Yes You Can!

One of the (many!) roles that falls to me as the Lead Pastor is setting the culture for my church. Culture is so important!

Someone said it like this:

“Culture is king!”

Obviously Christians believe that Jesus is king 😀 but whoever said it still made an important point. Perhaps it was better phrased like this:

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”

The simple truth is this: we can make all the plans we want and devise all the strategy we  like, but the culture of our church can hinder our best intentions. For example:

  • We could devise a system to welcome new people, but if our culture is not inclusive and welcoming, new people will not feel welcome.
  • We can create a strategy to train more leaders, but if our culture is not releasing and empowering, new leaders will not emerge – (or they will emerge and leave!)
  • We can earnestly desire to be ‘a more creative church’, but if our culture is not open to new or fresh ideas, creativity will be stifled.

So what culture do we want?

In our preaching over the last three weeks I’ve highlighted two culture areas (and more will follow in the months ahead). We need to create:

  • A “Come As You Are” culture
  • A Culture of Grace

“Come As You Are” is about how we treat people coming in to our church.

It might be best summed up in the three ‘B’ words: Believe, Belong, Become

I explained on Sunday how ‘Become’ is better than ‘Behave’; Christ-like action flows from our new identity in Christ.

One implication of ‘Belong’ being first on the list, is that we don’t require someone to be a church member before they belong to a neighbourhood Group or join a serving team in many areas of church life.

Can I get involved? Yes you can! (Just ask)

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Flip That Switch!

A “Grace Filled Culture” is about how we treat people within the church

This flows out of our new life and identity in Christ; it’s the outworking of the gospel in our lives and our church.

Jesus gave us a new commandment: love one another (John 13v34). We need to show the same grace to each other that God has shown to us (see Matthew 18v21-35).

How could you show more love and grace to someone in the church today?

 

 

 

Belong … Believe … Behave

I’ve enjoyed our recent preaching series called, “Why I Love The Church”. Each week has served as reminder to me of the beauty of God’s awesome church.

 

Come as you are

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One concept we looked at was creating a “Come as you are” culture in our church. That’s huge! As people who have received grace and mercy from God, our church should be the most loving, accepting and welcoming place in town!

This will have some huge implications for how we do church life together …

Think about our mission as a church. We want people to …

  1. Believe: We really do. We want them to believe in Jesus: John 3v16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son so that whoever believes him might not perish but have eternal life”
  2. Belong: We want people to belong to our church family: 1 Cor 12v27 – “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” 
  3. Behave: It’s not an ideal word, but it starts with a ‘B’. We want to help people become more like Jesus – we want every believer, as Eph 4v1 puts it, to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received”

But what order do we put these three words in?

This is more important and challenging than its ever been!

UK culture has changed a lot in the last ten years!

The gospel hasn’t changed, Jesus hasn’t changed, people haven’t changed, the Bible hasn’t changed, truth hasn’t changed … but culture has changed.

So we need to consider our approach!

If we went to another nation with a mission agency they would give us cross cultural training … I think we may now need cross cultural training to reach the UK!

Some churches do it this way: Behave … Believe … Belong

socialexclusionSo, if you’re the right sort of person: reasonably wealthy, with an outwardly moral lifestyle and a stable family, someone might invite you to church. If you come you might hear the gospel. And down the line, if you commit your life to Christ and get baptised, you might be allowed to belong to the church family.

The trouble is, we won’t see many come to know Jesus that way!

Other churches do it like this: Believe … Behave … Belong

Im-a-Mess-T-Shirt-Worn-Free-Tee-Black_1024x1024They reach out to anyone, regardless of their background, and recognise that we can’t expect people who are not yet Christians to live a Christian lifestyle.

And once people decide to follow Jesus discipleship begins. Once the big issues are sorted out in their lives they are ‘allowed’ to get baptised and ultimately to join the church.

This is better, but it’s less effective than it used to be, because people with messy lives are still going to struggle to connect.

We also run the danger of teaching people a set of Christian rules, instead of teaching them to follow Jesus!

But more and more churches are finding that to win people for Jesus today we need to order it like this: Belong … believe … behave.

This means helping people to find a place in our church family before they come to faith in Jesus. I’m not redefining church membership here, I’m simply saying is that we need to accept people, just as they are, and allow them to find a place in our church family before they come to faith. In today’s culture this is vital, because people need to know they are accepted, before they’re willing to listen to our message.

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When people know they are accepted, they are more willing to listen to our message.

People don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care!

Once people have received the gospel and opened their lives to Jesus, once they have believed in him, then their life begins to change. Not because we hot them with a set of rules, but because the Holy Spirit is at work to transform them; they begin to live a life worthy of the calling they have received, albeit with many trips and stumbles along the way … and we need to be okay with the trips and stumbles too.

But is this Biblical? Is it really okay?

