NEW YEAR MESSAGE 2019
THE “VISION” FOR 2019
Church as family: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKYKDvq81f8
PRESS ON “TOWARDS THE GOAL”
In our last message of 2018 we looked back at a blessed year for ACC in our “Review of the Year” and were reminded again that we should always turn to God and say “Thank You” – trusting that He WILL use all things for our good, according to His promises.
It is good to remember and celebrate the wonderful things the Lord has done for His church at ACC over the past 12 months. Let us celebrate how He is building His church and making it strong.
However, with this call to remember comes this passage written by Paul to the Philippians in chapter 3 and verses 13-14:
forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, 14 I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.
It has been well-said that the one who is forever driving a car by looking in the rear-view mirror to see what is behind will quickly end up hitting the car that is in front!. Paul is encouraging us to go forward – into the new year – and thus to “forget” about what is behind – the past.
But what does he mean? Is he really saying that we should just forget about the past? NO! Rather, he is saying that we should not allow the past to take over the future. For some people, they live in the past – wanting to hold on to something that was wonderful, or unable to let go of something that changed their lives in a terrible way (thus, Charles Dickens wrote in “Great Expectations” of the tragedy of Miss Haversham – always dressed in her bridal gown and living in a ghost-like state in a crumbling wedding venue, unable to move on after being “jilted” at the altar). Instead we should put the past behind us – not forgetting it, but learning from it, building on it – so that we can now go forward into the future that God has prepared for us.
In such a way should we say “thank you” to God for 2018 – seeing it as a “launch pad” for 2019.
FIX YOUR EYES UPON JESUS
Paul (for I believe it was he), writing to the Hebrews in chapter 12 exhorts us in this way:
let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith (v. 1-2)
And so we enter into 2019. Who knows what lies ahead? Some of it will be good and some of it will be bad – but all will be beneficial for us as long as we trust and obey (remember that there is “no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey”).
The roadway of our life stretches out ahead of us. There is only one safe way forward on this road and that is to fix our eyes on Jesus – obeying what He says in His Word and listening to what He says through His Spirit.
It’s REALLY simple…the hard part is our DOING it!
I’m always encouraged at this time of year by the Christmas speech of King George VI – at a time when Britain was in a very dark place of war with Nazi Germany – and I hope and pray it will be an encouragement to you too:
“A new year is at hand. We cannot tell what it will bring. If it brings peace, how thankful we shall all be. If it brings us continued struggle we shall remain undaunted.”
Toward the end of his nine-minute broadcast, he said:
“I feel that we may all find a message of encouragement in the lines which, in my closing words, I would like to say to you:”
He then read from a poem given to him by his 13-year-old daughter, Princess Elizabeth,
“I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.’”*
He finished by saying,
“May that Almighty Hand guide and uphold us all.”
(*“The Gate of the Year,” by Minnie Haskins (1908))
WHAT ABOUT THE WAY FORWARD FOR THE CHURCH?
The King James version of Proverbs 29: 18 says this:
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
It is said that when you have no goal (as in football), or no target (as in archery), then you will undoubtedly miss every time!
If you, an individual, have no direction in 2019 then you will wander aimlessly through the year.
In the same way, if the church, of which you are a part, has no vision then we shall not see where God is taking us.
So, the elders are coming to you this day to bring to you the “Vision 2019” which we believe God is wanting to direct us through the coming year.
We ask that you listen to it carefully, study it diligently and meditate on it constantly – so that it might be our light – the light of ACC – as we go into the new year.
OUR VISION IS THAT OF FAMILY
As we questioned last week: why should we be part of Ashford Community Church? Why not go to a bigger church? Why not join with a larger group of Christians – where there are more people our age, more activities that we like to be part of, louder worship, better teaching? Why be HERE?
The answer is this:
Our vision is that God has called us to be “family”. From the beginning of time God’s plan for mankind was to exist in family – a mother and father loving each other and then bearing children who they should build up to maturity, caring for them and nurturing them.
This, we believe, is His model for society in general and for our church in particular.
Note two clear passages in the New Testament:
“Love the family of believers” (1 Peter 2: 17)
“You are members of God’s family” (Ephesians 2: 19 – New Living Translation)
In 2019 let us be brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers to each other. Our vision is for ACC to be a family of believers, caring for each other, building each other up, standing by each other through “thick and thin”
The best families are strong families. The best families are not perfect – they often fight and bicker – but they stand by each other. When family members do not feel loved, are not cared for, are not nurtured, then they leave and that family falls apart.
God will build our church up when we focus this year on family relationships between us.
Our role is to love each other, care for each other, stand by each other and support each other so that our family at ACC might be built up. And it will be built up in two ways this year:
- Those already part of the ACC family will become stronger
- Others, from outside, will want to join the family and so it will become larger.
And why? Because people want to be loved. And when they feel loved then they want to be part of the family.
And what is our vision for building us up to become more and more “family”?
