2011 Church Council Vision Cast
I have three questions for you this morning:
1. What is your ultimate vision of the future?
What motivates you to get up in the morning? What excites you about the future? What drives you to realise your goals in life? What do you long to see our world become?
Here is the ultimate biblical vision of the future:
“ Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away…
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 21:1-4; 22:1-2)
When someone gives me a book they think I should read, I usually check out the last page and then decide if its worth reading. If I don’t like the ending, I question whether its worth reading. Revelation 21-22 is the consummation of God’s redemptive plan prepared before the creation of the world.
God’s redemptive plan accomplished through the incarnation, the death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s redemptive plan that will finally be realised when the Lord Jesus returns in glory and we experience face to face, reconciliation of God and true harmony among the nations.
“God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away…” (Revelation 21:3-4)
This is what our world will become when the Lord Jesus Christ returns for those who trust him. This is the ultimate vision of the future to must fix our eyes on. This is the Christian hope upon which we stand secure. So, let me ask you is this your vision of the future?
2. How do we hold on to this vision when the world seems to be going to hell?
Tomorrow we will mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11. For those of us not old enough to remember the horrors of the Second World War, 9/11 is probably the most awful day in our collective memory at least in the West. Hell on earth is one way to describe that terrifying day at Ground Zero in New York and Washington. Then the storm of retribution we unleashed in Baghdad and Iraq in the months that followed.
But without wishing to minimise the horror of that day, or its collective effect, many, many, more people have, and do, die on a daily basis in other countries ruled by tyrants, oppressed by repressive regimes or torn apart by civil war, especially Christians. The list of countries is lamentably long and sometimes closer to home than we would wish – Somalia, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Tibet, North Korea and Turkey, Egypt, Palestine…
And the reality is, the Church has always suffered persecution from the very beginning, as it does in most countries in the world in some form or another. It was within the refining fire of persecution that the church has not only survived but flourished. Let me read to you some words of Tacitus, the Roman historian, writing around 64AD describes the experience of Christians in Rome.
“As a consequence, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians… Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.”
How did the early church hold on to their calling and their vision? In Revelation 2-3, the Lord Jesus writes a letter to seven churches to encourage them to persevere. What we have in these letters is a kind of performance appraisal.
Jesus praises them where they are faithful to their calling and vision. Jesus challenges them where they are not. Each church was distinctive, their context very different. Therefore the Lord’s appraisal of each church is unique. Yet in the seven letters the concluding sentence begins the same way “the one who is victorious…” The ESV translates it as “conquers” – and means ‘the one who overcomes…” Commentators tell us these are covenant promises. This is what Jesus is promising to do if believers remain faithful. Each is a different facet of the same promise – Here are the seven verses:
“To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7)
“The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.” (Revelation 2:11)
“To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” (Revelation 2:17)
“To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give that one the morning star.” (Revelation 2:26-28)
“The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.” (Revelation 3:5)
“The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name.” (Revelation 3:12)
“To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.” (Revelation 3:21)
I encourage you to meditate on, and draw strength from these very personal promises, these covenantal assurances.
Jesus made them not just for the Christians of the first century but to all who overcome obstacles, who conquer temptation, who are victorious over sin. Like the Apostle Paul,
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)
3. What then is our responsibility in realising our God given vision of the future?
Which brings us back to today. Our task is not, I suggest, to look back wistfully at the Church in Acts 2, and try and replicate their experience, or try and find a secret formula that will enable us to recreate some idyllic existence, or the perfect church.
Its tempting to imagine what it must have been like on a daily basis, God’s blessing poured out in dramatic miracles; thousands saved; Christians living in complete harmony with one another; where there were never any disagreements; where all the church council decisions were unanimous; the PA never went wrong; services kept to time; the children were well behaved; and the budget was always in surplus. If only….
Yes, we can learn much from the Church in Acts, as we are on Sunday evenings, but we don’t look back, we look forward.
We look forward to the ultimate vision to which Christ is calling us at the end of Revelation. This should motivate us to persevere until Christ returns.
In anticipation of the day when Jesus will give to those who are victorious, “a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” (Revelation 2:17), I invite you to take a white stone as a reminder of these covenantal promises.
You may like to hold it, or look at it, as we reflect upon our 2020 Vision and adult ministry in particular. We believe the Lord has given us this 2020 Vision for the next phase in the life of our church. It is a kind of incremental step, or should be, toward this ultimate and glorious vision.
Imagine Christ Church as a church…
…that connects with doubters, seekers and believers and becomes something that everyone wants to be part of
…of every age, race and colour putting their relationship with God first, meeting together regularly to worship Him and becoming one in Christ
…of fully devoted, spiritual Christ followers passionate for an ever-deeper relationship with God
…where everyone is fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit, exercising their God-given gifts in joyful and fulfilling service
…where every member is totally committed to making disciples of all nations
Vision for Services
Imagine services where our praise, worship and teaching are truly pleasing to God
Imagine services that connect with doubters, seekers and believers and become something everyone wants to be part of
Imagine uplifting services where the Bible teaching builds you up and equips you to live for Christ
Vision for Discipleship
Imagine everyone becoming mature in Christ and fully equipped for their God-given ministry
Imagine a church family investing whatever it takes to become fully devoted followers of Christ
Imagine every church member committed to a daily quiet time of biblical reflection and prayer and to regular corporate prayer
Imagine our church as a centre for excellence for training in Christian living
Vision for Small Groups
Imagine everyone being a member of, and growing in, a Bible-centred Small Group
Imagine our Small Groups as safe, inclusive and welcoming places for high quality learning, nurture, support and mutual accountability
Imagine an ever-expanding network of Small Groups equipped and led by gifted and trained leaders
Vision for Pastoral Care
Imagine our church as a welcoming and safe place where members respond to the needs of others in timely, practical and prayerful ways complementing local community services
Imagine everyone at our church feeling loved and cared for
Imagine us having a growing team equipped to meet all kinds of pastoral needs
I pray that the outcome of today will be as if the Lord Jesus were to write “To the Church in Virginia Water….” I want us to be praying today and listening to one another to discern what Jesus might praise us for? What might he challenge us over? And what he would have us prioritise in 2011-12? Then lets get to work and collectively pool and prioritise our time, our talents, our energy and resources to serve him faithfully. So, are we ready for our appraisal to begin? Let’s pray.