Imagine a church that is a welcoming and safe place where everyone feels loved, accepted and cared for. Imagine a church where doubters, seekers and believers feel accepted. Imagine a church of every age, race and colour, becoming one in Christ. Imagine a church of fully devoted, spiritual, Christ followers, passionate for an ever-deeper relationship with God. Imagine a church where the praise, worship and teaching are truly pleasing to God. Imagine uplifting services where the Bible teaching builds up the church family and equips members to live for Christ. Imagine a church impacting the lives of children, youth and students from all areas of the local community to become fully devoted followers of Christ. Imagine a church where everyone is fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit, exercising their God-given gifts in joyful and fulfilling service.
Imagine a church family informed, inspired and eager to meet the needs of local, national and international mission. Imagine a church in which members are regularly being called into ministry, locally, nationally and internationally. Imagine being part of such a church. Imagine helping to build, to create such a church. Imagine. Our 2020 Vision is built on three words that sum up our purpose – Win – Build – Send. Evangelism, Discipleship and Mission. In our Bible reading from Mark 1, at the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus said, “Come, follow me … and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Mark 1:17).
Here the order is Build – Send – Win. That is because this is a cyclical mission strategy and so it doesn’t matter where we begin. And similarly where you are on your spiritual journey, there is a message here for you. As you listened to me read our 2020 Vision, which sentences stood out for you? You probably heard different things to those next to you. You may have felt different emotions as well.
Some of you might be confused. You are not sure why you are here. That’s OK. You have yet to hear the call of Jesus “Come, Follow me”. Well, if that’s you then, unashamedly I say, we want to win you for Christ in 2015.
For others, hearing the 2020 Vision again was a comfort. “This is why I am here you are thinking. This is my spiritual home, this is my family, my place of service, I would not want to be anywhere else.” If that is you, then I say unashamedly, we want to build you in your faith in 2015, to make you even more fruitful.
And some of you are neither confused nor comforted, but hearing the 2020 Vision again has brought conviction. You know that God is speaking to you about mission. And I want to say unashamedly to you, we want to send you out in 2015, because we also grow by multiplication.
The last two weeks Joanna and I were in Hong Kong visiting our daughter Louise and her husband. We attended their church, The Vine on two Sundays and I spoke at their Manna Bible School. But I discovered they do something before every Sunday service that blew me away. They use a ten minute countdown so that their services always start bang on time with praise and worship. But they have a more important reason for the countdown. As the seconds count down, they show a inspiring images of their church and community on the screen. And while these were being shown someone read the words of their vision statement. And they do this before every service. That means everyone in the church family is familiar with their vision, their priorities, their purpose, their reason for existing. I like that. Watch this space. In our Spring sermon series we are meeting Jesus in the Gospel of Mark.
Today we will discover the origins of our strategy.
1. Build: The Call of Jesus is for Discipleship
“Come, follow me…”
1.1 This was a Passionate Call
This was a command not an invitation. “Come,” literally means “come here…. your destiny is to follow me!” For the disciples this meant leaving their nets (verse 1:18), their father, their boats and hired men (1:20). In 1st century Palestine it was the norm for disciples to choose their rabbi. Like the way people tend to choose their church for a particular style of worship or preaching. Here Jesus reverses the tradition and does the choosing. He calls. This was a passionate call.
1.2 This was a Purposeful Call
“Come, follow…” conveys the idea of following as a learner, committed to imitating the one being followed.
That is why as a church we place such an emphasis on our Sunday clubs, our Thursday courses and bible study groups. We presently have around 10 groups meeting weekly or fortnightly around the community for prayer, bible study and fellowship. We plan to host a new one at the Vicarage from February and Simon and Naomi will be starting one after Easter. If you are not presently in a bible study group and are interested, let us know. And for the five weeks of Lent prior to Easter we will have a teaching series based on Rick Warren’s book, “The Purpose driven Life”. We will be encouraging everyone to read a short chapter a day for the 40 days of Lent and discover more about the purposeful call to follow Jesus. This was a passionate call. A purposeful call.
1.3 This was a Personal Call
“Come, follow me” Jesus calls us to follow him, not a denomination, not a sect, not a theological system but himself. But some make the mistake of assuming being a Christian is simply believing in Jesus. As a result, in much of the world Christians have given Jesus a bad name.
When I visit Muslim majority countries I encounter a lot of ignorance and misunderstanding as to what a Christian is. One way I try and cut through the confusion is to quote Jesus “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). Then I say, a follower of Jesus is someone who follows the teaching of Jesus.
If someone is not following the teaching of Jesus they are not following Jesus. The Apostle Paul said “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1). This was a passionate call, a purposeful call and a personal call. The disciples’ obedience was immediate: they left the nets, and followed Jesus. Are you willing to follow him, whereever he leads in 2015? After his resurrection and ascension, in the Book of Revelation, Jesus says,
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Revelation 3:20).
Jesus is calling you just as He called Peter, James and John by the Sea of Galilee. Build: The Call of Jesus is to discipleship.
2. Send: The Commission of Jesus is for Mission
“Come, follow me, and I will send you…” Jesus called the disciples to be his representatives, his ambassadors in other places. God always chooses His representatives.
