Sunday, 15 May 2011

Looking backwards, moving forwards

So, we went away this weekend with a group from Wesley Hall to think through some issues as well as to have fun and fellowship together. The theme I decided to tackle was 'Looking backwards, moving forwards', which of course if not handled correctly just leaves you flat on your face (or worse).

We took our inspiration from Luke's story of the walk to Emmaus, and the conversation that Jesus had with Cleopas and his companion. We began by looking backwards: assessing where we were as a church, what our history was, and what we valued most about the life of the church during the time that we've been a part of it. For some of us this was only about 5 years, for others it was a lifetime - 60 years or more. On the list were:
  • The atmosphere of friendship and welcome;
  • the spiritual & personal support that people received there, particularly through home groups;
  • the willingness to take risks and grasp opportunities for mission and service;
  • outreach that was arranged at times when most people could be involved - in the daytime - and was targeted at the local community;
  • the stability and permanence of leadership, and the teamwork which enabled people to use their giftings;
  • the quality of worship, particularly of the worship group and worship leaders;
  • generosity, fun and lots of eating!
I was heartened by this list, particularly after being their minister for the last 7 years, and particularly at a time of difficulty for the church caused by building issues.

There are three ways that we can deal with the past: we can live in it, we can discard it as irrelevant, or we can embrace it (but not hang on to it) and move on into the future - as Mary Magdalene did with the Risen Jesus. So we then thought about moving forward, and I invited them to consider things they'd love to see as part of the life of Wesley Hall, drawing on where we are now. The results were greatly encouraging...
  • More young people and young families in the life of the church;
  • a continuity of leadership, teaching and preaching, alongside developing new leaders and allowing/ enabling people to maximise their talents and gifts, and encouraging involvement in all aspects of church life;
  • a desire to develop contemporary worship further; to create more opportunities for worship mid-week; and to encourage corporate prayer;
  • to use the space we have creatively, and to make greater use of opportunities to promote events and ministries in the community.
That's not a bad place for a church to be!

We finished by looking at the life of the early church in Acts 4:23-35, and at how they moved forward at a difficult time in their history. We looked at how they:
  • faced their fears - were realistic about their situation
  • faced their Father - were reassured about their support
  • faced their future - were reliant on the Spirit
That's the only way to be, and I'm looking forward to being a part of that future with them, if that's what God wants of me.