REDEDICATION SERVICE 2019 OF OUR CHURCH TO THE LORD
‘AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSEHOLD, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD.’ (JOSHUA 24: 15)
We start this week where we left off last week – Samson, at the end, rededicated his life to the LORD…and all was well…
REDEDICATION IS A GOOD THING:
Samson was dedicated to the LORD from before he was even born! This meant that his mum – and then Samson himself – had to choose to say that his life belonged totally to God and that he was going to live for the LORD all his life – one day at a time.
But, as we have seen, Samson kind-of began to drift away from his dedication to God when he was lured into “bed with the world” – Delilah looked just too good to pass by! His dedication gone, he walked away from true commitment to God and his spiritual strength left him.
The good news, of course, is that he came to his senses and – allowing his hair to grow again – he re-dedicated his life to God and laid it down for the LORD as he pulled down the stronghold of the temple of Dagon – killing thousands of Philistines and himself in the process.
But, with that re-dedication his spiritual strength was restored and his purpose fulfilled.
Re-dedication is a good thing.
For us all it has been a full-on year –there have been good times and there have been bad times; there have been times when we have been close to the LORD and times when we have been way, way, away; times when we have served Him and times when we have served ourselves.
But, let us not “beat ourselves up” – we have had, as a church, a really powerful year: we have received a new Vision for our way forward; we have focused our teaching and learning on putting on the full armour of God to enter powerfully the spiritual battle in which we are all embroiled; we have chosen deacons and seen them taking the reins of their teams; we have grown spiritually and numerically; we have eaten together, walked together (literally!), sung together, cried together and laughed together.
And now, after a summer break, it is time to go forward once more.
How right for us to re-dedicate our lives individually, and as a church family, to serving the LORD will all of our hearts, minds and strength.
For some, this rededication will be a getting-back-up after a rest and renewing our commitment to walk-the-walk for our LORD.
For you this is a verse that will be an encouragement at this time:
“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.” (Is 40: 31 KJV21)
For others, this rededication will be a time to say sorry for not walking faithfully with God and to choose this day to start walking with Him again (we call this repentance). Maybe you recognise that you have “got into bed with the world” and that you need to come back “into His loving arms” right now.
For you these are verses of challenge and encouragement at this time:
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9, NIV)
- REDEDICATION BEGINS WITH RECOGNISING WHERE WE HAVE COME FROM:
As a church, I think that maybe an act of rededication comes with recognising where we have “come from” – in order to get a real sense of our calling to be in this family right here – rather than somewhere else. Why don’t we stop and look at the history of God’s people in this place….
FREC/ACC BRIEF HISTORY (ERNEST BATE)
This is a brief history of our church, outlining how we got to be Ashford Community Church in 2019.
The first church on this site was built in 1903. A group of Wesleyan Methodists bought the plot (excluding the car park area) and erected a so-called “Tin Tabernacle”, which was a corrugated iron assembly hall. We have a photo of the Methodist congregation outside the tin tabernacle in the 1910s. It had quite an ornate front window and had an entrance porch at the side. [Picture available]
The Ashford Open Brethren began meeting in about 1930, initially in rented accommodation in the centre of Ashford. In 1933 the brethren bought the land and the tin tabernacle from the Methodists for £450. They then met in the tin tabernacle and called themselves “Francis Hall”.
The building remained unchanged until the early 1960s, when the original kitchen and what is now the middle hall was built onto the tin tabernacle. Some older members remember meetings gathered round the cast-iron tortoise stove which was the only source of heating. [Picture available]
In about 1965 the tin tabernacle was pulled down and this main church building was built. While the church was being built the brethren met in a school off Bond Road. The church was designed by an architect in Folkestone named Mr Wilcox, who was a Plymouth brother. He designed the building to suit the brethren, including the baptistry. He also designed the principle furnishings which were the table, the lectern and the pulpit. The table is still in use, the lectern is now used near the side entrance and the pulpit has been scrapped because it no longer suited our needs. Mr Wilcox designed the structure of the building around standard frameworks that were available at that time for building agricultural sheds to house hop-picking machines. Those are the white beams you see holding up the roof.
In 1965 the name was changed from “Francis Hall” to “South Ashford Gospel Chapel”.
In the 1970s the back hall was added on and the car park was bought. On 18 March 1975 the name changed again, this time to “Evangelical Church, Francis Road”. We commonly used the name “Francis Road Evangelical Church” and shortened it to FREC; we were sometimes nick-named “Frekies” by our friends.
Until the 1990s, the church worked on the brethren model of having no paid employees (except the caretaker and cleaner). All the leadership, administration, teaching, youth work and evangelism was done by members as volunteers. We operated as a charitable trust managed by a group of trustees governed by a Deed of Covenant established when the tin tabernacle was bought from the Methodists.
We reached a stage where we could not do all we wanted without having a paid full-time worker. Our member Lynda Nyles had done youth work for us for many years and wanted to do a degree in Youth Work at Oasis College, so we paid Lynda an allowance and were her placement church while she did this degree from September 1995 till July 1997. We then employed her as our Full-Time Youth Worker from August 1997 till July 1999.
In 1997 we purchased 54 Francis Road as our Church House, both to accommodate our Youth Worker and to provide extra meeting space. Some of the teenagers used to go to Church House for their Sunday morning sessions.
After Lynda moved on, we employed Sue Martin as our Full-Time Youth Worker from October 2000 till September 2005.
When Sue moved on, we decided that we needed to employ a Full-Time Elder, rather than another Youth Worker, so that the needs of the whole membership could best be met. So we employed Dave Webster as our Full-Time Elder from July 2008 till February 2010.