OUR VISION IS THREE-FOLD: “WELCOME, WORSHIP AND WORD”
This year the “3 W’s” – Welcome, Worship, Word shall be the foci of all that we do.
And if we get enhance and encourage these “3 W’s” in all that we do, then we shall see ACC becoming a stronger family day-by-day.
Let us take each of these “3 W’s” in turn to understand why:
OUR VISION OF “WELCOME”
It has been rightly observed that a visitor to a church knows within 10 seconds of walking in through the door whether this is a place that they want to make their home (there you go – another “family” analogy!). If the building is cold and unwelcoming; if the people are distant and uncaring then they will not come back…for all mankind is looking for a place where they can feel “at home”, loved and cared for.
So, our vision for “welcome” is two-fold:
- To make the place, which is the “shop window” of our family, one which makes people feel welcome as soon as they come in on a Sunday morning. As they are greeted at the door, shown to their seats, offered a drink and biscuits, chatted to before and after the service, so we wish to make all people feel “warm”, valued, welcome and at “home”.
- To ensure that, on a day-to-day basis, everyone here feels part of the family of God. To ensure that all people – whether young or old, male or female, married or single – feel that they are being cared for, listened to, loved and wanted. To ensure that all are kept in touch with, invited to family-life meals and social events, visited when sick or anxious.
God WILL build our church up when we become well-known as a family who love each other.
In 2019 let no one feel that they are lonely or unwanted!
Let all feel welcomed!
OUR VISION OF “WORSHIP”
We have seen, in the past year, that the simplest definition of worship is to lift our eyes off ourselves and to look at God and spend time with Him. Well, surely we can do that on our own? Surely we don’t need to focus on this as an attribute of family life?
We don’t agree. The old saying of “the family that prays together, stays together” is as true today as it always was.
Our focus on “worship” this year is to say that we want the ACC family to come together through a mutual longing to draw closer to God together. Lifting up “holy hands” to God together, singing together, enjoying being in the presence of God together. Our vision is of a family who are looking forward each week to coming to church because they just CAN’T WAIT to start worshipping together.
When people feel that they meet with God when they come to church then this is the church they want to be a part of.
Let us worship!
OUR VISION OF “WORD”
In the best families the parents bring up their children wisely. They teach them the best way to live. They admonish them when they do wrong and praise and encourage them when they do right.
It is our belief that people long to be a part of a church family where they are finding more out about God. Other churches might be “all bells and whistles” but, at the end of the day, people long to get to know God better.
Again, it can be said that you do not need to go to church to find out more about God – you can study the Bible yourself (and this is indeed important) and you can learn about Him through the internet (and this is indeed a blessing). But, families grow best when they learn together.
Our aim in 2019 us to provide first-class teaching, based totally on the Word of God, not just on a Sunday but during the week as well, which will satisfy the need of people to know Him better.
When people feel that the teaching of a church increases their knowledge of God then that is the church that they want to be part of.
SURELY NONE OF THIS IS NEW!
Of course not!
But, let’s face it, as wise King Solomon teaches us in Ecclesiastes 1: 9
there is nothing new under the sun.
So, how is this our “vision” for 2019???
Well, two things:
- It’s all to do with “focus”: being a church “family” has always been known – but this year we are calling you to FOCUS on this. The importance of “Welcome, Worship and Word” has always been known – but this year we believe God is calling us to FOCUS on this.
- The “3 W’s” are the “principles” of the Vision for 2019…we have not yet told you the “specifics” or “practices” by which this is to be achieved – this is the focus of NEXT week’s study – and it is then that you shall see some dramatic NEW aspects to the “Vision 2019”
CONCLUSION: THE CLUE IS UNDERSTANDING WHAT A FAMILY REALLY IS LIKE
Next week we shall be focusing on what being part of a family REALLY means.
But, a little “taster” now.
A good family is made up of very different individuals. There are “fathers” and “mothers” – each with different roles. There are children who are young and others who are older. There are those who are just babies. Some are good with their brains while others are better with their brawn. While there are those who like to spend all their time with the family, others like to spend quite a lot of time on their own.
But, what is common in all good families is that EVERYONE HAS A PART TO PLAY IN FAMILY LIFE. There are dishes to wash and carpets to hoover. There are games to be played and programmes to be watched. One child needs a plaster on their knee, another needs to get on with their homework.
But NO-ONE is there “for the ride”! There are the wonderful “rights” of family life (like love and care) but there are also the “responsibilities” of family life – so no sitting “on your backside” all day long expecting everyone else to do the work!
Now, the exception to this, of course, is during times of illness or tiredness. Then it is RIGHT to be looked after “hand and foot”.
The same is true of our vision for ACC being “family”.
Although there will be times when you should be allowed to just sit back and be cared for – because life is tough and you are needing care – yet, in general we ALL have a part to play to make the family strong!
So, EVERYONE HAS A PART TO PLAY IN THE FAMILY OF GOD AT ASHFORD COMMUNITY CHURCH!