Dear Friend, Welcome to ‘Get Connected’ – a time where we take a look at the inner workings of our church to help you decide if we are the church for you. We hope that this course will help you understand what our vision and values are and what is important to us and the way we are trying to do things. Ask lots of questions! Enjoy the course! Duncan
CHAPTER ONE Our Vision CHURCH MEMBERSHIP STARTS WITH GOD The first commandment is that nothing else should come before God in our lives (Ex 20v3), and Jesus said ‘seek first the things of God’ (Mt 6v33), and Paul said that Jesus is first over all things (Col 1v8). We are committed to helping each other put God first in every area of life. Does God come first in my life or does business hold the supreme place? Is it God first or pleasure? God first or money? What about my family, my loved ones? Do they come first or does God?
"What then, are the terms of discipleship? Let me give the answer in just two words: ‘GOD FIRST.’ And if I could, I would put them on a banner in the sight of every congregation in the world - GOD FIRST." Oswald Smith from ‘The Man God Uses’
THE ‘A2’ VISION
Acts 2 sums it up: - Pulsating with the Holy Spirit, devoted to the Word, loving one another, loving God, seeing signs and wonders, expressing hospitality, enjoying salvations and people getting regularly added. Our dream is to see many people coming to know Jesus and following Him. We are looking to grow in depth and breadth as disciples of Jesus and see this church grow in size and influence for the glory of God in this conurbation. All ages, all races, all classes, all people joined together as ‘one new man’ in Christ through the Cross and His resurrection. Help us Lord!
Our dream is to be a people who put God first to build a Jesus devoted community for the glory of Jesus and for the advancement of Jesus’ kingdom. A church that reveals God to the world in a provocative and attractive way; one that is pulsating with the Holy Spirit, devoted to the Word, Loving God, loving one another, expecting signs and wonders, expressing hospitality and strong family life, and ecstatically celebrating many people getting saved and added. The dream is for a church that is large and diverse, full of love, laughter food and fun. A church where diversity of age, colour, culture and class is celebrated. A community that involves, encourages and values everyone. We will advance in unity and with deep love for one another. We will grow in depth and breadth as disciples of Jesus alongside growing in size and influence for the glory of God. The dream is to be a people whose lives shine in the darkness, who reach out to our community, to our culture and to our world for Jesus so that others may live.
Our desire is to partner with Jesus to build a church devoted to Jesus, for the glory of Jesus for the advancement of Jesus’ Kingdom. A Church that reveals God to the world in a provocative and attractive way. See Appendix 1 for ‘I’m dreaming of.....’
SAVED. ADDED. DISCIPLED.
a responsibility to play our part in seeing this nation and the nations reached through training of leaders, church planting and apostolic advance. The tone of the church is advance; training, seeing people fulfil their potential in God and releasing gifts for the glory of God. We are committed to empowering believers to be salt and light and influence society with the values of the Kingdom.
Getting saved means receiving the forgiveness of God and is the start of putting God first in your life. Then, God’s intention is that you are added to a local church (Acts 2v41&47) To be discipled means to step by step grow in maturity and increasingly live in obedience to what Jesus said ‘seek first the things of God’ (Mt 6v33), We want to be a people that love God and are committed to helping each other put God first in every area of life. A people who are learning how to use the CONNECTED WIDER: THE NEWFRONTIERS gifts He’s given to build up other believers and spread FAMILY the gospel. We can do more together than we can apart - GodFirst is part of the Newfrontiers family of churches, a group CHRISTCHURCH. THE SURROUNDING AREA. of about 500 churches worldwide, led by an apostolic team. Our church enjoys all the privileges of THE NATIONS. God has called us to take responsibility for the 350,000 encouragement and accountability that come to us via people in this conurbation and beyond, so our vision is Newfrontiers. Our Newfrontiers vision is to extend the to intentionally proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom and kingdom of God on earth through planting churches in see as many introduced to Jesus as possible. This will the nations. involve partnership with other Churches. We also feel Let’s watch the video...
CHAPTER TWO Why do we believe in Membership? WHAT IS THE CHURCH? The Greek word used in the Bible for church is ‘ekklesia’, which means ‘called out ones’. It relates to the Old Testament Hebrew word ‘quahal’ which means a gathering in response to the call of God. So, very importantly, the church is a people relating to God, not merely a building or an organisation – (1 Peter 2:9) The church consists of everyone in every era and every nation that has been born again (universal church). But it is expressed through local churches. God’s plan is for every believer to be meaningfully added to a local church and become a functioning part of the body (Acts 2v41 & 47; 1 Cor 12; Eph 4).
