Often when people think about vision for a church, they have in mind grand buildings and large numbers of people attending. Nothing wrong with that, but let’s remember - however big the building and however many people are in it, we’re called to a church of loving disciples of Jesus who lovingly reach out to people and make disciples of them too. How will we know if we are such a church? What will success look like? Well, Jesus said this to his first disciples “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John chapter 15, verse 35).
He also said that the most important of God’s commandments was to love God with everything you have and love other people as yourself. (Matthew chapter 22, verses 37 to 40).
What excites me as Team Leader at EBC isn’t so much a church of big buildings, but a church of big love. The vision for EBC that excites me is that we’d be known as Jesus’s followers by our love for one another and love for God. Men, women, children, young people, seniors… I’d like people to say -
“Those people really love each other. They really love other people. And they don’t just recite prayers or sing all weirdly and happy-clappy (karaoke Christianity)… they get out and do what they say God tells them to do – they obey his commands - they get their hands dirty. They put their muscle and their money where their mouth is.
They help the needy locally and around the world… They’re good news for the poor, they bind up the broken-hearted and they set free the prisoners of addiction and abuse. They say… they say it’s because they love God and because they want to be more like this Jesus guy. And you know what? I believe them.”
If we’re like that – if we grow together to become more like Jesus, who loves his father – and people – so much, well who knows what dreams and visions he might give us? And what he might provide so that they come true. That’s my vision for us.
The apostle Paul knew all about reaching out to people. He knew how much Jesus loves people – and he above all people knew how merciful Jesus is in his love.
Paul went from arch-oppressor of disciples to perhaps the most successful disciple-maker in history. How did he do it? How did he reach people and make disciples? He met them on their turf and on their terms – you can read about this here
Why did Paul have this approach? Why was he interested? What did he mean by “saving” some? He was on a mission for God – and as followers of Jesus, so are we!
Jesus gave the instruction which has come to be known as the great commission – “go and make disciples…” Not listeners. Not believers. Not even acceptors. But disciples… and as part of the process, Jesus said, people were to be baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and taught to obey everything Jesus commanded.
Notice that is not merely teaching them but teaching them to obey his commandments…. And as we’ve already seen the principle commandment is to love God with all we have and love people as ourselves.
Church is not just a club (for Christians, or indeed just a club for a nice mix of Churchy and non churchy do-gooders). We’re supposed to be reaching all kinds of people and by all possible means saving them – by helping them to encounter God, encounter Jesus and ultimately be led by the Holy Spirit into a life in which God is at the centre of things. Where are you on the spectrum of BELONGING…. BELIEVING…. COMMITING…. and CENTRING ON JESUS?
What next step can you take? What are you waiting for? If not now… when?
Vague notions/wishes don’t get us very far. Planned intentional action does. If you want to have more of God then you can – simply SPEND MORE TIME WITH GOD!!!
As a church we’re intentional about the way we do church and why we do what we do.
We try to reach people on their terms and ideally on their turf – at the pensioners’ bingo club we run (to those who play bingo we have become like those who play bingo!) or the Refresh café, or social events, or just in conversations with people out and about at work or the shops or wherever. Then, by intentional invitation, we have them here on our turf – but on their terms (Premix toddlers, Church social events, midday munch). Then when they’ve seen and experienced the lovely building and got to know us better we invite them to things that are on our turf again but give them a sense of our terms (or rather, God’s terms) - even as we try hard to engage them and involve them we’re praying that they will encounter God! That something they hear or see will excite them or, challenge them and they’ll keep coming and keep learning and keep encountering God.
So we strive to be a church that people who don’t do church love to come to and love to become part of.
If we’re to love people, we’re to disciple them. Children and young people and older people and adults - and if we want to do that whilst living within our means and with the intention of living within our giving…. then we need to invest. We want to reach more people and make more disciples – of all ages. In order to do that we need to respond to the reality that it takes our investment to be effective.
God won’t miss out but we will - if we choose not to respond with love for God and love for people. We can choose to be people who under the authority of Jesus are good news to the poor, who bind up the broken-hearted, who set prisoners free of addiction, abuse and circumstances… and who rescue people by introducing them to Jesus, who alone can truly rescue. Will we seize that opportunity that God offers us? The opportunity to be a part of his rescue plan for humanity? To reach out to people and by all possible means, save some? Will we take that opportunity to reach people and make disciples or let it – and them – slip through our fingers?
Questions to consider
1. Where would you put yourself on a scale of belonging… believing… commiting… and being Christ-centred? What next steps might you take if you want more of God in your life?
2. Have you been baptised? If not, perhaps you would like to find out more – please come and ask me or Steph, or any of our Elders.
3. Have you come into membership of EBC? If not, please read our “Discovering Membership” booklet, which explains clearly what membership – and baptism – are all about, along with more detail about our mission and vision as a church.
4. Have you recently invited someone to church? If not, why not? Could you start now by looking for an opportunity to invite someone?
5. How is your prayer life? Are you taking the time to be in God’s presence and receive from him? If not…. Why not? Why wouldn’t you?
6. In what ways might you, as a believer, reach out to people with your unique blend of skills and gifts, to make your faith known to non-believers, and to glorify God?
7. Who will you pray for today?