March is an important month for us as we have decisions to make that will affect our future. At our Annual Church Meeting we will have the election of Church Leaders but this month we also have important decisions to make concerning future ministry, and later this month I will be sending out a paper outlining our proposals for Phase Two.
Three years ago, Ezekiel 22:30 inspired us with the idea of standing in the gap for the people of our district. God looks at the land of Judah and despairs because of the sin of Jerusalem:
I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.
It was the verse that Wilfredo de Jesus, leader of New Life Covenant Church in Chicago, took as inspiration for the ministry that his church has developed to the needy in his community. They could not walk by on the other side of the street and ignore the needs of the least, the last and the lost of their district. We felt the Lord telling us that neither could we. It was this that led us to the vision for Phase Two of our development. Since then I have discovered that the Lord is inspiring many churches like ours to act with compassion for their communities.
Why do we need this and not just an extension to what we already have? Because this gives us an opportunity to create a space where people can experience Christ’s community and Kingdom life; where they can have conversations about truth; be loved; be challenged; be stretched and experience hope, help and healing. It’s their space and it’s our space; adjoining the Church Centre but also a bridge into it. It’s about closing the gap between us.
In this space we will provide:
- A place for fellowship, for meals, meetings and conversation
- A place for spiritual encounter
- A place for healing
- A place to grow and experience new things
- A place to encounter God’s kingdom
Undoubtedly if this is to happen there will be many challenges lying ahead of us. There’s no doubt that it will stretch us, but it will also enlarge our hearts for people that struggle with the brokenness of the world. There will be the challenges of finance and construction. There will also be the challenges of welcoming and accepting people in different circumstances and different needs who may be very dissimilar to us. They may not look like us and they may, sometimes, not smell like us. We may need to find new patterns of discipleship and new ways to express the eternal truths of the good news.
It will be costly but we will not proceed foolishly. This has to be prayerfully considered and carefully thought through so that we are able to build something that is spiritually and financially sustainable. To borrow the phrase from Tearfund, we’re looking at church-led community transformation. We do not know what lies ahead for our nation or communities in the future but it is likely that there will be increasing opportunities for the church to take its rightful place leading the community around us. It won’t be easy but it could be amazing.
Now the question is what do we believe about the Lord and about his plan for us? In my mind the vision of the kingdom is expressed most clearly in the vision of Ezekiel 47, water flowing from the temple altar into the Dead Sea and bringing life to everything that it touches. Verse 12 says:
Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.
This is to be a place of healing and salvation and the Lord has already begun his work among us. Hallelujah!
Yours in Christ,