18 March 2020
Further to my email last night, I wanted to share with you how we are intending to ‘do’ church together in light of the Church of England’s decision to suspend all public worship gatherings.
Right at the heart of how we go about ‘doing’ church is the idea of ‘being’ church. In the New Testament, the word used for church is ekklesia which means ‘gathering’ or ‘assembly.’ It is never about a physical building or a particular place. It’s always about people: followers of Jesus Christ who exist together as brothers & sisters in a church family.
The writer to the Hebrews gave these instructions to a group of 1st Century believers: 23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23-25)
We’ve been thinking about how to apply these verses in the light of government and church guidelines. In other words: how can we continue to ‘meet’ together when we are not able to ‘meet’? We want to be a church where, by God’s grace, everyone is committed to: praying, growing, caring and loving…
- We’re committed to PRAYING to our Father…
4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
Please join me in praying for the world, our nation, our community and our church family. We will be encouraging everyone to set aside a regular time for prayer during this pandemic. That might be a weekly slot, or just part of your daily routine. Whatever it is, let’s be intentional in our praying. To help us with that, we hope to provide videos and prayer points each week (probably on a Wednesday) to guide and encourage your prayers. As a team, we are praying that our church will be united and fervent in prayer as we express our dependence on our heavenly Father for all that we need in this difficult time.
- We’re committed to GROWING in Christ…
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)
Christians need to be continually feeding on God’s word for our spiritual health and growth. To this end, from this Sunday we are planning to post videos via our YouTube channel for our youth; for families & children, and for adults. The latter will include the sermon from our ‘Servant King’ series in GX.
We are encouraging Growth Groups and Connect Groups to continue meeting together virtually and I know many are beginning to work out the most effective ways of doing that. James Leach will continue to produce study notes for the Mark’s Gospel series and he will be supporting Growth Group Leaders as they work out how best to encourage and care for their groups. As a team, we are praying that rather than ‘retreating’ during this time, we would be growing spiritually as a church, as we look to God and trust his word.
- We’re committed to CARING for one another…
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love
for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
As a church family we are to be a picture of Christ’s love in how we care for each other. Growth Groups and Connect Groups are right at the heart of this. They will be the primary vehicle through which we are caring for one another as a church family and I am thankful for the leaders in our groups who are already stepping up in this area.
We recognise, however, that some people are not in a small group, and others who are may have needs, either spiritual or practical, that cannot easily be met by those in their group. Where this is the case, Jeremy Ellis will co-ordinate our response so that people receive the care they need. He will work closely with the Service Pastors (James Leach at The 9 & The 10:45; Ben Clarke at The 4; Jeremy Ellis at The 6:30 and Jill Roth at The 8 and The 11:15) to ensure that we are especially looking out for the more vulnerable amongst us.
If you, or another member of the church family you know, have specific needs that can’t be met by your small group, then please let us know, either through your Growth/Connect Group leaders, or by contacting the church office: 01753 883311 | firstname.lastname@example.org. Some will find themselves in financial hardship; some will need food and prescriptions collecting; some will need phone calls to ease the loneliness. Whatever your need please let us know and please tell us how you are able to serve others with theirs. Thank you to those who have done this already – you are a huge encouragement! As a team, we are praying that our love for one another will be something that brings glory to God in the eyes of a watching world.
- We’re committed to LOVING our neighbour…
15But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15)
We also want to ensure that our love for one another bleeds outwards in to our communities, so that we are showing Jesus’ love to our neighbours. We do this practically, by meeting their felt needs wherever we can. We also do it verbally, as we speak of the hope that is ours in the gospel. If they are self-isolating and we are not, we have a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate God’s care for them by serving them practically. Ultimately though, the greatest gift we can offer is the hope of eternal life in Jesus. As a team we are praying that this will be a moment in the life of our church when we are renewed in our evangelistic zeal. In a world gripped by fear and despair we have the most precious thing of all. Hope. In Jesus Christ.
Further information will follow on in due course, but we wanted to give you an update as soon as we could. For the sake of absolute clarity, there will be no mid-week groups or ministries (i.e. Connect Groups, Growth Groups, EQUIP, The River, Echo, Prayer Central, Friendship Lunches, Tiny Tots, Junior Jivers, Alpha, FL Thursday coffee and chat, etc). The staff are now working from home, but the Saint James Centre is open for any staff who may need to work here. We are working hard to establish the systems and processes that we need, but please bear with us: some things aren’t quite as slick as we’d like them to be!
We are sinful people living in a fallen world, but we have a glorious saviour who came to make all things new. Our gospel hope is beautifully captured in these words at the end of the Bible where we read: “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.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ (Revelation 21:4-5)
My prayer is that when this crisis has passed, God will have transformed us more in to the likeness of his Son, Jesus Christ. He will do this as we commit to praying to our Father; growing in Christ; caring for one another and loving our neighbour.
To him be the glory.