Church Family - Looking Back and Moving Forward
Family, that is a word that gets used a lot in our culture. The idea of family takes on various forms and meanings, depending who you talk to. Family can take the shape of husband and wife, or parents and children. Family could be considered your work mates or your footy team. A family is that group of friends you grew up with and still meet for a coffee. Family could be the people who have journeyed through the same struggle and come out the other side. Family can be any strong connection between individuals. But a family isn’t a very easy standard to live up to. To truly be family one must learn to sacrifice and even be willing to put others above themselves. A family, although not perfect, will stay connected and work through any challenges that come their way. They will celebrate the victories and they will comfort in the defeats, but they will always connect their lives together. The Scriptures are filled with the idea of family, the idea of being connected to each other, loving each other and doing life together.
Look at one account in Romans 12:9-16
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
The Lord has given me a great blessing to serve in a church where this is the standard. No, we are certainly not perfect in all these aspects, but the very heart of Elizabeth Church is to be a family. A group of people who will follow wherever Christ leads us and a family that will go together. When I think back over the past year, this is what I see.
I must admit, as I look back over this past year there are many things that bring joy to my heart. I am so encouraged by the stirring of prayer that is continuing to grow in our church. Watching how God is moving in prayer around our suburbs is incredible. What a wonderful adventure it has been for many of our family members. Some of us have built new relationships out of this prayer movement, some have connected to neighbours they haven’t spoken to in years. While others have been stepping out of their comfort zone and connecting to individuals they would not normally relate to. Others have been asked to step out in faith to new works. This prayer movement has helped us move closer to the heart of the Father and his heart for our Northern suburbs. I can’t wait to see what God will do this year through the prayers of his family.
This prayer movement has also challenged some of our wonderful family to take incredible steps of faith. Ben and Anni have been such a blessing to our church for nearly 5 years. To watch God prompt them to step out and develop a faith-based ministry is something to witness. I know God is going to bless the ministry of Streetlight as He allows them to focus their full attention toward that organization. This is a huge step, but a faithful one. I am very proud of their willingness to pursue God’s will for them. They are part of the family and they will be missed from the everyday ministry of the church life, but they are always part of us. We will join them in their efforts to reach the young people in the suburbs. We will pray with them, celebrate with them and even cry with them, because that is what family does. I look forward to seeing how God allows us to continue to walk with them in this endeavour as well as how He grows the Streetlight opportunities.
Probably one of my favourite parts of the year is watching how God has been growing us together as a family. It has been so wonderful to hear testimonies of what God is doing in your everyday life. To see how you go out every day and represent Him in your spheres of influence. I just can’t hear enough stories about this. I can’t wait to hear even more stories of how God is working in your routines of life.
Along these same lines is the way you care for each other. I have been so inspired by how you love each other through the hard times. We have had numerous deaths over the past year and our church family has been hurting from their loss. It is so great to see the church gather around individuals and family to offer comfort and support. We have also had individuals who have been walking through difficulties, sicknesses and personal struggles. Our beautiful church family has been there to walk with them. I know many families who have experienced comfort from God through you, our church family. We will certainly face loss and hardships in the new year, but it is wonderful to know that we journey together and God journeys with us! God will use our church family to offer his strength, his comfort and his love. It is really a great thing to watch God minister through you.
Another great way I have watched our church connect and be family is by being part of the broader church life. We have supported the Northern Prayer nights each term. This night is set aside to join Christians across the north for a time of prayer. It has been wonderful seeing our church family connect to the larger body of Christ. We also had a heart for this with our Connect Conference. This was a big focus from our Global Mission Team and Local Mission Team toward uniting Christians to where God is moving. We had 10 various ministries given the opportunity to share and recruit individuals in the area God has championed them to serve. The Local Mission Team also took advantage of this conference and found a few new ministries to be supporting toward the end of last year.
The final area that I am so encouraged by is our Connect Groups. Bringing Mark into our team this past year has been a wonderful fit and blessing. Mark has such a terrific heart for families and for our Lord. He has an incredible desire to see people know Christ and grow in Christ. We have seen our Connect groups grow in number under his leadership. I think we have added 4 new groups in 2018 with several of them continuing to meet in 2019. This is fantastic. Not only have the groups grown in number, but they also began to expand their focus. They have begun to see themselves as avenues of the ministry and hope for the community. We would love to see everyone meeting in a small group and growing together in the Lord. Connect Groups are a major aspect of our church moving forward together as a family. If you are not involved in a Connect group, please join one or talk to Mark about starting a new one.
We are a family, a family that is on a journey to bring Glory to our Lord! This journey is one that is wonderful yet difficult. It is a road that has chaos and even celebration. No matter the season, we know that Jesus is leading us, and we are supporting one another. What a great journey it is, and I am so thrilled to be doing life with you. I love that you are my family.
In His Grace and Truth.