Focussing Our Vision

This Sunday evening (22nd April, 6.30pm at The Coign Church building) we have our next Vision Focus evening, and it’s going to be a key one for our church.

During the evening, among other things, we will reveal the new name for our church, along with details of a new Vision Statement and Mission Statement and of course a new logo and artwork. It’s going to be a very significant time for us together, which will shape our culture and focus our vision more sharply for the way ahead.

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Let’s focus our vision for the future

On the three Sundays following this (29th April; 6th May; 13th May) we will be holding gift days to help fund our new building project. These are also very significant for us and will shape our future as well.

There’s a lot going on right now!

Pressing forward in faith

Two weeks ago I spoke about growing in faith, looking at the story of Jesus healing a man who had been born blind (John 9). Do have a listen if you missed it.

In the talk I listed seven barriers to faith:

  1. Misunderstanding
  2. Lack of knowledge
  3. Cynicism
  4. Religion
  5. Fear
  6. Self Righteousness
  7. Pride

These barriers to faith, can also be barriers in our hearts when it comes to our response to change.

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Sometimes we can’t see the end from the beginning, but we have faith in a God who can

As we go through these times of change, we each need to watch our hearts and ask if any of these  things are standing in the way of us fully and joyfully embracing where God is leading us together.

 

Which of these is is the biggest challenge for you personally?

Sometimes we can’t see the end from the beginning, but we have faith in a God who can.

A call to faith and prayer

As we go through these times of change together I want to call us to faith and to prayer.

I would encourage all of us to be at our prayer meetings during the following week (Tuesday 24th at 8pm; Wednesday 25th at 2pm and 8pm).

I would also encourage each of us to consider seeking God personally in periods prayer and fasting. We need God’s help as we move forward; our human efforts are not enough! Let’s be diligent to  bring our church before God in prayer during these weeks.

And please pray for your leaders too; we always need it and value it.

“… pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Eph 6v18)

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4v6-7)

“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.” (Romans 12v2)

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Building Our Future Together

April is going to be a huge month for our church!

  • On April 22nd, at our Vision Focus Evening, we will be announcing the new name for our church, along with a new mission statement and a new vision statement (6.30pm at the Coign Church Building!)
  • In mid-April we intend to put in the planning application for our new building
  • At the end of April we will have the first of three Gift Sundays to fund the new building project
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Try to spot yourself

I feel like I’m at the top of a rollercoaster and it’s about to get very fast and very exciting! We’ve been climbing the slope together for a while now, and now it’s time to ‘go’.

The building project is key to our future together

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Please ask for a copy

To help communicate well with everyone, we’ve prepared a brochure which we’ve been giving out on Sundays (do ask if you want a copy – we can give one to you directly or post you one).

It looks like this:

The brochure contains lots of information about what we are doing, why we are doing it and what we hope to achieve.

It also contains information about the part we can each play to see this done

Standing on the shoulders of giants

As a church we are so privileged to have the land and the building we currently have, right at the heart of Woking Town Centre. We are reaping the benefits of the faith of a previous generation (some of whom are very much still with us!)

Now it’s time for us to step out in faith as others before us have done.

The first picture here shows an aerial view of the town centre, around 1930, and in the centre is our original building in Percy Street. The second picture shows our current building:

Why are we making these changes?

The building we have is not big enough for us and does not suit our purposes today – that’s why we meet elsewhere on a Sunday. It’s also in need of some work to bring it up to date. God is blessing our church, and we need a good building to do all God us calling us to do together.

What do we want to build?

Everyone has had the chance to see our plans and to comment on them, but in case you missed it: our plan is to create a new 675 seater hall at the back of our current site and to repurpose the current building to serve our kids work, our youth work, and our community. It will also host our offices.

This will give us several things:

  • A useable Sunday venue (no more 6.30am set up!)
  • A place to call home that will serve our church, with rooms for children’s work and youth work, crèche, offices, rooms for community use and more
  • A place from which to serve the community, in all sorts of ways
  • A place that will be a blessing to local residents; an oasis in a busy area of town 
  • A family home for our church in which we can grow and serve together

Ultimately we’re doing this to bring glory to God

This is about mission; this is about the Great Commission; this is about connecting with our town; this is about the gospel; this is about being a blessing to Woking.

These pictures give an idea of what we are planning to achieve:

Our next steps

The planning application should be put in during early to mid-April. Of course, in a process like this, we obviously can’t wait for that to come back before we start seeking funding; we need to raise finance now in order to secure the full funding we need.