“Individuals who have never experienced the joy and delight of belonging to a loving and vital Christian body have missed one of the thrills of the Christian life. Mere ‘church-going’ was never in God’s plan for you. He wants you very closely knit with a group of dear friends with whom you can share your life.” Terry Virgo Local churches are visible in that community and visible to each other i.e., believers will know where they belong, who is part of their immediate family and which leaders they are joined to and who they are being led by. Our goal is to keep both of these understandings of ekklesia in focus:
“If you only believe in the universal church you become undisciplined …If you are preoccupied with the local church…you become narrow, sectarian, even cultic… The New Testament approach is to keep an equal balance on the universal and the local” Michael Eaton – ‘How to Enjoy God’s Worldwide Church’ p.42
REASONS WHY WE ARE CONVINCED OF LOCAL CHURCH MEMBERSHIP:
Mission: It is important that we have a clear understanding of church membership for the sake of mission. What are people getting added to when The New Testament’s structure: The epistles are they are saved Acts 2 ‘The Lord added to their written to local churches on the assumption that all number daily those who were being saved’. believers would be members of local churches. It is stated in the bible: Those who accepted his “The local church is a community of message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number…and the Lord added regenerated believers who confess to their number daily (Acts 2v41&47). Jesus Christ as Lord. In obedience to scripture they organise under It is implied in the bible: The descriptions of life qualified leadership, gather regularly amongst the early believers implies an up-closefor preaching and worship, observe and-personal local church community (e.g. Acts 2-4). the Biblical sacraments of Baptism Furthermore, a consistent biblical metaphor for the and Communion, are unifed by the church is that of a body – an intimate functioning Spirit, are disciplined for holiness, body, not just a worldwide ‘cyber’ body. and scatter to fulfil the Great New Testament language of leadership and Commission as missionaries to the followership: The bible cautions church leaders that world for God’s Glory and their joy”. they will be held to account for how they lead (1 Cor 3; Heb 13), and equally followers are instructed Mark Driscoll to obey their leaders. This obviously presupposes a situation where you know who is leading and DID CHURCH MEMBERSHIP EXIST IN THE NEW following whom! TESTAMENT? New Testament discipline: Paul instructed his churches that in cases of ongoing unrepentance, The answer to that question is a resounding yes! they should finally resort to putting people out of The pictures that are used in the New Testament to the church. It is indeed staggering that some describe the church all show that Christians are believers voluntarily choose to live in this state! supposed to work together like a family or as parts of a Context: It provides the context and foundation of body (1 Tim 3v15; 5v1-2 and 1 Cor. 12v16-17). where we work community out. 7
If you look closely at the NT you will actually see that apostle Paul describes the church as one body made up early church did in fact have membership that of many members (1 Cor. 12v27). interestingly included: Furthermore most of the epistles start by saying “To the Church” therefore if we want to obey most of the Numerical record (Acts 2v37-47) New Testament teaching as a Christian we do that from Records of widows (1 Tim 5v3-16) the position of being a member of a local church. It Records of disciples (Act 6v1-6) would seem that the New Testament Church was more Discipline (Matt 18v15-20; 1 Cor.5; Gal. 6v1) clearly structured than we sometimes think! Accountability of leaders for their members (Heb.13v17) IN SUMMARY An awareness of who was a church member The Bible is clear that every Christian is to be part of a (Romans 16v1-16) local church and participate in the life of that local For those who recoil at the word “membership” we church with the gifts that he or she has. must understand that this is a Biblical word/concept the
CHAPTER THREE Our Values QUALITY NOT JUST QUANTITY The New Testament apostles were not only concerned about quantity (growth and expansion), but also about the quality of church life. Whilst vision speaks of where we are trying to go, values speak of those things that we will not compromise along the way. The following represents what we feel are the most prominent biblical values that a church should have. It is not an exhaustive list, but rather a list of possibly our most distinct values: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
A People of the Word and the Spirit A People of Grace A People of Diversity A People of the Kingdom and the Church A People passionate about our Conurbation A People committed to Serving A People passionate for the lost A People who love to Worship and Pray A People who remember the Poor A People committed to the Family
1. A PEOPLE OF THE WORD AND THE SPIRIT Paul reminded the Thessalonians that his gospel had come to them in: ‘word, and in power and in the Holy Spirit’ (1 Thes 1:5). THE SPIRIT The early church was born through a powerful experience of the Spirit (Acts 2), and was a powerful community that pulsated with the life of the Holy Spirit. The book of Acts records repeated instances of people being filled with, and operating in, the power of the Holy Spirit, and Paul even defines the church as people ‘being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit’ (Eph 2v22). We believe in the baptism of the Holy the Spirit: We teach and lead people into the experience of this. We try to allow Him to lead our meetings. Holy Spirit-led meetings are a great adventure and never boring. Therefore, don’t be surprised if you find yourself thinking ‘I wonder what will happen next’! (Eph 2v22). We have regular opportunities for filling and refilling (Eph 5v18). We eagerly desire the spiritual gifts, and are intentional about having these gifts manifest amongst us (1 Cor 14v1).
We allow him to touch people as he chooses, sometimes in an unseen but significant manner, and sometimes in way that is rather more obvious. Whatever way, we want him! Application: If you would not consider yourself to be baptised in the Holy Spirit, then please get along to one of our regular Holy Spirit Seminars – relaxed forums to explore who the Holy Spirit is and how to be filled by Him.
overwhelm his disciples with supernatural tricks but, opening the Scriptures, ‘explained to them the things concerning Himself’’ (Lk 24v27, NASB). This was consistent with his earlier ministry, in which we read, ‘He saw a great multitude, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things’ (Mk 6v34 NASB). Jesus himself said that his priority was to preach the Word.
THE WORD The early church was also born into a devotion to the Word of God: ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching’ (Acts 2v42). ‘Devote yourself to the public reading of scripture, to preaching and teaching’ (1 Tim 4v13).
Along with worship, the preaching of God’s Word is another important ingredient in our Sunday meetings, and we usually set aside at least 30 minutes for preaching from the Bible. We give emphasis to accurate and inspirational teaching and preaching from the Bible. Our Sunday and Small Group meeting are all BIBLEBASED! Remember to bring your Bible!
So fundamental was the spread of the Word in the New Testament church, that Luke described the growth of the church in these terms: ‘The word of God kept spreading’ (Acts 6v6, NASB); ‘The word of God continued to grow and be multiplied’ (Acts 12v24, NASB); ‘So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing’ (Acts 19:20, NASB).
“Just Word and you dry up. Just Spirit and you blow up. Word and Spirit…you grow up!
Luke could have said that the churches multiplied, or that the number of disciples grew, but, on these occasions, he spoke about the ever-increasing impact of the Word of God. Even after his resurrection, fully equipped with a body that could appear and disappear at will, Jesus did not 11
2. A PEOPLE OF GRACE
3. A PEOPLE OF DIVERSITY
Newcomers often remark on the atmosphere of We are deeply committed to building a diverse church friendliness and loving acceptance. This flows directly that includes many different cultures, languages and from our theology of how God loves and accepts us. age groups, which is expressed in leadership, worship and in every area of our life together. This is not an attempt at being politically correct or a ‘rainbow nation’ “It is by grace you have been saved, – rather it stems from our theological conviction that through faith, and this not from diversity glorifies God more than uniformity:
yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast”
Ephesians 2v8 Freely we have received: Salvation is a free gift that you can’t earn. God’s love for you is complete, unchanging and unconditional. You are accepted just as you are, whether you do well or badly, sin or stay pure, you are completely accepted because the righteousness of Jesus has been given to you. You can’t improve on God’s love for you. You can’t reduce God’s love for you. God saved you and will keep you saved which frees you to joy, motivation and freedom to serve God out of gratitude and not out of fear! Freely we give: ‘As I have loved you, so you must love one another’ (John 13v34). So we now are empowered to accept one another unconditionally, not on the basis of performance, but on the basis of grace. Grace makes for a secure, free and joyful church of people who don’t need to wear masks to try and impress God or each other….because we are 100% accepted already! 12
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” Galatians 3v28
With your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” Revelation 5v9 Did you see it? Who could make us all one – only Jesus! Who has the ability to be relevant to all nations – only Jesus! God is more glorified by diversity than by uniformity because it reveals His Lordship over ALL things! He is not just a western God, or an African God, or an old people’s God ……. Want evidence that Jesus is the true God over all nations? Just look at us!
