THE VISION 2019 – PART 2
BUILDING THE FAMILY OF GOD AT ACC…TOGETHER
I HAVE A DREAM
I have a dream! (yes – I know this sounds like a take on Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s speech – but it is not meant to be)
I have a dream of Ashford Community Church full to overflowing with people of all shapes and sizes who are there united by a love of God and a love of each other – Father God in Heaven and Christian family here on earth.
I have a dream of our church overflowing with people who just love being with each other.
I have a dream of old and young, man and woman, boy and girl, married and single, black and white (and all colours in between) mixing together and wanting to just spend time with each other.
I have a dream of people who WELCOME each other with love and care and sacrifice; I have a dream of people who long to draw close to Father God together through corporate WORSHIP; I have a dream of people who hunger and thirst to know more about God through studying and hearing His WORD.
I have a dream of God calling us to make this so. I have a dream of each part of our church family playing their part in making this so.
I have a dream of people working together closely in teams to make our family dream come true.
I have a dream of these teams being well-led by called and chosen leaders who serve Father God and serve the church family by building the vision of Welcome, Worship and Word.
I have a dream where these well-led family teams – where all play their part – builds up our church family to become stronger, closer to God and bigger. I have a dream where those outside the church family will be clamouring to get into our church family because they see us as the family of God in this place and they want to be a part of it.
I have a dream!
Will you dream this dream with me?
BUT SURELY, YOU SAY, WE ARE ALREADY FAMILY!
I have been troubled by my dream – by my vision – of building ACC as “the family of God”. You see, I have rarely been in a church which is MORE family than here! The love for one another, the care shown to one and all is second-to-none! Visitors are made welcome. The hungry are fed. The sick are visited. Hospitality is our speciality! So, WHY this vision, this dream, of “family”? Aren’t we already there???
And so, especially after housegroup on Wednesday when I was feeling very discouraged (no complaint about the housegroup – it’s just that I had these conflicts going on in my mind), I turned to God and He IMMEDIATELY gave me the answer.
Let me try to explain it to you by asking you to consider that famous footballer, David Beckham! Oh, what a prodigious talent! His skills gave rise to the phrase – turned into a feature film – “Bend it like Beckham”. He had the ability to instil fear into the opposition whenever a free kick was given anywhere within striking distance of goal. For he could bend that ball around the strongest of “walls” and place it unerringly in the top corner of the net. He wasn’t so good at defending though…So, what did his manager do? Was he sent out day-after-day to practice defending? No! His skill was in taking free kicks and penalties. So, day-after-day he practiced doing what he was GOOD at, not worked at what he was NOT CALLED TO DO.
The analogy for ACC is this. We are GOOD at being family. We are gifted at welcome and hospitality. So, God is calling us to focus on what we are good at; honing it with ever more thought and practice. This is HIS gift to us and this is where our vision and dream should lie.
So…there we have it!
AND WE ALL HAVE A PART TO PLAY IN MAKING THIS DREAM COME TRUE
In my dream I see our vision fulfilled because:
- All who are able are playing their part in the family of God
- But, to make our dream come true then the individuals who make up the family of ACC need to be co-ordinated in teams that will fine-tune the gifts that we have already got. And these teams need to be led, otherwise we will all be “doing our own thing” without direction. So, the teams that will build the family of ACC are well-led by servants – deacons.
WE ALL HAVE A PART TO PLAY IN THE VISION
Let’s remind ourselves of what we said in the first part of the Vision for 2019.
A family is made up of many different types of individual.
And all in a family have rights: the right to be loved, cared for, provided for, nurtured, encouraged, protected.
And all in a family have responsibilities: the responsibility to play their part in the successful running of the family. The responsibility to love and care for the others in the family; the responsibility to play their part in the work of the family.
For some this “work” will be a lot. For others – busy with day-to-day work (at the office or in the home) – their load will not be so heavy. For some – those who have been hurt in some way – their work will be taken off their shoulders while they “recover”.
But, the Biblical principle is that we all have a part to play in the family life of ACC – and this can be summarised by seeing how the Spirit is given for this purpose:
- God has poured out His Spirit on ALL flesh – not just leaders, or the young and fit, but on ALL (See Acts 2: 17-18). So, ALL of us have a role to play in the ACC family of God.
- We should ALL manifest the Spiritual “Fruit” of love, joy, peace etc – all 9 of them. All people should see Jesus shining through ALL of us – not just some (Galatians 5: 22-23) – so we ALL have a role to play
- Spiritual “gifts” have been made available to ALL of us – not just to some, not just to the super-spiritual amongst us. Prophecy, wisdom, understanding, gifts of healing and the others mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12: 8-11. They are for ALL of us to use…and what for? For the “common good” (1 Corinthians 12: 7) – so that the whole family is built up by ALL of us.
- Spiritual “ministries” are available to the family of God – some are called to be prophets, others apostles, or evangelists, pastors and teachers – so that ALL might be built up to ministry (Ephesians 4: 11-16) for we ALL have a part to play in the family of God at ACC.
All this is summarised by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 – we are ALL part of the “body of Christ” and we are ALL absolutely necessary for the “body” to function properly. No one is more important than anyone else, and if one part of the “body” (the family) does not do their job then the whole family (body) is harmed. And, like a jigsaw puzzle with just one piece missing, we are incomplete.
However, if we all do our “own thing” in “our own way” and at “our own time” then there will be utter chaos in the church! Which is why, established from the start in the Early Church, there are Spiritual “Offices” to ensure that all is done well and in order.