I’ve talked elsewhere (and in the brochure) about what this will all cost, and our target right now is to raise around one and a half million pounds … ideally by the autumn.

Let’s see what God will do as we step out in faith together.

Gift Days

We will be holding Gift Days as a church on:

  • Sunday 29th April
  • Sunday 6th May
  • Sunday 13th May

The brochure contains information on lots of ways you can give to the building fund; some simple, some more complex. If you have any questions, please ask. We have also made a short video to explain what we are doing – you can watch that here:

The video should be visible above, if it’s not then please click here to view it.

There are three things we are now asking people to do:

  1. Read the brochure through – any questions, please ask!
  2. Pray for the planning permission to go through
  3. See what God is giving you faith to give, and then go for it in faith

These are exciting times for our church

Let’s step out in faith and let’s do something that will serve our church, serve this town and be a blessing to the generations that will follow us.

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Jesus – Luke 6v38)

Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,
and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give,
not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
(Paul – 2 Corinthians 9v6-7)

 

A Season Of Change

Sitting working at home today it looks like Spring has arrived in our garden at last! Long may the sunshine continue!

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I love this quote from Song of Songs:

“See! The winter is past; the rains (and snow) are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.” (Songs of Songs 2v11-13)

Jesus loves his church

We are Jesus’ bride, and He calls us to arise and follow him. He is the one who brings us growth and fruitfulness, and we’ve certainly seen some fruit recently, for example last weekend we had the joy of 12 baptisms. This included people from eight different nations: Nigeria, South Africa, Cyprus, Spain, China, Brazil, South Korea and the UK. Jesus is at work in our church!

A new season

As a church we’re about to embark on a significant new season, full of of change, to help us become even more effective and fruitful:

  • On Sunday April 22nd we announce the new name for our church at our Vision Focus Evening (6.30pm at The Coign Building)
  • After that we will have Gift Days towards the New Building Project
  • In May our new name will go live and we will relaunch ourselves in Woking

These are significant changes and will impact us all in various ways. As we go through these changes, we would be naive to think that it will all be smooth sailing or that we don’t have to be both watchful and prayerful.

Let’s keep watch on ourselves

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith …” 1 Peter 5v8-9

Our enemy would love to spoil our beautiful new season and halt the growth that God is bringing us, so let’s pray and let’s be watchful … and let’s not do his job for him!

Let’s each keep a close watch on our own hearts as we go through these changes.

Five things to watch our hearts for

These changes are positive and exciting, yet change can also be challenging for some people, so let’s make sure we each handle things well.

Here are five possible challenges we might face, which could damage our church if not handled well! Also, here are some links to helpful resources for each situation.

Watch out for fear: excellent link here

Watch out for gossip: check out this excellent article

Watch out for negativity: excellent resource here

Watch out for ungodly criticism: try this link

Watch out for disappointment: this article is particularly helpful

And finally, let’s keep on praying as we move forward together into our future as a church.

Doing Life Together (an update about our small groups)

We love our small groups!

As a church The Coign has been running small groups for a loooooooooong time. For a while now they’ve been called “Neighbourhood Groups” and meetings have been based around four “W”s:

  1. Welcome
  2. Worship
  3. Word
  4. Witness

Small groups are a great idea …

… in fact they are a Biblical idea. When we look in the Bible at the book of Acts, we see that right in the first church they met in one another’s homes. Christians have been running small groups for a loooooooooong time; they are as old as the Bible, and they are a backbone of church life.

Being in a small group helps in many ways:

  • It creates a place for us to belong
  • It helps us to make closer friendships within the church
  • It can equip us for life and ministry
  • It creates a place to serve
  • It provides a place to find love and support
  • It is the front line of pastoral care
  • It is about ‘doing life together’

That’s a pretty good list of reasons to join one, so if you’re not in one, or if you are and you don’t attend, why not step up and get involved?

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Belonging

We’ve been talking on Sundays recently about how we want to help people from all walks of life to “Belong, Believe and Become”. This desire to welcome people will affect our culture and approach as a church, so it shouldn’t surprise us that small groups have a part to play. With this in mind we’re making a few adjustments to help our groups become even more effective in our overall mission. (We discussed these changes with group leaders at a meeting recently, but we do want everyone to be aware)

What are the changes?

The first change is in the name of the groups. We are going to change the name from “Neighbourhood Groups” to

“Life Groups”

This is because we want them to be about “doing life together”. The idea is to build the groups around three “F”s:

Fun, Food and Friendship

Dub has made a short video to talk about the changes, which gives more detail about why we are doing this and what we intend the Life Groups to be like. The video should be visible below, if it’s not then please click here to view it.

