by | Jul 6, 2024

As it’s almost the summer holidays, I thought I would do something slightly different this month in The Loop. Instead of writing a bunch of articles I thought I would write a summer letter. My suggestion is to grab a brew and head to the garden or a local park where you can hopefully enjoy reading this review and reflection slowly.

Dear Church Family, 

‘I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.’ (1 Timothy 3:14-15)

As we quickly approach the summer holidays, it would be very easy for us to get lost finding tents or even passports and stressed over packing suitcases. However, before we get there I want to help all of us to look back over our shoulders and, by deliberately doing this, to be able to ‘rejoice always… [and] give thanks in all circumstances’ (1 Thess 5:16-18). This last year has been filled with the grace and mercy of God. 99.99% of what God has been doing among us has probably gone unnoticed, but even the 0.01% that we have clocked shows us the extravagance of God’s grace. In light of this all I want to do is share a few simple highlights from last year from my perspective. As you are reading, however, this will hopefully trigger a whole host of other thoughts that you are then able to turn into prayers of gratitude (‘thank you Lord for…’).

New Beginnings 

When I look back to late August and early September 2023, I’m reminded of how this was a time of incredible upheaval for us as a family. We moved from Great Yarmouth to Ron and Sue Stout’s house so that we could attempt to get Sophia and Zoe into college and school for the start of a new academic year. It felt like we were riding a bit of a rollercoaster that we didn’t know how it was going to end! My lasting memories from those early months was the kindness that we received from so many people. This obviously included Ron and Sue who opened their home to us as a family, but it extended to so many other people. For example, those of you who took the time to sit and talk with Sophia and Zoe after a service when they were feeling wobbly about everything. This love, care and kindness that we received from so many people is cherished and has honestly been one of the reasons why we can look back over this last year and say how quickly we’ve started to feel at home here in Emmanuel Community Church. So thank you!

These new beginnings also meant new teams for me to serve in. Joining a newish eldership team with such diversity of experience, knowledge and giftings has been great but, more importantly, something really healthy for the church. We’ve had to grapple with some really significant things together.  But one year later and it would seem to me that we are starting to gel and understand one another as any good team should. So I’m really thankful for Phil, Al, Simon, John and Chris. I’m also grateful to be able to work alongside the staff team. Seeing the love and commitment that these guys have for the church family and the mission we are on together is just brilliant. I know it could be easy to take a staff team for granted, but I don’t think we should and this last year has reminded me again and again of how grateful I am for Katie, Simon, Becky and Chris. 

New People

Another heartwarming thing that has happened over this year has been the number of new people who have come to join Emmanuel Community Church. At Christmas I remember joking with Lorna that we were no longer the newbies at ECC (just a few months into our time here). That trend of new people coming and finding a home at ECC continues and is something we should be very grateful for. We are already benefiting from the gifts and talents that these new people are bringing to the church family. Take for example a few weeks ago, when almost the whole music band were people who a year ago were not in the church (and it was a big band). This is something to cherish and give thanks to the Lord for. He is equipping us for his mission. However, ‘new people’ also speaks of new people connecting with the church through midweek groups. It is a continual joy for me to pop into one of our mid-week groups, such as Just Begun or Oasis, and be able to talk with new people who are connecting with the church. I don’t know if you’ve ever stopped and considered how large the web of relationships that are connected with ECC is? There must be well over a thousand relationships! This is incredible and something to be cherished. We should be praying that more and more of these people will become devoted followers of Jesus.

New Ways

Looking back it is also a joy to see some new ways of working that we’ve developed. Take for example the newly formed pastoral care team that Chris Johnson is leading. This is a beautiful picture of how we’re reshaping things so that the existing organic love and care that ECC has in bucket loads can continue to thrive whilst also ensuring we have enough organisation wrapped around it so that we can care for the growing and changing nature of the church. It’s also been a delight for me, month-in month-out ,to see the GROW group grappling with systematic theology and gospel-shaped leadership. Let me let you into a secret – these Wednesday evenings are one of the highlights of my month! I give thanks that we have the opportunity to pilot a leadership training group that could become a normal part of church life over the coming years. I’ve also been amazed at the ChurchSuite team that has worked alongside Simon. David, Ruth, Donald, and Pauline. They have invested so much time and energy into helping prepare for and then launch this new tool that will hopefully, over time, enable us to keep communicating clearly and provide a growing menu of tools for the church family. I look back with gratitude for all of these small but new beginnings.

Old Ways

I also look back over this last year with gratitude for some old ways. What I mean by this is the normal bread-and-butter ways of church life. Take, for example, Sunday mornings. It was such a joy to join the church as week-in week-out the church grappled with 1 Samuel. It’s also been a joy to see how the Psalms of Ascent (Ps 120-134) have been encouraging and nourishing the church family on Sunday evenings at our monthly communion service. Scripture is not always easy to understand and sometimes can challenge deeply-held assumptions/desires/sins, but if we keep scripture central then we will be people who are shaped and reshaped by true truth (Francis Schaeffer). I’ve also really enjoyed the weekly pre-service prayer meeting led by Bolaji (why not join us at 10am?), the monthly prayer meetings and the extended times of prayer such as our Week of Prayer. Like I said, these are not new or even novel but they have been so encouraging and I give thanks for them!  

Looking forward

And so, as I wrap up this letter, here are some words from the Apostle Paul:

14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:14-15)

Notice how the Apostle Paul describes the local church. Firstly he describes it as the household of God. This is stunning language as it helps us to see the church not primarily as an organisation or institution, but rather a family unit that belongs to God. The church is a group of people linked not biologically, but spiritually (redemptively) together as brothers and sisters because we are people united in Christ (see Ephesians 2). This linking is familial in nature. Strangers don’t just become friends, but rather brothers and sisters in Christ! This is one of the wonders of the Church. God’s household is being formed and created before our very eyes! However, notice how Paul adds to this family language that the church is ‘a pillar and buttress of the truth’. Suddenly the language shifts from the relational nature of families to the foundational principles of architecture. Pillars and buttresses are used to ensure things get lifted up and don’t collapse. And Paul says the church has been entrusted with promoting (holding up on a pillar) and protecting (buttressing) the truth of the gospel (1 Timothy 2:4). The responsibility of advancing the gospel and guarding the gospel has been given to the household of God–The Church. 

So church family, as you head off on holiday or maybe to a summer convention/camp, please keep these words in mind. Emmanuel Community Church is God’s household. In fact we are the household of the living God. And as members of this incredible household we have been called to present the gospel in a visible and prominent way to the world around us and, at the same time, to protect the gospel from it being undermined either from the culture around or by mutation from within. This, my friends, is a great and grave responsibility!

Yours in Christ,

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Adam Bradley

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