2016 – A New Year
We live in a world of great upheaval and uncertainty right now…
- ISIS, a group of militants, is creating terror and fear in many parts of our world.
- It is estimated that over sixty million people in the world are displaced right now. That’s approximately one in every 122 people.
- Economically, a recession or financial downturn seems to occur in a cycle of every 7-8 years. Many forecasters are saying we are nearing another correction.
- There are wars and conflicts going on right now in various parts of the world.
- Politics continues to be uncertain, with upcoming elections in the USA and Australia.
- Natural disasters seem to be increasing, some say because of humanity’s neglect of the environment and failure to care for our planet.
- The marriage equality debate is heating up here in Australia, especially after it became legal in the USA last year. Religious freedom is also believed to be under threat.
- The challenge of domestic violence continues to be prominent in the news.
- Cases of child abuse, especially within institutions such as the church, continue to be exposed.
This is the world we live in, like it or not. In Australia, due to the tyranny of distance, we are often immune to much of the tension that people are living in across the globe … as we often see it only on TV. We live in a world that desperately needs Jesus! Only He can change a human heart. Every crisis is an opportunity. Darkness provides an environment where the light can shine even brighter.Jesus’ World
The first century, the time that Jesus walked on this earth, was similar in many ways to our world right now. There were political tensions - between the Roman Empire and its subjects. There were conflicts and uprisings in various places. There were religious tensions, with various factions vying for prominence. There were Messianic, ‘end-of-the-world’ type expectations, especially amongst the Jewish people.
What did Jesus do? He sought to bring about transformation to His world … one day at a time, one life at a time. Jesus was a transformer of the human heart. The impact of Jesus (God in human form) is seen in the gospel stories. Through personal encounters with Jesus, individual people came to faith in Him. People from every walk of life and every strata of society were transformed through meeting Jesus – both the religious and the irreligious.
This has continued to occur throughout history, with numerous stories of conversion. Many people affirm that genuine religious experience is still found, not just in merely thinking about God (as important as that is) but in experiencing God through His Spirit. Jesus is alive and by His Spirit, He is still transforming people’s lives. Jesus is a real person who reshapes and guides our lives.Vision – What Do You See?
What do you see for the year ahead? Humans are forward thinking creatures. We plan our day, our week and our years, looking forward to holidays or special occasions. This helps to create a sense of purpose. In fact, living without a purpose is harmful to our health. We need something that motivates us to get out of bed every morning. God is a forward thinker too. He has plans and dreams for this world and your life. So what do you see?Church Vision
Churches need to have vision too – a sense of direction. Right now, we have a vision to see over 10,000 stories of transformation by the end of 2016. This 3-year vision is something that was birthed in prayer and our desire to join Jesus in His work of transformation in our world. Every number has a name; every name has a story; and every story matters to God. 10,000 new stories... and counting. We have already made good progress towards this becoming a reality. We are thankful to God for every story of transformation that has taken place – decisions for Christ, water baptisms, new volunteers, new community clients, churches planted overseas, healings, Holy Spirit–fillings, as well as answers to prayer. As we move into our final year of this vision, let’s continue to be captured by the vision that Jesus has for His church as contained in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). After all, transformation (positive change) is what CityLife is all about … transformation of individuals, families, communities, cities and nations. It’s about seeing God’s kingdom established here on earth as in heaven. This is why we are here - to make a genuine difference in our world.Your Part of Our Vision
So what can you do to be part of this Vision? How can you contribute? It’s good to have a vision, but how will we move from where we are now to that becoming a reality? There are two primary activities we can each participate in to make this vision a reality.1. Engage
This is the ‘reach out’ part of our mission as a church. As each one of us engages with people who don’t yet know Jesus, we establish a connection that makes transformation possible. One of the best ways to engage is to focus on just 1 person and then intentionally reach out to them with the love of God in practical ways – pray for them, listen and hear their story, share a meal, serve them in some way and, perhaps, share the story of Jesus in our life. Jesus talks about the good shepherd leaving the 99 to go after 1 lost sheep (Mt.18:12). This is not another program but rather a way of life.2. Connect
This is the ‘raise up’ part of our mission. Vision is best achieved in community with other people. This occurs best through connecting with a small group, like one of our Life Groups, or a serving team. Together everyone achieves more. It’s about being fervent followers of Jesus Christ in our world.The Meaning of Life
Be transformed through your experience of God. Hear the call to a personal encounter with the living Jesus. Will we follow Jesus? He wants to give us life to the full (John 10:10). Church cannot transform you nor can preaching or meetings themselves. Only Jesus can do that - and He often works through church, preaching and meetings. Be a transformer wherever you go. Holiness is about living life how it was meant to be lived. Justice is about making the world right again. Jesus is calling out: “Follow Me”. Who’s in? Be transformed to be a transformer this year.Discussion Questions
1. As you watch the daily news, what concerns you most about what is taking place in our world?
2. What is your favorite story of transformation in the Gospels?
3. What are you personally excited about or looking forward to this year?
4. Why is vision so important for our lives?
5. Discuss the FOCUS 1 strategy and how your group can use that this year to Engage.
6. Discuss ways your Life Group can be more enjoyable and effective? What would make it better?
7. Have each person share their personal story of transformation. What factors contributed to the work Jesus has done in each life? How can this inform our FOCUS 1 this year?
8. Finish by praying for the church and its’ vision to see over 10,000 stories of transformation.