Goodbye Grace Church

Today has been our last Sunday at Grace Church – after more than 11 years it’s time for Jo and I to say our last goodbye (and thanks for inviting us to the goodbye party too!) I haven’t blogged during this time of leadership transition at the church, but I’ll start again now as we leave and I begin my Sabbatical. Thanks for reading!

Looking back

In 2005 God called us to move to Chichester to plant Grace Church, which we started in 2006. This has been where our family has grown up. In case anyone is unaware, we’re moving to Woking now where I will be lead elder at The Coign Church; there are exciting times ahead.

Looking back I’m so glad that we responded positively to God’s call; God has done so much! It’s been our joy to see three congregations established: Chichester, Bognor Regis and Midhurst. More will follow I’m sure! It’s been our joy to see God at work in so many ways, and now he is calling on us on. I’m sure it will be our joy to see him at work in Woking too.

We want to say thank you to each person at Grace Church for the part they have played along the way. Thank you for friendship, commitment, encouragement and support. As we leave we feel very encouraged and very well sent! God has done so much, and there’s still so much more to come.

Moving on

The main reason for moving on is simply that God has called us to; it’s obedience. But there are benefits for a church when a leader moves on too, for example:

  • All leaders have their faults: we all have blind spots and weaknesses, as well as our strengths; change can be a blessing!
  • It creates room for other gifts to emerge: when a leader moves on it creates space for other people to emerge
  • It multiplies leadership: Grace Church has a great eldership team now, David supported by many other leaders too. David has come into his own as a lead elder. The church is going to do fine without us
  • It keeps the church fresh: New ideas and initiatives will find space and be released to flourish

And if God calls us to move on and we don’t do it, it could result in some problems:

  • Stagnation: a loss of the fresh cutting edge
  • Loss of anointing: a lack of God’s power and blessing on the task

Ultimately, when leaders stay beyond their God given time, what has been built can be damaged! So there are benefits to leadership changes in church life, and we’ll see those in Grace Church as we go.

Some final words

In my talk today I pointed three final words: Love, Obedience & Truth.

Love:

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this will all people know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” – John 13v34-35

Love for Jesus can overcome all barrier, so love one another, accept one another, bear with one another and forgive one another!

What enables us to do that? The certainty that we are loved ourselves: “We love because he first loved us” – 1 John 4v19

Obedience:

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments” – John 14v15

The first command we obey is the command to love one another, rooted in a love for God; all the rest of our obedience flows from that. If you love Jesus, obey him. Our obedience is a demonstration of our love. We need to obey what Jesus calls us to do; we need to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

When we walk in obedience we walk in confidence; when we walk in disobedience, nothing feels right. There is no joy for a Christian living in disobedience to God. In his presence is fulness of joy; if you don’t have joy, whose presence are you spending your time in???

Truth: 

Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8v31-32.

True freedom comes by knowing the truth. Truth is not all relative! Truth is not unknowable! Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and life” – John 14v6. Jesus is the truth, and Jesus is knowable. You can find answers for life that are absolutely true, in Jesus.

The best way to avoid being deceived by lies is to know the truth, so learn the truth, read the truth, listen to the truth, meditate on the truth, obey the truth. The Bible is God’s word, and God’s word is truth, and it all points to Jesus and Jesus is truth!

 

A world to reach

We have a world to reach with the good news of Jesus. People need to see the love of God in us and feel the love of God through us. People need to see us living lives of sacrificial obedience to God, even when it’s costly. People need to see that the truth we have is impacting our world and our lives for good.

Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 15.21.18Most people will only experience the presence of God through us; you and I are the closest to Jesus they will ever get unless they also come to faith in Jesus for themselves! And for that to happen it is vital that we are living lives of love, obedience and truth.

So that’s three final words to remember: Love … Obedience … Truth.

And as far as my ministry at Grace Church goes …

… that’s your LOT!

 

All change please!

