2017 at True Life

January 4, 2017 | by: Chris Francis | 0 Comments

Posted in: Our Vision

What will 2017 at True Life be about? What will improve? What will change? What are some goals?

Below is what I believe to be some things to address, tackle, plan for. In my time as a pastor, I have often been wrong about what I thought I heard from God, so I pray God confirms some of these things through our community.

In fact, many of the things below are because of things I’ve heard from our community.

In August, many of you guys filled out a soul care inventory, indicating where you feel you are at spiritually: disciplines you engage in, how engaged you are in community, your experience with community, how engaged you are in mission, what you are struggling in. I have been praying about those responses, I shared much of them with life group leaders and ministry team leaders, and I’ve talked them over with Jess. A few things have emerged as patterns.

In addition to those inventories, I talk to many of you regularly. I ask you awkward questions. As Tom said the other night at our New Year’s service, I can be annoying. But more patterns have emerged.

Now there is a balance between hearing from God despite the opinions of man…..and then hearing from God through the people I am in community with. I don't pretend to navigate that tension perfectly.

But that said, below is what I think God wants us to include in our journey in 2017. **By the way, I am initially sharing this over a blog -- instead of a traditional January vision series -- because of the first thing on the list. So check it out:

JESUS

Paid In Full
It’s common to throw around phrases like “born again” and “I got saved” and “have you accepted Christ?” without really knowing -- or at least believing -- what we are talking about. So on January 15th, we are starting a sermon series called Paid In Full: Learning to Enjoy all Jesus Purchased. We will break down the different aspects of what it means to be “saved” and “born again” and hopefully by the end of it, which will culminate in a baptism, we’ll see the following:

Some people who thought they were Christians will realize they werre not
Some people who are not Christians will become Christians;
People who really are Christians will begin to enjoy their salvation more than they do.

Basics of Jesus with Youth Ministry
We will walk our youth ministry through something similar to kick off the year. We want them to understand what it really means to be saved - whether they accept it or reject - AND to be able to articulate it to others.

Knowing Jesus through Spiritual Disciplines
On November 20th I shared in the sermon His Presence about the importance of spiritual disciplines in order to enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit with us.

The soul care inventories indicated that only a small percentage of us regularly engage joyfully in things like scripture reading, prayer, silence and solitude with God, etc.

So my hope is that this year more of our church will engage in more disciplines with more regularity AND more joy.

COMMUNITY

More Life Groups
Most of our life groups are pretty full. There are limited choices for someone looking to get in a group.

We need more.

To launch more, we need more life group leaders and hosts (hosts being those willing to open up their homes while someone else leads the group).

Here's the catch - to launch new groups that are healthy, those who lead the groups will likely be those that love their current group and don't want to leave it.

Nobody wants to leave a healthy group, but the only way to multiply healthy groups is to have a healthy cell branch off.

Are you someone God might be calling to step out of the comforts of your current group and lead or host a new group this year?

A New Group specifically for Married couples
We have yet to have a life group that is specifically for married couples. It's time.

A group for men with sex addictions
We tried to launch something like this two years ago, but it didn't take off.
We need the right leader and co-leader.

I say for men because that's what I know for sure is needed right now. There may be a need for one for women that I'm not aware of.

More Mentoring Relationships
In addition to our life groups, it seems like we need to see improvement with deeper one-on-one discipleship relationships.

I have always argued that this can and should happen organically & naturally if we are intentional about it. But most are not very intentional about it.

So in an effort to help us be more intentional, we are going to get a list of people who are willing to be mentors to others, and we will get a list of people who are looking to be mentored (and some people may say yes for both lists).

More on that to come.

Women Being Uninvited
If I had a dollar for every time I heard a woman in our church say something like, “I don’t have any real friends here. Everyone else is close and I’m on the outside. People don’t seem to want to get together with me…” - well, I think I’d be wearing one of those fancy suits that pastors on TBN wear.

And each person has a reason for why they think it is: “I’m older than most; I’m younger than most; I have too many kids; I’m not from this area; I haven’t been to True Life long enough; I’m the pastor’s wife…” the list could go on and on.

At first glance, this seems like bad news. But I don’t think so. I think it’s an opportunity. I think God is up to something here.

Call me wacky, but I believe every church gets attacked by the devil and his demons in certain ways. I think in our church, one way it has happened this past year is with women and their relationships to each other.

By God’s grace, that will break.

And I believe it will break as we address the problem from three angles:

- Acknowledging the spiritual stronghold and praying against it

- Doing what we can practically to address it (like Nancy M. is planning a women’s one day workshop called “Uninvited” to give a forum for women to hang out, have fun, and discuss this head on).

- Worship. As one woman said, “we also need to stop trying to get from each other what we are only meant to get from the Lord.”

More on that to come.

More Organized AND More Organic Community Happenings
As our church has grown, many of us don’t know many others. We hope to do more organized social hang-outs (like the potluck on January 15th) for the whole church, special days for women (like Debi Holliday’s workshop on Saturday morning, Jan. 28th) outings for men, things for singles and couples. If you have an idea, let’s talk.

