Vision: Reaching People, Making Disciples

Last week at EBC we ran our eighth annual “Holiday at Home” for senior citizens – a week-long event involving lots of fun, games, music and yummy food!

As always we had loads of people here to join in, with lots of helpers and all our staff team pitching in with one thing or another. I confess it was a weird experience for me not to be the point leader of the event this time, as our Seniors Team Leader, Kathryn Stephen, did a great job of taking over the reins and running the thing from start to finish.

I remember when our Church Manager, Eileen Charlton told me about her vision for Holiday at Home way back when I first joined the EBC staff back in 2010, and since then it’s been my great privilege to come up with daft ideas for themes, put together the running order and content and rope in as many willing helpers as I could.

Over the years we have had themes including –

2010: The World Cruise

2011: An American Adventure (my personal favourite!)

2012: The Senior Olympics

2013: On Safari!

2014: Tour of Great Britain & Ireland

2015: Pole To Pole

2016: The Race Is On!

2017: Space – The Final Frontier

I can’t resist including a few photos to give you a flavour of the fun…
Vision 1Vision 2

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What struck me as I had been reflecting a little sadly on the passing of the Holiday at Home torch from me to Kath this year is that the vision for the event was actually Eileen’s, not mine, in the first place. As I thought more about it, it struck me that one of the wonderful things about EBC is that vision for different things can come from any of us in the church – no matter who ends up on the team bringing the thing into reality.

Holiday at Home is one example – people tend to associate it with me, but it was Eileen’s vision originally. Refresh Café came about because our minister, Steph and Sue Lea and others like Sue McCartney had an exciting vision of a church-run café and set it up. Then later I dived in for a season before Jilly Moffett took things on to the next level and now Louise Loader is running it with great commitment and of course the help of a wonderful team of volunteers.

Years before my time, some other EBCers had a vision for “Storehouse” and after Eileen and Neil Charlton ran it successfully for several years it was parked for a year or two before yours truly had a new vision for it and now Fay Philp has taken it under her wing alongside a new and wider vision she has for Social Action.

For several years, Chris Porter (our previous Senior Minister) cast a vision for reaching unchurched people and led us to a much more wide-reaching, inclusive way of doing church.

Somewhere along the line one our Elders, Peter Roe, had a vision of people being so excited to get to EBC that they were actually running to get here!

As for me, I just love the fact that EBC is a church that does all of the things it does with a feeling of family and with a sense of fun. My hope is that we will always retain that sense of family and fun but that we will also go deeper with God, individually and together as a church, so that we truly become a church that reaches people and makes disciples.

When we talk about “vision” we’re speaking the language of things we can see, or imagine seeing, in the future. You can read more about our “formal” vision, mission and values by clicking here but in terms of what we might see happening in the future, I envisage a church that is busy and bustling with all kinds of activity – so much so that we won’t have the time, the space or the inclination to also be a busy conference centre! Nor will we have any financial need to be a conference centre, as we will all be giving generously and sacrificially to provide all that is needed – that is to say we will all be giving generously, and living within our giving. In essence then, mine is a vision of a more committed church, as opposed to a more lucrative conference centre.

I imagine services and events like Lunch Club and Messy Church happening several times a month, I imagine multiple Premix Toddlers session happening. I picture lively and inspiring fun-packed youth events going on (and probably driving the grownups mad!). I can well imagine another branch of Refresh café on site. I imagine Messy Church PLUS with full-on Remix children’s work so that we can properly talk about God with the parents too! I’d love to see training courses, like CAP money courses to help people manage their finances well, ministry team training courses, and Life Groups, social clusters, and study groups meeting up together in our various rooms. I picture the band (and the uke band!) practicing together regularly with other creative arts groups writing and rehearsing and dressing the building together, while the Storehouse van is zipping in and out all the time, with a dedicated base and loads of resources. I can imagine proper year-round help for homeless people, and a team dedicated to joining up the social action work done by churches across Bracknell.

