So if that’s the unchanging or timeless calling (see previous article) that we as a church have, what do we need to be focusing on over this coming season? Here is where we shift to thinking about vision.
Again, we as elders want to suggest to the church that our vision should be:
to grow a large gospel-loving church that, along with other gospel churches, will help hundreds of people come to treasure and proclaim Christ across Stockport & South East Manchester.
In order for us to accomplish this vision we will look to be clear and unchanging in our proclamation of the gospel whilst flexible in our methodology.
We believe that as a church we need to be praying towards, and preparing for, numerical and spiritual growth in the life of the church. Now let me be honest; sometimes growth can be motivated by sinful ambition. However, just because there are dangers does not mean growth in and of itself is wrong! In fact, when we consider Jesus’ parables about his Kingdom, he often used ‘growth’ illustrations: seeds, yeast and salt. All of these have an active agency and produce (different forms of) growth. In light of this, I think we should be bold in our prayers and courageous in our actions to believe that God would continue to grow us numerically and in maturity.
Friends, this is meant to be provocative! It’s meant to challenge us. It’s meant to help us look outwards and see that we have been placed in a huge harvest field. I’m still grappling with the fact that Stockport is larger than the city of Norwich, and we have an increasing number of people who are part of the church from other parts of South East Manchester and the surrounding villages. I think we can legitimately say that our harvest field is somewhere in the region of 500,000 people! That’s a huge and, if we’re honest with ourselves, daunting harvest field. Yet, when we look to the Lord of the Harvest (Matt 9:37-38), is he able to save? Yes he is! Is he able to rescue and redeem? Yes he is! If so, our expectation, longing, prayers and commitment must be towards many hundreds of people coming to know Christ and being added into the church family. So, I guess we want to encourage us to dream of a large church having an increasingly potent gospel impact across Stockport and South East Manchester.
In fact, when we open Revelation and see God’s glorious finale, it looks like ‘a multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language’ (Rev 7:9). What a glorious picture… but wouldn’t it be amazing if many hundreds of that multitude were from Stockport and South East Manchester?
Many other things can capture our attention! Comfort, my preferences, music style, approaches to kids work, etc. However, we want to see a gospel-loving church. That means a people who treasure the startling message that undeserving people (like you and I) can receive unending love and forgiveness from a holy God and all of this is found in the person of Christ! To love and cherish the gospel is to be a people who cling to the simplicity of this message, knowing that its power is not in the cleverness or acceptableness of our words, but is found in the work of the Spirit (John 3:8) who makes spiritually dead people alive (Eph 2:5).
We are also very clear that this part of God’s global harvest field cannot and will not be fully harvested by us alone. In light of this we want to commit ourselves over this coming season to partnering with other gospel loving churches. There is something beautiful that is displayed to the world, where local churches that love and treasure the gospel link arms and partner for the sake of Christ. Sadly, in our day, not all churches are gospel-loving. As a result, it’s not a partnership with anyone and everyone, but rather those churches who love and cherish the simple orthodox message of Christianity.
Another key aspect of this vision statement is to see the expanding nature of our impact as a church. We believe in local churches, but we’ve also got to acknowledge that many people don’t live local to either our Reddish or Green Lane site. In fact I reckon that maybe 30% of the church falls into that category. This shouldn’t discourage us. What it should do is see that we are being stretched out to have a gospel impact in a wider geographical area. Does that mean that the Heatons and Reddish are not important? Of course not! Our two buildings give us an anchor and focus in these communities. However our church members, who are spread out across many communities, also give us footholds in many more communities and so we want to acknowledge that and state very clearly that we want to see gospel impact across South East Manchester! It also underscores that where people live matters and needs gospel witness and we’ve got to try and equip people to witness where they live as well as through centralised events.
So we believe that over this coming season God is calling us to grow a large gospel-loving church that, along with other gospel churches, will help hundreds of people come to treasure and proclaim Christ across Stockport & South East Manchester.