It feels like we are at point when restrictions on meeting for public worship etc will change and will be (slowly) lifted. It has been over one year since we were all able to gather as one church in one place. All meetings have been seriously impacted, not just larger ones. This has been really difficult.
Romans 12-15 was and is a good foundation.
Last year we used Romans chapters 12-14 as a guide to help us approach the restrictions together, to help us respond collectively as a church in a situation where there was and is a wide range of opinions on the best way to respond.
The words from Romans Chapters12-14 helped us plot and meander our way through the last year. They would take us forward through any situation together if applied prayerfully and thoughtfully.
There has been the need to be resilient, adaptable and patient. We have endeavoured in various ways to keep people as connected as possible. Some of the things that have been tried have worked better than others. Thank you to those of you who have shown patience and commitment to keep going together.
The plan for the next leg.
Now is a good time to set out the plan for the next season, for the remainder of 2021 and even beyond.
Purpose is Primary
Before you have a plan or a programme you need a purpose!
Our purpose is:
To keep re-discovering what it means to be church as Jesus Christ intended, and in the power of the Spirit make *disciples; where we are, when we are, and who we are.
*A disciple of Jesus Christ is one being formed in the CHARACTER and MISSION of Jesus Christ.
The pandemic restrictions have caused a lot of disruption, but as has been said before they also created a great opportunity to think again about what our real purpose is and how best to fulfil that purpose.
We have been asking, “If all restrictions were lifted, should we just go back to how we were doing things before?” – ie. in our previous Sunday format and Home Group format. Would that be the right and good thing to do?
Core Serve Team have discussed this a lot over the last few months.
Plan and programme
What is the plan for the next few weeks and months?
Re-Connecting and Re-Starting
We are going to view the next period of time, the summer months, as a time of Re-Connecting. We have been separated from one another, so there is the need to re-connect. There will be events organised enabling us to gather in larger numbers again, most likely outside, to help us re-connect. These will happen both at the Connect Centre and other venues. Keep an eye out for information about these.
After we reconnect, we need to restart proper in-person meetings to do all the things that NT churches should do as they meet. Later in the summer and in early September there will be a period of restarting. We are currently in the middle of refurbishing another building at the Connect Centre on Model School Road. This will give us more space to meet.
Meeting in ways to complement the purpose.
In September 2021 (and hopefully before) we plan to restart meeting in larger gatherings. But there will be a variety of ways in which we meet.
Studies on how different group types and sizes impact people are very interesting. Different group sizes and types create a different dynamic and fulfil our purpose in various different ways.
From September we plan to meet in different ways – but not in the same way week in and week out.
There will be Smaller Relational Groups and larger Public Worship Gatherings. Both are necessary. There will be Discipleship Cells, Mid-Size Groups and Whole Church Gatherings.
- Discipleship Cells.
Tri-Connect Cells (3s) have been going for a few months now and at the launch we said there would be a review. There has been excellent feedback and it is hard to believe that they are all going so well. Please get in touch if you are struggling a bit in your Tri-Connect. It is the plan that from time to time these 3s will meet with other 3s in a group of 12, but more information on this will follow
- Mid-Size Groups (or a better name to be discovered).
Groups/Gatherings of 20-40 people. All generations meeting together. Open, welcoming and inclusive. Diverse practices depending on the gifts within. Meeting twice/month – most likely on a Sunday. Relationship building. A place to develop spiritual gifts and identify and develop leaders. More informal breaking-of-bread. Non-threatening ways of meeting for some who are not yet disciples of Jesus.
Mid-size Groups could use the Connect Centre or meet in other places if this enables mission.
The church we see in the NT had fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters. Single people and families. All ages and socio-economic backgrounds meeting together.
What would Mid Size Groups do? Here are some suggestions.
Breakfast Church or Cafe Church.
Run an Alpha course or engage in a specific kind of outreach.
Organise a Bible Study around a specific theme.
- Whole Church Gatherings.
Public Worship is still important. Let us not withdraw from the public square unless we are forced to. We look forward to being able to gather again as one whole church …inside.
The plan is to meet as a whole church (hopefully in September) twice a month, probably on the 2nd and the 4th Sunday. These Whole Church Gatherings will have Celebratory Praise and Teaching. They will be the place for sharing information with the whole church; and for giving the sense of being part of something bigger and of a larger group being on mission together, both locally and in other places around the globe.
On the Sundays when we have Whole Church Gatherings there will be organised Children’s and Youth Ministry.
Spacing Out Important
These different ways of meeting would not all happen within one week, but could happen over the period of one month. We should be careful not to get exhausted with meetings and activities. Pace is important. Spiritual formation cannot be rushed.
To build a discipleship culture in the months and years ahead with these blueprints in mind, more Servant Leaders and Leaders who Serve will be required. As we move forward we will also need additional Overseers/Elders to be recognised. Core Serve Team will need to grow and develop.
But everyone will have an opportunity to serve.
Earlier I said that we had gone to Romans 12-14 to guide us in our collective response to the pandemic and the restrictions we have experienced over this past year.
The first few verses of Romans Chapter 12 will empower us to walk forward together in mission in the next season. These words declare that everyone has a place to give to others what God has given to them.
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will. 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
I have set out a blueprint for Building a Discipleship Culture. No doubt there will be tweaks and changes in the actual building. But let us step forward prayerfully, continually asking for Holy Spirit-ual power to makes disciples of Jesus, bringing glory to the Father.
What is God Saying?
I believe the Lord said pre-lockdown (Feb-Apr 2020) that there was a kind of ‘Crossing Over’ to happen. Little did we know then what was going to develop over the next year.
Another key thing I believe the Lord said and confirmed was that we needed to build using His Plumbline.
Jesus is the Plumbline, not our own good ideas. May we build according to His standard.
Another thing that the Lord spoke over us was Isaiah 45:3
I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden riches of secret places,
That you may know that I, the Lord,
Who call you by your name,
Am the God of Israel.