In summary we want Life Groups to eat together, share life’s challenges and blessings, encourage one another in our faith and create an environment where new people, including people who are not yet Christians, can comfortably get involved.

What about our four “W”s?

There is nothing better than food to help people feel welcome. With food involved you could consider starting the meeting a bit earlier too … if it works for your group. Keep the food simple and share responsibility, including for the washing up. It’s a great way to build friendship together.

In terms of worship we don’t expect people to sing along to a CD or try to reproduce a Sunday morning but, if it seems right and you have the resources, you could sing together … but you absolutely don’t have to. For most groups it would probably seem more natural and manageable to break bread together around the table after the meal, and then to pray for one another.

In terms of word, for groups that want them we will continue to provide Life Group questions for the fortnightly meetings to aid the discussions – which again might be done around the table (if you have the space to sit around a table!)

In terms of witness, we want Life Groups to be very accessible – a place we all feel we could invite people to. This is a key part of these changes. Let’s make people welcome!

If you have questions then it’s probably best to start with the video. If you still have questions then please do ask us.

Let’s have fun doing life together!

And let’s have fun helping people from all walks of life to “Belong, Believe, Become” as we reach out to this town with the good news of Jesus.

Onwards and upwards! Part 2: Buildings

During our recent Coign Church Vision Focus evening we highlighted a number of plans and changes ahead. Last week my blog focussed on some team changes we are making; this week I want to mention our building plans.

Buildings

We are so privileged to be on our current site. I suspect that if we did not already own it, we would be very unlikely to be able to obtain it today; there are so many other uses that the land would have been put to by now!

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Our current “totally awesome but also in need of work” building

Challenges

The current Coign Church building is too small for our needs; we already meet elsewhere on a Sunday (at the HG Wells conference centre) because of space constraints. The building is also in need of some work to bring it up to a good standard.

Over the years several attempts have been made to solve this issue – including some laudable attempts to create a self funding project – but none has succeeded. It does not seem that God is taking us via that route – and we have tried! 

Faith

Our current building location is great and we do not plan to give up ownership of even one square inch of it. People of faith got us into this place; let’s not have less faith than they did!

So let’s create something together that will serve our current needs, and also help us create our future together as a church. So on that basis, it’s time to take matters back into out own hands …

It’s time for a building project!

Whatever we do will cost money, and a large part of that will come from our giving. We will almost certainly also be looking to borrow some funding for the work to go ahead.

Sometimes people feel uncomfortable about the church spending money on buildings – and I understand why – but let’s remember: this is not the alternative to spending on mission!

A good building is both essential for and integral to our mission.

Everything we do as a church is mission; we are a mission organisation. And we can’t run the church we are called to run in this climate and this culture without buildings.

This isn’t a new or unique issue to us, and even in the Bible we see God’s people spending a lot of time an focus on buildings:

  • Read about David, or Solomon, or Moses, or Nehemiah, or Ezra.
  • Where did the first church meet? in a large upper room … in the temple courts … and also in homes.
  • Where did Paul build the church in Ephesus? He hired a lecture hall for two years.
  • How do we know these things? Because buildings matter and people wrote it all down for us!

Our plan for the future is fairly simple:

We plan to redevelop the current site to create an auditorium across the back, and then redevelop the front to serve our kids and youth work, our church offices and the community. Obviously this will all be far more complex and involved than it sounds, and we are now working with architects.

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The Team from Plan A UK: Paul, Darren and Steve

Our goals

  • Let’s aim for a building that looks good, and that people notice and know about
  • Let’s aim for a building that serves all of our church needs, including Sunday mornings and midweek
  • Let’s aim for a building that everyone in the community has a reason to come into at least once a year
  • Let’s aim for a building that will be a blessing to the community of Woking, the surrounding area and most of all to our nearest neighbours

The way forward

So we’ve started working with an architect called Paul Ginever, and his team from Plan A UK. We’ve had some great meetings with them, and we’re excited by how things are taking shape.

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Paul Ginever

In the New Year we will introduce them to you in person, and also start to talk together about buildings and the way forward.

Lots of people will have views and ideas that all need to be heard and feed in to what we do. And we need to consult with all the interested parties, including those who live nearby.

So let’s work together to do something fantastic. And one more thing:

A New Building Fund

We have opened a new, ring fenced, building fund, and every penny given to that fund will go to finance the redevelopment of this site; to finance our New Building.