God has ordained these Spiritual offices and it is to these that we now turn to ensure that our family is built up at ACC.
And these Spiritual offices are those of elder and deacon.
ELDERS AND DEACONS SHOULD DIRECT THE FAMILY WELL
Let us study carefully the Biblical principles of managing the family well as outlined in Acts 6: 1-7
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.’
5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
Let us notice some important things here:
- The church was growing – praise God!
- The church family was very involved in caring for each other – here we are told that there was a daily distribution of food to the needy family members. Earlier in the Book of Acts we are told that all the family were involved in meeting together, sharing all things – having them in common, praying together, learning together, taking communion together, eating together, spending time together (Acts 2: 42-47; 4: 32-35)
- However, in the midst of all working as part of the family there was a lack of co-ordination that meant that things were not working out properly and there were those who were not being cared for properly – in this case the Hellenistic Jews.
- The elders and apostles gathered all the disciples together and said that this needed to be sorted out – not by them, but by the people choosing those who would be the deacons of the church – it would be they who would make sure that the church was run well. Note that there is no suggestion that the 7 chosen men did it all themselves. The church at that time numbered many thousands. How could they look after it on their own? No! The clear assumption is that ALL the family continued to play their part – the role of the 7 was to manage it or co-ordinate all the work.
SO, WE SEE THE CLEAR ROLE OF THE ELDERS:
Their job – their role in the church family – was (at the simplest level) to pray and seek the will of God for the church (its direction etc) and to teach the church God’s perfect will.
SO, WE SEE THE CLEAR ROLE OF THE DEACONS:
Their job – at the simplest level – is seen to be to have responsibility to manage the work of the church well. Their role was practical, yes, but they were expected to be “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit”.
And they were to be chosen, not by the elders, but by the people.
By sheer definition of the name, they were to have the role of servants.
And yes, at this time they were commissioned to choose 7 men for the role but we clearly see that very soon this crucial role of management and co-ordination was one held by both men and women (see Romans 16: 1). Our understanding is that deacons are not gender-bound – they can be either male or female.
SO, HOW DO WE WISH TO PROGRESS OUR VISION FOR 2019?
Our proposal to you all is that in 2019 we focus on our strength of building the Family of God here at ACC and that we do this through the “3 W’s” of “Welcome, Worship and Word”.
Our proposal to you is that all the family – except those who are hurting – should be fully involved in church family-life responsibilities.
Our proposal to you is that deacons should be chosen – or elected – by you in order to ensure that this vision is co-ordinated and managed well.
Our proposal to you is that we have clear teams in the church family who will be focusing on each area of the church vision and who will be led by these chosen deacons.
SO, WHAT WOULD OUR CHURCH FAMILY STRUCTURE LOOK LIKE?
We would have in our ACC church family:
4 elders whose role is the oversight of the church.
3 teams focusing on Welcome, Worship and Word. All active members of the church family would be serving the family and God in at least one of these teams.
Each of these teams would be co-ordinated by a deacon that has been chosen by YOU.
There would be a 4th team – known (at least initially) as the Church Management Group – with the responsibility to manage the finances, fabric, administration and secretariat of the church family.
In addition to these 4 teams are the Church Trustees who are the legal representatives of the church as we are a CIO. They are all part of other teams and so would not need to be co-ordinated by a separate deacon.
The elders and deacons would then make up the “Leadership Team” of the church – the group of people responsible for ensuring that the church family is well-cared for and that the “3 W’s” are taken forward.
Pictorially, this structure could be seen to look like that shown at the bottom of this document.
WHAT DO I DO NOW?
Now…here is “where the rubber hits the road”. The elders would like you to consider two things – starting right now, and continuing over the coming weeks:
- Where do I fit in? Which teams do I think that I would like to be serving the family in?
- Who do I think is the person “full of faith and the Holy Spirit” who should serve as deacon on each of these teams?
To help you meditate prayerfully on these things there were “stations” placed around the main hall with posters which describe suggested roles within each team and the personal qualifications desirable to be part of each team. These documents are also attached to these teaching notes for you to study.
There are also sheets for you to fill in to say where you feel you could fit in. You may well want to “tick” a number of areas where you are, or would like, to serve the church family. Therefore, we ask that you number your choices in order of priority – where the role you feel most called to is numbered “1”. These can be handed back to one of the elders – or emailed back to the church at:
Most of you are already working hard in the church family. You can use these sheets to indicate that you want to continue in the roles you are already wonderfully performing.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
At the right time, over the next few weeks, we shall call a church meeting at which the deacons for the 4 teams can be chosen by you.
The elders will meet with your chosen deacons to talk about what their teams will look like.
The chosen deacons will be presented to the church and prayed for.
They will then have access to the documents that you have submitted and will begin to draw their “teams” together.
It is all very exciting!
THE VISION 2019: TO BUILD THE CHURCH FAMILY UP AND NOT TO WEAR IT OUT!
When I first arrived at the church I found the people exhausted after several years of working hard for the church while “holding down” full-time jobs at the office or in the home.
The aim of the vision, and the aim of focusing on the “3 W’s”, and the aim of building teams led by deacons is NOT to make more work. It is NOT to increase the number of meetings that family members are required to attend.
In fact, if the vision is right, the pressure on many should REDUCE and we shall see the church growing naturally and beautifully.
I have a vision – will you share this vision? Will you be part of this vision?