But while we will do more organized church-wide social events this year, that must be balanced with organic initiation of relationships.

Organized things should lead to organic; otherwise, relationships become shallow and churchy and dependent on the next church event.

Let’s face it, being invited to an event that the whole church is invited to does not say much. When someone thinks of ME and invites ME to something small, it says something about our relationship -- or at least the potential for that relationship.

More Ownership of Our Community
There are many ways for us to take more ownership of our church and where it’s going. Those who are not volunteering can step up to give it a try. Those who are already volunteering can take a stronger leadership role (formal or informal) over their ministry. Those who are leading can get out of the way to allow others to step up and take more of a lead. Those who are not giving financially on a regular basis can start to do so. Those who are giving a little can give more. Those who are in a life group can offer to help lead a discussion or two.

You get the idea.

How is God calling you to take more ownership of your church?

TEACHING FOCUSES
We spent pretty much all of 2016’s sermons going through the book of Ephesians and then a systematic teaching on the HOly Spirit.

This year, it will be more topical, based on what our church seems to struggle with / have questions about.

Some things that are on the running list are:

Justice: fighting the injustices of our times

Healing: embracing the many seemingly-contradictory truths about Jesus our Healer

Sex and sexuality

End times: Why it matters now

Difficult Things Jesus Said

In the Beginning: An in-depth study of Genesis 1-3.

Holy Joy (see below)

HOLY JOY
After the Christmas Eve Eve message i did, I realized how many questions i have about joy. And how many you probably have. But not just our idea of joy. God’s idea of joy. God is holy. Holy means separate than. So every character quality of God’s is separate than our understanding of it.
His love is a holy love, separate than our understanding of love.
His sovereignty is a holy sovereignty, separate from our limited freedom of choice.

And his joy is a holy joy.

But through Jesus, we have access to that holy joy.
We need to explore that. We need to understand it deeply.
My hope is to link every sermon series either directly to or indirectly to understanding holy joy. But I also hope this trickles into conversations we have with each other, life group discussions, and counsel that we give each other.

MISSION

The Ends of the Earth

Matthew 24:14
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

If there was one verse that propels the Christian & Missionary Alliance (our family of churches) in ministry, it is this verse. The return of Jesus is inextricably linked to his church - that’s us - making his name known to every tribe, nation and people group.

Currently, our family of churches is focusing on countries and nations where less than 2% of the population know Jesus (once it hits 2%, it tends to snowball from there).

They are the un-reached people groups.

And as such, reaching them is not conducive to short term
mission trips. It’s too dangerous. It requires a different strategy. So what can we do? What can we offer?

Prayers and Money.

Our hope is to bring more news of the missionaries who are living day in and day out in places like Spain, Syria, Iraq and Israel.

And most of our missions budget (which is increasing from 15-16% of our overall budget this year) will go to those efforts.

Reaching younger generations
We have brought on a youth & young adult pastor, not just because there is a growing need for one, but because we want our youth to lead our church in reaching the increasing number of unchurched young people in our society.

This is something that requires every generation in our church to be on board with because these younger generations need older mentors -- father figures and grandmother figures and older brother figures.

Injustice Issues of our Times
In addition to outreach events where we get to have a presence in our community, we want to also be committed to making a long-term dent in some of the major injustice issues of our time, fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves.

More on that to come.

Your Neighbors and Friends
Mission and outreach are not supposed to be compartments and categories in our church. They are not supposed to be relegated to events that happen every few months. The reason we even have church is because God is a God on mission. It’s who He is. He came down to earth for us.

The Father sent the Son, the Son sent His Spirit into the church, and the Spirit sends the church -- remember, that’s us -- into the world.

He sent YOU into your neighborhood, your job, your gymnastics class, your school to be his ambassador. You may have the disguise of a doctor or lawyer or stay-at-home mom, but you are there as an ambassador of Jesus Christ.

We want to help you understand what that means practically.

STRUCTURING FOR MOMENTUM

Lastly, with growth comes the need for more organization. Organization that enables us to be less dependent on our denomination’s board.

But structures and organization is a double-edged sword and there are two extreme mistakes that are made.

One thing that often happens is that a movement gets going, picks up speed and momentum, and then organization is required. But the people in that movement then get so focused on protecting the organization that the movement stops moving. And now you have an institution. It happens in businesses, missions agencies, churches. Movement → organization → institution → death.

On the other extreme is the mistake of avoiding structures and organization out of fear of the institution. This also stops the movement and leads to chaos, confusion, and division.

We want to add organization to our church’s movement, which should then propel us onward into more movement…..which will undoubtedly lead to a need for different structures and organization. Movement → organization → more movement → new organization → more movement. That’s the goal.

Those are some things on my heart as we begin this new year. If you read it all I applaud you. 

Love you guys. 

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