We’re part of a family of churches called Commission, and together we’re on a mission to see thousands of lives transformed, through hundreds of churches, in tens of nations. The recent pandemic has thrown up all sorts of challenges, not least that we’ve been unable to gather for our annual Connect Festival event – but that doesn’t mean we aren’t getting together.
In September this year we’re running a leadership conference, and I’d love lots of us to be there. The event is being held from Wed 28th to Fri 30th September at Citygate Church in Bournemouth. It’s aimed at anyone who leads anything at any level in our church or in the workplace or community. If you don’t lead anything right now but think you might like to one day, you should book in too.
The theme for the conference is:
“Leading for the glory of God”
The conference will include a mix of teaching, worship, seminars and ministry, along with a chance for us to hang out together socially as we enjoy food and maybe even a walk on the beach. Some from our church will be staying over in Bournemouth for the whole event, others will travel down each day, so I’m sure lift shares can be arranged where needed.
Booking is now open and you can click here to go to the booking page. Early bird ticket prices are available until 31st May (there is a small price increase after that, but don’t let that put you off)
This event will be a great investment in our future together as a church and a real encouragement to us all, and the short video below will tell you a bit more about it:
On Sunday (May 8th) we had our WelcomeChurch Vision Evening looking at ‘Where we’ve been, where are now and, most importantly, where we’re heading in the future‘. This week I’ll be blogging about some of the key items we covered. This is part 1 of 5.
The pandemic created some big challenges for us all, both personally and as a church, yet we’ve known God’s blessing all the way through; He has done great things for us!
In the run up to the pandemic a lot had changed for us as a church in a short space of time, including a new name and logo, a new website, a new vision and mission statement, a new culture being outworked, a new approach to outreach, a new approach to belonging AND the launch of our brand new purpose built building in the heart of Woking. In some ways the pandemic could not have come at a worse time for us with Lockdown closing our building just a few weeks after it opened!
Despite this God has blessed our church beyond all expectation
We’re now back meeting together in person across two meetings each Sunday morning with kids work and youth work, and we’re seeing new people come and join us regularly. To encourage you, here are some Welcome Church statistics from the last couple of years:
4 people have joined our staff team: Christopher Hawes (Preaching and Discipleship), Uti Anyaegbunam (Ops. Manager), Hannah Oliver (Ops. Assistant) and Juliet Bauermeister (Comms. Manager)
147 have attended an Alpha Course
123 have attended our new Learn Groups (Bible Course, Prayer Course, etc)
457 signed up to attend Life Groups in the January refresh (plus there are a whole load more who we know attend but didn’t actually sign up … so cheeky!!!)
104 have attended our various CAP courses (Fresh Start, Job Club, Life Skills, Money Course)
79 people have been baptised
46 children attended the Welcome Kids Weekend Away
192 people attended our last 2 Newcomers Lunches (both since Lockdown ended)
96 people have attended our ‘Belong, Believe, Become’ course in 2022 alone
Additionally your generous giving as a church has beaten all expectations throughout the pandemic. We beat our budget in both 2020/21 and 2021/22, so on behalf of the Eldership Team and the Trustees let me say a huge THANK YOU!
We’ve also given lots away to some key causes over the last two years:
£19,000 was given in 2020 to help feed people in need through our Commission churches in India
£33,000 was given just recently to help our churches in Ukraine serve their communities during the ongoing conflict there
£19,000 was given to provide buildings for some of our Commission churches in Bangladesh and to support some of our other works in that part of the world too
In fact, as well as financing what we do as a church, we gave away over £158,000 last year alone, including to support both the work of our Commission church family and some other excellent local causes including Woking Food Bank and Woking Street Angels.
These are all good signs that God is at work in and through our church. We have a lot to be thankful for, so let’s be on the front foot to give God the glory for all he’s doing, even as we face some sadnesses, some sicknesses and some losses amongst our church family too.
“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” Psalm 126v3
Welcome Church is part an international family of churches called Commission. Each summer we get together with the other UK based Commission churches, and some from further afield, for a festival where we worship together, hear great teaching and have a whole lot of fun and games. For the past two summers this has been cancelled due to Covid, but it’s back on in summer 2022. Connect Festival will run from 25th to 29th August at the Bath and West Show Ground in Shepton Mallet. Please click here to register your interest. Bookings will open soon.