After Dave moved on, we employed Dominic Squibb as our Full-Time Elder from August 2010 till October 2013.
In 2013 we extended and refitted the kitchen with commercial grade facilities, which enables us to do outreach events with meals, and which now hosts the “Open Arms” weekly meals for the homeless.
After Dominic moved on, we spent some time considering the best way forward for the church, and we looked for suitable leaders to employ as a pastor/evangelist.
In October 2015 we began discussions to appoint Roger Tanton as our Full-Time Elder and to merge with “Outpost Church” which he leads, but the proposed merger was halted by Roger in April 2016.
In January 2016 we became a CIO (a Charitable Incorporated Organisation) which is a legal entity that enables us to be a Registered Charity.
In January 2017 we installed an improved audio-visual system with full video facilities, which are now often used to show film-clips during services and will be used for showing films for outreach.
From September 2017 we have employed Peter Hobbs as our Full-Time Elder, with the title “Pastor/Evangelist”.
On 25 March 2018 we changed our name from “Evangelical Church, Francis Road” or “Francis Road Evangelical Church” to “Ashford Community Church”.
In 2018 we began building the Mezzanine Floor and creating the prayer room, using a legacy from Bob Adsett.
Now in 2019 we are about to upgrade the toilets and provide a disabled toilet.
In the past few years we have increasingly hired the halls and church to outside groups, such as East Kent Chorus, Weight-Watchers and University of the Third Age (U3A). This has brought people into the church building who would not normally come in here, and it has helped to make people aware of us and our faith in Jesus.
- REDEDICATION COMES WITH A PERSONAL AND PUBLIC DECLARATION:
Next I think that an act of rededication comes with a personal and public declaration of our decision to be dedicated fully to the LORD from this time onwards.
For this, I find it helpful to look at the experience of rededication for the Israelites at the end of the leadership of Joshua. The Israelites have entered the Promised Land. But, it has not been easy. They have had to fight against the nations who inhabited the land – huge battles of success like at Jericho and battles of failure such as at Ai. They have walked with the LORD and they have walked away from the LORD. Now, at the age of 110 Joshua challenges the Israelites to:
‘…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’ (Joshua 24: 15)
Many have faithfully walked with the LORD through the Promised Land, many others had wavered and compromised with the people who lived in the land – and their practices and beliefs.
But, now all of them declare in a public act of rededication:
‘Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! 17 It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we travelled. 18 And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.’ (Joshua 24: 16-18)
What better declaration of rededication can we cry than this:
“Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods…We too will serve the LORD, because He is our God!”
- REDEDICATION INVOLVES TAKING UP THE VISION GOD HAS GIVEN US
Next, I think that an act of rededication comes in a recognition that our LORD has given us a Vision – a task – to fulfil in this year – and to recommit ourselves to this vision that was brought to the church back in January of this year.
And what was this Vision?
That God wants to build us even stronger as His Family at ACC
That this is going to be seen through focusing on the “3 W’s” of:
- Welcome: making sure that everyone who enters our church building feels valued, loved and cared for and that all those who are already a part of the church family feel the same on a day-to-day basis.
- Worship: 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.
- Word: 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.
Our Vision is that when people feel loved, when people feel that they are being drawn into the very presence of God, and when people feel that they are getting to know God better, then THIS Is a church family that they will want to be a part of.
- REDEDICATION MEANS NOW GOING FORWARD
Our focus on teaching in the next season leading up to Christmas is going to be on Prayer. Underpinning our Vision MUST be PRAYER. Caring for the family must begin in PRAYER. Going forward together must be grounded in PRAYER.
And so, fulfilling a declared part of our vision, we bring to you – and dedicate to God – the Prayer Ministry Team. They are going to be available during the service and at the end of the service to pray for any of you who feel that you would benefit from someone speaking with you and to God on your behalf. The message (sermon), from this day on, will regularly have a time of reflection and response at its end – a time when you might want one of the Prayer Ministry Team to pray for you as you seek to apply the teaching of the day to your life from this time forward.
These men and women of the Prayer Ministry Team are NOT better than you; they do NOT have a “greater” Spirit than you; their prayers are NOT better than yours. But, they are simply available to serve you and the LORD by praying for you.
We, as a church, dedicate them to the service of the LORD right now – and then we will all go into a time of rededication.
Do YOU want to participate in rededicating your life to the LORD?
You can do this RIGHT NOW –even as you read the text of this message
TIME TO GO A LITTLE DEEPER – ON YOUR OWN OR IN HOUSEGROUP
Have a really good read of Joshua 24: 14- 18.
Joshua has called the Israelites together at Shechem.
He has led Israel for many years and, at the age of 110, is a very old man and soon to leave this earth.
It is time for them to choose whom they will be whole-heartedly dedicated to. His challenge to them – and their reaction – have much to teach us today…..Have a “go” at the questions on the next page…
- How had the Israelites compromised their commitment to God over the years? Why had they been so foolish, do you think, to have done this? And can you see any parallels with us in our day?
- Is there anything significant in the gods that they had chosen to get led astray by? And are there lessons for us to learn here?
- Look carefully at Joshua’s declaration: “as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”. Is there anything about this that you like? Is there anything here that you are uncertain about or makes you feel uncomfortable?
- What is it that challenges the Israelites to make their rededication to God? And ask yourself what things there are that might lead YOU to make a rededication to the LORD.
- Read on just a little more….v.19-20 prophesies disaster on the Israelites if they are unfaithful to God. What do you think of this? Surely this is just Old Testament “stuff”?
- What are the benefits to us of daily dedication to the LORD?