Talk given by John MacDiarmid at PCF on Sunday morning 4 January 2015
Listen to this talk (or download – right-click here and ‘Save as’):
“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus
To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Phil 1 v1-6
So wrote Paul at the start of his letter to the church in Philippi. There is so much in this fragment of Scripture to talk about, but today we will just focus on the thought of “partnership in the gospel”. It is interesting that this is Paul’s word of choice when talking to the believers who he loved dearly. Partnership carries with it the idea of sharing in something together, being committed to the same goals, working towards the same end – “we’re all in this together”. What does it mean for us to be partners in the gospel? Specifically, what does it mean for us at PCF as we start a New Year together?
Casting the Vision
Andy Stanley, an American Pastor, wrote that:”Vision leaks”. At PCF we have had our vision/mission statement for a couple of years and we have all heard it regularly. But Stanley’s comment still holds true: “Vision Leaks”. We have to keep on casting the vision, and doing it regularly, much in the dame way we have to remind ourselves of the gospel…because “vision leaks”. Why does it leak? Well, there are several reasons, but the main one is tied up in the second quote, this time from Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Church in Chicago when he says: “”Culture Eats Vision for Breakfast”. What does this mean? Culture is “the way we do things round here”. Vision is “how we ought to do things round here”. When the two meet in a head to head contest – guess which one wins? Obviously, culture wins every time. It is what we comfortable with, our default position and we love it. So left to ourselves, we go back to culture, not vision. The antidote is to keep casting the vision, keep telling ourselves and others where we want to go, what God wants us to be and to do. So we do it again today.
Our vision is built on three values that together speak of what we aspire to be. We want to be:
In Acts 2 the Holy Spirit, up till then just a gift for a chosen few, was poured out on the whole church. Since then, the Holy Spirit has been the birthright of every Christian. We live in the age of the church, which is the age of the Spirit, the days in which the fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy is realised:
“‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.
This is the situation today. We live in the age of the Spirit. These words are fulfilled as we live today. We aspire to be a church where everything available to us from the Spirit of God is a reality in our midst – every gift, every miracle, every anointing every blessing. We want to be a church made up of men and women, boys and girls, who are full of the Holy Spirit, living in the power of the Spirit and bearing His fruit.
The second value flows out of the first. If we are Spirit-led, we must be Bible-shaped. That is to say that the Bible, inspired by the Spirit, and the sword of the Spirit must shape every choice, every decision and everything about our lives as believers and as a church.
So Paul wrote to his son in the faith Timothy reminding him that:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
And as Paul gave Timothy instructions for his life and ministry he urged him
“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:1-2)
God builds his church in the power of the Spirit through his word, and specifically through the preaching of the word. We have to be a church that is committed to Word and Spirit.
Our third value flows out of the first and the second. We are church that is driven by the gospel. We are driven by the gospel through which we are saved, and through which others can be saved. It drives our worship to God, our thankfulness at what he has done for us and our desire to see others’ lives changed. As Paul wrote:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1 v16)
We are a church who are driven by the amazing gospel of God’s grace.
So these are the Values which underpin our mission.
Our Mission is “Knowing Jesus…and Making Him Known”. This means that we don’t do anything as a church that does not contribute to that vision. It informs every choice we make about time, resource and prayer. When organising the church, the question is: “does this activity help us to know Jesus and to make Him known?”
By now most of us are familiar with the way in which we have broken down this mission statement.
It means that we aspire to be a family of believers who are committed to:
Developing our relationship with God, learning to follow Him, obey Him and become more like Him
Taking every opportunity to embody and to share the good news of the gospel
Making disciples and teaching them to do the same
Meeting together to encourage each other in our shared mission
Put briefly, this encompasses what we are about as a church. As we move forward in 2015 we need to recommit ourselves to working together on this mission that Jesus has given to us.
Our friend, Steve Fry, from the Gate church in Nashville, Tennessee, runs a partnership course for new people at his church. When they have finished it, before they are asked to consider whether they wish to join the church, they are asked four questions. These are questions pertinent to us as we consider our own commitment to God and the church he has made us a part of.
- Do you want to know God better?
- Do you want to share Jesus with people?
- Do you want to be a part of a community?
- Do you want to change?
These are powerful questions. The idea of church being for us and for our needs is completely gone. If we can answer “yes” to all of those questions, then we can truly be partners in the gospel together in 2015 and beyond.