At the Festival each summer there’s usually been an offering to help fund our international mission as a family of churches. It goes to fund church plants, leadership training courses, ministry to the poor, care of churches around the world and more. The offering helps fund some amazing things that we value as a church, and lots of us would normally have given to this offering in person at the event.
Because there’s been no conference in 2021 there’s been no offering, but the mission continues. With this in mind we’d love to invite everyone to consider making a gift to the Commission offering; a gift from Welcome Church. We’d like to ask every person to think about it prayerfully and to give with faith.
If you’re up for this challenge you can give in two ways: 1. You can give online via bank transfer to Welcome Church and mark it as being for the Commission offering. Click here for a link to our online giving details.
2. You can give cash or cheque by putting it in an envelope, labelling it for the Commission Offering and dropping it into the office during the week or into the box at the information point on a Sunday morning. (Please make any cheques payable to Welcome Church.)
Thank you in advance for your giving. We’ll gather it together over the next 2 or 3 weeks and send it as one gift from us all. Here’s a video that explains a lot more about what the offering is for:
This Sunday, 25th July, we’re returning to something much closer to normal church life. Welcome Church will be meeting at 9am and 11am, with kids work starting again and absolutely no need to book in advance to attend – just turn up. I’m really looking forward to singing together in worship, instead of sitting down and ‘watching’.
For full practical details of how the meetings will run during this next season please follow this link here, especially if you’re still a bit nervous because of Covid. The link should tell you everything you need to know, including the measures we’re taking to keep everyone safe.
As well as church life getting back to something more like normal, there are three extra things to look forward to this Sunday:
1. We will be baptising people
We have four people due to be baptised at the 9am meeting and 7 at the 11am meeting, with more baptisms planned for the autumn too. If you’re a Christian and have not yet been baptised since you came to faith in Jesus it’s not too late for you to join them, just get in touch and talk to us about it on firstname.lastname@example.org
2. We have a guest speaker
Guy Miller, who leads the Apostolic team of our Commission family of churches, will be our speaker this weekend. He’s going to be continuing our ‘Words That Changed My World’ preaching series and I’m looking forward to hearing what he has to say
3. We have our Welcome Home Summer Social in the afternoon
This will be a great chance to connect again with the whole Welcome Church family and to eat and relax together. It runs from 12.30pm to 4.30pm at the Schifano’s field (a map will be available at the meetings this Sunday, or please email email@example.com for details)
This event is completely free and includes food, drinks, bouncy castles, an inflatable assault course, a slip n slide, children’s games and more – just bring a chair, rug or something to sit on.
We will be keeping an eye on the weather of course, and if we do get rained off we’ll let you know and will reschedule soon. Events like this will be a key part of our Welcome Church Recovery Plan following Covid – make sure you don’t miss it.
This Friday (2nd April) is Good Friday, when Christians from around then world remember the crucifixion of Jesus.
On Good Friday last year we held our very first ‘online communion’, and we were joined by Rahul who leads one of the Commission churches in Mumbai, India. Rahul talked about the challenges they were facing in India due to the way Lockdown was imposed and about the work being done to feed people, especially from the rural churches, who were facing starvation.
In response we had the opportunity to give to this, and Welcome Church people contributed £19,000. This was added to money given from some other UK Commission churches and was used to literally save lives during the pandemic.
This year we have a ‘return visit’ from India to bless us
As a church we’ve recently been seeing a lot of people dealing with cancer and other life threatening illnesses. With this in mind, on Good Friday this year we’re being joined by Vinu, who leads the Commission Church family in India.
The plan is for Vinu – hopefully with some others from India too – to pray for those amongst us who are affected in this way. They already have a list of names and have started to pray. As a church let’s gather together on Good Friday, online, and ask for Jesus to pour out his healing power on those who need it.
We will gather from 10am, and all the details are in the picture. Don’t forget you’ll need your own bread and wine/ribena/grape juice/whatever for the communion part of the meeting.
As we restart in person meetings, let’s remember that our meetings are not an end in and of themselves; they serve a wider purpose. When we consider the effort involved in meeting in person again, and we ask ourselves how we feel about it all, let’s remember one thing:
It’s really not about you!
We are part of Jesus’ church; we belong to Him. When we gather it’s for His glory and not our own convenience or comfort. If we were only concerned about ourselves we might feel less motivated to make the effort, but God has a bigger role for us to play in the wider world as individuals and as a church.
