One of the things I love about Grace is that our church is a family. That is God’s heart, I believe, for His church - “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:12 ESV. I am grateful that we are a multi-generational church. I love to look out from the pulpit and see grandparents listening to the sermon next to their grandchildren. The fact that we are a multi-generational church means that we often need to make concessions for each other. We all have different perspectives regarding music and style but I’m so glad that we lay those down in order to prefer each other above ourselves. This is a deeply personal issue for me. I need family. I’m so grateful for those who stand in as “grandparents” and “uncles” for my own children!
I would like to share with you where I believe God is leading us in 2016 as a church family. Part of this vision comes from my study through Romans and is driven by God’s Word. In a moment I would like to look with you at Nehemiah's prayer from Nehemiah 1:4-11. This vision is cast from my sense of leading as your pastor and shared by the leadership at Grace Church.
How do any of us begin to seek God’s vision for our church? We start in His Word. That is also how we guard against a vision being driven by personal goals, perspectives and agendas. In Nehemiah 1 God's leading is four-fold:
1. Vision begins with time alone with God in your prayer closet. Vision is often born from quiet time alone with God in prayer.
- Neh 1 :4 - As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.
- Neh 1:5 And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments."
- Prayer protects us from the temptation to base vision on what we want to do and not what God wants from us.
2. Vision is developed through times of confession and brokenness - as we become aware of personal sin.
- Neh 1:6 - let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father's house have sinned.
- Neh 1 :7 - We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses.
- Before we start with seeking the next thing, we start with an honest look inside.
- What sin needs to be confessed?
- Where are we as a church? How have we honored you? Where might we need to grow?
- As I think back over the last few years it is obvious that our time and energy needed to focus on two priorities: pastor transition and getting into this building.
- The sense of the leadership is that both of those points are behind us now.
- As a leadership team, we now sense it’s the right time for a fresh focus. I don't believe God wants us to sit back - but rather move forward.
3. A vision grows in times of seeing God work in the broken world and in our lives.
- Nehemiah 1 :8 Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples,
- Nehemiah 1 :9 but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’
- Nehemiah: 1 :10 They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand.
- As I look around I see how God has blessed our church in so many ways; but what about others?
- As I think about the needs around us: broken relationships, broken lives, lost people, I am deeply burdened.
- Driven by a burden for the lost and the hurting, I sense God’s vision for our church is to care.
- May Christ shine a light on us that casts a shadow on others. I pray that we can be influencing others to look to Christ.
4. Vision is blessed as we continue to seek God. He is faithful.
- Nehemiah 1:11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”
- God has been opening doors.
- God has been growing a passion for His purposes.
- It’s been amazing to hear how God is moving in our lives. I love to hear your stories and thank many of you for sharing them with me.
These four pieces of vision lead me to share a three-fold focus based on our vision statement and the stirring of our hearts.
Let me remind you of our vision statement:
“Our vision is to be a loving community that invites our neighbors to join us in becoming devoted followers of Jesus who impact the world for Him.”
A. I believe God is calling us to prayer:
- To use us to reach those who aren’t walking with Christ
- To become increasingly a people of prayer.
- To be central in our lives and our activities as a church
B. Worship - pray we will be increasingly:
- Authentic in our personal worship
- Leaving an impression with visitors that our church family is in love with Jesus.
C. Church planting – I pray that a focus on worship and prayer leads us to church planting -
- This vision starts with a church family that is praying to be available and faithful for God to use them to reach the lost.
- Church planting involves the development of a 3-5 year plan.
- My personal prayer is that we won’t just plant a single church every now and then, but rather that we can develop a mechanism to be a reproducing church.