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July 2012

August 9, 2012

Minister’s Letter

Dear Friends

It cannot have escaped your notice that the Olympics and Paralympics are being held in the United Kingdom this summer. Awarded to London events are being held across the country and the torch relay has even gone into the Republic of Ireland. The cost is staggering but the construction work involved has helped to weather the economic crisis. There will be much disruption to normal life, particularly in East London, but the visitors to this country will spend vast sums on accommodation, food, travel, leisure and souvenirs all of which will benefit the economy. It will be a great opportunity to showcase the UK at its best.

The Olympic flag has five rings representing the five continents of the world and the five colours black, yellow, green, blue and red were chosen as the flags of every country in the world contain at least one of those colours. The Olympics (should) transcend politics and countries in dispute with one another still usually manage to compete at the Olympics and usual visa requirements are often waived for competitors and officials. People with fierce ideological differences find themselves side by side at the Olympics. Democrats and Dictators, Christian and Pagan, Female supressionists and Women’s liberationists, Pacifists and Military Commanders all come together for the games and work together for their success. They are bound together by a common purpose namely winning at the Olympic Games. Only when competitors come from all continents are the games truly Olympic, if some are missing the games are dysfunctional.

Competing at the Olympics is an honour and it requires athletes to be at the top of their discipline. There are five elements to an athlete being at the top of their discipline. These are skill, fitness, diet, discipline and training. Only when all these come together is an athlete truly fit for purpose, in this case competing at the Olympic Games. If an athlete omits an element they are dysfunctional.

So it is with the church. It is made up of people with great ideological and theological differences. Liberals and Evangelicals, Literalists and non-literalists, proponents and opponents of homosexuality, opponents and proponents of women in ministry, Socialists and Conservatives and a host more come together in the church and work together for its success. They are bound together by a common purpose namely serving God.  Just as there are five rings on the Olympic Flag and five elements to an athletes success there are five functions of a church. These are Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, Mission & Service and Outreach & Evangelism. Only when these all combine together is a church fit for purpose, in this case serving God. When one is missing the church is dysfunctional.

Enjoy the Olympics and Paralympics this summer and enjoy our study of the functions of a church through magazine articles, sermons and discussions.

Ian

The Beacon Church Centre
Our Church-Our Life
A Healthy Church

WORSHIP is much more than what happens at 11am and 6.30pm on Sundays. It not only includes our private prayer life but our whole lifestyle. Jesus told us to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul and your mind’ (Matthew 22:35-37). In other words everything we think say and do should reflect our love for God. However Sunday does have a special place in the life of a Christian. Worship should be inspirational focussing on God not us. It should be a priority for us all, turning up as often as possible and giving our all to it. We should encourage those with specific roles or responsibilities in worship, should undertake duties cheerfully and gladly and make visitors particularly welcome. We should do all we can to make our worship the best it can be and we should have such an attitude to it that missing it becomes a real sadness for us. To adapt John Kennedy, ‘Ask not what worship can do for you, instead ask what you can do for worship’.

FELLOWSHIP is the expression of our care for our fellow Christians in the local church. It arises out of our love of God but is focussed on individual Christians. Jesus’ whole lifestyle was one of caring, demonstrated most poignantly when from the cross he made arrangements for the care of his mother (John 19:25-27). We have an excellent pastoral care contact system – on paper. Everyone is cared for, everyone knows who their carer is, every carer knows who cares for them but it is only effective if people use it.  For the scheme to reach full potential it requires, like worship, the input of everyone. The carers have a responsibility to those under their care, and to the church as a whole, to see that they demonstrate true Christian care. Every person in the scheme has a responsibility to their carer, and the church as a whole, not to sit back waiting for a visit, complaining that no-one visits them. They need to recognise all contact with other church folk as a visit from the church as well contacting their carer when they feel in need of a visit, are ill or going into hospital. To make the system work properly we all have to use it properly

DISCIPLESHIP is how we develop and grow in the faith. It arises out of our love for God and is focussed on ourselves. The church has a responsibility to teach people how to live as God intended, Jesus told his disciples ‘teach them to obey everything I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:20). Equally every Christian has a responsibility to discover what it means to follow Jesus and ensure that their lifestyle reflects his. In Hebrews 4:15 we are told that ‘Jesus was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin’. From this it is clear that temptation is not wrong but giving into it is. Discipleship helps to equip us to overcome temptation, the closer we get to Jesus the less likely we are to do things he would not approve of. Right at the start of His ministry Jesus made it clear that ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets’ (Matthew 5:17). Discipleship takes us right back to the Ten Commandments and all the Prophets said about justice, helps us interpret them through the words of Jesus and with the aid of New Testament writers. The result is a way of living as God intends today.

SERVICE & MISSION is the way we interact with people around us, and across the world, who are not part of our local church. It arises out of our love for God and is focussed on all people. Jesus told us to ‘love your neighbour as you love yourself’ (Matthew 22:39). Some say that the true mark of a church is not how it cares for its members but how it cares for those who are not members. It some cases it might involve an extension of our pastoral care contact scheme. For others we provide services of marriage and funerals. We run activities on our premises to meet the needs of local people, Beacon Babes and the Lunch Club being two examples. Other examples of service and mission are promoting fair trade, raising money for good causes and joining organisations that seek to right injustice in our world. It is not about sharing the faith but it is about living the faith as we seek to meet the needs of the world and God’s instruction to care for it (Genesis 1:27/28).

OUTREACH & EVANGELISM is the way that we share our faith with other people. It arises out of our love for God and our desire to enable other people to experience that same love. Jesus said ‘go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ (Matthew 28:19). Across the world the church is growing. In Britain the traditional church is declining whilst the new church movements continue to grow. This has to say something about the way we approach outreach and evangelism. A church that ignores outreach and evangelism is simply a social club, possibly a very good social club, but it is not a church in the true sense of the word. To be a true church a church has to share the gospel, it has to challenge people to become Christians and it has to engage in dialogue with non-Christians with the express purpose of converting them to Christianity.

To be a healthy church all five attributes or purposes have to be functioning well and in relationship with each other. Without any one of these a church will eventually die. As a local church, and as a denomination, we need to examine ourselves to see where we are strong and where we are weak and then put effort and resources into making the weak attribute(s) strong.

Ian Ring

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