4. A PEOPLE OF THE KINGDOM AND THE CHURCH ‘The Church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church’ (Eph 1v22 Message). We have a very high view of the Church, believing the radical claims of scripture that the Church is the reason for history and the climax of history (Rev 21v1-3).
“Strong, growing communities of faith can turn the tide of history.” Bill Hybels The Kingdom of God: ‘God’s will being expressed’ (John Hosier) refers to God’s desire to reign in all areas of society, not just within the ‘four walls’ or the church. Within the kingdom, all callings are sacred and we are all in ‘full-time’ Christian work, being salt, light and yeast in the workplace. Summary
Salvation Release Healing Deliverance
schools, business and government. To this end, we are committed to empowering believers to influence society with the values of the Kingdom.
“There is nothing like the local church when it’s working right. Its beauty is indescribable. Its power is breathtaking. Its potential is unlimited. It comforts the grieving and heals the broken in the context of community. It builds bridges to seekers and offers truth to the confused. It provides resources for those in need and opens its arms to the forgotten, the downtrodden, the disillusioned. It breaks the chains of addictions, frees the oppressed, and offers belonging to the marginalized of this world. Whatever the capacity for human suffering, the church has a greater capacity for healing and wholeness.” Bill Hybels (Courageous Leadership)
The Vital Connection with The Church: Jesus taught that the Church holds the keys of the Kingdom (Mt 16) to open the way for the influence of God into homes, 13
5. A PEOPLE PASSIONATE ABOUT OUR CONURBATION AND BEYOND ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses…settle down…marry…have sons and daughters…increase in number there…seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29v4).
are ‘joined and knit together by what every joint supplies…as each part does its share’ (Eph 4v16 NKJ). Application: To this end, in addition to a general culture of serving one another, every member is encouraged to serve in the church in line with their gifting and passions.
7. A PEOPLE PASSIONATE ABOUT THE LOST
According to Jesus’ commission in Matthew 28, the Church is supposed to be an outward looking full-on We believe that God has brought us to this area to mission agency. He told us to go and make settle in and ENGAGE with every strata of society and disciples….and to emphasise the point that two-thirds work for the health and prosperity of this town and of God’s name is Go! At GodFirst we are seriously conurbation. focused on helping people become Christ followers. To keep evangelism high on our agenda we give ourselves 6. A PEOPLE COMMITTED TO SERVING to: This is a very high value and has a direct impact on A steady drip of training to equip and stir every member. Serving is a fundamental characteristic ourselves to friendship evangelism. of the Christian life, and we take our lead from Jesus Guarding against becoming so busy with church himself who did not come to be served, but rather to meetings that we do not have time to spend with serve (Mt 20v28). We don’t just serve in order to get the our unsaved friends. job done, but rather to imitate Christ, to serve others, Ensuring that all we do as a church is inclusive of and to develop godly maturity. outsiders. The first words out of Paul’s mouth as he became a Continuously running a variety of events to give Christian were, ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me do?’ (Acts outsiders a positive first-touch with our church, 9v6 KJV) not ‘Lord, how wilt thou bless me?’ This is the such as Quiz Nights; Dinners; Carols. difference between consumers and contributors. At Running events and courses that give people a GodFirst we are all contributors understanding that we chance to hear and respond to the gospel. 14
8. A PEOPLE WHO LOVE TO WORSHIP AND TO PRAY Joyful and lively: Both the Old and New Testaments paint a picture of lively and joyful church meetings that include singing, clapping, dancing and even shouting! We want people in our meetings to feel free to worship God in whatever form they choose, but our bias is towards extravagant praise and tender worship. Many people contributing: The Bible also presents church meetings that are characterized not just by preaching and singing, but also by multiple contributions from different people:
“When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church”
Prayerful: They devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 2v42). Jesus exclaimed to the Pharisees “My House will be called a House of Prayer”. We want our church to be known as a praying church that is dependent on God for a release of his power. We pray in our home groups, we gather to pray for extended times such as our twice yearly weeks of prayer. We also gather monthly to pray on Sunday evenings. Our aim is to be like the New Testament believers who ‘joined together constantly to pray’ (Acts 1v14).
“My House will be called a House of Prayer”. Jesus
9. A PEOPLE WHO REMEMBER THE POOR
We believe that right at the heart of the gospel is “remembering the poor” (Gal 2v10). The warnings and promises of Isaiah 58 are fully embraced in our church. To this end, we not only give money and means to the 1 Corinthians 14v26 needy, but we want to develop hands-on projects and During the time of worship, we warmly encourage initiatives that are good news to the poor. anyone from the congregation to bring contributions like these. This makes for pretty exciting meetings! God 10. A PEOPLE COMMITTED TO THE FAMILY is at work through the entire body and not just a couple The race that we are running is not an individual time of upfront professionals! We also believe that God is a trial; rather it is a relay race where success includes Healer, and therefore we often have times of praying getting those behind us to the tape as well as for the sick. ourselves. David cried out to God to spare him until he 15
had succeeded in this saying, ‘now also when I am old and gray-headed, O God do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, your power to everyone who is to come’ (Ps 71v17). As Joshua found out, this does not happen automatically: ‘Joshua died aged 110…after that another generation grew up who did not know the Lord’ (Jud 2v8f).
