Ten Years Of Grace

On June 18th this year we had a fantastic party to celebrate Grace Church turning ten years old. We had a BBQ, baptisms, bouncy castles, pic’n’mix, games, volleyball, a barn dance and more! Over 300 of us were able to attend and it was lots of fun!

Grace Church Chichester Bognor Midhurst 10th Birthday Part

Our 10th birthday celebration as a church

I can’t believe we’ve been here ten years already; it’s gone very quickly. In that time we’ve grown from one small meeting through to a church with three congregations. Some friends have been with us since the beginning; others have joined us along the way; some have come and gone; some have come and gone and come back again. We’ve sent people all around the world!

Lots of things have changed since we started (although, as you can see, Jo and I haven’t changed a bit!).

It’s good to look back and remember, and it’s good to look forward and dream, so here are ten reasons that Grace Church exists today, looking back first and then forwards!

Looking back: we exist …

  1. because Jesus called us into existence

Grace Church Chichester Bognor Midhurst 10th Birthday PartIn 2005, to our surprise, God very clearly called Jo and I to plant a new church in Chichester. As we began to explore that call we also found others who felt the same. 

  1. because people responded in faith to that initial call

It wasn’t enough just to hear that call, we needed to respond with faith-filled actions. Along with some others we moved house to begin establishing a new church in a new place. 

  1. because people have continued to respond to that call

All through those ten years people have felt drawn to get involved with what God has been doing with us. We have an ongoing vision to fulfil:

“To grow a dynamic Christian church, serving communities from the South Downs to the sea”

  1. because of the faithful commitment and service of so many people

So many people have shown so much commitment in so many ways over the years. Lots of time and service and money and commitment has been given so that Grace Church can be and do all we are called to! 

  1. because of God’s ongoing grace, protection and blessing on us

Grace Church Chichester Bognor Midhurst 10th Birthday PartIn Matthew 16v18 Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”

Philippians 1v6 says to a church, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion”

Jesus started this work, Jesus watches over us, Jesus will finish what he began – which leads nicely on to …

Looking forward: we exist … 

  1. to make disciples of Jesus

Jesus said, “Go, make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you, and I will be with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28v19-20) – Jesus left his church with a big job to do! 

  1. to be a family

Grace Church Chichester Bognor Midhurst 10th Birthday Part

We need to live out our Christian life in community together; God’s church is his family! That means loving one another; caring in times of trouble; giving support and encouragement. It also means getting our rough edges knocked off – but that’s family!

  1. to be a light in the darkness

As the world gets darker we need to shine more brightly! The message of Jesus brings reconciliation with God and with other people! Local churches are the hope of the world!

  1. to care for the poor and needy

Our GraceWorks are so important – those we do locally and those further away.

  1. to tell people the good news of Jesus

Ultimately this is why we are here! We have an amazing message:

“God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that whoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life”

(John 3v16)

I love our church. It’s been a great ten years together. I’m excited to see what the next ten years bring.

 

Some last minute thoughts on the EU referendum

 

I’ve recently joined Facebook as a way of staying better connected to people in the church. It’s been a really interesting experiment for me and so far it’s one I’ve enjoyed. Feel free to send me a friend request.

EU Referendum | Questions to Consider | Steve Petch Blog

This week, on Thursday, is the EU referendum: in or out? I won’t tell you which way I’m going to vote but through Facebook I’ve become aware that we have strong supporters on both sides of this issue. Looking to the wider Christian community it doesn’t take long to find people who would say it is our clear Christian duty to vote one way or the other.

Which way would Jesus vote? It depends who you ask!

A fresh perspective

I have another perspective for us to consider:

For the ‘Remain’ side: If your hope for peace, prosperity, justice for all and the good life rests on staying in the EUyou are buying into a false god.

For the ‘Brexit’ side: If your hope for peace, prosperity, justice for all and the good life rests on leaving the EUyou are also buying into a false god.

As soon as we look to something man made to be our source of peace, prosperity, justice for all and the good life we are buying into a false god. No man made institution can do that for us! What the countries of Europe need most is the gospel. They need local churches to be built who will reach out to their communities with the love of Jesus; we need to pray for his kingdom to come.

And let’s remember, whatever the result of this referendum, the EU won’t endure forever and nor will any kingdom or empire (see Daniel 2 for details!)

In the end, only Jesus’ kingdom will endure forever!

He alone is the Prince of Peace; he alone is the source of our provision; he alone is the one who judges the nations with righteousness and justice; he alone is the one who will lead us to the ‘good life’ that actually lies beyond this life in his coming kingdom.

So my comments don’t address which way to vote, and don’t ask me. Look at the issues, pray and make your own mind up. But let’s look at the issues with eyes of faith!

Possible questions to consider

  • Which way is best for the advance of the gospel?
  • Which way is best for the growth of the church?
  • Over the long term, which way will best serve the poor, including the poorly paid in our own nation?

I’ve seen each of these things clearly argued both ways, so it’s still not straightforward, but the effect on house prices or your pension pot or the cost of a holiday in Spain should perhaps not be our central concerns as Christians.

And consider this too: if we feel very emotionally attached to one side or the other and the wrong answer would make us feel very upset … maybe we’re putting too much faith in man made answers?

Maybe Jesus has been dethroned just a little bit in our thinking?

Do vote

I’ll vote, I encourage you to do the same, but as we do let’s remember that we are citizens of another kingdom altogether:

 

“Our citizenship is in heaven, and from there we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.”  

