Recently our Senior Minister, Mark Conner, took time to review some of the important aspects of God's purpose for our
church - Our Mission, Our Values, Our Vision for 2010 and Building Our Future (refer to Vision weekend brochure).
God still speaks today. Those who are led by the Spirit are the children of God (Rom.8:14). As we listen carefully to the
voice of the Holy Spirit, he will speak to us regarding our personal lives and give us direction as a church community (Rev.2:7). Just as God has a specific purpose and plan for each individual, so he has a specific purpose and plan for each local church. CityLife has been called to play a special part in God's work in these end times.An Antioch Church
Our previous Senior Minister, Kevin Conner, was given a very clear word concerning our church back on October 14 th, 1989, when he was in San Antonio, Texas. This was what the Lord said:
"CityLife Church is to maintain the foundation principles laid down in the church at Jerusalem, but not to allow the spirit and attitude that crept into the church at Jerusalem to get into CityLife. CityLife is called to be like the church at Antioch."
Some of the principles we learn from the Jerusalem church include: proper foundations for new believers (water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism), ingredients of church life (teaching, fellowship, generosity, etc), large and small gatherings
(Celebration and LifeGroup) and evangelism (see Acts 2). The things to avoid are legalism, centralisation, sectarianism and a spirit of pride.
Some of the principles we learn from the Antioch church include: team ministry, discipleship, ministry to the Lord, prayer and fasting, allowing the Holy Spirit to speak, receiving and responding to the prophetic word, and strong evangelistic and missionary outreach (see Acts 11:19-30 and 13:1-3).
This word concerning Antioch has done much to shape the identity of our church (see Kevin's booklet The Vision of an Antioch Church for further details).The Ephesus Experience
After spending time in prayer and in reflection on the above word concerning Antioch and on other prophetic words over CityLife, Mark Conner received the following prompting from the Holy Spirit (on June 12 th, 2002):
"You have built well on the principles of the church at Jerusalem while avoiding the spirit that got into that church. You are now an Antioch church and that vision will be further outworked in the years to come. It is now time to embrace and add in a greater dimension of the principles of what I did in the church at Ephesus. As you do, you will enter an entirely new phase of influence and impact beyond what you have ever seen before."
The story of the foundation of the church at Ephesus is recorded in Acts 19-20. Some of the principles we glean from this narrative are: the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-6), prophecy (Acts 19:6), bold outreach and evangelism (Acts 19:8-10, 26), healing and miracles (Acts 19:11-12), spiritual warfare and deliverance (Acts 19:12-16) and city impact (Acts 19:17,20,23-41).
There are many other principles reinforced through Paul's speech to the elders at Ephesus as recorded in Acts 20. Paul also wrote an entire letter to the church at Ephesus, the book of Ephesians. We also have the book of 1 Timothy that was written by Paul to Timothy who was stationed at Ephesus to set things in order because of false teaching that had emerged
within the church. Finally, we have a letter from Jesus to this church, challenging them to get back to their first love (Rev.3:1-7). The church had obviously flourished for many years but now needed a warning.
This is just a brief overview of a few initial insights. There is much more to be thought through. These are not necessarily 'new' things as much as they are a reminder of important things that it can be easy to drift away from or neglect. The Holy Spirit has been given to us to guide us into all truth and to empower us to do the works of God in the earth. Let's cry out to the Holy Spirit with greater fervour and passion for these things to be outworked in our lives and our church.
God is restoring his church to a greater glory than the first century church. His church will be filled once again with his power, yet it will be demonstrated in a loving manner that connects with the hearts of people in our contemporary world.May each of us enter into a new level of Spirit infilling, prophecy, bold evangelistic outreach, healing and miracles, and spiritual warfare so that together we can be part of truly impacting our city for God.Sample Discussion Questions
- What do you think about the concept that God still speaks today? What are some of the benefits of this belief? What are some of the dangers? How do we know if a word is from God?
Here is a chance to help people come to grips with 'prophecy' and God speaking today. Be aware that this may be a new concept to some people. People may want to share examples of people 'hearing from God' ¨C both positive and negative.
- Read about the Antioch church (see Acts 11:19-30; 13:1-3). What aspects of this church do you see evident in CityLife?What aspects does CityLife need to improve or grow in?
These questions help people to see how CityLife is similar to the church at Antioch or still becoming so.
- Read about the church at Ephesus (see Acts 19:1-20). What aspects of this church do you see already evident in CityLife? What aspects does CityLife need to improve or grow in?
These questions help people to see how CityLife is similar to the church at Ephesus or still becoming so.
- How could we as a LifeGroup grow in some of the principles learnt from Ephesus?
Here is an opportunity to speak about the main six points mentioned above ¨C baptism of the Holy Spirit, prophecy, evangelism, healing and miracles and spiritual warfare. Be aware that these areas may be new to some people. You may want to focus on one and have some prayer about it.