READ ALL ABOUT IT!

EXCITING CHURCH SHAPING NEWS! 

On Wednesday evening (16th November) we had a special meeting at Grace Church with Guy Miller and John Groves, during which we announced some big changes. For anyone who missed it here is the news …

On a mission together

Events like Westpoint are shaping for us as a church and as a group of churches. Together we have a vision,

“to see thousands of lives transformed though hundreds of churches in tens of nations” 

Grace Church is part of that vision; we have a part to play in Commission.

A vision like thais doesn’t get fulfilled without some cost and some challenges along the way; it doesn’t happen without us sending people!

From small beginnings

When Grace Church began, over ten years ago now, it started with a small handful of people, all of whom relocated from other churches; there was a cost involved in starting what we now enjoy today and other people paid that price for us!

Jo and myself and our kids were part of that original group; we led Grace Church from day one. In 2006 we moved here from Billingshurst Family Church, which we’d planted a few years before. That church is still going strong today and doing far better than it ever did when we were there, but it was was painful at the time for the church to send us; it was costly to them and also for us.

Grace Church has been a fun adventure so far!

Jo and I have great memories formed over a decade. We’ve made some great friends, and we’ve also sent some great friends off to different places. There have been lots of sending moments; people whose time with us reached an end and who God had plans for elsewhere – that’s part of how his kingdom grows.

And now we are announcing another sending, only this time it won’t be me who is doing the sending

this time Jo and I are the ones being sent!

God is calling us on, so for the Petch family our time at Grace Church will soon be over.

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Petch Family on holiday – can you tell where it is?

Jo and I have felt for a while that this moment might be coming.

They way I would describe it is a sense that our roots have been loosened. Going into this year I felt that I  probably needed to take a Sabbatical break at some point.  I felt that perhaps we needed to hit “refresh”, and then either come back here and dig in with fresh vision for the next decade, or else see if God had another plan. In the midst of our thinking and praying we believe that God has spoken to us.

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Guy Miller

It started in May this year when Guy Miller chatted to us and asked if we would be willing to consider relocating and taking on the leadership of a church in Woking called the Coign Church. (Coign is an old English word for ‘cornerstone’)

Jo and I said we would be willing to consider the move

… and we did … prayerfully.

We’ve been seeking to hear God’s direction for our lives. We really wanted to be led by the Spirit and not merely by human wisdom. Over this time we’ve felt that God is speaking to us in various ways. I won’t list everything here but one key moment was when Chris Kimbangi was preaching at Grace Church back in June. He used the phrase,

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Chris Kimbangi Preaching

“If not you, then who; if not now, then when.”

At a spiritual level that really struck home for me; I felt like God was saying that phrase just to me.

Another key moment was at Westpoint this year, when Phil Moore was speaking. As he talked about being

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Phil Moore

“all in”

Jo and I both new that it applied to us; we knew we needed to say yes to God. There are other prophetic things we could mention, but I’ll stop at those two for now.

So  the eldership team at the Coign have let their church know that they intend to invite me to come and pick up the lead eldership.

This is huge for us as a family!

We have a house move ahead, and there are many other implications for our family too. It impacts on every area of our lives; this is not something we’re doing lightly.

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Owen, Phoebe and Zac

There are implications for our kids: although they are now adults in their own right, their life stage means that they are still dependent on us, so they will move with us.

So what will happen to the leadership at Grace Church? 

As an eldership team we’ve talked about this a lot. Certainly it’s not down to me to crown a successor as I see fit; this sort of decision needs far more input and involvement than just me.

Being part of Commission means that we get Apostolic input and shaping from gifted men like Guy and John, and we’ve done a lot of talking! Through our conversations we’ve become clear about the way forward:

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David Thompson

We are convinced that David Thompson is the right person to take over the lead eldership at Grace Church and lead into the future.

