Hello Woking!

IMG_0494

Good job my wife is an excellent driver!

It’s taken longer than we expected, and it’s been an emotional rollercoaster of a journey, but this week we finally arrived in the awesome town of Woking. Hooray!

Thanks to everyone who dropped by with cakes, cards, flowers and Prosecco. Your warm welcome made us feel right at home … and that’s important because otherwise we might miss our Grace Church friends and family even more than we do already – thanks for calling in!

What a week!

It’s been a huge week for us personally: moving in on Monday, then heading off to the annual Commission gathering at Westpoint on Thursday through to the following Monday. Now we’re back with a mountain of washing to do!

By the way, Westpoint was excellent this year in so many ways, and one added bonus for us was that we got to meet a lot of Coign Church people. You can book in for next year already, so don’t delay. We’ll be there for sure.

On Friday I begin my new role as Lead Pastor at The Coign Church. I’m looking forward to getting started and to finding out what God has in store for us in the year ahead. Jo also starts her new role now as Head of School at a Special School in Portsmouth. Please be patient with us if things get a little hectic along the way …

I have TWO REALLY KEY THINGS to mention in this blog:

First – what this blog is for …

I write a blog to communicate with my church. Up to now that has meant Grace Church; from today onwards it means The Coign Church – so I encourage as many Coign people as possible to read it – and feel free to post, repost and interact in helpful ways. You can even follow it or subscribe to receive it by e-mail.

Love Local Church - Steve Petch Blog

And now it’s The Coign Church

There are lots of exciting things we do as a church, there are lots of ministries that bless our community, there are lots of people who will make faith steps in various ways, and there are also exciting things I’m involved with personally in the wider world of Commission … and some of these could go by unnoticed.

My aim for my blog is to connect to more people across our church and to let you know what we’re up to – to let the left hand know what the right hand is doing.

So let’s celebrate what God is doing with us as a church family! And if there is something good that I miss along the way then let me know and maybe we’ll get it included.

Second – a mention of some true Coign Church heroes …

Although we now have an address in Woking, our house in Chichester has not yet sold. I confess I was starting to feel a little bit concerned! John and Ann Wardill have stepped in to make it possible for us to be here in time, so right now we are living in their house … and they are not.

IMG_0491

John and Ann Wardill – ready to leap into superhero action at any moment.

John and and Ann are a great example to us all of people who are using their retirement to pursue the call of God in so many ways. We need to honour people like this and hold them in high esteem! What a blessing they are to us and what an example to us all!

We trust that God will sort our house sale out in his own timing, and that we will buy our own property in Woking in the months ahead, but Jo and I want to give a public thank you to these two heroes!

We’re looking forward to seeing you all at our Coign Church meetings this Sunday!

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!

 

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.