Handing over: feeling excited … and a little bit sad

Wednesday 11th January is a massive day for me personally:

happy-05It’s the day I hand over the Lead Eldership role at Grace Church to David Thompson. This moment feels quite exciting: it’s like like the starter pistol marking the beginning of a race; it’s the first step on our journey to a new destination; it’s the commencement of our new adventure. Woo hoo!

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My Inner Baby

I’m excited about the future, and about the many things ahead for us, and at the same time I do feel a genuine measure of sadness at letting go after 11 years in the role.

 

Two Reminders

At the start of this week I want to remind Grace Church people of two things:

1. Wednesday Evening is important

I want to remind you of the importance of Wednesday evening’s meeting. It will begin at 7.30pm at St Pancras Church building in Chichester. John Groves will come and lead us through the evening together, and I’m told there are going to be cupcakes … nice!

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Cupcakes!!! Will ours look this good???

It would be great if every family in the church could be represented on the evening. Let’s show David and Ali our full support.

This is a significant moment

  • It’s significant for David and his family. Let’s pray for him and seek God for fresh anointing for this new role
  • It’s significant for Grace Church. We will receive a new Lead Elder who will lead the church into the future
  • It’s significant to me. I feel privileged to have someone to hand on to, who I am confident will do a great job; I don’t take that for granted, and I’m looking forward to being on David’s team until the end of April.

And on that note, let me remind you of a second thing …

2. Why we believe David is the right person for the job

Back when we made this announcement I listed ten reasons why we felt David was the right person for this role. Here are those ten reasons again:

  1. There is apostolic agreement to David stepping up; it seems good to the people who oversee our eldership team
  2. David has been ready to lead his own church for some time now; in fact if he wasn’t doing it here, he would be moving before long to do it elsewhere
  3. David’s own sense of calling; David feels a personal call to take the role on and is already developing a clear vision and strategy for the future
  4. The eldership team are united in agreement with David’s sense of calling; we have faith that this is the right way forward for Grace Church
  5. Shared values: David is already part of the team here; we have shared values. It doesn’t mean nothing will change in how we do things, but at the level of beliefs and values there will be continuity – Grace Church will continue to be Grace Church as you know and love it
  6. Shared history: David knows this church; he knows the people and how we came to be who we are. David has been here for two thirds of our churches life so far; he’s not new

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    “I’d rather have a cupcake”

  7. Ongoing community relationships: David has good ongoing links built with other church leaders in our area; he’s been doing that far more than me – it’s good not to be starting from scratch again
  8. The future needs of this church: to move forward well and continue to pioneer well, we need clear strategy, we need good systems that work and we need to continue to raise and release leaders; we believe David does those things well
  9. Understanding of our church: multisite is unusual; not just anyone could come and lead it well; David understands who we are and how we work – you can’t put a value on that!
  10. David is already leading a lot of the church: as elders we work as a team; it’s never been a one man show; he’s been doing a large portion of the job already!

That’s quite a list, and if I could add an 11th reason to the list I would say that it just feels right to me personally

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“It’s safe to come down now; Steve’s finished talking about you.”

Confidence!

I’m confident that God is leading this change … and because I’m confident that God is leading the change, I’m also confident that the future will be better for Grace Church than if we were to stay.

This is a good move.

This is a God move.

I believe there are exciting and fruitful times ahead for us all!

Go Grace Church!

 

 

New Year – New Beginnings

2017 is going to be year of huge changes and of new beginnings for Grace Church, and also for me and my family personally!

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David Thompson – captain of the ship!

Next week, on Wednesday 11th January,  I will be handing over the Lead Eldership at Grace Church to David Thompson, and although I feel a measure of sadness as one phase of my own life heads towards its close, I’m also excited at the new beginnings!

I’m excited for new beginnings at Grace Church:

This is a God initiated change and it’s going to be good for the church. David has all sorts of ideas and plans to help the church move into the future; he is very ready for his new role and I’m excited for him too.

I’m excited for new beginnings for my family:

We have a whole new chapter ahead for us in a new location and a new house. I’m pleased that we’re moving nearer to London, although we will miss being near the sea and close to some of Jo’s family. It will be good to have new places to discover and new people to meet. We are ready for our new adventure together!

