‘Vision Sunday. Sunday 7th November, All Saints.
I wanted to take this Sunday after All Saints Day to focus upon our direction for the coming year and months ahead. A Vision Sunday.
Jonah and Mark. Jonah is asked again to go and do the things he was asked to at the start. This is after his trauma – I mean shipwreck, swallowed by a big fish for three days then spat out with incredible force. Mark there is now change. Ministry has all changed. The previous model was: John is out preaching and baptizing; Jesus is also at ministry. We see that in John 1-4. That is how things were and it was going pretty well. Crowds went out to John. He was outspoken direct. Yet as John 3 says: ‘’people were constantly coming to be baptized.’’
Then it all changes in the blink of an eye. ‘’After John was put in prison’’. He is arrested because Herod the main local king did not like how John was speaking about his sinful lifestyle.
Corona was a blink of an eye moment wasn’t it. Start of the year, we were aware of the issues in China and then in a few other countries. March 8th we knew things were changing but we had worshipped here. That was the last Sunday most of us received bread and wine. March 15th services were stopped. Blink of an eye.
Now with John in prison things change further. Now it is suggested that before that arrest, Jesus was involved in ministry and people like Andrew, James, John spent time with him. We hear in John about Jesus visit to Jerusalem where he clears the temple, the wedding at Cana, Nicodemus speaks to him, and his disciples are baptizing people as Jesus did. Yet after John is put in prison, Jesus starts to call Andrew, James John and Peter to follow him – to leave it all, their work. It suggests before prison, they were doing both. But now the times had changed. Their role in God’s work had changed. His calling upon them changed. So it was not the same calling as before but a new role and place in God’s work.
So. Continuity – after a difficult experience, returning to what God has called us to be and do. Discontinuity – things are different after these past almost 20 months – it is a new time. With that – what is the Lord inviting you to start doing again – that you did, but now you can. What is now inviting you into doing, a new season, a new era, he is inviting you to leave things and serve him in a new way or a much deeper way.
In that place, going ahead, we need to think about who we are, be reminded. Jonah is a man shaped who he knows God is – that is why he runs away and he gets angry.
All Saints – who are we? What is in a name…
We have welcomed Melchior into our community – his name, like all of us, as parents, put thought and consideration into the names we give to our children.
All Saints will be 6 years old next month on December 20th – sounds like we need a big cake to celebrate! Why are we called All Saints. The original planting leadership team and I, prayed and settled on this name All Saints and there are three reasons and it reminds us of who we are as a church and seek to be. When people ask, who is All Saints, this is your starter.
We call ourselves All Saints because we are ALL Saints regardless of our background, our age, gender, personality, education, nationality. We are all saints – and this is a consistent biblical teaching. The NT does not say, as Christians, that you are sinners. Unfortunately the church over the years has focused on, what you could say ‘BIG S’ Saints, the heros and heroines of faith down through the centuries. They are such an example. But what happens is that we forget that the bible says you are a saint. Just see the start of 2 Cor, Ephesians and Philippians for example. So we are united in our identity. It means as you look at those you sit with – they are a saints, you are a saints – we are all saints – so whether that person you like them or not, they are a saint, whether you agree or disagree with them about corona regulations, they are a saint, whether they prefer modern worship songs or traditional hymns, they are a saint, whether they are similar to you or very very different, they are a saint. So we as a community, we are all saints.
How are we ALL SAINTS? How are we that. Through the blood of Jesus – through his death and resurrection. It is not what we do, how much bible we read, whether we go to church, give money, pray etc. It is through our relationship with Jesus Christ that we become and are ALL SAINTS. That means. When you can encourage yourself. Your identity does not depend on what you do, but who you are. So often we beat ourselves up – we do not do enough, we are not holy enough, we are not living a Jesus shaped life this week. Your identity is that you are a saint because of who you know and not what you do.
Now. How do enter into that relationship with Jesus, you can say, It is about Thanks, Sorry Please. Thanks for all Jesus has done; Sorry for how we have lived our lives separate from him, ignoring him maybe even rejecting him; and please – asking him to come in and be the centre, be the lord, be the new gravity inside you…
We are All Saints through Jesus.