Whilst of course honouring the unique role of the nuclear family, we also feel a corporate responsibility for raising all the children in the church. To this end we try to have top-notch kids & youth departments, have our kids in with us for some worship on Sundays, be especially alert and helpful to single parent families, and we place a high value on marriage and parenting. Please see Appendix 2 for a Summary of the Values
CHAPTER FOUR Our Core Beliefs ABSOLUTES / CORE BELIEFS These are non-negotiable biblical truths that all members would need to be 100% happy with. E.g. 1 That Jesus is ALIVE and will RETURN E.g. 2 That we should be full of the Holy Spirit These are ‘closed handed’ issues
OUR CORE / ABSOLUTE BELIEFS 1. Bible: We believe that the Scriptures of the Old Testament and New Testament in their original writing are fully inspired by God and accept them as the supreme and final authority for faith and life. 2. Trinity: We believe in the sovereignty of one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
These are less essential truths where there is room for 3. Sin: We believe that human beings, though created in the image of God, are sinful, guilty, and lost diversity of respected interpretations of scripture. without Christ. However, we suggest that you are at least 80% in agreement with our interpretations or else you will be 4. Deity of Christ: We believe that Jesus Christ, as constantly frustrated! begotten by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, is fully God and fully man. E.g. 1 When and how Jesus will return E.g. 2 When and how you get filled with the Holy Spirit
5. Cross: We believe that on the cross Jesus Christ became sin for us, was judged by God and died in our place.
These are purely subjective opinions about how we do 6. Resurrection: We believe in the bodily resurrection things, but in order to feel comfortable in our church of the Lord Jesus Christ, His ascension into Heaven, you will need to be mostly happy with how we do and His present ministry as our High Priest and things. advocate with the Father. E.g. 1 Length of meetings E.g. 2 Style of worship These are ‘open handed’ issues 18
7. Conversion: We believe that all who are justified by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ are born again of the Holy Spirit and thereby
become children of God. We believe other religions and ideologies are not alternative paths to God, and that human spirituality, if unredeemed by Christ, does not lead to God but to judgement and damnation.
11. 8. Holy Spirit: We believe in the ministry and gifts of the Spirit. We believe in the importance of each believer being filled with the Holy Spirit by which 12. believers are empowered and equipped for service.
of Church membership. We desire to fellowship and work with other ministries and congregations of like profession of faith for the spreading of the gospel. Second Coming: We believe in the personal and visible return of the Lord Jesus Christ in power and glory to judge the living and the dead. Communion: We believe that the Lordâ€™s Supper is the partaking of the emblems, which symbolise the broken body and shed blood of Christ, in remembrance of His sacrificial death.
9. Heaven and Hell: We believe in the resurrection of the just and the unjust, the eternal blessedness of the redeemed, and the eternal damnation of those 13. Water Baptism: We believe that it is a clear biblical who have rejected Godâ€™s offer of salvation. imperative that water baptism is an event that 10. Church: We believe that the local church should be every believer undergoes following their salvation. the expression of the one true and universal Please see Appendix 3 for our Statement Of Doctrine Church and therefore that the new birth and personal confession of faith in Christ are essentials
CHAPTER FIVE Our Five Expressions of Membership 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
Together through Sunday Meetings Together through Home Groups Together through Generous Giving Together through Leadership and Submission Together through Hospitality
1. TOGETHER THROUGH SUNDAY MEETINGS
4. For our own protection: Regular time in worship and sitting under the Word spurs us on to love God, In today’s individualistic and independent culture where hate sin and keep a correct perspective on life. many things compete for our time and energies, it is Wilberforce wrote, ‘thank God for the day of rest important to reaffirm the importance of meeting and worship wherein earthly occupations assume together as a church on Sundays: their true size and ambition is stunted.’ 1. To imitate Christ and the early church: ‘On the Sabbath day Jesus went into the synagogue, as was 5. To be shaped by the teaching of God’s Word: We ache when a person misses a key preach that we his custom’ (Lk 4v16). ‘They devoted themselves to know would have done them much good. We don’t the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship’ (Acts want people to fill the pews to boost numbers or 2v42). ego, but because we are jealous with the ‘that 2. To display God’s glorious Body: Visitors often they’ of Col 2v2 – a great verse! testify to the love amongst us and the power of God in bringing our wide spectrum of ages and “My purpose is that they may be races and colours together as one in Christ (Eph encouraged in heart and united in love, 2v11, Eph 3v10, and Rev 5v9). so that they may have the full riches of 3. To spur each other on to love and action: ‘Let us consider how we may spur one another on to love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing’ (Heb 10v24).
complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ...”
Colossians 2v2 21
6. To serve: Service is a mark of Christ-likeness (Mk 10v45) and a great way to express our togetherness, so every member of GodFirst is encouraged to serve somewhere.
Evangelism: We are deliberate in never letting a Home Group become a stagnant holy huddle. In addition to the C & D above, each Home Group is on a mission to win the lost and continually welcome in new people, and before long multiply into two groups.
7. Because you never know when it is your special moment: God-filled meetings are the most common Application: Each member is part of a Home Group. context for God to dramatically speak to us and direct us. 3. TOGETHER THROUGH GENEROUS GIVING Application: Each member is committed to attending on Sundays.
2. TOGETHER THROUGH HOMEGROUPS Home Groups are communities of friends of +/- 10 people within the wider community of our church. The purpose of our Home Groups is to do life together enjoying the three goals of CDE: Community: Apparently, the average church member knows a maximum of 70 people in the congregation, whether the church has two hundred or two thousand attending. We do not have to know everyone in the church to feel a sense of belonging, but we do need to know some people really well, and this can happen through being part of a Home Group.
“But just as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness, and your love for us – see also that you excel in this grace of giving” 2 Corinthians 8v7 WHY GIVE? The church is entirely dependent on the generous giving of its members – the premises, facilities, staff and projects which the church helps finance are supported by those who give – the reality is that if the purposes of God are to continue this church must continue to receive financial gifts.
