new old vision

Since September last year our church has affirmed a 2020 vision. I have mentioned it on this blog before. On Sunday morning we will start a new series looking at the 2020 vision and to help us I have written a guide to the 2020 vision that is intended to be a foundational document – a summary – for what we believe we are called to be and to do as a church.

Paper copies are available at the church, but if you are interested you can download a copy from our website here or the church office will gladly email you one.

In many ways it is nothing new. It is not a new earth-shattering strategy that is going to be responsible for spiritual revival in Colchester (no strategy could do that anyway – it’s God’s work). It is not a new vision that has come to us on a gold scroll delivered by angels.

It’s simply a new old vision.

It is a fresh way of looking at ancient truth. It is a reminder of what God wants us to be and do. The guide and the series are intended to help us to do that.

footballIn a football match (soccer if you are on the other side of the Atlantic from me) the aim of the game has always been to score more goals than the other team. There are different approaches that teams will take in order to achieve that. Some play attractive short-passing, quick moving football to wrong-foot opponents. Others hoof the ball down the pitch and hope that it lands near one of their players in a goal-scoring position. Some focus on defensively stifling the opposition and hitting them on the break. Others seek to overwhelm the other side with attacking flair.

Matches take place in all sorts of different contexts – from a massive purpose-built stadium, through to local pitches in parks, to small boys with jumpers for goalposts in any convenient space on the planet…

But ultimately in all of them one team is simply trying to score more goals than the other team to win the game.

The 2020 vision is a bit like that. The aim has not changed. Churches exist to help Christians follow Jesus and to help other people find faith in him. That’s still the purpose of our church, at least. But sometimes it is helpful to remind ourselves about how that can happen.

I hope and pray that you might find it helpful. I hope and pray that if you are in the area and are not currently part of a church you might like to join us on this journey – you would be very welcome.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

epiphany

light bulbI had an epiphany this morning but it’s okay, I’ve got some tablets for it.

No, seriously (and yes I can be), I had an epiphany – a sudden message from God that stopped me in my tracks. The passage of the Bible I read this morning* was one that I have read many times and it didn’t jump off the page at me like it did this morning. It seems to summarise brilliantly so much of what we are considering at the moment in our church under the banner of a 2020 vision and what God is saying to me personally.

It comes from a letter Paul wrote to a church in Colossae and it’s worth remembering that it is written in the plural – ‘you’ means the church not an individual on their own and ‘pray’ means ‘pray together’. The extract of Paul’s letter is Colossians 4:2-6

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

This encourages me immensely. It encourages me because it confirms (if we needed confirmation) that the direction in which we feel God is leading us is entirely in harmony with the Bible. If it wasn’t I would be worried!

It encourages me because it reminds me of something I said on Sunday morning in church – that church is God’s Plan A for the world and he’s not working on a Plan B. The task to which he has called us as followers of Jesus is the same today as it was for the earliest Christians – to grow deeper in our relationship with Jesus so we can be better free samples (individually and collectively) to those who aren’t yet followers.

It encourages me because it reminds me that everyone in the church is involved in the same task that God has called me to, and I have the privilege of being paid so I can devote myself to encouraging, teaching, supporting, resourcing and blessing everyone else as you fulfil your calling in your daily lives.

It has been a ‘shiver down the spine’ moment – literally – and those moments are usually when I sense God has spoken to me loud and clear.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

*I use Scripture Union’s WordLive

2020 vision

This bloggage is based on a leaflet that will be shared with our church this weekend.

2020 VISION LOGOOn 1st September I shared a 2020 vision in my sermon in the morning service. We are seeking to see clearly what God’s vision is for us as a church, and looking at 2020 as a point in the future towards which we can aim.

The key thought behind this 2020 vision is that God intends churches to grow. That is what we see in the New Testament, and it is inherent in many of Jesus’ parables about the Kingdom of God. God has not changed his mind about this and that he still intends churches to grow – including ours.

The growth that God intends has two dimensions. One is growing deeper in our relationshipinoutarrow with him. The second is growing in numbers because people are becoming followers of Jesus through us. Those dimensions are reflected in these arrows. There are two sets of arrows: each dependent on the other to exist. The white arrows pointing inwards (deeper) are defined by the red arrows pointing outwards (new Christians) and vice versa. If we are to grow as a church we need to think about both dimensions. It is important for us to remember that this is not something we can manufacture, and it is not a programme to be followed. It is our response to God’s initiative, empowered and encouraged by his Spirit: it is his work in which he invites us to participate, not our work that we ask him to bless.

In my sermon I mentioned the Engel Scale, which shows stages in a person’s journey of faith. (See earlier bloggage here). The Engel Scale helps us to consider how we are growing deeper in our own relationship with Jesus and also how we can help others to grow closer to him.

Growing Deeper

We need to consider the depth of our relationship with God. Our Membership Covenant encourages us to engage in personal prayer and Bible study, and also to support and encourage one another in this. Part of the 2020 vision will be a response to God’s love and seeking his Spirit’s help to walk closer to Jesus. God wants us to continue to grow deeper in our relationship with Jesus throughout our life.

If we are a fervently prayerful people we believe we will not only grow closer to Jesus, but we will also see spiritual fruit in the lives of others.

Growing Outwards

The challenge of a vision for growth through new Christians is that we may need to do things differently from the ways we have done them before. A number of big questions emerge:

We have a prime location in the middle of Colchester, a gift from God through our predecessors. How can we make better use of this location to share the Good News about Jesus with those who use these premises weekly, who live and work around us, and with those who pass by the premises?

What does the 2020 vision mean for the different activities we run at the church?

How can we use the opportunities that God gives us through those activities in order to help people in their journey of faith?

How can we make the most of opportunities that he gives us when we are not at church?

We need to be ready to respond to what God says to us, however challenging it may be.

We’d value your prayers!

Be blessed, be a blessing