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.

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?

 

 

 

The Challenges Of Being Somewhere New

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

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It’s all a bit alien to me!

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

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

So praise God for the church!

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Let the preaching commence!

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

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

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

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

 

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And talking of getting soaked …

What a joy to see people being baptised on Sunday evening

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

 

 

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

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

A New Season

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

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

1. A New Role

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

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

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My lovely new office space!

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

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

2. New church offices

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

 

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Dean – also looking good!

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

 

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

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

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

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

3. A New Team

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

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

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

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”

 

Some last minute thoughts on the EU referendum

 

I’ve recently joined Facebook as a way of staying better connected to people in the church. It’s been a really interesting experiment for me and so far it’s one I’ve enjoyed. Feel free to send me a friend request.

EU Referendum | Questions to Consider | Steve Petch Blog

This week, on Thursday, is the EU referendum: in or out? I won’t tell you which way I’m going to vote but through Facebook I’ve become aware that we have strong supporters on both sides of this issue. Looking to the wider Christian community it doesn’t take long to find people who would say it is our clear Christian duty to vote one way or the other.

Which way would Jesus vote? It depends who you ask!

A fresh perspective

I have another perspective for us to consider:

For the ‘Remain’ side: If your hope for peace, prosperity, justice for all and the good life rests on staying in the EUyou are buying into a false god.

For the ‘Brexit’ side: If your hope for peace, prosperity, justice for all and the good life rests on leaving the EUyou are also buying into a false god.

As soon as we look to something man made to be our source of peace, prosperity, justice for all and the good life we are buying into a false god. No man made institution can do that for us! What the countries of Europe need most is the gospel. They need local churches to be built who will reach out to their communities with the love of Jesus; we need to pray for his kingdom to come.

And let’s remember, whatever the result of this referendum, the EU won’t endure forever and nor will any kingdom or empire (see Daniel 2 for details!)

In the end, only Jesus’ kingdom will endure forever!

He alone is the Prince of Peace; he alone is the source of our provision; he alone is the one who judges the nations with righteousness and justice; he alone is the one who will lead us to the ‘good life’ that actually lies beyond this life in his coming kingdom.

So my comments don’t address which way to vote, and don’t ask me. Look at the issues, pray and make your own mind up. But let’s look at the issues with eyes of faith!

Possible questions to consider

  • Which way is best for the advance of the gospel?
  • Which way is best for the growth of the church?
  • Over the long term, which way will best serve the poor, including the poorly paid in our own nation?

I’ve seen each of these things clearly argued both ways, so it’s still not straightforward, but the effect on house prices or your pension pot or the cost of a holiday in Spain should perhaps not be our central concerns as Christians.

And consider this too: if we feel very emotionally attached to one side or the other and the wrong answer would make us feel very upset … maybe we’re putting too much faith in man made answers?

Maybe Jesus has been dethroned just a little bit in our thinking?

Do vote

I’ll vote, I encourage you to do the same, but as we do let’s remember that we are citizens of another kingdom altogether:

 

“Our citizenship is in heaven, and from there we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.”  

Philippians 3v20

We just had our tenth anniversary as a church (and next week I’ll post an update on that with some photos). As a church we are able to embrace unity and diversity. We see it in the many different types of people who make up our church; we see it in our different ages and nationalities; we see it in our different preferences and cultures; we see it in being three sites but still one church. Let’s not allow a political issue, which concerns only a passing manmade institution, to divide us.

EU Referendum | Questions to Consider | Steve Petch Blog

And when praying about this referendum the Lord’s Prayer is a really good place to start:

“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”