However – the heart of giving goes even deeper than Discipleship: The Great Commission is to make disciples that not just converts. Discipleship involves helping a person make consistent and tangible progress in Godly Our God is a giving God – he delights in gifts! His own gift to us, his only Son, was given freely and without character, gifting and service. 22
cost, as Paul says, this was a gift, ‘too wonderful for WHAT’S AT STAKE? words!’ (2 Corinthians 9:15) Jesus clearly linked material generosity towards God’s purposes as a barometer of Spiritual health and warned His delight is to see his people give in response to what that one could not expect to serve both God and Money. he has done for them and to join in the support of the work of his kingdom. In Old Testaments times this Jesus told us to: - Have an eternal perspective and giving was called the ‘tithe’ which meant a ‘tenth’ of all invest in the right treasure where it will last (Matt 6). that the people of Israel had been blessed with by God Jesus is saying: “show me your cheque book, VISA statement, receipts and I will tell you where your heart This principle of giving continues into the New is” Testament (since the work of the kingdom also continues!) Here we find Jesus talking about money and “He is no fool who gives what he possessions more times than about heaven and hell cannot keep to gain what he cannot and Paul encouraging the churches to be rich in their lose” support of their poorer brothers and sisters. Jim Elliot Our giving is a response to our joy in Christ and is Giving is also good for our walk with God! Giving does therefore allowed to exceed even the Old Testament more than just bless those who receive, we are also concept of a ‘tenth’! 2 Corinthians 8v1-7 is a great blessed by the giving – in one of the most amazing provocation to us! passages in the Bible, God challenges us to test this HILARIOUS GIVING? reality: God is not just interested in giving alone he is also ‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse interested in our attitude towards giving. When Paul so there will be enough food in my wrote to the Corinthians he took the opportunity to Temple. If you do – says the Lord write about this topic where he states that: ‘The Lord loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Corinthians 9:7) The original word for ‘cheerful’ is where we get our word ‘hilarious’ – this gives us a flavour of the joy in giving that God loves!
Almighty – I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Let me prove it to you!’
Malachi 3:10 23
Paul takes up this theme with the Corinthians when he says:
“You must each make up your own mind as to how much you should give….and God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others” 2 Corinthians 9:7,8 This does not mean that our motive in giving is to multiply our wealth, since God’s blessings may be other than financial! The idea is that increasingly through God’s generosity to us we are able to be more generous! Paul is encouraging us not to hold back in outrageous, hilarious giving – since God is ‘no man’s debtor’ and will supply our needs. 1. Elders do not know who gives what, we teach on it though because how we handle our money goes to the heart of our worship of God. 2. Because we are opposed to any hint of legalism, we want everyone to do this joyfully and out of a clear conscience. To this end, if you are not comfortable with what you have heard, then please let’s chat about it. 3. But let’s not dodge the issue: whilst we are paranoid that this should not feel legalistic, we are equally paranoid that we should not avoid this vital issue. The principle and discipline of the tithe helps 24
us consistently excel in this grace of giving (2 Cor 8v7). I have found that consistently surrendering a decent portion of my income to God on a monthly basis is an act of faith, obedience and worship that stops me worshipping money. 4. We believe that the full tithe should go to the local church:
“Tithing is the solution no one talks about. If every professing Christian would tithe, every congregation would be free of financial worries and could begin to truly be the salt of the earth… Tithes, therefore, should be exclusively for the work of the gospel. Tithes should not be given to charity or any other noble work. Nonchurch organizations should be supported by non-Christians, or by Christians who have first given all their tithes to the church, or by the church itself. That organization is likely to be much better off if it is not sustained by funds stolen from God and his local church.” RT Kendall Occasionally people have giving commitments outside of the church. In this kind of situation we
suggest that they tithe to GodFirst first, and give offerings elsewhere.
4. TOGETHER THROUGH LEADERSHIP AND SUBMISSION
We encourage church members to give via electronic The first and most important person in the church is transfer where possible, as this is safer and easier. We God. Jesus is the head of the church (Eph 1:22, Col 1:18). also take up an offering each Sunday and there are Jesus Christ is chief shepherd (1 Pt 1:5). regular Gift Days for specific needs. Although Jesus remains the ultimate Shepherd, He Giving to the wider Newfrontiers family. Around 30 enlists men to fulfil the shepherding role of bringing years ago, churches in South-East England began care to the people on His behalf. Under Jesus there are gathering to the apostolic leadership of Terry Virgo, and qualified elders, these are under shepherds, leaders became the family of churches known as Newfrontiers. that He appoints, but ultimately the whole goal is that Today there are several hundred churches across the leaders and all of the people would follow Jesus. world which are involved with Terry and his apostolic HOW TO SPOT A GOOD LEADER: HE IS A SHEEP FIRST team. (FOLLOWING JESUS) As a church, we are giving away a growing amount of our income to Newfrontiers. Newfrontiers has a HOW SHOULD LEADERS EXPRESS THEIR AUTHORITY? passionate commitment to: make disciples, train Jesus sets the example of what mature, godly, humble, leaders, plant churches, reach nations and serve the servant leadership is. John 10 sets the tone of this with a Lord who is willing to lay down His life for the sheep. poor. Leaders are not free to ‘lord it over’ people, but are Application: Each member agrees to give at least a tithe called to protect, lead, guard and bring security and on a monthly basis. Because money is a sensitive area, stability to a local church. Serving men and women so and because we are opposed to any hint of legalism, we that they become mature in Christ and can play an want everyone to do this joyfully and out of a clear active and fruitful role in the Kingdom of God. conscience. To this end, if you are not comfortable with Leadership releases people to ‘do the stuff’ this arrangement, then please let’s chat about it. envisioning, equipping and leading people out to works Worth a read: Randy Alcorn - ‘Money, Possessions and of service (Eph 4:11). Eternity’ and /or ‘The Treasure Principle’ For Gift Aid please see Appendix 5 25
HOW DO LEADERS EQUIP PEOPLE TO ‘DO THE STUFF?’ HOW SHOULD FOLLOWERS EXPRESS SUBMISSION? Through the Word of God Through example “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the Through prayer/watching outcome of their way of life and With a sense of trust that these are God’s people imitate their faith…Obey your not theirs leaders and submit to their authority. With servant-hearts and shepherd-hearts:
“Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? ... You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.”
