Wednesday, 30 September 2009
The Importance of Community Groups in Church Growth
Pastor Dave and I are convinced that in the next year, one of the primary steps to growing Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church is the development of small, intimate, “Community Groups.” What exactly do we have in mind here?
A Community Group is defined as:
a. Two or more people...
b. that meet regularly...
c. to glorify God.
If you are in the choir, handbells, a men's or women's Bible study, an accountability group, a prayer group, or other smaller fellowship, you are already in a Community Group!
So, why this new emphasis on smaller groups? Here are ten reasons why we believe it is Biblical, appropriate, and necessary for believers to meet in such small groups in addition to our large-group worship services...
1) A Community Group nurtures true, authentic, Christian friendships.
2) When people are connnected relationally, they are more likely to commity to the larger body.
3) Community Groups provide a context for deeper, more personal sharing.
4) Community Groups can often go deeper than the sermon or lecuture by their ability to discuss, probe, and review Scripture line by line.
5) Every believer must have people to whom they can confess their struggles and from whom they seek support.
6) Community Groups are modeled after the ministry of Jesus Christ who spent the bulk of His ministry discipling 12 men. Among those men He spent particular time with Peter, James, and John.
7) Community Groups afford believers the opportunity to gather around a common interest (prayer, book study, or life-situation such as age, gender, widowhood, parenthood etc.)
8) When Community Groups meet in homes (as opposed to the Church building) a greater intimacy and informality is possible.
9) Believers are enabled to better pray for others and to be prayed for themselves.
10) Community Groups resist the isolationist tendancies of an increasingly self-centered culture.
For these reasons, the leadership of Faith Church is challenging the congregation to form ten new in-home Bible studies by the end of this year! If God is leading you to start a Community Group in your home, please follow the three steps below:
First, contact Pastor Dave; he will serve as our Community Groups coordinator.
Secondly, select a topic, book, or curriculum. We have available DVD series, group studies, and other ideas to help you get started. Your group can be as easy as popping in a teaching video and simply discussing the content, or as simple as reading the Scriptures line by line together with others and then taking prayer requests.
Finally, Faith Church will help you to promote your group, cooridinate meeting times, and advertise your group if necessary.
Yours in Christ,
Posted on 09/30/2009 9:30 AM by Pastor Matt
Tuesday, 08 September 2009
Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church
exists for three primary purposes:
1) To Magnify and glorify God the Father through our worship
2) To Manifest the love of Jesus Christ through our ministry, service, and witness and...
3) To Multiply by making disciples of all nations through the power
of the Holy Spirit.
It is with joy that I can announce that the elders of Faith EPC and I have finalized our new Vision Statement for the Church (printed above). Let me tell you the story of how we arrived at the final wording.
My personal goal for my first year at Faith EPC was simply to get to know the people of the Church, to begin to truly love them as their pastor, and to establish a healthy equilibrium in my teaching and preaching ministry. Soon, my petitions to God began to morph. While my prayers consisted originally of “Help me to know and love my people!” after about nine months I began asking the Lord to “Help me to see the Church not as it IS, but how it COULD be.” I had no idea that my prayers would receive such a deluge of insight from the Lord!
One of the first things that God showed me is that while the Church is already very healthy in most regards, we needed to have a vision statement for what we OUGHT to strive to be. After all, “where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18 KJV).
Late one night I began scratching words furiously into my bedside journal. “Show me who we must become!” I prayed. I etched three words onto the page: Magnify, Manifest, Multiply. Those three words struck me in a powerful way. They seemed regal. They conveyed power and majesty. They were not flimsy or trite. I took the three words and divided them under three columns. “Magnify” (worship, exalt, lift up) seemed to be directed towards God the Father; He is, after all, the King whom we praise and adore. “Manifest” seemed best to describe the work of the Son, taking the love and holiness of God and bringing it tangibly into the world through His incarnation. As believers, we too must manifest (make evident, demonstrate, reveal) the love of the Son in our broken and hurting world. “Multiply” seemed to me to convey the great task of the Church, given in Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8, the Great Commission. This cannot be done without the power and attestation of the Holy Spirit. After finding all of these in Acts 2:42-47 rooted in the life of the early Church, I knew something powerful was afoot.