Finally, We are called to live as All Saints. That means in our work places, our families, our streets, our travels, we live as saints, set apart. We are not just saints – here but out there. At times that means we live in a way that goes the way of culture. Christians should be nodding basically at the desire in the world to care for this creation – for we have known that is the importance God gave us at the start – be stewards of this world so all can prosper. People are talking about the wealthy nations being aware of the poorer ones in vaccine distribution as well as the effects of climate damage. Again, we are people who are called by Jesus – to love your neighbor, even love your enemy. But at times, being saints means we go against the flow, we have to swim upstream and that can lead to trouble, being ignored maybe being persecuted as we know one in 8 Christians face high levels of persecution for being saints in the world.
So, we are ALL SAINTS – all of us; how are we All Saints – through the blood of Jesus; and we are called to live as Saints in our world.
As we think about vision, we think about who we are.
We seek to be a Church of UP, IN,OUT.
Now. We have taken this a step further. We seek to be a church of Up, In, Out – a three dimensional church. What this looks like, we are committed to the importance of worship and prayer – UP.
We are committed to IN – Deep Community and Life Long Discipleship. Deep community – it is easy to say we are a community yet we can face the temptations not to be open and vulnerable – to be deep means the masks come off and All Saints needs to be a safe space where this can happen – deep community. And lifelong discipleship. This has been our focus in the past months – exploring more what it means to live a Jesus shaped life. A conscious decision within us – as Dallas Willard says: ‘’ A disciple is a person who has decided that the most important thing in their life is to learn how to do what Jesus said to do.’’ This is not head knowledge as we said last week, this is hearing and putting it into practice, standing on the rock, not on sand.
So Up – worship and prayer, In – Deep Community and Life Long Discipleship – and finally OUT – we believe in OUT meaning, two things, like two wings of a bird. Serving Others and Evangelism.
Serving others takes many forms.
Evangelism means sharing the good news of Jesus. It does not mean that sharing the good news starts with words it may be our lives our actions, but at some point we will need to speak about our faith.
When we think of OUT – we seek to have consciously a global and local focus. Global – we are part of God’s one body in his world. We seek to play our part in his work not just locally but globally – that may be through giving, through praying, it may mean speaking out for others and it may mean going there. A scripture I reencountered a while ago: ‘’When he saw the crowds he had compassion on them because trhey were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few, Ask the Lord of the Harvest therefore to send out workers into his harvest field.’ People are praying that prayer in out parts of our world. Maybe the Lord may stir some of us to go. We look at our world – we pray that prayer, inviting the Lord to help us become part of his mission among the plentiful harvest. That can mean we leave here, it may mean the Lord sends us somewhere unexpected…
So UP, IN OUT.
The third step is to share what we – as council – feel our focus is to be in the coming months. This has come out of prayer, that lead things to be shared at the Council away day and some decisions were made by the council and myself as to the next steps…
Five themes for the months ahead – Community, Discipleship and Prayer; Building and Coordinators.
A theme that is clear among the council – better to do a few things well, than to try a lot of things and perhaps not get them done, or not done at all well.
Community we have two concerns.
Reforming our Community. We are coming out of Corona restrictions. Some people have not met each other for sometime / only seen some people over these past months. It is about reforming our community.
Corona clearly disrupted our community dynamic. Due to Corona and in general also, we have some people who know each other well; others who do not know others outside of their life group / friendship circles.
New People: We also have some new people who want to get to know our community – how to help that process. This is not about new people just feeling welcome on a Sunday this is about new people feeling part of the heart, the core of the community and not on the fringes or edges.
Community: we will take below three initial actions
Photos – renewing, updating developing, our photoboard for a start, pictures of those involved in ministries etc. Including indicating who may be a brother of whom etc.
Food. Eating together. Corona regulations make this more tricky at the moment. We have wanted to do a BBQ this month; we want to see if we arrange a potluck meal, as a church before Christmas. It is about coming together with food.