They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honourably in every way. I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon. Greet all your leaders and God’s people”.
Not lording it over. Through team
With constant expectancy to hear God’s Word through their leaders By following their example By obeying them…so long as not violating Word or your conscience By honouring the reality that they must give an account to God By helping them enjoy life and leadership By praying for them
many will rise into various positions of leadership By greeting them warmly to show love and and responsibility (1 Cor 12, Rms 12). appreciation By being slow to entertain accusations against @GODFIRST them (1 Tim 5) this could include being critical? THE ELDERSHIP TEAM By paying them well The word submission can make some nervous, this Duncan Lee (Lead Elder) must not be watered down but relax, because it is John Bament (Elder) beautifully offset by the calling of elders to serve like Earl Gooden (Elder) Jesus did. Submission to elders should always be Morné smit (Elder-in-training) freely given and result in health and freedom. If submission is forced then it becomes abusive. THE STAFF TEAM Submission is not imposed, it’s given. A good marriage Duncan Lee Morné Smit is a great example! Sam Pink (Youth) OUR LEADERSHIP LAYOUT 1. Jesus is the head of the Church and Senior Pastor Alison Maddock (Administrative responsibilities) (Eph 1v18-23; 1 Peter 5v4). 2. Apostles and prophets (mostly via Newfrontiers) TRUSTEES continuously help put in solid foundations and help The trustees are legally responsible for ensuring that us stay on course (Eph 4, Acts 11-14). the church operates within the charitable law and 3. Elders/overseers/pastors: scripture presents a according to the aims listed in our trust deed. team of elders who oversee the church by guarding; guiding and governing the local Duncan Lee congregation (see Acts 14v23, Acts 20v28, 1 Tim John Bament 5v17, 1 Tim 3, Titus 1 & 2, 1 Pet 5). Kath Hudson 4. Pastoral Team: this is a team of men and women Lynn Coombs who to assist the elders in pastoring the flock, and Vivien Cosh they do this mostly through our Home Groups. 5. Saints: we are all saints who actively participate in Daniel Parker our body and, due to unique gifts and passions, 27
Please see Appendix 4 for practical details.
hours on a Sunday. If everyone has the attitude ‘this is my home and these are my guests’ then everything Application: Our aim is to be leaders that are a joy to falls into place. For example: follow, and we are committed to a gentle and gracefilled style of leadership. In turn, each member needs You would arrive before the guests to be willing to be joyfully submitted to the leaders. You would meet and greet with fervour and a sense of responsibility 5. TOGETHER THROUGH HOSPITALITY You would never just sit and wait for the meeting The primary biblical metaphor for the church is a family, to start, but rather be circulating to welcome, and we are passionate about protecting the family engage with, and chat to people atmosphere of our church. The main gift that ensures You would be especially alert to help new people this is that of hospitality. (anyone you don’t know) connect with you and others WHAT IS HOSPITALITY? You would invite people home with you (or out for It is words, actions and attitudes of love and acceptance coffee) after church, or the following Sunday, or to others. It involves opening our homes, but it sometime that week. extends to Sunday meetings, Home Group, and wherever we find ourselves. EVERYONE PLAYING THEIR PART IN THEIR HOMES Inviting people into your home is so powerful. It sends GUARDING THE FAMILY NATURE OF THE CHURCH Commands to hospitality abound to all Christians in the an undeniable message that you are genuinely bible, especially to leaders. You see, the issue is not interested in them. If we are to be ‘given’ to being all warm and fuzzy, but rather to guard the hospitality we need to plan our lives to enable us to do intended nature of the church as a family, and to keep so in a sustainable manner, and also need to play to the leaders down-to-earth and involved with the people our strengths. – it is hard to be put on a pedestal when members see What are you good at? Sit down meals? Just soup and your kids throwing food! rolls? Coffee and games evening? Bring and share? Big groups or smaller groups? EVERYONE PLAYING THEIR PART ON SUNDAYS Our Sunday venue and all that happens there is to be What times work best for you? Maybe plan in a monthly regarded as your very own home where you have slot to ensure it doesn’t slip off the radar. invited a group of people to join you for a couple of 28
Spinning a web of friendships: Rather than create dependency on yourself, try to help form a tapestry of friendships around a new person. So think through whom you could invite with whom.
Application: Whilst we appreciate that not everybody is an extrovert, you will need to be comfortable with taking initiative to help guide and promote our wonderful family atmosphere â€“ chatting to anyone that you donâ€™t know on Sundays and generally being warm, hospitable and pro-active in friend-making.
CHAPTER SIX Please Come With Us “Now Moses said to Hobab, ‘We are setting out for the place about which the Lord said he will give to us. Come with us and we will treat you well, for the Lord has promised good things to Israel. Hobab answered, ‘No, I will not go; I am going back to my own land and my own people.’ But Moses said, ‘Please do not leave us. You know where we should camp in the desert, and you can be our eyes. If you come with us we will share with you whatever good things the Lord gives to us.” Numbers 10v29-33 Like Moses, we are quietly confident in our calling, therefore bold in asking you to join us and are serious about treating you well. Like Hobab, you might be a little resistant to change and longing for a comfort-zone rather than a new thing.
You have character, friendship, gifts and ideas and a key role to play! We need you, and you may need us too! Together we will share the blessing of God! We can do more together than apart! Please join us!