As a team we believe this change will be great for the church. And because we’re confident that God is leading this change, we’re also confident that, just like with Billingshurst, the future will be better for the church than if Jo and I were to stay.

Let God build your faith too!

So with Guy Miller’s apostolic shaping and input, and with John Grove’s oversight, wisdom and care, we are proposing that David should be the next Lead Elder here. As with any eldership appointment if you have concerns or thoughts please chat to us. It’s important for us to know we have your support. David needs to be received in order to lead, so please don’t only talk to us if you’re worried! If you’re happy or excited, tell us that too!

It’s great to lead a church who are so open and receptive to change. Thanks for your encouragements so far!

The way we anticipate things happening is like this:

  • I will carry on as the Lead Elder through Christmas and into the start of the New Year, and then on Wednesday January 11th I’ll hand over to David. We’ll gather the church together that evening and we’ll pray for David and the family and officially appoint him to the role. John Groves will join us and lead us through the evening.
  • Until the end of April I’ll still be here; David and I will work together for a while, me as part of his team; I want to pass the baton to him well.
  • From Monday 1st May I will go on my Sabbatical break, and when I come back to work it will not be at Grace Church; we hope to move house during that period too. So I’ll preach at Grace Church for the last time, and finish my eldership here, on April 30th

Personally Jo and I want you to know we will miss you 2-steve-jo

… but we’re not gone yet! Let’s enjoy these next five and a half months together and make some more fun memories. And please do pray for us.

I want you to know that I have faith for this change: faith for our own move and faith for Grace Church going forward. Let God build your faith too – and remember, this sort of transition is key to the kingdom of God moving forward.

No trophies …

Leadership of a church is not a trophy; it’s a baton. As leaders in a church we are stewards of something for a season, and then we must pass it on to the next person; we pass the baton on like a relay race. I did that once before at Billingshurst, and I’m thrilled that I’m in a position to do that here too.

Passing the baton well to the next person is just as important as the leadership we bring when we are carrying the baton ourselves, maybe even more so. We don’t want to drop it, or hold on to it for too long, or let go grudgingly.There is no success without a successor!

Our greatest joy lies in the future success of Grace Church, after we’ve gone.

So Jo and I are excited about the future. We would love you to stand with us in prayer and in friendship as things move forward.

And if you want a bit more information, here is a link to a video we’ve created for the church that gives more detail about the changes and the future.

 

 

 

Moved by Compassion – again

What an awesome Sunday!

I know that many who were at our Grace Church meetings in Chichester and Bognor Regis  on Sunday found the talk extremely moving. We were thrilled to have Noel Pabiona with us. Noel is the CEO and Country Director of Compassion Philippines and he was in the UK for just a few days – we were very blessed to have him and every believer should hear his talk – it could change your life. The stories he told reduced grown men and women to tears across both meetings (myself included). 15037356_219847288440359_8346825870935785774_n

Those in Midhurst were blessed too, listening to Clare Hartley from Compassion UK. She also spoke brilliantly on God’s heart for the poor. All in all it was a fantastic morning. I’ve put links to both of these talks in the text above – please do listen! You can also get them via iTunes or our Grace Church podcasts.

Supporting Compassion as a church

For several years now, as a church, we’ve been supporting the work of Compassion, one of the world’s leading child development and child advocacy organisations. Working with local churches they create a link between a child living in poverty and a sponsor – people like us.

Sponsorship gives the child access to education, health checks and the care of a local church-based Compassion project. Through these programmes, children’s lives are being changed, along with their families and communities. I’ve seen this in action for myself in Kenya and it affected me deeply.

Our involvement: individual sponsorship

Our involvement has been focussed on a specific area of the Philippines: Negros Occidental. We’ve promoted child sponsorship in this area, and though our church over 200 children have been sponsored so far. The children in the photos are ones that between us we’ve sponsored  – and there are others too …

Our involvement: child survival

Additionally as a church we’ve provided funding for a Child Survival Programme (CSP). The programme works through a local church in the Philippines  and aims to rescue, nurture and disciple infants for the first three years of their lives. They aim to reach the most vulnerable before they’re even born. They provide antenatal care for vulnerable mothers, ensure children are vaccinated and that mothers are given the skills they need to earn a living. It’s about giving children the best possible start in life.