Worshipping together: the importance of being able to worship together as a community in one service and also the role of coffee. This are in progress already as you know.
Those are the starting ideas we will work on. Can you help?
Adult Teaching: There is only so much we can do on a Sunday morning in a service. Been on my (Grant’s) heart for awhile to have input outside of a Sunday, and outside of Life Groups. We have done this – eg the Psalms morning by John, the Faith Sharing sessions by Peter. But to make this a consistent part of our offering as a church.
Children and Young People: We are blessed with a wonderful number of children and young people. A trust from God. The aim to take this work to a next level.
So moving forward. Children and Young People. In consultation with Sara and others, to look at our 4-12 work, our work with 12-16, and the possibilities of catechism. What is the next step of development. We have restarted Emmaus, and we will hold two Holiday Clubs a year – we had a fun one last month and we will hold another one in March. Can you help Sara in the Sunday School.
Adult. Monthly input on a range of core topics – and contemporary topics. Core meaning topics such as Bible, Who is God, Discipleship, Mission etc. The core topics to alternate with contemporary ones. By contemporary namely topics that important to engage with as a church at this time.
Two topics I would like to explore will be – Burnout; and secondly, how to live faith, to pray, while we experience depression.
The council members will be asking you what topics over the coming 3 years, you would like covering.
We will create a programme for 2022 of the topics – core and contemporary.
The first session may begin in December, if not, then in January.
Prayer undergirds all that we do.
So to develop our prayer life.
Monthly Prayer Meeting – for matters relating to the life of All Saints – on Wednesday 17th November. At Beatrijs home.
To offer prayer ministry training, in terms of series of sessions in January til March – to grow this basic Christian skill among us as a church as well as grow our team so that weekly prayer ministry can resume by if not before Easter. Currently it is every two weeks.
From Jan til Easter, to do some teaching on Prayer Walking – one way of being out, to pray for your local areas.
From January to establish a regular prayer and praise service pattern, which will include sections of prayer looking at our global connections – Open Doors, Compassion, Albania – Edi Demo, Jorin in Lebanon and also other opportunities that may be bubbling. This would be a separate event outside of the Sunday. Our next experiment at this will be on November 28th, on Sunday evening.
Then in Ascension til Pentecost, to consider offering a 24—7 prayer room during that week between Ascension and Pentecost.
So that is Prayer.
Now, I mentioned two other areas, which are perhaps less tangible but important to share with you as this are being worked upon.
At this stage what we wanted to say is that David and Mark are involved in looking back at what we have been considering and what options we have for the future. We are aware that we have not communicated well about what we are doing and where we are at. So Mark and David will by the end of this year, share in a service where we are at currently, to update you.
In Acts 6, we read of the first deacons appointed. When we read it, we see how it seems that the apostles had helped establish an important food programme for the widows in the community. Yet probems have arose. The need or the ministry has grown too big. So it is no longer being done well enough. There is grumbling. And the apostles work is also being hindered. So the apostles hand it over. As we establish new ministries in All Saints or as ones continue to grow, or the need becomes bigger, it is important we identify people to take a lead or to be someone who coordinates it happening. This varies from situation to situation. What Sara does as Sunday School coordinator, is different from what Anneke does as Prayer Ministry coordinator or from what Ron did as Prayer Ministry coordinator. But as we continue to offer Life Groups, Alpha, developing our Prayer Life, we will need to identify coordinators. People who work with me or the council etc to organize or develop a work within the church.
So five areas we are focusing upon: Community, Discipleship, Prayer, Building, Coordinators.
Some of these are not new. That is the continuity we mentioned at the start. Some are new – the new situation we are in. For some of us it is stepping again into ministries we were involved in. For some, is the Lord inviting you into a new role, a deeper role in this church…
As a church, we seek to follow our Lord. They left all and followed. They heard the voice. We do not want to be like Jonah ignoring, running away, or grumpy at what the Lord is doing.
So shall we pray.