Vision Weekend is a time when we talk about God’s purposes for our church – where we have come from, where we are now and where God wants us to go both this year and in the long-term future. Have a clear sense of vision from God is vital (Prov.29:18).
Our Mission is … to raise up fervent followers of Jesus Christ who will reach out and impact communities, cities and nations for the kingdom of God. “Mission” answers the question, “Why are we here?” Our mission explains the kind of people God wants us to be and the work he wants us to do. Our mission never changes, though our goals, objectives and emphasis will vary from year to year.
We also need a clear sense of Vision that describes what we see God wants our church to become in the next few years. None of us can tell because God alone holds the future but he does tell us to dream, to prepare and then to plan wisely. Vision 2010 was crafted with the intent of painting a picture of what the church could be like by the year 2010, as we walk humbly before the Lord and dependent on him (see Hab.2:1-2). Last year was our third year of moving towards Vision 2010.A Theology of ‘Church Growth’
Why all this talk about ‘church growth’? Isn’t this all a bit ego-driven and too much about ‘numbers’? Yes, church growth can become an ego trip for driven church leaders but that is not God’s intention. In fact, ‘church growth’ is God’s idea and his intention for His people. God wants us to be fruitful. He wants a BIG family. We see this in creation (Gen.1:27-28), in God’s covenant with Abraham (Gen.15:5; 17:6; 22:17-18), in the Great Commission (Mt.28:18-20. Acts 1:8), in the early church (Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4; 6:1; 9:31) and in a sneak preview of heaven (Rev.7:9-10). Jesus wants His house ‘full’ (Lk.14:23). So, it’s very clear – God wants His church to grow! Why? Because He loves people and he wants as many in His family as possible.
In the natural, it would make sense to settle down and be ‘content’ with what we have as a church (6000+ people). Let’s shut the doors and grow old together waiting for Jesus to return! Church growth means more WORK …. more leaders to be raise up, more evangelism, more follow up, more volunteers, more money to be raised, etc. BUT as long as there is ONE person who has not heard the good news about Jesus Christ or who does not have a church family, we need to be fervently committed to reaching out. Let’s lift our VISION. Let’s embrace God’s heart for ALL people (Jn.3:16. 1 Tim.1:4. 2 Pet.2:9). We can’t do everything (we’re not the only church) but we can sure do a lot more than we are doing now.The Power of Partnership
God has decided to accomplish his purposes on earth through ‘the church’. The church is the only thing that Jesus said he would build. The church of Jesus Christ is both ‘global’ (one church right around the world made up of all followers of Jesus Christ) and ‘local’ (many different local churches of varieties and sizes). God has designed the local church to function like a ‘body’, where each individual Christian is a ‘member’ – connected, committed and making a contribution (1 Cor.12:12-27). God’s will is that we be ‘partners’ together for the cause of Christ in the world (Phil.1:3-6). That’s what the church is. It is God’s people called out of darkness into light … called to then be the light in a dark world … reaching out with God’s love and grace. Like partners in a business, we are to take ownership of our local church through responsible contribution to its ongoing health and growth. Here at CityLife Church we encourage every follower of Jesus who makes this church their church home not just to attend but to be a ‘partner’ in the mission and vision God has given to us.Five Commitments of a Church Partner
Church ‘partners’ are committed to five important things:
Why Become a Church Partner?
- DISCIPLESHIP – growing to be like Jesus. Jesus wants ‘disciples’ not just people to believe in Him or receive His gift of salvation. Jesus loved ‘crowds’ but he was always calling people in the crowd to come and follow him, as long as they were willing to ‘count the cost’. He required a high level of commitment because he knew that it was only through committed disciples that he could change the world. We grow to become more and more like Jesus through a variety of practices, including personal disciplines (such as prayer and Bible reading), teaching, training, fellowship, service, etc. Partners are ‘disciples’.