You can give to it right away if you want to; I would love to see that happen and I know that some have started already. To  join in just give to the church as normal, but tell us that it’s for the New Building Fund. You might also like to consider making a legacy gift in your will – just ask us how.

In 2018 we will have some gift days – and we do need to raise a lot of money – but more info will follow on that in the New Year. And let’s remember

We are on a mission together, and God has  great plans ahead for us; plans to give us a future and a hope.

Let’s go for it in faith!

Onwards and upwards! Part 1: Team

We had a great ‘Vision Focus’ evening on Wednesday at The Coign Church. During the evening we highlighted a number of changes we’ve made and are continuing to make, and we also looked at our goal of helping people to …

“… Belong … Believe … Become”

Thank you for all the positive feedback on the evening

In this blog I want to mention three team changes:

Darren and Lois Forsdyke

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It’s a Petch – Forsdyke reunion!

On the evening it was my privilege to introduce Darren and Lois Forsdyke. Darren starts with us full time as Director of Operations from January 1st (although we might give him that day off as a Bank Holiday! 🙃)

Darren will be taking responsibility to lead and manage all the operational aspects of The Coign Church, which is a role we have a huge need for. He’ll also provide a ‘PA’ (Personal Assistant) function to me so I can be more effective in my role. So from January, or very soon afterwards, if you e-mail me … you’ll actually be emailing him! You have been warned …

Darren is taking on a huge role, and I know he’s well up to it; we worked together for the last 11 years! This will be a huge blessing for the Coign Church and we’re totally delighted to have this wonderful couple on board.

Nathan and Jules Silvester

During our evening we announced that Nathan Silvester will be leaving us at the end of this year. He and Jules are moving to Alton where he will be joining the team at Harvest Church in Alton as Associate Pastor.

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Nathan and Jules: we’re sure gonna miss ’em

Nathan has served us faithfully for more than nine years as our Youth Worker, and is ready for this new challenge. He will be missed! Harvest Church is another Commission Church; its good to remember that we are in mission together as a family of churches.

Their last Sunday at the Coign will be January 14th, so don’t miss the chance to say ‘goodbye’ and ‘thank you’ to them both.

That leaves us with a question of course …

“What will happen with the youth work?”

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Ben and Nancy Martin – exciting times!

We answered that question too:

With immediate effect Ben Martin, who has been our children’s worker for a few years now, will be stepping up to a new role as

“Youth and Children’s Pastor”

This will be significant change of role for Ben and he will need to work differently; he’s also going to need extra operational support … so maybe Darren is arriving in the nick of time!

Ben will be working through lots of other people within the Church to make sure our children’s and youth work are as fantastic as they can possibly be. I know he has a heart full of passion fore young people and ahead full of exciting ideas.

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Becca and Ben Corbett – youthful always

Two very key players in all this will now be Ben and Becca Corbett, who will be taking on the primary leadership role for the youth in particular.

This is not an employed position, and they will be doing this as volunteers while still doing their day jobs. It was great to hear from Ben Corbett all about how they want to move the youth work forwards, building on the past and taking us into the future. Exciting times are ahead for our young people!

One more thing:

I want to say, “Thank you Coign Church”

Thank you for being receptive to change.

Thank you for your commitment to our future.

Thank you for coming on this journey together.

One thing is for sure:

We are a church that handles change well!

And in my next blog I plan to talk about where we’ve got to with our building plans, so look out for that.

Our Newest Signing

It takes a team to build a church!

The Coign Church employs a fantastic team of people; it’s a joy working with them. On Sunday evening I announced our newest team member, joining us from January 1st – here is the info again, just in case you missed it or need a reminder:

Running light

One of things Malcolm Kayes said to me on handing over leadership of The Coign Church is that the team has been running “one person light” for a while. Malcolm chose not to fill that position before I arrived, to give me the chance to work out who I wanted. I seriously appreciate that!

As a team we’re now clear about who The Coign Church needs, so from Jan 1st Darren Forsdyke will be joining us as “Director of Operations”.

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Darren and Lois Forsdyke (He’s the one in the church leader’s shirt)

Why do we need this role?

