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15th September 2016
I'm so excited to have the privilege of sharing at our vision Sundays on 18 and 25 September this term. I always view these Sundays as such key opportunities to remember God's faithfulness and where He has brought us, but also to set out our dreams and plans for the future.
These two Sundays feel particularly significant as I unpack our direction for the next five years and beyond and the impact it will have on us as a community. We very much feel God leading us into this season when we consider our history, prophetic words over the last few years and the direction of New Ground.
As always, my prayer is that as we share these plans, the Holy Spirit will open our hearts and cause faith to stir as we press into new adventures. Jesus' church is not an organisation or a building, but His people, His bride, His body, that responds to His leading and brings His kingdom into their communities.
That is what we're about. That's where we're going. I'm excited to take this next step on the journey together.
Posted by Paul Mann
27th September 2015
We are called to go on mission. In Luke 10 we find Jesus commissioning his disciples – giving them authority and power to go out to the surrounding villages and towns with a message. Actually even when He chose His disciples, He called them to go on mission, inviting them to follow Him and become "fishers of men" (Matt. 4:19). To be with Jesus would have meant to be on mission.
It is very easy to hide behind busyness, fear or apathy even though we may be the only Christians in our communities, workplaces or families.
We're a community on mission, looking to see those who know nothing of the love of Jesus become those who are saved by His grace, brought into His family and discipled. You have been commissioned by Jesus – given the responsibility, authority and power to see God's Kingdom extended!
Mission and prayer are intrinsically linked. Jesus said we need to pray earnestly for labourers to go into the harvest field (Luke 10:2). His disciples aren't to pray for power or authority – we already have that. We're to lay hold of God to see gospel fruit in someone else's life. When did you last see someone's life impacted by Jesus because of something you said or did?
But there is a reason we don't want to go on mission: Jesus said He was sending out His disciples like lambs among wolves! It's not easy! But we are sent out by the Great Shepherd!
Mission, as much as anything else in the Christian life, requires us to rely on Jesus. He provides all we need on a daily basis – Jesus told His disciples not to take their own resources but to rely on their Father in heaven for all they need. We have received power from the Holy Spirit to be witnesses (Acts 1:8).
Jesus is interested in the practical and mundane things in our lives, because they can impact on gospel fruitfulness. Our lifestyles and interactions with people can open them to the message about Jesus, but it can also close them to it. When we gossip, do our jobs badly, are lazy or argumentative (just to give some examples), it closes people off to the gospel.
Our lives paint a picture of what God is like. Every time we forgive, every time we are kind, every time we are generous, we demonstrate something of the love of God. God is interested in the everyday stuff of life, and people are watching...
Jesus' disciples carry the message that in God's Kingdom there is deliverance and salvation, righteousness and justice, peace, joy, God's presence, healing and comfort. The Kingdom of God is multi-faceted.
We also find in Luke 10 that even the missionaries trained by Jesus would face disappointment. When we are disappointed at the response we get, we're to pick ourselves up, brush off the residue of disappointment, and move on to the next opportunity, undiminished in faith, obedience and perseverance. Our responsibility is to go; theirs is to receive; God makes the seed grow.
But we will also see success because Jesus said the gospel would bear fruit 30, 60 or even 100 times what was sown. So we are to live with an expectation of gospel fruit, having confidence as we go that we have the authority of Jesus, knowing the power of the cross and the direction and filling of the Holy Spirit.
Whether we see success or failure, we still rejoice that our names are written in the book of heaven. That is our security, our comfort and our strength.
If people aren't reading the Bible, going to church, or hearing anything good about God in the media, how will they find out about what a wonderful Saviour Jesus is? You and I could be the only way they will find out about the God who loves them and cares for them. Our everyday lives paint a picture of God's love, strength, wisdom, power, patience, compassion, holiness and kindness. Sometimes it takes years to paint that picture; at other times it happens in mere moments.
What picture of God are you painting to those around you?
Posted by Paul Mann
20th September 2015
What does a disciple of Jesus look like? There are five particular characteristics of Jesus that we would like to give ourselves – individually and as a church collectively – to growing in.
The first is that Jesus’ disciples are courageous. We read in 1 John 4:18 that perfect love casts out fear. When we know we are loved and secure, we become more courageous. We are not called to play it safe. Courage comes as a by-product of being filled with the Holy Spirit.
We are called to be a people who step out in courage despite fear – when we feel fear, it’s an opportunity to be courageous because we know God won’t reject us but is we are secure in Him. When we know we’re loved, it gives us the freedom to take a risk and go for it.