Let me highlight the bigger picture in three ways:
1. We are part of a local community
It’s been said the church is the only organisation on the planet that exists mainly for the benefit of it’s non-members. Whether that’s accurate or not is a matter for debate, but it’s certainly true that our church is not just about us; we have a mission both to the town we live in and further afield. Jesus loves Woking, and so should we; His mission should be our mission.
As we start to gather in person again, our meetings are not just about being together and worshipping – although that is important – God actually has a role for us to play as a church in Woking, and a role for each individual to play in the places where they live and work; a role that goes way beyond our meetings. A key part of gathering together is about equipping people for the wider calling they have – the call to ‘love your neighbour’.
The last year has been challenging for our nation and people have been impacted in a lot of different ways. Challenges to health, finance, emotional wellbeing and more won’t disappear overnight and we may find that all sorts of situations of need are brought to our attention; let’s be ready to respond in faith and to help people across our community.
I’m especially looking forward to seeing each of our Welcome Works up and running again, remembering that we’re here to do good and to bring the kingdom of God to people. I’m also looking forward to seeing new people making a commitment to follow Jesus and getting baptised. I’m looking forward to seeing our children being taught and having fun together at church again. I’m looking forward to seeing more leaders raised up and released to serve our church and further afield.
2. We are part of the UK
One thing we need to do as we come back together is pray for our nation. Let’s pray for God to move in renewal and draw many people from across our nation into His Kingdom. We don’t know what God might do in the months ahead, but let’s pray for Him to use what’s happened with the pandemic for His purposes. Let’s pray for him to build his church in every town, city and village in the UK.
I have the joy of meeting (currently online) with leaders from our wider family of churches across the UK, as well as with church leaders from across our town. Every church is now considering how they unlock and at what pace, so it’s a journey we’re all on together, supporting and encouraging one another along the way.
Let’s pray for the church in our nation to stand on it’s feet again and find its voice again. Our nation needs the gospel right now more than ever, so let’s be praying that every church will play its part, whatever the cost, remembering that we’re all on the same team. Let’s pray for a revival.
3. We are part of an international family of churches
We belong to a family of churches called Commission, with churches in 14 different nations including the UK, Europe, South Asia, USA, South America, Africa, East Asia and the Middle East. Let’s remember that we have a part to play in that as well.
To highlight our belonging to an International family of churches there’s a one hour event this Sunday evening (28th March) at 7.30pm called Commission Global. I want to encourage as many of us as possible to join in.
You can register for this event using the link above, or it can be accessed via this video link:
The Prime Minister described the Covid pandemic as the greatest challenge our nation has faced since the Second World War. It has affected every area of our lives: separation from friends and family, schools closed, shops closed, holidays and events cancelled, working from home, job losses, furlough, daily death statistics, sickness, the loss of loved ones, restrictions on travel and activities, online church, social distancing, face masks, Christmas plans curtailed, the vaccine rollout, the NHS under pressure, stress, anxiety, mental health challenges, loneliness, isolation, boredom … all these impacts and more have taken their toll.
As a nation we are now starting the process of unlocking, with children and young people going back to school this week.
Spring is on its way, this winter is passing and with it come signs of promise.
At this time we need to pray for God to move in power and heal our nation, so this Wednesday evening (10th March), from 7.30pm to 8.30pm, we will be joining with many Commission Churches from across the UK to pray for the UK. We will gather together and pray for God to heal our nation, restore our churches and move in power in our land. You may even see some Welcome Church faces leading parts of the evening.
For information about how to take part, please follow this link here and sign up. Let’s join together and pray for God to bring refreshing, renewal and even revival to the UK.
Guy Miller, who leads the Commission group of churches, has also sent us a short (50 second) video about the event to encourage us to join in:
This Sunday evening (17th January) we will be meeting at 6.30pm on Zoom, for about an hour, to appoint two new elders for Welcome Church. I’m very excited that Robin Willison and Nnamdi Anyaegbunam are now joining the team and it’s been great to receive so many positive encouragements about them and their families from across the whole church.
Guy Miller, who leads our Commission family of churches will be leading us through the evening together. Please come full of faith and be ready to show your support and add your prayers; this a key moment for us to be together as a church.
You will be able to log on from 6.20 pm for some informal chat and a chance to say ‘Hello’ to some people, and then the meeting will then begin properly at about 6.30pm. See you on Zoom!
I’ve loved seeing us put our faith in action as a church to help people in need recently. For example, during the recent half term holidays, we helped a number of families in need here in Woking. These families get free school meals for their children in term time, and we were able to give them some much needed vouchers to feed their children during the holidays too. It was greatly appreciated and made a real difference.