Large churches often find they need roughly a 50:50 split between pastoral and operational people employed; currently we lean much more towards the pastoral. As a result this impacts our church life – for example:

  • Our event management is often done by elders
  • Our administrative people are flat out busy almost all the time and often work beyond their paid hours
  • Our trustees carry more practical operational responsibility than they might
  • Our church volunteer involvement in administration is low
  • There is no “PA” (personal assistant) to support me in my role
  • Our equipment, buildings and facilities could sometimes be a little better managed and a little better maintained

Additionally, we’re about to embark on a significant building project which has practical, financial and spiritual implications affecting everything!

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Time for a building project!

A genuine need

So there is a genuine need for someone extra, with a high level of experience and expertise in operations, and Darren is lined up to join us.

Darren has worked alongside me at Grace Church for the last 11 years, directing our operations and helping the church grow from a tiny church plant into a large and thriving multisite church. (He’s also had various other roles in business management and church employment over the years … but you can ask him about that yourself!)

We anticipate Darren taking responsibility for the whole of the operational side of our church life … all of it. He will be leading and managing a team that will include the other operational people – both employed and volunteer – and we anticipate that team growing and not shrinking! We need more resources in this area, not less!

A personal call

Darren has his own story to tell and his own sense of calling to The Coign Church. He feels led to move here and work with me and the team. Feel free to ask him about that when you meet him, and to send him friend requests on Facebook!

Family wise, Darren and Lois have two daughters. The eldest is married, lives in Chichester and leads the youth ministry at Grace Church along with her husband. The youngest lives and works in London and is part of a Newfrontiers Church there.

Do keep the whole family in your prayers as this moves forward, and Darren’s house is now on the market too – so we have two house sales to pray for!

And for those keen to meet Darren …

He and Lois will be joining us for our Vision Focus evening on Wednesday 6th December, 8pm at The Coign. See you there!

Pioneers Wanted!

Since starting at The Coign Church I’ve been asked a lot:

“Are we going to change to one Sunday meeting?”

People have talked about the effort it takes to hold two meetings (9am and 11am) and about a desire to be ‘together’ as a church.

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Pick a time!

Let me answer the question: We are NOT going to change to one meeting.

The reason is simple:

we are too big to fit into one meeting

… which is a nice problem to have 😃

The only way to make it work would be to turn the hall around (long ways), put the band on the stage (which is very high) and stop having tea and coffee after our meetings ☹️☹️☹️

None of these changes would be good, and we would also be so full that it would be like saying (please forgive the strong language):

“We’re okay; Woking can go to hell!”

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Yes I do!

And that’s not who we are!!! So two meetings is here to stay. I’m praying for a third.

Here are some stats to consider:

  1. Our 11am meeting is smaller than our 9am meeting, yet still bigger than most churches in the UK – even most Commission churches
  2. The 9am meeting is pretty much full – which is unusual for a 9am meeting
  3. The vast majority of children and families come at 9am (90 – 95%)
  4. The majority of guests come at 11am (inviting guests for 9am on a Sunday is a tough ask)

So when families visit us at 11am – and they do visit us – they’re left wondering where the other families are! It’s a genuine problem and could even stop people coming back!

But most of all, 17 years of church planting has taught me this: Sunday morning is the most evangelistic moment we have! I have seen more people respond to the gospel on a Sunday than at any other time, so in summary:

11am on a Sunday is our most evangelistic moment each week …

… and we’re not maximising it … yet!

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(Booking not necessary 🙂)

If we were starting a church plant or a multisite, some of us would make a personal sacrifice. We would move to start the new thing, saying goodbye to our friends and putting our family into a new context. This is the sort of pioneering opportunity we now have for families at our 11am meeting.

Pioneers wanted!

Leaders wanted!

Trail blazers wanted!

We need to grow the number of families at our 11am meeting – which I say again is already bigger than most churches in the UK! It’s a great meeting already, with kids work and youth work running each week, but we need to increase that. Why?

For the sake of the gospel!

For the sake of our town!

For the sake of reaching new people!

We have an opportunity to pioneer something as a church; to grow something that could give us even greater gospel impact. After all – the church exists for the benefit of it’s non-members.

One more thing to be clear about:

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Great to see you!

We are not trying to diminish or minimise the 9am meeting

It’s a fantastic meeting! It’s great to come to our 9am meeting. For many people that is the optimum time to be with us, and guests come at 9am each week too.

Ultimately, whatever time works for you:

JUST TURN UP! ITS GREAT TO SEE YOU!

Come when you can – Come as you are

And some will read this and feel stirred to make a change, and if that’s you then I look forward to seeing you at 11am. And if we need to make a few adjustments to the kids work to make things work, we can do that.

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Any questions? Just ask!

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.

belong

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.