- RELATIONSHIP – living in Christian community. Jesus called his followers to ‘do life’ together with other Christ-followers in ‘community’ or in close ‘relationship’ with each other. He never intended for his followers to be in isolation. A 'partner’ sees themselves as a member of God’s family. When you were born, you were born into a family – both naturally and spiritually! We are to be connected through relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ. At CityLife Church, we want to ensure that every person is connected, has a sense of belonging and is valued and cared for. That’s why we have Life Groups, which are a place where you can form relationships and carry out the mission of the church with others.
- MINISTRY – using your gifts to serve others. Jesus intended for each one of his disciples to be a vital part of his team and contribute to the mission of his church. In the same way, ‘partners’ are disciples who have discovered their spiritual gifts and are developing and deploying them for the benefit of others. Here at CityLife Church, we see everyone as a ‘full time minister’. Your ministry includes your family, your career (or studies if you’re a student right now), your neighbourhood as well as your church. God calls all of us to break the self-orientation of our lives. He wants us to become servants who exist to help others.
- STEWARDSHIP – investing your resources in God’s work. Jesus expected his followers to invest their resources in the mission he had called them to – their time, energy and finances. In the same way, ‘partners’ are individual believers who are committed to investing resources into their local church, so that it has all it needs to accomplish its mission. God has a very clear financial program for his people. It’s called the ‘tithing principle’. God requires his people to give him a ‘tenth’ of all increase (Prov.3:9-10, Mal.3:7-12). Tithing began before the law (Abraham), was confirmed under law (Moses), then by Jesus (Mt.23:23) and Paul. Nowhere is it abolished, unlike other OT customs (circumcision, Sabbath, washings, food). The emphasis in the NT is on giving generously. The New Covenant is a higher covenant of grace where we give out of a willing heart not out of obligation. Tithing should be the starting place of our giving. Above that offerings are given. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor.9:7).
- EVANGELISM - sharing God’s love with others. Jesus was passionate about reaching people with his love. He came into the world to ‘seek and save that which was lost’. ‘Partners’ are individuals who have embraced heaven’s priority and who invest time and energy into reaching out to people who have no relationship with God. They understand that people come to Christ through a process and they seek to partner with God in seeing people’s hearts soften and move closer towards God.
We currently have 1956 adults who are official ‘partners’ of CityLife Church. I believe they are the strength of the church.
The church is a spiritual entity - a living organism. However, there is also an organisational aspect to the church. Because we own buildings, employ staff and manage a multi-million dollar budget, we are registered as a ‘non-profit incorporated
association’ here in Victoria. We have chosen to have our ‘partners’ be members of this association. Formalising your commitment as a ‘partner’ has a powerful effect on the sustainability of that commitment, it provides a greater sense of ‘ownership’, and it enables you to provide appropriate accountability for the ongoing health and growth of the church. Partners are involved in major decisions such as the appointment of the Senior Minister, as well as in watching over the health of the financial and ministry aspects of the church (AGM, etc). You can become a ‘partner’ by completing Tracks 1 and 2 of LIFETRAX, by being willing to make these five commitments and by completing an application.Sample Discussion Questions
- Discuss CityLife Church’s Mission Statement and Vision 2010 Statement (distribute copies of the Vision 2006 brochure to those who didn’t get one). What aspects of these statements excite people the most?
- Discuss the ‘theology of church growth’. What are the disadvantages or dangers of a big church? How can we avoid them? What are the advantages of benefits of a large church?
- Discuss the five commitments of a partner. For ‘discipleship’, encourage group members to move further along their LIFETRAX courses. For ‘ministry’, encourage people to sign up for a ministry (refer to MOB brochure). For ‘stewardship’, discuss the benefits of giving. For ‘evangelism’, discuss the upcoming IF weeks and how your group can reach unchurched people.
- Discuss why some people hesitate to commit to things today. Encourage each member to consider becoming a ‘partner’ of the church (by completing LIFETRAX 1 and 2) so that we can increase the number of people committed to pursuing our God-given vision.
- Finish with some time praying for each other and for the church, including the leaders.