Disciples are also joyful. We’re a people who enjoy God, enjoy His salvation and enjoy the Church as well. We learn to rejoice in all circumstances – we can be happy in God even when everything is going wrong. It’s not about pretending everything is fine, but it’s accessing the things that God has given us.
We rejoice in the hope and glory of God. We read in Galatians 5:22 that there is a connection between being filled with the Spirit and being joyful. Even when going through severe tests of affliction and extreme poverty, an abundance of joy and generosity can flow out. That’s how the gospel works: it’s supernatural – two bad things go in but two great things come out (see 2 Cor. 8:1-2).
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, but rejoicing is an act of the will. The most joyful people are those who spend the most time rejoicing. Rejoicing can be seen and heard. How good are you at rejoicing? How much time do you spend doing it? If you think you’re just not wired that way, read the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians – it’s a master-class in joy.
Thirdly, disciples are authentic. We are called to shine with integrity and purity. Our inside private world matches our outside public word. We don’t try to live to please people, but to please our Father in heaven. There’s something genuine about Jesus’ disciples – the world needs a Church that doesn’t put on a façade but shines with truth and integrity.
We need to have genuine, open and transparent relationships with others, where we open up our hearts to a few people who are part of this church family, and share with them our highs and our lows. Prioritise connecting with people in a godly and real way.
Disciples grow in honour – this is about where we place value and giving value to what God gives value to. We honour men and women on the basis of the fact that they have been created in the likeness of God. Honour is only truly seen in disagreement. It’s easy to honour people we like and people who agree with us.
Finally, as disciples who follow Jesus, we overflow with generosity – we are too be generous with time, emotion, money, energy, and all that we are and have. We are called to live generous lives.
Our communities are looking for a Church that is different from them. These characteristics aren’t for Sundays or for mid-week meetings. Courage, joy, authenticity, honour and generosity should pour out from us, because we have received so much from God and He is with us.
Posted by Paul Mann
13th September 2015
We want to grow a healthy church. We know we have a responsibility (and a delight!) to focus on things that make us a healthy as we can be. We want to see God's Kingdom expand from one neighbourhood to the next.
We want to see people come to know Jesus, be healed and set free and transformed. As a church, we are focusing on making disciples, going on mission, and caring for the poor. Today we're looking at the first of these three: making disciples.
In Mark's gospel we read of a rich young ruler who comes to Jesus to ask what he needs to do to inherit eternal life (10:17-22). The young man had kept God's commandments and was a local politician. The Bible tells us that Jesus looked at him and loved him, but saw that he had an idol in his life that he wouldn't give up.
Being a Christian isn't predominantly about attending church or being good or stopping bad habits or doing good works. The heart of it is about following Jesus Christ, and it costs everything. Ultimately the rich young ruler didn't believe that what Jesus offered was of greater worth than the possessions that he owned.
Jesus wasn't being hard on him. Jesus loved him and wanted him to come through, but He realised that there was something else on the throne of his life that meant there was no room for Jesus. The man cared more for his possessions than he did for knowing Jesus. He didn't believe that Jesus was of greater value.
Don't misunderstand the story: it's not about emptying your bank account; it's about what is the most important thing to you. Being a disciple is saying that every idol I've given myself to, I smash, I get rid of them, so I might go on this adventure of following Christ and that He might have first place in my affections, my time and my energy.
An idol is something in your life that isn't God but that you couldn't conceive living without. Idols come in all shapes and sizes. The average college student in America spends nine hours on their smartphone every day. We live in a world where we just have to be connected.
If you went for a week without looking at your smartphone, would you have more withdrawal symptoms than if you went without your looking at Bible?
What is it for you? Maybe it's money and possessions. You're happy following Jesus as long as your money is off limits to Him. Maybe it's what you watch on TV, or your sexuality or sex life, maybe it's your comfort. For me comfort is a big one – "Ok Jesus, I'll follow you to the cross, as long as it's not too uncomfortable!" Another one is success – we are happy to follow Jesus as long as it leads to being successful.
When Jesus approached this young man, He loved him, but He knew there was an idol there. Jesus didn't give people an easy way in: following Him costs everything. You don't have to be good, you don't have to be sinless, you don't have to be all sorted – but you do have to give Him your heart. Jesus made no apologies for the big ask.
What areas are there in your life that are 'no go' for Christ?
Posted by Paul Mann