Grace Church has sponsored one of these programmes for several years. It’s called the Kairos programme and it’s being run by Good Shepherd Church.

Why should I care?

There are many reasons we should care about the poor

  • We should care because Jesus called us to care for the poor!
  • We should care because the whole Bible is clear that God expects us to be generous and to look after the poor and the needy (Matt 6:2-4; Acts 2:45; Gal 2:10; Prov 19:17; Prov 21:13; Prov 22:9; Psalm 42:1; Psalm 41:1-3)
  • We should care because no one should have to live and die in conditions like this:

Putting generosity into action

I know that many hearts were touched on Sunday. Every child sponsorship pack that we had available to us was taken and we have a list of requests for more. It looks like more than 30 more children will get a sponsor following Sunday morning, and it’s still not too late – don’t let the moment pass you by

You can sponsor a child, for £25 a month, via the Compassion website here. Or if you want to do it with us in the area of the Philippines we’ve been supporting then contact us here and let us know directly.

Next summer Tobi Stathers, from our Chichester site, is doing a sponsored bike ride from John O’Groats to Bognor to raise extra funds for the CSP. Please do sponsor Tobi; we want lots of people to back him. The money given will be extra to the funding  we already give. There are sponsorship forms available at any of our meetings, or you can give via our website here – just send us a message to let us know what it’s for.

And finally remember this …

“Generosity is not something we do to be praised; we do it because we are compelled by the love of Jesus Christ”

 

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!

Summer Is here!

Apparently summer is now here, although just a week ago you wouldn’t have been far off saying the weather was much more like late September already!

Christian Books | 2016 | Steve Petch BlogThe weather may not always be quite as reliable here as it is in Greece or Spain, but this time of year is a great chance for many of us to take a break and get some time with family rain or shine!

Church life usually gets a bit quieter at this time of year, although all three of our sites will still be meeting every Sunday (except for August 28th when most of us are away at Westpoint). Many of our ministries and events will take a well earned rest until September. There are no planned dates for Life Groups over the summer, although many groups get together anyway to eat and have fun.

Of course this quieter season doesn’t mean that God has gone on holiday … as someone will usually tell me at some point along the way! (I know! I really do! Honestly!)

This season is a chance to take things a little easier for many people, and whilst I appreciate that some will be working flat out all summer long, here is my suggestion for those who can take some sort of break: don’t just take a holiday, make it a Sabbath.

A Sabbath

God took a Sabbath rest after the work of creation was finished. He designed our lives to have holidays and regular breaks – we function best that way.

So don’t just lie by the pool … lie by the pool and pray. Talk to God about your life, your family, your walk with him, your disappointments and your plans and hopes for the year ahead.

Don’t just sit in the garden … sit in the garden and meditate on God’s word and his creation. Take time to pause and give thanks.

Don’t just go for a walk … go for a walk with your kids or your friends and ask them how their own walk with God is. Ask what’s going in their hearts and how you can pray for them and encourage them and support them in the next year.

Read this summer…

And don’t just read trashy novels and magazines … read something that will speak to your soul and build you up in your faith. So with that in mind I have four book recommendations for the summer with a brief description of what the book is like and why I found it useful to read.

Whatever you’re doing this summer – enjoy!

4 book suggestions for summer

(All available on Amazon)

  1. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality – Peter Scazzero

Peter Scazzero - Emotionall Healthy Spiritually | Christian Books | Steve Petch Blog

 

This book looks at the importance of handling our emotions well. As the author says, “You can’t be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.”

