What is your home GIRT by?

During the recent spate of end of school year events I was again struck by the line “Our home is girt by sea” in our national anthem. As a young person it was the word “girt” that confused me and I remember a teacher explaining poetic meter and the difficulty of singing a word like “encircled”. I have loved girt ever since!! This time, I was struck by the word home.

So many people call Australia home now. And more all the time. In the little cul-de-sac I live in there are families with origins in Africa, the Middle East and Europe. In our church there are at least 18 nationalities represented. Air travel has made global migration simple but fear has made it contentious. The pursuit of national prosperity has clashed with an expectation of personal safety such that many people I know refuse to sing “We’ve boundless plains to share” – some because we are not sharing, others because we are!

Either way, people are cranky because their home is not perfect. The problem is of course, no earthly home will ever be perfect and nor will it survive the twists and turns of time. Those who invest all their energy in making their home their castle and thinking it can protect them from the wiles of the world will end up bitterly disappointed every time.

Christians take a different point of view on their home.

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Philippians 3:20-21 

For the person who trusts in Jesus, their home is in heaven. While earthly homes spoil, heaven pours out continual blessings. While earthly homes fall down, heaven stands strong. While earthly homes have a lifespan, heaven is eternal. Knowing you have a home that can never perish, spoil or fade provides a shift in your perspective on life and things. Simply, they don’t matter so much. It is all temporary and we know it.  There is a wonderfully better home that awaits us.

That’s not to say Christians don’t care! We ought to care for and love our neighbours as we love ourselves. But when it comes to our homes, luxury and lifestyle matter little in a world where people have no hope without Jesus.

This Christmas, as you decorate your home and provide sumptuous delights for friends, ponder the temporary home you see but remember the eternal home Jesus offers to all who trust in Him.

Worth the Fuss?

I am sure at some point in the next three weeks you will find yourself asking, is Christmas worth all the fuss? Is it worth celebrating in such an enormous way, with all the presents and people, the shopping expeditions and the traffic jams? Should we just ignore Christmas altogether?

I want to encourage you to see afresh that Christmas is absolutely worth all the fuss because at Christmas we celebrate an event of enormous proportions.

The Bible speaks of some shepherds who were responsible for the welfare of their master’s sheep. One night, angels appear to them and announce that a child had been born – no ordinary child – it was Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world.

When they hear the announcement, the shepherds hurry off, leaving behind their sheep, to find the child. They think it is worth risking the sheep and therefore their livelihood to go and find out more about this child. It is worth leaving everything to seek this child.

When they find Mary and Joseph, and the baby, they discover that the arrival of this child is good news of great joy for all people. They discover that Jesus came to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. He came to secure for us a relationship with God. This is huge news. This is gigantic. And it is this news that we miss amidst the fuss!

We can be so busy tending our sheep, doing all that is required of us at Christmas that we miss the point; that we miss the news; that we fail to ponder what it is all about. We end up making a big fuss over everything except what we should make a fuss over. We end up so wearied by the sheep, that we miss the shepherd.

Can I ask you, to just make sure this Christmas, you stop, amidst the fuss, and consider Jesus Christ, born to bring you to God.

Three ways to do that:

  1. Get onto some Advent Readings – even a few days late – and spend time each day reading your Bible and reminding yourself how awesome Jesus is.
  2. Peel back some of the fuss – make one less salad; buy one less present; go to one less event. Make some time to have some time to remember what it is all about.
  3. Invite a friend who does not know Jesus to church or carols. Sharpen your Christmas by remembering that there are many for whom the true meaning of Christmas is hidden behind Santas, wrapping paper and queues. Take the opportunity to introduce a friend to the real reason for the fuss.

Are we doing what we should do?

One of the hardest things a minister ever has to do is close down a ministry – particularly one that people love! But sometimes it’s the best thing to do because it has stopped working or is not actually something a church should do.

In a previous church I was involved in closing down a much loved and cherished church service. The process was long, arduous and heart-breaking. The people who went along loved being together and loved the style of service. It’s just that no new person had joined them in years and they were not really interested in what the church as a whole was doing in Mission or Maturity. They had become an island that neither allowed embassies nor sent ambassadors. The ministry team decided that serving the few compromised effective ministry to the many.

Closing it down was the right thing to do as that ministry was disabling the church from moving together to reach its community.