We’re also helping out financially in two situations where we have direct connection to churches in other nations. I shared about these during our recent online communion meeting and invited people to give.
The first is in Izmir in Turkey, where an earthquake and tsunami killed 115 people, injured more than 1000, and left many homeless bringing down buildings and making others unsafe to use.
A church in Izmir who we have direct connection with are providing food to people in need and to rescue workers. They’re meeting the needs of many who’ve been left homeless who are living in tents as the weather gets colder. Amongst other things they’re providing food, heaters, firewood, hats, socks and thermal clothing. They’ve also been able to share God’s love with people.
As a church their funds to do this ran out, but (along with some others) we’ve been able to send them money to help the work continue.
The other situation is in the Philippines where two typhoons in rapid succession have hit the region of Bicol with winds of up to 225mph. Commission has a church plant starting in a home in that area, but the home was totally destroyed, along with the homes of some other church members. This level of destruction of people’s lives is replicated all around the area and comes on top of crops being destroyed by a volcano recently, and the impact of Covid.
The Christians in our churches there are often incredibly poor, yet incredibly joy filled. Again, as a church, we’ve been able to send money to help them survive and rebuild.
It’s not too late to help
It’s not too late for you to give to either of these situations, and the good news is the money will go directly to the church there; we know the people and we know how it will be used. If you want to help please give a gift to us as a church and mark it ‘crisis’.You can do that through our website here. We will pass on every penny including the gift aid if it applies.
So far just under £6000 has been raised, which is being split between these two causes. We sent the initial amount out last week, but it’s not too late to grow that amount so more can be sent.
Remember: “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.” (Proverbs 19 v17)
On Sunday, Christoper Hawes spoke about our need to be ‘spiritually match fit’ as lockdown eases and something closer to normal life returns (click here to listen). Just as footballers will need to be fit to play the full 90 minutes when football returns, we need to be spiritually fit for God’s call and plans for us.
Have you lost some of your spiritual fitness during lockdown?
2 Timothy 3v16-17 says:
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Among other things Christopher talked about the Bible as being like a ‘spiritual coach’ for us, helping us to attain full fitness.
He listed five ways to approach the Bible that can help us:
Listening: such as listening to our Sunday preaching
Reading: actually reading the Bible. Have you read it all yet? There are loads of apps and reading plans available for free to help
Studying: a lot of the Bible’s riches do not ‘lie on the surface’; we are reading literature that is thousands of years old and written to different cultures in languages we don’t speak today. Study guides are so helpful for us to mine the depths, taking our understanding and interest to whole new levels
Memorising: learning verses or chapters by heart; being able to call them to mind when needed. Jesus did this to fight temptation (see Luke chapter 4)
Meditating: filling our mind with scripture; rolling it round and round our thoughts
When Christopher talked about ‘studying’ the Bible, he mentioned some resources to help us. I have listed some of these here, along with a few extra suggestions of my own:
These are short daily reading guides that give insight to what we’re reading. There are lots of these available, both in online or paper formats to suit your preference for example, Every Day With Jesus or Daily Hope, both of which I would recommend
3. Bible commentaries
A good Bible commentary can help us mine the depths of the Bible, and lots of these are well written and easy to read, such as ‘The Bible Speaks Today’ (which has a commentary available for every book of the Bible) or the ‘New American Commentary’ series (which go far deeper and are personal favourites of mine) or the ‘Holman Commentary’ series (which take a chapter at a time and point to the key things in it) or Phil Moore’s ‘Straight To The Heart Of’ series (very readable and applicable to daily life)
4. A Systematic Theology
Reading a good systematic theology can take some effort, but it’s manageable by anyone with reasonable reading ability and the courage to take the plunge. Reading one through is like taking all the bits of theology we know (and a lot we don’t know) and organising it into a neat filing system. I personally like Wayne Grudems Systematic Theology, but others are also available.
5. Commission Training
As a church we are part of the Commission family of churches, and Commission have just launched a whole range of new training courses, starting from September. There are four levels of training on offer, starting with something basic and going all the way through to a Masters Degree. For details click here. They also talk about an internship year in a church, which could be done here at Welcome Church – feel free to ask.
There is no bad place to start. The key thing is not to worry about what we don’t know or haven’t done, but to start somewhere. All the things I have listed above will do us good, so why not try something?
To return to a sporting analogy, the ball is in your court.