inspiring and emboldening about sharing the challenge and spreading the weight within a team who were giving everything they had for each other. Church is more like a team relay than an individual race. So I want to invite those of you who have not yet taken up the baton, to bring us home in style this week as we seek to raise our target of $150,000 and take the church forward into its future.

Rev Jonny Grant