I think this is exactly what Jesus modelled for us, for example:

  • When he met Zacchaeus (Luke 19v1-10)
  • When he met the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4v1-42)

Won’t we be misunderstood?

phariseesProbably – but until religious people are scandalised by the radical grace we show to those who are far from God … until pharisaical people are questioning the company we keep … until, like Jesus, we are accused of being a ‘friends of sinners’ …

we’re not really representing Jesus very well.

 

The Challenges Of Being Somewhere New

We’re enjoying living in Woking, and not only because of starting at The Coign Church. Of course there are lots of challenges moving somewhere new, though most of mine appear to be food related – for example:

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It’s all a bit alien to me!

  • Finding my way round a new supermarket (harder work than it should be)
  • Deciding where to go out for a meal (Pizza Express – it’s literally next door to the Coign building)
  • Deciding where to buy a sandwich (had a calzone from a street vendor in Market Walk – nice!!!)
  • Understanding the food waste recycling system (a new concept for us)
  • Almost creating an ‘international incident’ when trying to buy goat (yes, really) for some Indian visitors after Westpoint (we ended up with lamb and we liked it)
  • And finally (non-food related) trying to find a post office … and then trying to negotiate the queue …

It feels odd not knowing where everything is, especially when the road layout seems to change almost daily!

So praise God for the church!

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Let the preaching commence!

We’re absolutely loving getting to know The Coign and, although we’re new, so many things already feel very familiar to us.

I’ve enjoyed starting our new preaching series: “Why I Love The Church”. Do get the free download of week 1 if you missed it; part 2 this Sunday.

I’ve enjoyed seeing ‘normal church life’ taking place all around me: worship, community groups, prayer meetings, pastoral care, youth work, kids work, team meetings, elders meetings, planning for alpha and so much more.

I even enjoyed getting my car washed as part of a fund raiser for three young people  setting off to do year teams, although I think the cars weren’t the only thing that got soaked …

 

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And talking of getting soaked …

What a joy to see people being baptised on Sunday evening

Sharon, Marcus, Clara and Karam each made the step of being baptised. The testimonies were great, with Karam’s even reducing grown men to tears. Dub then preached excellently and we ended up praying for lots of people too. Apologies for the quality of the photos:

 

 

Baptisms are a  sign that God has been at work in our church, and I believe he will carry on blessing us as we go into the future too.

So let’s pray for many more baptisms in the months ahead!

A New Season

It was exciting to be at The Coign on Sunday and to be welcomed into church membership … at last! I’ve missed being part of a church family over the last few months.

Contributions were brought during both Sunday meetings that mentioned it being a ‘new season’ for the church. Life moves in seasons, and each season has it’s own unique qualities. Here are three new things that can I see in this new season:

1. A New Role

I started my new role at The Coign Church last Friday. My first day began with a 7am  prayer meeting, followed by a trip to a coffee shop, and I can’t think of a better way to start! It was great that Jo could join us this week. On that note anyone is welcome to join us – 7am each Friday @ The Coign; it’s a good meeting.

My sabbatical has ended now and real life has begun again. What a joy to be released to work for a church; some days I think I have the best job in the world!

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My lovely new office space!

It’s a new experience to be leading a church I haven’t planted myself. There are so many new things for me to get my head around: a new house to live in … a new town to discover … a new church family to get to know … new ways of doing things … new people to work with … new systems and procedures … new challenges and opportunities.

It’s both exciting and challenging, but at least picking up after Malcolm’s 27 years of excellent leadership gives me a solid platform to build on.

2. New church offices

There will be changes ahead for us as a church, and one early change has been setting up new offices in The Coign building – and they are looking good; feel free to call in and see for yourself.

 

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Dean – also looking good!

A huge thank you goes to everyone involved in making the offices happen! There are too many people to mention them all by name, but special mention goes to Dean Guy who was the brains behind the design, and who did incredibly well to get things ready in time for 1st September.

 

It’s going to be different for all of us working in an open plan context, but it has potential to help in several ways, including:

  • A nicer environment to work in
  • A better sense of being a team
  • A greater feeling of camaraderie
  • An easier flow of information
  • More opportunity for collaboration
  • Increased day to day interaction
  • Closer accountability
  • Lower running costs 🙂
  • New moment by moment discipleship possibilities
  • And much more

It also creates a good place for volunteers to get involved … and if you fancy doing an Impact Year then let us know asap – we have space for two people.

I believe these offices can help us move forward in our mission together as a church, and ultimately that’s what it’s all about. They also free up the house and the garage as we start to consider what’s next for us in terms of buildings …

3. A New Team

Well … sort of a new team! Certainly a new team leader and some new ways of working together!

On Tuesday we had a team day in the offices to pray, talk about teamwork and discuss the future. A highlight for me was seeing the huge creativity of team members in response to an activity we did together that required people to ‘bring in an object’. The details of what was said remain confidential, but the items were certainly interesting:

The team I’ve inherited are a real blessing. I’m impressed with how hard people work, how dedicated they are and how much they desire to see the church move forward. Why not take the time to say “thank you” to some of them this week, and let them know that they’re appreciated for the job that they do?