As we move forward embedding the 5Ms into our church, we may need to face up to heart-breaking realities. It is possible that some of our ministry activities are no longer effective. It is possible that some of our ministry activities exist as islands and need to be reconnected. It is possible that some of our ministry activities do not fit in with our vision and strategies.

We need to evaluate all our ministries to see how they fit and whether they are being effective as we seek to be a growing Christian community devoted to maturing in Jesus for the glory of God.

Let me illustrate using Krafty Kritters. On a Friday night once a month, a group of people meet to do craft together at the church. The group is coordinated by a highly motivated volunteer who makes sure gatherings are advertised and that the room is set up and ready with tables and supper before people arrive. The group is open to new people from both inside and outside church and members actively invite friends who don’t know Jesus so they can be engaged in Christian conversation while sharing a hobby. Doing craft has a large following in our culture and this group provides an avenue for those with a reclusive hobby to connect with Christians and prayerfully, with Jesus. The leader has enquired of staff as to how to make the most of the opportunity and some ideas and training have been made available.

I see in Krafty Kritters an effective ministry providing opportunities for Membership and Mission. I say, may the group continue on!

It would be great to see all our ministries and groups use the 5M framework to evaluate what they are doing and perhaps change, sharpen or focus their energies. It may even be that some groups take the courageous step to think “We could be using our energies more effectively in another way to achieve the plans God has for us!”

What is your Next Step?

You might have noticed that the name of the card you are given when you arrive at church has changed! This is not just mere cosmetics – the new card is designed to create a fundamental shift in the way we think about what happens at church.

Last week I mentioned in a few services Couch to 5K. It is a step by step running program that is designed to help anyone of any level of fitness to run 5km non-stop. The key to the program is following the steps. If you are sitting on the couch eating a tub of ice cream, the idea of running 5km is ridiculous. But the idea of walking down the street for 20 minutes is probably not. And that is where it starts. You go step by step, improving all the time working towards the goal.

The Christian life is much the same. Or should be. Step by step, working towards the goal. But preachers like me have often not acknowledged this and have painted a picture of the Christian life and Christian discipleship that is practically unattainable. To be sure, the Bible speaks in absolute terms – take for example Ephesians 4:

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

The idea of ridding yourself of all anger/ hate/ lust/ sin might sound ridiculous. But what if I told you it was a step by step process? What if I told you to work hard at it with the Spirit and to keep improving? What if I asked you this: what is the next step for you in squelching your sin? That is an easier question and a realistic one that you can prayerfully work on now. Anyone can take one step towards being more Christ-like!

The Next Steps Card is designed to help you do just that… take the next step in your Christian walk. Each week in church, we want you to consider filling it in. Perhaps you will write your next step and take that card home to remind you. You can also hand it in and we will pray for you, remind you of your next step via email or phone and guide you where you need help. The choice is yours.

But we’re doing this so we don’t see church as just a moment in our week but as a growing opportunity. This is the shift the Next Step card helps us to make.

We don’t want anyone to stand still. We are called to be growing together in Christ. Let’s encourage one another in this often.

 

Vision Thinking

VisionDonut_Ms001I have rarely been as excited about a church service or so thankful for all that happened at church as I was last Sunday. Megachurch was a blast – not just because God brought together about 300 people to glorify Him – but because we committed to a new vision together.

In a world where clarity is sorely lacking and those who are part of the church are seen as deluded fools, we took a step to bring clarity by adopting a Vision Statement and wisdom by pursuing God’s five purposes for us. It was a wonderful time but it does not end there.

In our Growth Groups, in Church and in our homes we will be embedding this vision and purpose over the next four weeks. Don’t forget to bring your book to Church and Growth Group as it contains outlines and studies for you. If you don’t have a book you will be able to pick one up on Sunday.

If you missed it (or want to be reminded of all that happened), then I want to urge you to click the following links to catch up and get on board with all that we are praying God will do amongst us over the next 5 years.

Watch the Introductory Video.

Listen to the Vision Launch.

Listen the Sermon – Purpose #1 – Magnification.

Watch the church commit to the Vision.

Get your copy of the Vision Booklet here.

Get your copy of the Kids’ Vision Booklet here.

I am really excited by all God has planned for us and I would love you to lift your eyes to all God is doing among us. Share stories. Pray together. Think together. All that we do in life is for the glory of God so others might join us in glorifying Him. Let’s pray for our church as we engage with God’s plans for us over the next four weeks and beyond.