On Sunday 5th February 2017, Chris Smedley (our rector) and Simon Bentley (out Youth, Children's and Community Worker) spoke at both morning service about the values and vision for St. Michael's. The key points are summarised as:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind (Luke 10:27)
Step 1: affection for God (akin to falling in love). As our affection grows, we get to know God more and more, and vice versa.
Step 2: living it out, which involves thinking about the desires and needs of the other person, even if it is costly to ourselves. Our life changes, because we don't just think about our own needs.
Our highest priority is to fall in love with God. This love must captivate every part of our lives. It must arrest one's heart, soul, mind and strength. It is not enough to have purely cognitive love for God. What kind of love would it be if the mind alone was impressed? No, this love must grip every part of us. Only when we are seized by this affection at every level, and in every part of our lives, will we truly be empowered to love others and indeed love ourselves. (Roland Baker, "Keep the Fire")
Without this we are no more than the Social Services - doing lots of good things but in our own strength. Our greatest, greatest need is to be hungry for God, to desire him. It's about
• seeking first the Kingdom of God
• making Him our first priority
• each day, make being with him our first goal - even while walking the dog or sitting down with a cup of tea.
If we are serious about loving God, we should make the Lent Course a priority.
Loving the body of Christ
Love your neighbour as yourself (Luke 10:27)
"Neighbour" comprises two groups: the church family (or the body of Christ, or Christians in general) and the lost (not-yet-Christians).
By this shall all people know that you are my disciples by your love for one another (John 13:35)
The problem is that love is tough, especially when people aren't like us! We may be living stones (1 Peter 2:5), but we rough stones - damaged, easily rubbed up the wrong way and with different gifts.
"Community" demands that we go beyond our natural shyness and fears to become less self-centred and to reach out to others. What might this look like?
• looking out for people alone, speaking to them and showing an interest in them
• maybe inviting them to something
• meeting them
• inviting them into our homes
Home groups are critical to the life of the church; a place where friendships are forged and trust is developed. Everyone should be in a home group!
Loving the lost
There are usually two processes that "lost" people go through
• not realising they are lost
• realising their "lostness" - this is when they need a map and reorienting
We are lost without Christ. He is the light of the world; we are made for a relationship with him. After all, Jesus came to 'seek and save that which was lost' (Luke 19:10)
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and 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 surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)
Our values can now inform and shape our vision. We see from our values that our purpose is to love God, the lost and the body of Christ (reflected in our motto of "Reaching up, Reaching out, Together"). We can then ask whether our groups and ministries fit that purpose. And if the answer is that they don't fit the purpose, then some things need to change. As the saying goes, "if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got." And in the same vein, a more challenging saying is "don't claim you want to grow and then run away the minute you feel growing pains."
Imagine that you run a sandwich shop. Would you sell only your favourite type of sandwich (bacon, brie and cranberry, perhaps)? No, you'd provide a wide variety, of course. And the place would be warm and welcoming, with friendly staff and comfortable seating. And the equipment in the kitchen would work.
So what does this look like in the church setting?
• Having a warm and comfortable building (we'll have more information about what this means fairly soon)
• Having technology (including audio-visual) that works well and unobtrusively
• Reviewing how we perform as a loving, welcoming community - something for everyone to think about, not just the leaders
• Providing a variety of ways for people to connect with God (this is a bit like the sandwiches!)
• Continually asking ourselves whether we do things because we've always done them, or are there more effective ways of loving God, the lost and the body of Christ.
We are experiencing amazing growth in many ministries within the church. We have over 100 babies and children attending their various groups each week, and we regularly reach over 100 adults each week, too. It's exciting to realise that we are part of something bigger than we thought! And at least half of the ministries don't even take place in the church building - they may be in the hall, homes and elsewhere in the community.
Let us continually recognise that everything we do must have a purpose and must help us get to our vision and goal of Loving God, Loving the Lost and Loving our Neighbour, otherwise we are simply a social club. So lets ask God how we can...
• Love Him more
• Love the lost more
• Love the body of Christ more
• Do things differently in order to get a different, better result