March 28, 2021 IAN JONES

BETTER TOGETHER

BETTER TOGETHER

At our recent Vision Sunday service we affirmed the fact that we, as a church, have been called to "Love God....Love Life....Love People".
This is the very essence of who, what and why we are, as a Christian church.
We also adopted "BETTER TOGETHER" as a special theme for the year. 
  
The past year, defined by a global pandemic, has been an horrendous one for us all. It has provided huge challenges, both physical, technological and, especially, spiritual for us as a church. It has been a year where we have seen many people become disengaged from the church. It has been a threat to our sense of fellowship. It has been a time of stress and, in times of stress, people become very insular and critical. And no matter how much we have done, how much we have tried, how much we have cared….for some it has not been enough.
Instead of pulling together, the stresses of this past year have tended to pull us apart.

But are we the first to experience such times of challenge? Of course not!
Think of the believers gathered together in the early days of the first "church". What was their context? Read ACTS 2:42-47.
Well, it was only a matter of weeks since Jesus, their leader and Lord, had been arrested, brutally killed and taken from them. At that point they were fearful, hiding, disconnected, disowning their faith, probably even betraying each other. Their immediate past was not one of comfort and ease, or rollicking good times. Far from it. They feared for their lives.
Yet, this passage is one that we often hold up as the example of how a church should be.
And so we should.
Because the church is not defined by the conditions of the society it finds itself in, or the problems that surround it.

Over the past months of prayerful consideration of where the church is at in these challenging times, the phrase kept coming to mind…”better together”. I guess because we have all been mindful of how the times of isolation and distancing and not being able to gather have affected us….we do believe that we are better together. But it must go beyond merely meeting on a Sunday morning.
That is good, but it is not enough.
Look at Acts 2….they met in the courts, they met in their homes, they enjoyed fellowship and studying the Word and praying together. They were, in the truest sense of the word, a community of believers.

And right now, I believe it is so important that we re-discover what it means to be a community of believers.
So, we have intentionally and prayerfully taken BETTER TOGETHER as a theme for this year as a reminder that all that we are and do as a church is "better together".

As my thinking and praying has developed around this theme, I have been drawn to preach through the Book of Acts…as part of our discovering afresh what it means to be a community of believers.
Acts is all about being “better together”…in fellowship and in mission.
Instead of individualism, Acts presents a radical community so committed to Christ, the cause of the Gospel and each other.
Instead of pluralism, Acts presents a church that based its life on Christ that compelled them to share the Good News with the world.
Instead of wishy-washy compromise, Acts presents a church that was convinced and convicted.
Instead of resources focused inwardly, Acts presents a church that released its best for the cause of Christ and the spreading of the Gospel.
Instead of relying on excellent techniques, Acts presents a church relying on the Holy Spirit and on prayer.
Instead of avoiding suffering, Acts presents a church willing to suffer discomfort, persecution, even death, for the cause of Christ.

I see the lessons that we can learn from a study of Acts as being powerful and beneficial for us as a church, as a true community of believers….and that will underscore all that we do and how we do it.

I believe this theme, “better together”, can be something that helps focus us this year. But it is not a gimmicky slogan…it is a biblical mandate.
Our over-arching church theme - Loving God….Loving Life….Loving People, is enhanced by this focus. For, in fact, as a church we love God, love Life and love People better…when we do it together.

So, using this as the theme for this year, I believe we can wholeheartedly get behind our desire for more  and effective Life Groups, community outreach, social activities, mission activity, ministry groups, working bees and, indeed, anything and everything that will help us to be and to do that which we have been called by our Lord to be and to do.

However, it is impossible for us to be “better together” if we are not going to be in it together.
So, even in the face of many challenges and unknowns ahead, let us to move forward, prayerfully, practically and, in the Lord, powerfully together.
Let's rise to the challenge......together!