This past week a good group of us from our church have been in a field in North Yorkshire for Elim Festival. The theme of this week has been ‘Journey’, giving particular attention to our journey of faith. The reality is that the outworking of our faith is a journey; sometimes we feel like we’re growing quicker than others. At times we feel like we’ve come to a stand still. A few weeks ago in the first message from our ‘I AM’ series I made a claim the if we cannot chart some measure of progress – theologically, behaviourally, relationally, emotionally – have we stopped following Jesus? I believe that this applies on a corporate level as much as an individual level.
Over recent weeks we have communicated our vision for the future of our church community, but hopefully you have picked up that we are not planning on everything changing all at once! The desire of the leadership is that we create a clear plan for enabling mission to our city so that the people the Father is drawing to himself get joined to the family of God. Someone once said, ‘the only constant is change’, and in many respects that is true. Change is inevitable but it doesn’t always have to be painful or awkward; it can actually be exiting and fun. Our desire is to see people encounter Jesus and become followers of his and grow to become like him. We are on a journey of change toward shaping a highly intentional mission and discipleship culture. This does not mean that it is necessarily a heavy or intense burden but it does mean that we have set our hearts to become whole-life disciples.
There are a couple of things that I want to highlight as we move forward in our vision. Firstly, Sunday gatherings are really important to us. The writer to Hebrews understood the necessity of God’s people gathering together, and we equally know the importance of being together with the larger family. Over the course of time we will be able to share stories of what God is doing in and through your Connect Group. Sundays will increasingly become a place for celebrating what God is doing through you. We love Sundays! We will continue to make our gathered worship a meaningful place of encounter, celebration and teaching. Can I encourage you to contribute to Sunday church? Maybe you can serve on a team or just offer to help in some way. There a lots of people who do, and you could be one of them too.
The second thing I want to say is about our groups. I’m excited by the way that Group leaders have caught the vision and are already thinking about how to facilitate mission through your group. I appreciate for some of you this might be a difficult transition, and you might be unsure as to how it is all going to work. That’s ok! All I’m asking is that you remain open to what God is doing.
Over the next year I will be meeting with Group leaders on a regular basis and we’ll begin to shape things slowly. It’s important that you know that this is an invitation to do mission together and help each other move forward in God. Most of us don’t experience massive continual growth; to think we will is unrealistic. However, what I do think is important is that we trace over a period of time how we have grown in Christlikeness. This is much easier to identify if we are in genuine friendships in which we can speak life into one anther life and encourage one another when we see growth. God works in seasons and some seasons of your life will see greater growth than others. The important thing is are you still open to growing in Christlikeness; is your heart still soft to God even if it means you move forward one inch at a time?
Whatever our Groups will become will be down to the make up of each group. My hope is that as we engage in mission our hearts will be gripped by Jesus and we’ll enjoy the journey together. In fact as I remember it Richard, one of our elders, felt a couple of years ago that God wanted us to enjoy the journey. Let us do everything we can to enjoy where Jesus leads us even if we don’t always understand it!