I envisage us having Gift Days dedicated entirely to expanding the work we do to help those in need both locally and overseas, and I imagine our own environments here at EBC being really top-notch so that whenever we invite people and they come to see us they are absolutely blown away by how amazing an experience it is! 

I imagine playing my part in a preaching team that presents the living word of God in an incredibly inspiring way that reaches everyone who hears. I imagine tremendous friendships and providential relationships forming, powerful manifestations of the Holy Spirit, and encounters which change people forever. I dare to imagine signs and wonders like healings and other miracles!

In short, the kind of church that would indeed have people running to get here, just as Peter (not I!) originally dreamt about.

It’s hard to remember all of that, of course, but much easier to remember this – EBC will be reaching people, and making disciples.

Reaching people…. Not just waiting for them to show up and not much bothering if they do or don’t.

Making disciples…. Not merely turning up, counting attenders and thinking “job done”.

The specifics of what EBC will look like is as much up to you, dear reader, as it is to me. Witness Holiday at Home (Eileen’s vision, not mine) or Refresh (Steph’s vision, not Jilly’s) or re-launched Storehouse (my vision, not Chris’s).

My part is firstly to make sure we keep reaching people – that means I will do my level best to ensure that we resist the gravitational pull which would draw us back to being like a club – a place designed only for churchy-type people to feel comfortable in with no real desire to reach the lost. And what kind of Christians want a church like that? Ones that aren’t in fact Christians, would be my reply!

In tandem with that, my part is also to make sure we challenge and encourage each other on discipling. I say challenge and encourage because making disciples calls for us to face up to a challenge – specifically the challenge that if we are to make disciples then we must first truly be disciples ourselves

I have tried to set down for you a kind of picture in words of the kinds of things we might see in the future, but I want to point out that while “vision” results in things we can SEE, the driving force behind those things rests with the things that are UNSEEN. 

What I mean by that is that if we are ever to see the kind of results I have spelt out above, the kinds of things you and I might imagine and dream of and long for, we need first to respond in ways that can’t be seen. A transformed church building and all its activities, events and services will look amazing, but the real transformation is in the hearts of the church itself – the people, the body of believers – and that transformation has to precede and be the driver of the changes we will subsequently see!

My own sense of calling for leadership at EBC – my “burden”, to borrow a word – has to do with our leading others by example and holding ourselves to account if we would call ourselves disciples. When EBC was considering calling me to be the Team Leader here, I was quite open (I hope!) in saying that I intended to lead in a collaborative way. I hope that I do lead that way but here’s the challenging bit – if I’m leading collaboratively, I have really high expectations that those with whom I am collaborating (Elders, Leaders, Ministry Leaders, staff and EBC Members) will lead by example and hold themselves to account. We can’t just talk the talk, as it were.

That might mean sometimes I will have to be quite direct and challenging of myself and others if we are failing to “practice what we preach”. If we as a church genuinely want to become a church that reaches people and makes disciples, and does all of the amazing things that you and I will dream about doing together, then there’s only one group of people that can go about doing it – us!

One group of people that can pray for it and beg God to show us what to do and how to do it – us.

One group of people to ask the Father to empower us by his Holy Spirit – us.

One group of people who will strive and encourage and spur each other on to become more like Jesus – us.

One group of people who can put their backs into delivering all that we are called to do – us.

One group of people to actually cough up the funds to help make the vision a reality (rather than just talking about it and thinking it a nice idea but leaving it to others) – us.

One group of people to invite others eagerly and welcome them warmly – us.

One group of people to lead others, including our friends and our children and grandchildren into discipleship by our own example – us.

If you would like to talk more about our vision for the future, please, please come and talk to me. It’s entirely possible that God will give YOU an incredible vision for something new at EBC that will bless people in amazing ways. Or He will inspire you to play a part in making something we already do even better. What will you do about it? What you can do to help EBC reach people and make disciples? Will you try and perform on the pitch, or just shrug from the sidelines?
Simon Lace, 09/08/2017