It’s helpful stuff, especially if you ever find yourself avoiding conflict in the name of Christianity, or if you are sometimes affected by unexplained sadness, anger or fear.

I hope it does you as much good as it did me.

 

  1. What Good is God? – Philip Yancey

Philip Yancey - What Good is God? | Christian Books | Steve Petch BlogThis book is built around ten challenging situations where the author was required to speak or preach as a Christian minister, bringing truth and encouragement, after times of great trauma, challenge or tragedy.

In each situation he talks around the issues that were stirred up by the scenario or situation he was facing, and then tells us what his message was:

  • What can you say to students after one of their number has shot dead his fellow students and them himself in a senseless campus massacre?
  • What can you say to sex workers and those who minister to people trapped in this lifestyle?
  • What can you say to Middle Eastern Christian pastors experiencing intense persecution?
  • What can you say to a room full of recovering alcoholics?

These and several other challenging situations were faced by Philip Yancey, and he does a great job of communicating how God is good news to all people. I loved this book.

  1. Gaining Heaven’s Perspective – Julian Adams

Julian Adams - Gaining Heaven's Perspective | Christian Books | Steve Petch Blog

 

Julian Adams has a well respected prophetic gift and was a huge blessing to our church in the early days, bringing some influential prophetic input to us.

This is by far the shortest of my four book suggestions, but not necessarily the simplest.

Julian encourages us in this book in how to enjoy God’s presence in our daily life and hear from God daily. The impact will last beyond reading the book! 

 

  1. The Road to Character – David Brooks

David Brooks - The Road to Character | Christian Books | Steve Petch BlogMy final recommendation was not written by a Christian at all (as far as I know!) According to Wikipedia the author is Jewish, although I don’t know if he practices this faith.

This challenging book looks at how various different people have developed character through the trials and pressures of life. It also brings a very helpful perspective on how our society has strayed down some very unhelpful dead ends in terms of our life goals and the things we praise and desire.

I guess I should warn you that it contains one occurrence of bad language (I’m sure most of you will cope!) – but it also contains a lot of helpful truth.

Chapter 8, about St Augustine, is especially helpful, and clearly this author has a sharp understanding of what the Christian gospel is about, though I have no clue if he has accepted it for himself.

This helped me personally more than any other I read this year, although it is the one on my list that would take the most commitment and brain power to read.

 

Enjoy.

The Grace to go to Prison

One of the reasons for writing a blog is to keep everyone informed of the things we are doing as a Church, especially things that not everyone may be aware of. One of those areas is our “GraceWorks”. We use the name GraceWorks as an umbrella heading for the various ministries we do to serve our community.

Early Days

In the very early days of Grace Church, when I was laying out a vision for our Church’s future in a talk, I remember using ‘prison ministry’ as an example of something we would probably never do … simply because there is no prison in Chichester. Little did I know!

Fast forward a few years to now, to a time when our Church has a larger footprint than we ever imagined it would, and one of our key GraceWorks is serving the prisoners at Ford Prison.

HMP Ford – Our Prison Ministry


HMP Ford
is an open prison with around 500 adult male prisoners. A team from Grace Church, which includes people from all three of our sites, is actively involved in various activities at HMP Ford including:

  • Regular Sunday evening services in the Chapel at HMP Ford, with worship, preaching, prayer and fellowship
  • A Monday evening Life Group covering all sorts of topics and led by both Grace Church members and prisoners. This provides an informal time for teaching and fellowship, and also some social times, for example we held a quiz night that had around 50 people taking part
  • A prison Alpha course
  • A follow up Beta course

Well done Grace Churchers!

HMP Ford Christian Prison Ministry | Grace Church | Steve Petch Blog

Andy Nicholls runs our HMP Ford prison ministry

A few Grace Church members are also now part of the chaplaincy department at HMP Ford helping provide pastoral and faith related support to those prisoners. The need for this should not be underestimated! I want to say a personal, “Well done!” to the Grace Church team, and feel free to add your well done to mine everyone else!