If so, like Moses, we are not giving up on you so easily! We say this to you: please join us. We believe that you can serve us and we can serve you. We are not saying to you, “Take us or leave us! I, as the mighty, mighty, mighty man of God have a divine vision to fulfil and if you want blessing join me, or cursing, then don’t!” No. Please join us. Whilst we are 100% secure and confident in God and in our calling, we are also 100% WHAT AM I JOINING? You are joining a body. In a car-crash, a person may be convinced that we need you. ‘dismembered’ and lose a hand. At this point, the hand ceases to be a member because it is no longer giving and receiving. So it is with our church: membership is active and functional two-way traffic. It is not about 31
filling in a form, rather it is about being thoroughly 3. Receive the Holy Spirit: You need pursue the involved in the life of the body. baptism of the Holy Spirit (if you have not already been baptised in the Spirit). You are joining the leaders. Think about it, the elders of 4. Devoted to the leadership, sound doctrine a church actually define the church; GodFirst is that and the people: You will feel comfortable group of people who have voluntarily chosen to follow committing to the leaders, the doctrine and the the elders of the church, so it is important that you people of Family Church. have a strong sense of calling and confidence towards the elders. PRIMARY EXPRESSIONS OF MEMBERSHIP Because you are unique you will of course have your PRE-REQUISITES OF MEMBERSHIP FROM ACTS 2 own unique contribution to make, but we all commit to the following five things to express our togetherness:
“Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptised for the forgiveness of sins, everyone of you, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’ … those who accepted his message were baptised and about 3000 were added to their number that day…and they devoted themselves to fellowship and the apostles’ teaching” Acts 2v38-41
1. Being part of Sunday Meeting (& part of a Sunday Serving Team) 2. Being part of a Home Group 3. Being financially committed to monthly tithes & offerings to the church 4. Being deliberate in hospitality and friendmaking to guard our family atmosphere 5. Being joyfully submitted to the leadership of the church
There are five short appendices at the back of this 1. Repent: You need to be born again (if you aren’t booklet that elaborate on each of these 5 primary expressions of membership. already). 2. Be baptised: You need to be water baptised soon By joining us, you are basically signing up to help (if you aren’t already). others meet and follow Jesus in their lives and giving the rest of us permission to provoke you to Godfirstness in your life! 32
CHAPTER SEVEN Common Questions About Membership 1. Is it okay to be in two churches? 4. How will I know if God is calling me to join this Common sense says no. You will have a split vision church? and all the tensions of trying to chase two rabbits You will want to. You will feel excited by the vision at the same time. Possible exceptions might include and people of the church. You will sense the students who are temporarily living away from presence of God in the church. You will feel their hometown. challenged and stretched. You will understand that it is not a perfect church! 2. My church doesn’t have Home Groups. Can I be in one of your Home Groups but go to my church on 5. What if I join the church but after a few weeks Sunday? realise that I have made a mistake? Not for long. You would feel torn and No problem. We will willingly release you from uncomfortable. membership. 3. Do I have to do ‘Get Connected’ before becoming a member? Yes. It is important that everyone hears the full story before making such an important step.
CHAPTER EIGHT What Next? As you can see we are committed to the vision and values we have received from God and seek to safeguard these within the church family – therefore, if you: agree that Jesus is your saviour and Lord have been (or are committed to being) baptised in water as a believer in Christ are prepared to be accountable to the church elders are happy to be joined to our church family and its values and mission
. . . then perhaps you too are ready to become a church member? However, perhaps this step is not appropriate for you at this stage – in which case we warmly welcome you still to be fully involved in the life of the church whilst you decide whether to make GodFirst your local church. Whichever step you choose it would help us to know a little more about you in order to provide you with any further support you might need – therefore feel free to complete the enclosed form
NAME: ADDRESS (INC. POST CODE):
SPOUSE’S NAME: ANY CHILDREN? (If so please include their names and ages below)
CONTACT NUMBER: EMAIL: DO YOU WISH TO BE CONSIDERED FOR CHURCH MEMBERSHIP? Do you agree that Jesus is your Lord and Are you involved in one of our Home Saviour? Groups? (If so please detail group leader below) Have you been baptised, as a believer, in water? If not, are you prepared to be baptised?
If you are not involved in a Home Group are you interested in joining one?
Have you been baptised in the Holy Spirit? If not, would you like to be? Have you come from another church? (If so please detail name of church and pastor/minister along with contact details – we will contact them in confidence)
Are you interested in becoming more involved in church life? (If so then please tick which area(s) you are most interested in) Music/Worship Stewarding Teaching Serving Tea and Coffee Group Leadership IT and Sunday Projection Children’s work/Youth work (state preferred age) Administration Is there anything you would like to ask that you didn’t get the opportunity to ask?
I would like to begin giving financially and I have completed and returned a Gift Aid Form.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME!
APPENDIX ONE I’m Dreaming Of... 1. I am dreaming of a church that sees people saved and added to us. 2. I am dreaming of lives transformed
find a place of belonging and acceptance with us and with Jesus. 11. I am dreaming of worship so full of the Holy Spirit that we are overwhelmed with God
3. I am dreaming of the Gospel transforming and reconciling families 12. I am praying for us to know what it is to have life and life to the full in Jesus 4. I am dreaming of marriages being saved as Jesus regenerates sinners hearts 13. I am dreaming of such powerful preaching and uncompromising commitment to the Bible that this 5. I am dreaming of the poor being cared for church models radical kingdom life to a world that is spiralling into darkness and demonstrates that 6. I am dreaming of agencies like the council looking there is a better way! to us to help because they see that the Gospel does things that no amount of finance or programming 14. I am dreaming of profile, and such impact that could ever achieve when people find themselves in a crisis that they think ‘I know a church that can help me’. 7. I am dreaming of the lonely being welcomed into this church as family. 15. I am dreaming of seeing this church full of people from the nations, every background, every age and 8. I dreaming of a community of believers that so love social grouping that you can imagine and being so and care for one another that people see Jesus in together that we can truly say we are one in Christ. us. 9. I am looking to God for the downtrodden and 16. I am dreaming of being a church that is from the nations and goes to this town, wider conurbation, abused to be healed and raised up so that they can nation and the nations with the powerful lift others up and bring them to Jesus and show transforming message of Jesus Christ who is the that in Him there is hope. one who died so that others can live! 10. I am asking Jesus for the people who are on the fringes of society, who don’t feel they belong to 39
APPENDIX TWO Our Values 1. A gospel-preaching church that is loving, righteous in its lifestyle, involved in world mission and reaching the unsaved in its community by both public and personal evangelistic activity.
