As a child growing up in Melbourne, our family went to church three times every Sunday – morning, afternoon and evening. When I was 10 years old, I went overseas with my parents. In the space of eighteen months, I attended over 700 church meetings, as my dad ministered in churches and conferences up and down the West Coast of America. I’ve been an active part of a church all of my life. It’s brought great benefit to my own life. I’ve made some great friends, and I have many positive memories and experiences along the way.
What about you? Maybe you’ve been a part of a church most of your life just like me or maybe you’re new to this thing called ‘church’. Maybe you’ve had some positive experiences like me or maybe you’ve had some negative ones. Although most Aussies would consider themselves ‘Christian’ (about 70% indicated this on a recent national census), the vast majority don’t attend church. In fact, only 10% of Australians attend church on any given weekend while about 20% go once a month.
What does God think about all this? Well, the church was his idea. In fact, it was the only thing that Jesus said he would build (Matt.16:18-19). His vision for his church is for it to be united (John 17:20-23), glorious (Eph. 5:25-27) and victorious (Matt.16:18). It doesn’t take a lot of insight to realise that we’re not there yet but once God starts something, he always finishes it. The church exists to: (1) love and worship God, (2) love one another, and (3) reach out to the world around us with Christ’s love. As Bill Hybels says, “The local church is the hope of the world.” Why? Because it has been entrusted with the gospel which is the only thing that has power to change a human life – both now and for eternity.What Kind of Church Do You See?
One day, God woke up the prophet Zechariah and said, “What do you see?” When you just wake up, you don’t see too much. But God was showing him something important. When you think about the church – our church - what do you see? A few years ago, we crafted a We Have a Dream statement which tries to paint a picture of the kind of church we see God building here at CityLife. Here it is …We see a church filled with fervent followers of Jesus Christ whose hearts are ablaze with love for God, love for one another, and love for a needy world.We see a church where the Great Commission is the first priority. People share their faith, the gospel is preached, churches are planted, and nations are impacted.We see a church of great compassion where the needy and hurting are drawn to find hope and answers to their problems. People are healed, set free and made whole.We see a church of friendly, loving people who ensure that each person feels accepted, valued and has a sense of belonging.We see a church where the very atmosphere is charged with fervent prayer, joyful praise, intimate worship, and a spirit of faith and expectancy.We see a church filled with the Holy Spirit, demonstrating His fruit, moving in His gifts, and flowing in His power.We see a church where God's Word is taught in such a way that people align their values, attitudes, and lifestyle to God's kingdom.The church that we see is so big that people can't ignore it and growing so fast that buildings can't contain it, yet it is so small that each person feels a vital part of it - connected together in a network of hundreds of small groups across the city for care, discipleship, ministry, and outreach.We see a church with such passionate devotion, radical conviction, and total commitment to the cause of Jesus Christ that the very gates of hell can't stop it!This is the church that we see … this could be our church, CityLife Church.
Wow – that’s pretty cool! A few observations …
Sample Discussion Questions
- It's BIG!
God has a BIG vision for His church. He’s called us to reach a lot of people – in our community, our city, and even other nations of the world. He’s challenging us to lift our vision and to really believe that he is able to do exceedingly abundantly above what we could ever ask, think, or imagine (Eph.3:20). Vision 2010 sees us becoming a church community of over 12,000 people. That’s a BIG church. This will be realised through a ‘multi-site’ strategy. CityLife Church is ‘one church meeting in multiple locations’ – in Knox, Hobson’s Bay, Casey, and Manningham beginning on March 2nd. It’s all about working together to reach as many people in our city as we can with Christ’s love.
- It’s small too!
Although the vision is very BIG, we must never forget that it’s about people. It’s also a small vision where – individual people who God loves really matter. It’s about reaching out to your friends, your family, your neighbours, your classmates, and your workmates. It’s about every one of us having a sense of belonging and friendship. That’s why we have our small group ministry – Life Groups.
- It’s Spirit-Empowered!
All of this is only possible through the work of the Holy Spirit in and through us. It was the same in the first century. The book The Acts of the Apostles is really The Acts of the Holy Spirit. It is a story of what people were able to accomplish ‘under the influence’ – of the Spirit in their life. This year we’ll be seeking to lift the level of prayer in all of our lives as we seek a greater dependency on the Holy Spirit.
- It needs to be YOUR dream!
This is our dream of what our church could be like. Is it your dream? After all, the church is US. Our church will only be what each one of us makes it to be. In fact, whatever you want our church to be – you be that kind of a person (friendly, enthusiastic, prayerful, generous, loving, compassionate, etc). It’s about ‘ownership’. Your involvement and contribution is essential. The church is like a team where every person is absolutely necessary. As you contribute, the church grows, people are reached, and you will be blessed in the process.
- Share your experience with ‘church’. What churches have you been a part of? What positive memories do you have? What painful memories or disappointments do you have? How have these affected you?
- Most Australians don’t go to church. What do you think are some of the main reasons?
- What do you think is God’s dream for his church? How does he feel about the current state of his church?
- What do you feel when you read or hear the We Have a Dream statement? What stands out to you? What excites you the most about it?
- What do you think about the BIGness of our vision at CityLife Church?
- What do you think about the concept of a ‘multi-site’ strategy – being ‘one church meeting in multiple locations’? What are the strengths of this approach? What are some potential concerns?
- What are some things we can do to see a greater dimension of the Holy Spirit’s activity in our LifeGroup?
- How can we see a greater ‘ownership’ of the dream by the people who are part of our church?