He chose Noah and Abraham, he chose Moses and David. He chose the prophets. He chose Israel herself to be “a light for the Gentiles” (Isaiah 49:6). Jesus told His disciples,
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (John 15:16)
When Jesus called the disciples, He also equipped and empowered them. In the “Great Commission”, his last words on earth, his final benediction just prior to his ascension, Jesus said.
“All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. 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, 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).
How would he be with them for ever? By his Spirit.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
That is why we place an emphasis on mission as a church. We have twelve mission link partners, mostly with a personal link like Clare Hartley serving with Compassion, Ben Niblet with Tearfund, John Rogers with DAI, David and Esther Wood with Compassion and Agape, and Kristin Nevins with East to West. And this week, be are delighted to announce that Colin Rye will be serving full time with DAI from April – more news to come. Furthermore, our mission partners are linked to our home groups intentionally to reinforce the belief that building up leads to sending out. That is why we expect our home groups especially, but everyone who regards themselves as a member, to come to our First Wednesday gatherings for prayer and mission focus 7:30pm-9:00pm. That is why we support mission trips such as the student visits to Moldova.
That is why I will be in Northern Uganda this week, helping to train clergy from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from South Sudan and Uganda to use the Christianity Explored course. We are also a training parish and have identified, trained and commissioned a succession of men and women to go into full time service.
Next week, Paul and Tanya will be visiting Lausanne to discern whether the Lord is leading them to serve him there. Please pray for them. But you don’t have to go full time or travel abroad to engage in mission. Many of our church family serve with local agencies such as Besom, the Food Bank, the Egham Kitchen, the local retirement homes, the hospital chaplaincy team, with Cruise, and in local prisons.
If the Lord is speaking to you about getting involved in mission, then talk to one of the staff or people mentioned. So far we have discovered that the call of Jesus is to discipleship. And the commission of Jesus is for mission. The third element is
3, Win: The Concern of Jesus is for Evangelism
“Come, follow me, and I will send you to fish for people.” From the beginning Jesus plan was to use disciples to win disciples, which is why the direction of this sentence runs from build, to send, to win. It is cyclical but it is also a catalyst for multiplication rather than simply addition.
He would command His disciples to do other things, but their first priority in following him, was to “fish for people” My father was a part time fisherman.
He would often go out all night fishing off the beach at Lowestoft, in all weathers with his rods, his flask and tilley lamp. We didn’t have a freezer in those days, so, if it was a good night we would eat fish for days, as would our neighbours. In the same way the good news of Jesus is for sharing. Our annual evangelism strategy revolves around the seasons, with termly, monthly and weekly events that are designed to enable us to fish for people.
At Christmas, Easter and Harvest we arrange special services and produce extra literature to promote events at which the good news will be presented simply and clearly. On a termly basis we arrange breakfasts like the one yesterday with Harvey Thomas, the former Director of Communications for the Conservative party blown up in the Brighton Bomb. We arrange termly Christian Explored courses designed to help people discover for themselves who Jesus is, why Jesus came and how we can know him. Our next course begins this Thursday evening so today is your last opportunity to sign up. The termly open air baptism services are significant events designed to bring our friends to, to hear the testimonies and gospel. We also use social events to connect with friends and neighbours – The annual Murder Mystery Play, Harvest Supper, Rogation Walk, Carnival Capers and Summer picnic.
Our Connection magazine goes to every home in Virginia Water and we aim to present something of the good news of Jesus every month. Right now there are four of five roads that need someone to deliver the magazine. If you are interested in joining the team, talk to Lesley or Penny.
Five years ago, we asked 80 church members what or who was most influential in their becoming a Christian. Here are the survey results:
- Parents 27%
- Relative or Friend 23%
- Youth Leader 6%
- Youth Camp 6%
- Bible reading 6%
- Alpha/Christianity Explored 6%
- Pastor 5%
- Sunday School Teacher 4%
- Dream or Revelation 4%
- Christian book 4%
- Church Service 1%
- Mission 0%
- Evangelist 0%
Half of all those surveyed, said a relative or friend was most influential, with parents the largest category. Next in significance, 10% attributed their conversion to a youth leader or youth camp. In total, church based staff, programs and events, accounted for just 20%. What does this tell us? Special events are a useful means to introduce family and friends to Jesus, but they are no substitute for genuine friendship and witness. That is why it is so important we all heed the call of Jesus today.
That is why we have included a summary of the gospel in the sermon outline so that you can always be prepared.
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect: (1 Peter 3:15)
What was the impact of Jesus call that day?
“The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.” (Mark 1:27-28)
This is the basis for our strategy in Virginia Water – to Win people to Christ. Build them in the faith. And send them to do the same. Imagine what our Church will be like when we are fully devoted to Christ, irrevocably committed to each other. Passionately committed to reaching lost people with the good news of Jesus Christ. We will be an unstoppable force for good in our community, an inspiration to other churches, and a testimony to the world of God’s unfailing grace. A Church against which the gates of hell cannot prevail. Welcome to the future of Christ Church. Let us pray together.