8. A church led by male elders (one of whom is clearly understood to be gifted to be lead elder) who are ordained by the Holy Spirit, recognised and confirmed through apostolic ministry. These men are to be helped in fulfilling their calling through A church whose people are assured of the grace of ongoing fellowship with trans-local ministries. God in their lives and are clear about the full New Covenant benefits of being in Christ. 9. A church where Elders are honoured as servantleaders, caring for the flock and providing A church whose people are baptised in water and in appropriate spiritual disciplines where necessary. the Holy Spirit, and brought into a genuine life in the Spirit. 10. A church freed from complacency and endeavouring to grow in gospel impact, faith, prayer, generosity, A church where God’s presence is prized and where action and influence. God is enthusiastically worshipped with genuine freedom for men and women to worship publicly in 11. A church whose individual members are equipped the Holy Spirit, to use spiritual gifts and to for their role of service within the church and participate in ‘body ministry’. community, including the release and training of those called to trans-local ministry. A church which is a loving community, meeting both publicly and from house to house, sharing and 12. A church which is serving and empowering the poor caring for each others’ needs, both spiritual and within its own ranks and beyond. material. 13. A church which wholeheartedly embraces the New A church where Biblical family life is highly valued, Testament teaching of the one new man, where husband and wife embrace male servant demonstrating love and respect between the races, leadership and joyful female submission, where cultures and sexes.
2. A church where regular teaching and preaching of the Bible holds a primary role and where Scripture’s authority is final. 3.
godly parenting is taught and practised and where the special value of singleness and its unique opportunities are affirmed.
14. A church which is proving to be both salt and light 16. A church desiring and welcoming encouragement in its location, impacting the culture of the and correction from trans-local ministries in the community. fulfilment of these objectives. 15. A church that is committed to excellent relationships with other Christians and churches in its community.
APPENDIX THREE Statement Of Doctrine 7. WE BELIEVE THAT... 1. The Bible is utterly trustworthy (infallible) and inspired by God. It is enough (sufficient) for teaching us what to believe and how to live. The Holy Spirit helps us to understand (illuminates) the 8. Bible. 2. God is one God but three persons - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (This mystery is called the Trinity.) 3. God made everything that exists, and he keeps it all going.
Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day (not just spiritually but physically). There were many witnesses. Soon afterwards he was taken up to heaven where he is now ruling over everything and praying for His church (interceding). Men and women can now receive - by faith - the perfection (righteousness) of Jesus as a free gift, because of atonement. This means people can be completely forgiven and made righteous - even though they are sinners. (This is called justification.)
9. The Holy Spirit was sent by Jesus after his return to heaven. He comforts, counsels, empowers and leads believers. He also challenges non-christians about their sin (conviction) - and brings them to Jesus (conversion). He also works to make believers more holy (sanctification) and gives them gifts to help them serve God. 5. Jesus Christ is fully God. He is the second member of the Trinity. Yet he became fully human when he 10. Jesus is building his new community called the was born from a virgin (incarnation) church. There is the universal church (all the 4. Although men and women were made perfect in the beginning, they turned away from God. Because of this, mankind is now spiritually dead, born sinful and completely unable to turn towards God without the Holy Spirit giving life (regeneration).
6. Jesus Christ earned our way to heaven (salvation). He did this through his perfect life and His death on the cross. He became our substitute and traded his perfection for our guilt. God punished Jesus instead. (This is called the atonement.) 42
Christians in the world) and the local church, - a group of believers, in a particular area, who are committed to Jesus and to each other. The local church should bring in the rule of God (His Kingdom) wherever they are. God is worshipped and His word is preached. People are born again, the poor are cared for and sick people are healed. Believers
are baptised in water as a sign of commitment and 11. God’s Kingdom will come in its fullness with the as a symbol of their death and resurrection in personal and glorious return of Jesus to earth. He Jesus Christ. The Lord’s Supper is also followed, to will judge all of mankind. He will give everlasting celebrate Jesus’ death. joy to the righteous (believers) and everlasting punishment to the wicked. WE BELIEVE: God is a great God! Father, Son & Holy Spirit God is with us That Jesus died instead of us, for the wrong we do By repentance and trusting Him, we receive His forgiveness The Holy Spirit can powerfully change our lives The Bible is God’s Word That we should spread the good news! Jesus is alive and will return THE CHRISTIAN EXPRESSION OF FAITH Honours, obeys and glorifies God, acknowledging God's sovereignty Nourishes the spiritual life and is fully committed to developing it Believes that the love of God in Jesus Christ reaches out to people of all nations, ethnicities and cultures Knows God through the person of Jesus and seeks to follow His way of life, modelling love, peace, justice and forgiveness in attitude and behaviours Embraces the power of the Holy Spirit as the source of strength for living. Recognises and submits to God-appointed leadership within the local church 43
APPENDIX FOUR Practically Speaking Staff have Monday as a day off and so respecting that The office number is 01202 470480 email unless there is an emergency is appreciated. firstname.lastname@example.org All the staff are available to you to discuss any issues that you may have. Being busy people it helps if you can ring to make an appointment. Alison has an up to date diary for Duncan and is happy to make appointments on his behalf. The office at Hope House is â€˜mannedâ€™ 9am-5pm Tuesday to Friday and is closed Mondays, Saturdays and on Sundays.
The email addresses of all staff follow this format e.g., duncan.lee@ godfirstchristchurch.org and so on. Upon becoming members you will receive a membership directory of contact details of other members.
APPENDIX FIVE Gift Aid Declaration Donor’s name: Donor’s address:
DONATIONS MADE TO: Charity name: GodFirst Christchurch Ltd, Charity No. 1090933 DECLARATION: Please treat all donations I have made since 1st May 2012 and all donations I make hereafter as Gift Aid donations. Signature
CANCELLATION OF DECLARATION You are entitled to cancel this declaration at any time TAX REQUIREMENT Remember to notify us if you no longer pay an amount of income tax or capital gains tax equal to the tax we reclaim on your donations (25p for every £1 you give). 45