It is a tradition that our Minister writes a letter every month which is printed in our magazine, "The Messenger". Here is Revd Stephen's letter from the September edition.
Happy New Year! Of course, I am talking about the Methodist Church Year which begins on 1 September, but as with any New Year it is good to think about resolutions for the year ahead.
It is, of course, wonderful that our new halls have been completed, but Jesus warned strongly against building bigger barns simply to glory in them for their own sake (Luke 12:16-21). Jesus' Great Commission was never "Sit around and wait for people to come to your churches" but "Go and make disciples" (Matthew 28:19). Mission and evangelism were never intended to be the sole responsibility of a select few, but have always been at the very heart of what it means to be a Christian. Indeed, membership and discipleship are really the means to developing into Christ-like maturity, from which mission and evangelism naturally flow.
Similarly Jesus' Great Commandment was not "Go to church every week and get on as many rotas as you can" but "Love God with everything you are, and love your neighbour as yourself." (Mark 12:28-31).
Here at Four Oaks it is our commitment to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment that will make us a great church. Similarly, a great church is not one that looks fine, or one that boasts high attendance, but one where the hurting, the hopeless, the discouraged, the depressed, the frustrated, and the confused can find love, acceptance, guidance and encouragement. For in such a church one encounters Jesus himself.
Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and Bishop Robert Schnase of the United Methodist Church agree that the key word is intentional. Health and growth don't just happen in a church. They must b planned. In fact, Bishop Robert goes on to outline five core practices of every healthy and growing church:
- Radical Hospitality
- Passionate Worship
- Intentional Faith Development
- Risk-Taking Mission Service
- Extravagant Generosity
Now, many churches would list these five unqualified nouns as their purpose. But Pastor Rick reminds us that churches are not for our purpose at all - Jesus' purposes are outlined in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, and so without the associated Kingdom focus that comes with those five additional adjectives the church will fail, because it is built on sand rather than rock. (Matthew 7:24-27)
So, what is our New Year's Resolution? Again, it is not up to me, Marilyn or indeed any of the leadership team to do this work on our own. Every member must play their part. Everyone must resolve to engage seriously with the Great Commandment and the Great Commission - that's not me telling you, that's Jesus telling you.
My own heart is to see a development of the "cells" or small groups in the church. Since Wesley's time these have been fundamental to the life of every Methodist, yet they go way back to the early church. (Acts 2:42-47) Cell groups are not primarily social events however. Groups meet primarily for Bible study, for prayer and for fellowship - and within that fellowship comes an accountability and the discipline of "watching over one another in love." As in biology, the aim of every cell is to grow and divide, so that once a group starts to reach a dozen or so it should split and form two new cells.
Our Father, may your kingdom come. Amen.
Revd Stephen Froggatt.