Outside of the prison environment we’ve been working to look after a few ex-offenders who have connected with us on the inside and have now been released from prison and are living locally. The support and help needed in each situation is very individual, and we now have ex-offenders regularly attending Sunday meetings with us. What a privilege! We are truly blessed and I hope we are a blessing to them too.

Why minister to prisoners & ex-offenders?

In the parable of the sheep and the goats (see Matthew 25) Jesus said that, in the final judgement, he would say to his followers,

“I was in prison and you came to visit me.” 

They will answer him, Lord, when did we see you in prison and go to visit you?”

Jesus’ answer: “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” 

Our prisons ministry, led by Andy Nicholls, is a great chance to put that parable into practice, remembering that it is Jesus we are serving. If you want to get involved then do let us know, and in the mean time let’s all be on the lookout to welcome and bless anyone who visits our church week by week, remembering that each person is precious to God, whatever their background.

“All welcome! Come as you are!”

And let’s remember that in some cases the only difference between those in prison and those who are not is this: they got caught.

So let’s make sure that we, ‘let him who is without sin cast the first stone’.

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.

 

Ten Years of Grace, and so much more to come

Grace Church is ten years old!

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

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

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

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

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

And some stayed with us until Jesus took them home.

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

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

This world isn’t our ultimate home

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

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

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

Life is passing

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

Are we using ours well?

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

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

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

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

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

Looking to the future

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

So lets live this life in the light of eternity.

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

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

Wall Building: Heroes of the Week

There are people in our church who astound me from time to time with their faith and commitment, and sometimes it’s easy to miss what they do to ‘build the walls’ (Nehemiah 3). With that in mind, from time to time and with permission, I want to tell some of their stories as an encouragement.

My first “Heroes of the week” are Greg and Becky Bell

Greg and Becky Bell | Hero of the Week Wall Builders | Steve Petch Church Leader Blog

Greg & Becky

Greg and Becky have been a part of our church for several years. They have always been full of faith, like the true ‘living stones’ talked about in 1 Peter 2 v 5. Sometimes God has taken them right to the edge before coming through in various ways. It was nail biting to see it happen again recently.

Greg and Becky became confident that God wanted them and the family to relocate from Bognor Regis to Midhurst to help support the new congregation. This presented a challenge since houses to rent in Midhurst are few and far between and often more expensive than Bognor. Added to this they found out they were being evicted from their Bognor house because it was going up for sale.

Having Faith

Convinced Midhurst was God’s calling for them they refused to rent anywhere else. As the weeks ticked by some of us worried on their behalf. As the deadline got closer we worried a bit more.

And then a house came up … and they put in an offer … and someone else took it. And we worried more for them, but Greg and Becky prayed.

Living Faith

Then the same property fell through and came back on the market and they put in another offer … and someone else took it, only this time they had to move out of the other house with their three children and all their furniture NOW.

Growing Faith

But Greg and Becky believed that this house in the centre of town was theirs … so they refused to look elsewhere … and that same house came back on the market a third time … and they put in an offer

… and moved in seven days later.

God is so good and they have been so faithful. And now they live in the centre of the town they believe God called them to and are helping to build the church in that place.

One more thing along the way…

Becky was very keen to go on the Commission India trip this summer but it costs around £1,000, which with moving they did not have, and with all that was going on she laid the trip down before Jesus with a good attitude and focused on Midhurst and on moving in.

When we told the church about the trip taking place and invited people to apply to go (not mentioning Becky at all), one response we got came from a couple who told us that they believed this trip was not for them, but that maybe God wanted someone else in the church to go who could not afford it, and if that person existed in the church could they please pay for them instead?

So Becky is going to India now too and I’m delighted.

God is our provider: 5 loaves + 2 fish + 5000 people (+ women & children) + JESUS = everyone fed + 12 baskets of leftovers.

That’s how we build!