We believe God has called us to build a loving, worshipping, learning, evangelistic, and Spirit-filled fellowship here in Burwell.
Each year we seek a bible passage to inspire and guide us as to how we might go about doing that. What should we focus on for the year?
Last year’s text was
“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty.
Right at the end of the year our Advent series reminded us that “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” 1 Thess 5:24. Which resonates strongly with our year text for 2021. The emphasis is on God’s ability to build amid the difficulties we have faced.
We look forward into 2022 with hope. A hope not based on our abilities or strength but on the Lord’s promise that He is faithful and He will do it. The leaders gave up two Saturday afternoons to reflect on where we are as a church and where we believe God is calling us and this has shaped our thinking as Elders with regards to vision for this year.
The Elders received several different suggestions for our year text. We agreed on 1 John 3:18. Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
Our year text is perhaps, one of the most challenging in the New Testament. If you wonder, why I say it is so challenging you need to know how John defines love and the extent to he expects us to respond with practical action where we are able.
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?
Love is not about giving-in to people’s manipulative behaviours or always agreeing with them or pretending that they are without faults or making ourselves poor to make others rich. It is about: consistently seeking the best for others and when we see a need which we can meet, doing so. It is about having compassion on people. We cannot demand love from others. The love John speaks of is Agape love – It is given freely to those who do not deserve it.
Love is the hallmark of the true believer and the command of Jesus.
Love is always central to Christian life, and it is first in our mission statement. We aim to build a loving fellowship. The rest unpacks this, because to be a loving fellowship we must also be a worshipping, learning, evangelistic, and Spirit-filled fellowship. If we love God, then we will worship Him and want to know what He teaches in His word. If we love the lost, we will want to share the good news with them in word and deed. Last week, Roger spoke powerfully about the need to be workers in the harvest field and to pray for God to send others to work alongside us.
As soon as we try to worship, learn, and evangelise, we will discover we need the in-filling of the Spirit to enable us to love like Jesus loves us. In order to grow in the fruit of the Spirit we need the gifts of the Spirit.
In the coming weeks, we will unpack how we might respond in more detail but this morning I want to think about context of our year text and the vision for the coming year.
This letter was written by John, the apostle and author of the Gospel of John. He was first cousin to Jesus. The letter was written to believers but not to anyone specifically. He writes to address certain errors creeping into the early church. Some claimed to be without sin or that they could deliberately keep on sinning and yet love God. Some claimed they loved God but did not demonstrate love for each other. Some claimed that Jesus could not have been fully human but just appeared to be human because they saw matter as evil. Because they saw the human body as evil they didn’t consider their practical behaviour to be important, only their spiritual life, which they thought was distinct from day to day discipleship.
This letter was written nearly two thousand years ago but many of its themes are still relevant today. John was deeply concerned that the life of the believer reflects what they claim to believe about God. There needs to be a coherence between what we sing on Sunday and what we do Monday to Saturday. We addressed this from one direction with our Frontline Sundays series. John’s message is even more important when we spend much of the week apart and may only attend church online. It is all too easy for there to be a disconnect between our spiritual beliefs and the outworking of our faith. It is too easy for worship to become a lovely escape from “real life” and to deceive ourselves that we love God when our lives deny that.
It is not that John expects us to be perfect, but he wants us to be honest that we are far from perfect but to know that this matters. We need forgiveness for the past and in the transformation of the Spirit for the future.
Our year text then is a call to lives of integrity. A call to live out the faith we profess. To love not only in theory but in practice.
How might we go about that in the coming year?
Love motivates us to pray because we recognise that we can not meet all the needs of those around us and we have an all powerful and loving God who invites us to pray.
Monday evening prayer continues to be well attended most weeks and during the week we share prayer requests from those who ask via a group on Messenger.
We have been offering prayer during and following services over the last few months since we have been able to meet. We have also undertaken some prayer ministry training. It is something which has always been on my heart for the church but which can only move forward as the LORD increases the hunger of His people for His healing touch, not just for physical healing and not only as a last resort. We say we believe in the power of prayer, we need to make ourselves vulnerable and ask people to pray with us.
We want to see more children and young people in our services, but we rely on God to give the growth. All we can do is to create the environment for growth. We continue to offer groups for children on Sundays and GNC on Mondays. We have agreed to spend some of our reserves to appoint a Children’s worker to help establish and run a group for 11–13-year-olds, to follow on from the excellent work of Good News Club. We still await the right applicant for this role. Please pray that God will bring the right person or show us a different way. We love young people, and we want them to know that. This is a practical way for us to demonstrate our love. You could get involved by praying with us for this group to be established and some of you may feel called to help run the group because one person cannot run the group alone.
Let me be clear, I am not claiming any credit for this initiative. This grew out of the Family Witness group, and it is the Spirit who has given the vision to those in the church who lead it and given us favour with those outside the church. We have seen the number of families in need reached increase and families being more willing to come to events for their children as a result. This is a great example of love in action not just words. You can get involved by donating items of food, money or time.
Whilst it is great to be back in the building we have continued – thanks to Andy, Mike and Marc, to livestream our services and provide CDs to those unable to attend. As time goes on we will need more people willing to demonstrate practical love by using their gifts to help those unable to come to join us in worship.
We also need to demonstrate our love for each other in bearing with each other. Not everything in a service will be to our personal preference. Do not make the mistake of thinking that if you are “not getting anything out of” something, no one else is either. Or indeed that because a particular style of worship helps you to engage that it helps everyone. We are blessed with a variety of worship leaders and musicians. We thank God for them all. You can get involved by praying for the service before you come and during the service. It is God’s desire that we each bring something to worship not expecting for worship to be done to us. You can also show love to those leading in worship by offering encouragement from time to time. Be specific: what will you do differently this week because of your time in worship of God this morning?
Earlier this year, a handful of people ventured outside the building to explore new ways of worshipping and reaching out. These new ways included prophetic paintings and all age activities outside. We paused over the winter but in the coming year we will continue to reflect on how we respond to God’s call to go out into the community. We also need volunteers to serve refreshments at the Farmers Market and we need people willing to try new things.
We have continued to offer Zoom Lyfe Group alongside in person meetings. This has enabled some to attend who would not otherwise been able to come. Each week we seek to put into action something we have learned. We aim to not just hear the word of God but do it. You are welcome to join us whether online or in person.
We are not a church who exist to raise money to keep the building open or who gather to go through a ritual each week. We have been and I pray will continue to be a church which seeks to study God’s word to put it into action.
I still believe God has called us to build a loving, worshipping, learning, evangelistic, and Spirit-filled fellowship here in Burwell.
I still believe that God has promised to bless us and make us fruitful and increase our numbers until we become a community of peoples.
Will you join us in that task this year by learning to love in action and truth not just words and speech?
Become a member, come to the prayer meeting, join the congregation group, volunteer to serve, persevere in what you are doing already, do not grow weary of doing good.