Vision: Discipleship

For six months we have been seeking God in prayer and taking input for our VIP. This week we continue our mini-series looking at a summary of that as we look at our new Purpose and Vision.

Purpose

Serving the community of Bedhampton by sharing God’s love and friendship.

Vision

In Bedhampton Parish we seek:

To be part of the whole community building relationships and seeing God’s Kingdom come.
To be a place where the community gathers for celebration and commemoration from birth to grave.
To enable all ages to grow in discipleship and faith in small groups whilst giving and receiving support, love and practical help.
To be a place where all ages gather together to worship God in a range of expressions.

Acts 2:42-47

John 15.13-17

Speaking Notes – Caveat

These notes are my speaking notes and are provided as an accompaniment to the recording. Please accept that they are not intended to be a published grammatically correct essay. I do hope and pray however they help you move towards Jesus.

Now onto the content…

It has been suggested that to be a church who is holistic, that is to be a church whose mission is rounded then we need to look at what we do from three perspectives.

  • From the perspective of looking up to God and how we worship Him.
  • From the perspective of looking out to God’s people in His community in Bedhampton, and how we act justly love mercy and walk humbly with them.
  • And finally from a perspective of looking in, towards ourselves and asking how we are encouraging one another to walk towards Jesus.

Up, Out, In a trinity of perspectives from which filter and balance what we believe we have heard from God.

Out Acts reading models this mode of following Jesus perfectly, as it weaves Up, Out In throughout the passage.

  • Up: Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts… …together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God…
  • Out: They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need… …. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
  • In: They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer… …They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,

Up, Out In and that is also the three areas we have looked at as your church leaders in the PCC when we took your input and prayer from the last six months and wrote what we believe God’s vision and purpose are for us.

Our Purpose has Op, Out In at its heart.

Serving the community of Bedhampton by sharing God’s love and friendship.

And so does our Vision. Indeed the up is weaved through the whole of our vision, all four components. And last week we looked out the out. Which means this week in our final chat in this series we look at the in component four vision.

Outline

  • To be a place where all ages gather together to worship God in a range of expressions.
  • To enable all ages to grow in discipleship and faith in small groups whilst giving and receiving support, love and practical help.

Two vital components and for a change, I am going to tackle them in reverse. So first at Bedhampton we seek:

To be a place where all ages gather together to worship God in a range of expressions.

Or as I like to term it. Big Church.

And big church is an area where we have a massive advantage in Bedhampton. There is still work for us to do but the truth is that we have two venues, which worship God under one purpose and one vision but within at least three or four different expressions of that worship.

If you enjoy a little structure in your big church worship then perhaps St Thomas and 8 o’clock eucharist is for you. Or maybe slight less structured but still a mostly traditional style of worship at the 11. If you prefer a loser expression of worship then 9.30 at St Nicholas is probably a great home for you.

Same awesome God, same loving Holy Spirit and the same Jesus we walk towards. Indeed the same leadership team, same teaching, same purpose, same vision.  We need to celebrate our difference of expression and join one another in joyful celebration as we occasional step into each other’s big church tradition because this a core part of our vision.

And we need to do all of it with excellence. So my focus for this part of our vision will be to explore further the nuances of each expression in Big Church. How we worship God in an even better way through a charismatic band lead style of worship? What can we learn of liturgy such that our morning pray service explodes as people discover the beauty of worshipping God through the word? And how can we see God’s spirit come as we gather around His table in holy communion?

My hope and prayer is that as we walk together in big church that all expressions will grow both in number and discipleship here in Bedhampton.

But I believe God has more for us.

Which brings me to life church or as our vision puts it.

At Bedhampton we seek:

To enable all ages to grow in discipleship and faith in small groups whilst giving and receiving support, love and practical help.

The truth I believe is that Jesus is looking for disciples, not churchgoers. And the truth is that it is much easier to be a churchgoer than a disciple of Jesus.

Big Church-going is neat and tidy, you don’t have to think. You turn up, sing a few songs, listen to a speaker, score the sermon in your head on a scale of one to ten and go home. The problem is after three years you start going to sleep because you have heard all the sermons. Or you simply stop coming because someone upsets you.

I think when we look at Jesus and what he modelled we see that Church is more about community and is more about discipleship and it is more about the journey than we would like to admit.

I believe what we see modelled by Jesus is that church is about doing life with one another, life church. It’s about God’s kingdom coming in the here and now.

But to be a disciple of Jesus in a tight-knit community of followers in life church is a whole lot messier than doing Big church. Doing Life as Small Church is just difficult.

Look at how Jesus told us to be towards one another.

Jesus said in the gospel of Mark

Mark 9: 35 ….‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’… 50 … be at peace with each other.’

Or from today’s  reading

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends… …This is my command: love each other.

Life Church is  messy because it demands so much.

I believe you can only do it in smaller numbers. Perhaps twelve, yes twelve seems like a good number, perhaps someone has thought of that before. With twelve or so it might just be possible to actually to do life church together. It might actually be possible to live as Jesus would want us to live in community together.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. …This is my command: love each other.

With a life church that might actually be possible.

I am not suggesting that we do away with Big church far from it. It is important that we gather and worship God in a range of expressions. What I am saying, is there is more to being a follower of Jesus then scraping into heaven and going to church on a Sunday. That’s not our calling. That’s not life and the life to the full Jesus promises us.

So we might want to rethink what the purpose of the big church is. Perhaps big church is here to equip the life churches, perhaps big church is to lift corporate worship to our God as the small life churches come together. Perhaps big church is to send out small life churches on a journey of doing church together in thre every day. Life church groups that will…

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Matthew 28:19

What would it mean if we were a church community who truly journeyed together? I believe it would turn our nation, our home in Bedhampton upside down.

The Big Idea

Look small life church is not a new idea. Some might say it is two thousand years old. There are plenty of followers of Jesus around the world who structure their gatherings around the small communities, prioritising the small as church. They may come together in the big to share and worship corporately, but they give as much if not more priority to the small then they do the big.

The question for me as your church leader is am I willing to say to you that I would rather you were in your life church then see you on Sunday. Actually I would rather you were in your life church and big church, but if you have to choose. Choose your life church community.

Because the growth I have seen in both me and those I love and journey with says that small life church is the place to be to grow. It is the place to be to be known and to know others. It is the place to be to journey towards our Lord and know him more.

And I believe it’s an idea whose time has come again. It might even be what church was supposed to be in the first place, but certainly our world, our society is ready for intimate friendship and discipleship and love and care once again.

Application

So there you go our Vision and Purpose.  

And my challenge this week is the same as it has been for the last two weeks.

Take away that bookmark with both the Micah verse on it and our purpose and vision and pray each day. God, what does this mean for me? What is my part in this purpose and vision?

But can I ask you to consider one more thing this week? You are here at big church, but what is your life church? Are you part of a homegroup, or another small band of followers of Jesus? If you are not is this the time for you to step up to that? If the answer is yes, then let me help you. As you pray and decide if that is for you let come and tell me and I will enable more small groups, life churches that gather together. Because I belive God has placed that vision upon us.

And once again I believe that if we do what he asks us to do then we will find that we can’t help but to be a church.

Serving the community of Bedhampton by sharing God’s love and friendship. 

So one last time I invite you to come and join us in doing just that.

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