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The Petch Family: ready for some new beginnings

I’m excited for new beginnings personally:

I will have a new church to lead and to love. I will have a new team to work with. I will have new challenges to face and new opportunities to pursue. And before I start in the new role I also have another new experience to enjoy: a sabbatical break. I’m getting excited just thinking about the possibilities this creates for renewal and refreshment before my own new role begins.

That’s a lot of new beginnings, but one thing that is ending soon is our current preaching series.

It comes to an end on Sunday 8th Jan. This is the last preaching series I will lead Grace Church through, and it was built around one key verse:

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As we go into this New Year together, although for many of us there will be a parting of the ways as the year goes by, let’s remember that we are each in God’s hands; he has plans for us and it’s our privilege to walk in them. God’s promises are true and reliable for each of us, whatever direction he is leading us in.

Let’s each actively embrace this new beginning:

Please join us on Wednesday 11th when we are appointing David to his new role. It’s at 7.30pm at St Pancras Church in Chichester, and John Groves will be leading us through the evening. This is a great chance for each of us to show our love and support for David and Ali as the changes take effect.

Remember: this has spiritual impact!

What we are doing is not insignificant and it affects the whole future of the church. We can’t afford to be casual about it! Come ready to pray and to encourage! Come ready to play your part as we step into this new beginning together.

On Mission with Commission – come and hear the latest news!

A vision for the season ahead

It’s such a joy for us as a church to be a part of Commission. We have a fantastic vision that we are pursuing in faith together as Commission churches:

“To see THOUSANDS of lives transformed

through HUNDREDS of churches

in TENS of nations

This vision is going to be shaping for us at Grace Church; it will affect what we do together going into the future.

Impact!

Hopefully you’ve already picked up the news that we have a special meeting planned for Grace Church on the evening of Wednesday 16th November with Guy Miller, who leads the Commission group of churches.guy-miller_600x600

The evening is going to be very significant for us, and will include the sharing of some important news – news that will have IMPACT on us as a church.

Because of this we’ve also taken the unusual step of writing to you personally, so if you’re a church member do look out for a letter in the post. 

We want to encourage everyone to be there in person if they can, to hear everything first hand and to catch a vision for the season ahead.

Where and when

The evening will be at the St Paul’s Church building in Chichester, starting at 7.30pm. There will be a mix of worship, information, teaching and prayer.

Please come ready to listen, to contribute and to pray.

unknownWe will be hugely blessed to have Guy with us for the evening. Additionally John Groves will also be with us. Double the blessings!

John has given a lot of input to our church and our eldership team over several years now – knocking us into shape, asking us important questions, keeping us out of trouble  and many of you will know him already. We have often been blessed on a Sunday with his preaching.

John is one of the elders at Hope Church in Winchester and is also a part of the Commission UK Team. It will be really good to have his input on this occasion too.

What’s it about???

We’ll tell you on the evening – so stop asking! No special previews are available!

It will be great to get this time together as a church – you definitely won’t want to have missed it … so see you there, if not before.

 

Enjoying God’s Presence

The Bible is clear that God is with us at all times: “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13v5). That’s pretty good news for Christians everywhere!

God’s number one promise:

The number one promise in the Bible, the thing God promises most often is, “I am with you” or “I will be with you” (or various other versions of the same thing.) He says it often because he wants us to know its true, whether we feel it or not.

Special moments

Sometimes there are moments when we draw especially close to God – and those are pretty special times:

  • Like spending time with Richard and Wendy last Saturday afternoon. Being there with Chris and Sandy, who are their life group leaders, as some practical issues were taken care of and a gift was given to them both from their Life Group. God’s presence was there14713506_211754975916257_2922616688999397217_n
  • Like when we have church members being baptised – incredible moments of God’s closeness and blessing for his people. God’s presence is there
  • Like sometimes when we gather together to worship and pray and hear God’s word taught. He’s always there when we meet, but sometimes we just feel his presence in a special way

Sunday Evening

image-03-11-2016-at-19-29This Sunday evening will be one of those times as we enjoy our Grace Church “Worship and Holy Spirit Evening”. We are going to gather together simply to worship, wait on God and see what he wants to say to us.