Next, I took the early form of the vision statement to the elders. I presented them with this reasoning for creating a vision statement in the first place:
1) Faith Church needs a coherent vision statement that succinctly defines our purpose as a church. By precisely defining what our priorities ARE, the elders of Faith Church will be better able to discern what programs, staffing, and events must be implemented in our local church context. In the same way, the elders of Faith Church will be better able to determine what programs and events DO NOT contribute to this end.
2) While Faith Church already has a mission statement (“Preaching Jesus; Changing Lives”), it seems to suggest that those who are not engaged in preaching are not central to the identity of the church. Our vision statement will supplement, but not replace, this.
3) A vision statement must be easy enough to memorize and yet profound enough to inspire our people to rally to a unified cause. A coherent statement of vision allows our people to build excitement as we together give our lives in sacrifice and service.
As Presbyterians, we do not have one sole human leader in the Church; rather we have a board of qualified, godly men under the Kingship of Christ. Our leadership, of course, is patterned off of the New Testament design evidenced in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. For this reason, I gave the elders a sample of the Vision Statement and asked them to pray about it for a month. While the early sentiment was receptive to the Vision Statement as I had prepared it, and we likely could have adopted it in early August, I asked the elders to think deeply for another month and beg God to show us how to adjust it, tweak it, and conform it to His will for our Church.
On September 5th, the elders and I went on a retreat to Lakewood Retreat Center. Here after spending time together praying aloud for our Church, her growth, health, and sanctification, we sat down to finalize the Vision Statement. We carefully combed through each line, parsing words carefully. Ultimately, though many changes were suggested, the final form ended up being exactly like the original version! Though we tried repeatedly, we could not seem to improve the Vision Statement by either adding anything that did not make the wording cumbersome, or eliminating wording that could improve its brevity. With prayer, and a vote, the Vision Statement became official!
As I stated in the above “rationale,” my desire for the Vision Statement was to draft something succinct, yet profound. Let me explain some of the intricacies.
1) Notice that the statement is Trinitarian; it intentionally focuses the heart and mind on each person of the godhead in turn. Much like the Apostles Creed, the Vision Statement sequentially turns the heart to each of the three persons of the Trinity. First the majesty of the Father is upheld, next the incarnation of the Son is exemplified, and finally the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit is invoked.
2) Secondly, notice that the statement is built around three strong verbs beginning with the letter “M.” This device of alliteration makes the statement easy to memorize for adults and children alike. It can be summarized as follows, “Magnify, Manifest, Multiply.” By using the literary device of alliteration the statement is easy to commit to memory.
3) Finally, the statement builds from the inside out. The core goal of Faith Church is to begin with a passion for worship. We might call this our “blazing center” (to borrow a phrase from John Piper). Without worship as our central purpose, we are flat, hollow, and shallow. Yet worship must begin to move outward, consuming the whole of the Christian life. For this reason, we intend for our passion for God’s glory to move outward to the immediate vicinity in which our live are centered, i.e. our families, places of employment, and community. Finally, we desire to culminate our worship by faithfully discharging Christ’s Great Commission with our ultimate goal of spreading the glory of God throughout the whole world by evangelism, discipleship, and missions.
These three goals, magnification, manifestation, and multiplication are simultaneously attainable—yet inexhaustible. They can be done; and yet they cannot be completed. Thus, we march onward until Christ returns and we hear the words we have longed for “Well done good and faithful servants.”
Posted on 09/08/2009 9:16 PM by Pastor Matt
Note: Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) was a reformed theologian and pastor during the First Great Awakening. His sermons were so passionate and God-exalting
You don’t have to attend a Presbyterian, Reformed, or evangelical church very long before you hear the name John Calvin bandied about. In fact,