Philippians 3v20

We just had our tenth anniversary as a church (and next week I’ll post an update on that with some photos). As a church we are able to embrace unity and diversity. We see it in the many different types of people who make up our church; we see it in our different ages and nationalities; we see it in our different preferences and cultures; we see it in being three sites but still one church. Let’s not allow a political issue, which concerns only a passing manmade institution, to divide us.

EU Referendum | Questions to Consider | Steve Petch Blog

And when praying about this referendum the Lord’s Prayer is a really good place to start:

“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”

Ten Years of Grace, and so much more to come

Grace Church is ten years old!

We officially launched the church on June 10th 2006! A lot has happened since then, and looking back I have a mix of memories … some good, some sad, some downright hilarious.

Over those ten years we’ve grown from a small group of pioneers to a church with three Sunday congregations, meeting in Chichester, Bognor Regis and Midhurst.

Over those ten years a lot of people have been a part of the journey.

Some have been along for the whole ride; others have joined us along the way.

Some came and went. Others came and went and came back again.

And some stayed with us until Jesus took them home.

We have former members who we’ve sent off in faith to many different places in this nation and also to various nations around the globe, from Australia to the Middle East. One of my main reflections on the last ten years is this: life moves pretty fast. I find it hard to believe we’ve been here that long! I’m tempted to quote Ferris Bueller:

Ferris Bueller | Grace Church 10 Year Birthday | Chichester Midhurst Bognor Regis | Steve Petch Blog

This world isn’t our ultimate home

But my main thought on the speed of life passing is not that we should ‘stop and look around’ for ‘fear of missing it’, but rather that we should remember that this world is not our ultimate home; we are citizens of heaven.

Although this blog won’t be uploaded today, I’m writing it on June 10th 2016, which is the actual day of our tenth anniversary. And today, as well as a birthday, we also have a funeral.

Peter, part of our Midhurst congregation, recently died of lung cancer. Today we are burying him. David Thompson is taking his funeral and lots of the Midhurst site will be there to support his wife, Helen, and the family friends who will gather to remember him. They will be there to give thanks and to mourn.

Life is passing

Birthday parties and funerals are both a reminder that life is passing. So the question becomes,

Are we using ours well?

How actively are we pursuing God’s call on our lives?

The last ten years have passed in a flash, but there is nothing I would rather have spent them doing than building this church in response to Jesus’ call on my life.

And for Peter, the good news is that his story is not over. Philippians 3v20-21 says this,

“Our citizenship is in heaven, and from there we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body …”

What a promise! Sown in weakness; raised in glory!

Looking to the future

So far God has given us ten wonderful years of grace as a church, and there is so much more to come. God has more grace for us in the future, both as a church and as individuals: grace for this life and grace for eternity – resurrection life, new bodies, new heavens, new earth, every tear wiped away, the dwelling of God with man…

So lets live this life in the light of eternity.

Lets build his church to reach as many people as possible.

Lets remember that God’s grace to us is never going to run out.

Answering a difficult question that I didn’t see coming …

Our current Grace Church preaching series, “God’s Rescue Mission”, has often focussed on how we can share our faith, so a training day looking at “Answering the Big Objections to Christianity” seemed to make perfect sense – and what a great day it was!

Tom Price, David Bennet and Jo Vitale, all from Ravi Zacharias Ministries, served us so well, introducing as to the world of “Christian apologetics” – which means ‘giving answers to people who ask us about our Christian faith’. Lots of difficult questions were considered and many brilliant answers were found; certainly my brain was stretched and I know others were impacted too.

David’s joy-filled, personal testimony was especially moving. His story of transformation from being a church hating, gay rights campaigner through to personally encountering Jesus and beginning a relationship with a loving God is one you really don’t want to miss.

For those who were unable to attend in person you can hear the downloads for free through our church website.

Is Christianity outdated and irrelevant?

Are science and Christian faith incompatible?

What about war and genocide in the Bible?

If God is real why doesn’t he make himself more obvious?

Ravi Zacharias Ministries - Tom PriceAll this and more is available to listen to for free.

A difficult question

However, what I have been left reflecting on was not the answers given to the questions we raised, but rather my personal lack of a clear answer to the question that Tom Price posed to us during his talk in Chichester and Bognor on the Sunday morning.

Tom asked a deceptively simple question, but one I am still reflecting on and I would encourage you to reflect on too:

“What kind of relationship do you think God seeks with you?”

Tom described three possibilities that are each less than God wants for us. Sometimes as Christians we can act as though the relationship God seeks with us is this:

  1. God wants us to be GOOD: he wants us to live productive lives and use our talents and gifts well; a pragmatic, practical way to relate to God
  1. God wants us to BELIEVE in his existence: to adhere to a certain set of beliefs
  1. God wants us to develop the right FEELINGS towards him: to develop positive emotions towards God; thankfulness and joy.

Tom then said this:

“If you think that being a Christian is these three things, or a combination of these three things or one of these things, then there might be something more for you to discover about God – God may want a deeper way of connecting with you. Maybe God doesn’t just want these three things;

maybe God wants a friendship with you.

So I’m left with a lot to reflect on personally following the weekend. I went with some difficult questions I was seeking answers to, but I came away with a much deeper question to think about for myself.

If you have the time, we would love to hear your feedback and reflections on the weekend too.