 

 

We’ve done a couple of these evenings before and God’s presence has always been so tangible. So come ready to meet with God and to enjoy his presence; come with faith and expectation; come ready to contribute; come ready to worship and to give praise and glory to God … and come expecting to encounter his presence.

 

Grace at Westpoint

We are part of a group of churches called Commission. Each year on the August Bank Holiday weekend the UK Commission churches, together with some friends from Commission churches in other nations, gather for a weekend at Westpoint, near Exeter. We call the event Together at Westpoint. This years event was the best yet and I’m sure we will be talking about it for years to come.

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Westpoint this year reminded me of five great reasons that our church exists:

1. God calls our church to be a FAMILY

It was a blessing to see so many of us there this year. Approximately 200 from our church were among the thousands who attended. It was great to spend time together and have some relaxed fun.

We were served breakfast every morning (thank you Judith and team!)

We had a great BBQ (Judith again I believe) and a fun quiz night (thank you Chris & Catherine and Thomas & Kathryn!)

We successfully lost at the various sporting events … saving me some personal embarrassment – thanks to all involved for that one!

It was great to see our church hanging out together and having fun.

2. God calls our church to SERVE

Everywhere I looked there were Grace Church people serving – serving one another and serving the event.

On our site I saw people looking out for one another and serving each other: meals cooked, children watched our for, tents put up and taken down and much more.cq2ad7kw8aanrx3-jpg-large

Across the event we had people serving in children’s work, in worship, in seminars, in stewarding, in security and much more. Special mention to Sarah Harris and team for running the threes work again this year.

3. God calls our church to WORSHIP

Of course this means worship as a lifestyle and not just singing … but weren’t the sung worship times incredible? Our band served the event so well, as did the band from Bristol.

A huge thanks to Simpson and the team for that.

4. God calls our church to make DISCIPLES

The teaching at Westpoint this year, both main stage and seminars, was outstanding. I believe many of us would call it life changing.

If you missed it here is a link to follow where you can find videos of some of the main sessions – it includes some great footage of our band leading worship too. If you were at the event, why not listen again? Once might not be enough!

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Not sure where to start? I suggest the following order:

  1. Guy Miller’s first talk – Friday evening
  2. Guy’s second talk – Sunday morning
  3. Phil Moore’s talk – Saturday evening
  4. Mark Jobe’s second talk – Sunday evening

There were loads more great talks too which will come on line soon (but not yet available as I write this). When they do why not listen to them all? I’ll post the details on my Facebook and Twitter . Phil Moore’s morning Bible readings, seminars from Mark Jobe and Mick Taylor … listen to them all. You will be impacted!

5. God calls our church to EVANGELISTIC MISSION

One thing that came across clearly at the event was our calling to fulfil the Great Commission – to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. This means church planting and starting new congregations. It also means reaching out with the gospel in the places where we live and work right now.

Guy shared the new vision statement for Commission:cqz6dytweaaq5fo

“To see thousands of lives transformed, through hundreds of churches, in tens of nations”

Guy went on to share our Commission “SURE” strategy:

S: Send – Adventure together to transform the world

U: Unify – Moving forwards together as one

R: Release – Empowering everyone for influence everywhere

E: Equip – Enabling everyone to think and live like Jesus

We were given a booklet with more info about it, and here is a link to a short video too. This strategy will underline our future together as Commission churches.

People responded to this call with an incredible offering – just over £600,000 given and pledged by the time I left on Monday

Two final thoughts from me

First: if you weren’t there you did miss out

There is no way to soften that for you. It was a truly incredible weekend for us as a church and as Commission. But don’t worry – booking for next year is open already. As for me and my house … we’re booked for 2017 already.

Second: THIS WILL IMPACT OUR CHURCH – and we could all feel that impact

The call to be all in (as Phil Moore put it) will mean that some will feel a call to go – to strategically relocate to pursue our calling together . Others will feel a call to change how they are living – to serve God in new ways.

I’m excited about what this year will bring!

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.

 

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.