A letter from the new pastor

Dear Friends of Bothwell Evangelical Church,

I started my role as the Pastor of Bothwell Evangelical Church on the 1st of November 2020. I wanted to briefly introduce myself and make some brief comments about this new chapter in the life of the church. I am married to Carrie and we have four young children: Jack, Sophie, Andrew & Joshua. As a family we are thankful to God for the way in which he has led us to this new opportunity. I also want to express my gratitude to the congregation at Bothwell, we truly appreciate the welcome that we have received and we are excited about how the Lord will be at work in and through his people here in Bothwell.

At the outset, let me say a word about the local community. I have been really delighted to see the positive connections that exist between the church and the local community.  I know that the church is extremely well thought of and it is evident that this is the result of many years of faithful service and witness within the community at Bothwell. In this respect, I greatly appreciate these relationships and can assure you that we will want to build on these links in the months and years to come.  

Nevertheless, it must be acknowledged that these are very strange days in which to begin this new ministry at Bothwell. The events over the last year have had enormous implications for the normal routines of life and the regular patterns of church have not been exempt from these challenges. It is, therefore, a very unusual time in which to be starting in this new position. However, the unchanging truths of the Christian faith prove to be a firm foundation for our lives in these strange days. In that respect, I wanted to make some comment on the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 28.18-20. These verses as commonly referred to as: ‘The Great Commission’.

18. Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20. teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” 

Matthew 28.18-20

The wider context of Matthew’s Gospel has a direct bearing on these verses. In Matthew 16, Jesus has already promised to build his church on the testimony of the apostles. In Matthew 18, Jesus gives the local church the authority to be his representatives on earth. Here, in Matthew 28, Jesus makes it clear what the mission of the church is to be. The church is to be in the business of making disciples. It is, however, necessary to pause and acknowledge that the scale of the task given to the church is immense. There is no limit on where the gospel is to go – it is to go to all nations. And there is no limit to what the church is to teach – it is to teach all that Jesus has commanded. 

In light of this, it would be easy to feel discouraged at the scale of the task. Our own resources are certainly not sufficient for this mission. However, these verses are not given to discourage us – the very opposite is true! When these verses are properly understood they contain all that the church requires to be in the business of making disciples. It is important to note the structure of these verses, the mission of the church in v19/20 is surrounded by two foundational promises. It is these promises that enable the church to work and witness for Jesus. Let’s think about each one briefly.

The first promise (v18) is that Jesus has all authority. Is that not remarkable? More than this, the authority of Jesus is absolute. It is on heaven and on earth. In other words, there is no power on heaven and earth that has not been given to Jesus. Then notice the important word ‘therefore’. There is a direct connection between the authority that has been given to Jesus and the mission of the church. It is only because all authority has been given to Jesus that the church can ‘go’ with confidence. This great promise should be an encouragement to us and give us the resolve that is needed to continue in our work of making disciples.

The second promise (v20) is that he is with his people always, to the end of the age. Again, there is an emphatic nature to these words. Jesus states that he will be with his people always. That statement alone assures the church of his presence with them. However, he then reinforces this with the words – to the end of the age. It is worth taking time to reflect on this truth. It is perhaps natural to be daunted at the scale of the task that is given to the church. Moreover, the days in which we live are becoming increasingly difficult to witness to the truth of the gospel. But, regardless of the circumstances the church always has grounds for great confidence!  We must never lose sight of the fact that Jesus has promised (without exception) to be with his people. 

Therefore, it is important to ground this new ministry at Bothwell on these unshakeable promises. On the one hand, it is true that the days that we are living in have brought a huge amount of uncertainty to our lives. However, on the other, there is much that remains unchanged. The gospel is still the power of God to salvation for all who believe (Rom 1.16). And the promises that accompany the mission of the church remain as certain as ever. Jesus still has all authority and Jesus is still with his people. Let’s give thanks for these unshakeable truths and be encouraged by them as we seek to make disciples here in Bothwell.

In the Lord Jesus,

Richard Gamble

Pastor of Bothwell Evangelical Church