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.

Generosity from India

I received an e-mail this week which moved me to tears, but before I tell you why, let me explain the background.

What we gave

As a church we had a special offering in early 2015 to help fund the first year of our Midhurst site and Chris Kimbangi coming onto the church staff full-time. We pledged to give a tithe (10%) of that offering to a particular project, run by a Commission Church in India, which cares for children with additional needs.

In the end we were able to send them £8,000 thanks to the generosity of Grace Church members.

What they did with our gift

I recently received a report telling us how the money is being used, which so far, among other things, has included:

  • Renovating the centre (the building)
  • Painting the centre
  • Maintaining their vehicle, which brings children and a hospital physiotherapist to the centre daily, (each day it travels 120km)
  • A cataract operation to restore sight
  • The day-to-day running of the centre for 7 months

I have included some photos (and because of the nature of the internet I won’t say here exactly where it is or use photos of the children):

In 2015 I was blown away by the generosity of our church … again. This week I was blown away by seeing how much can be done with so little … again.

But neither of these things are what moved me.

When we decided to give to this project, on the advice of our friends in Commission, I had not realized that the Indian Church Pastor behind this project had attended a Grace Church meeting seven years ago, whilst visiting friends in the UK. (His trip had been paid for from the UK; they could never afford it by themselves.) I met him in passing and we exchanged a brief e-mail afterwards in which he was polite about my sermon.


Real Generosity

Here is what moved me: having received his report on how the money was being used I sent back a message to say, “Thanks for keeping us updated”, and in reply he said,

“…we have been praying for you as a family and the Church, every Friday for last 7 years, since I visited Grace Church.”

He added that if there was anything specific they could pray for I should let him know.

That’s moved me. That’s generosity.

20:20 Vision

It’s currently my privilege to be a part of Guy Miller’s “UK Hub Team” for the Commission Group of churches. This means that as well as having the opportunity to give support to the leadership teams of some Commission churches in our area, I also attend the UK Team meetings.

I was in Bournemouth for two team days recently and it was exciting to look at ways to move forward with our 20:20 Vision for our UK Churches. It’s a privilege to meet with such a gifted team, and Guy incorporated in a few newer faces for the second day too. There is some really excellent stuff going on at the moment: church plants, church adoptions, new multisites. Commission is on the move!

Our UK goals?

  • 100 churches in the UK by the end of 2020
  • 1000 baptisms between now and then

This will happen through the different contributions of many different people, applying their various gifts, as Jesus directs us.

Personal contribution:

Outside of the prayer times, my personal contribution to the two days consisted mainly of:

Malcolm Kayes - Steve Petch Blog

Malcolm Kayes, leader of the Coign Church, Woking – a Commission Church

  • Drinking too much tea
  • Debating with Malcolm Kayes (pictured!) who’s wisdom and experience is a joy to be around
  • Making a profound over-statement (Jo has warned me about this sort of behaviour before – maybe more than once)
  • Apologising for making a profound over-statement
  • Explaining what I really meant by my profound over-statement
  • Drinking more tea

It’s a good job our progress is not going to depend on me … although I have no doubt that Grace Church will have a continuing part to play.

With that in mind, let’s all get involved … and if you haven’t booked in for Westpoint 2016 yet, click on the link to find out what it is and why you should be there (*tip* turn your sound on!)

Westpoint is always a great chance to have fun all together which is so good for us as a multisite church, and it gets us to connect into the wider world of Commission which is our family of churches.