PARTICIPATION | IN CHRIST | IN CHURCH
|Title||Main Reading||Second Reading||Extra references|
|11 | 9||Church is the goal of the gospel||Exodus 19:1-6||Romans 16:25-27||Genesis 17:1-7, Ephesians 1:1-14, 1 John 1:1-4|
|18 | 9||Church is a cruciform community | Open Doors||Philippians 3:7-14||Matthew 5:1-12|
|25 | 9||Church as the baptised into Christ||Romans 6:1-8, 11-14||John 3:1-8, 16-18|
|2 | 10||Church is family||Matthew 12:46-50||Ephesians 2:11-22||Romans 12:9-16|
|9 | 10||Church is a holy nation||Ezekiel 36:22-29a||1 Peter 1:1-5, 13-16 1 Peter 2:9-10||Ephesians 2:19-22|
|16 | 10||Church is a community of honour|||Romans 12:9-13||Psalm 8|
|23 | 10||Church is a fellowship of worship||Psalm 145:1-9||Romans 12:1-8|
|30 | 10||Church is a sign of the kingdom||Matthew 5:13-16|
|6 | 11||Church is the plural of disciple||Matthew 28:16-20||Acts 11:9-26|
|13 | 11||Church is God’s mission agency||Romans 1:1-7||Luke 24:36-53||Acts 14:19-28|
|20 | 11||God’s church for God’s world | Tearfund||TBC||TBC||Nigel Harris|
I am really looking forward to inviting the whole church into a new journey together this term as we explore the meaning and value of church in our lives. My hope is that we will all feel reinvited into church life and reenergised to participate again in fresh ways. We have recognised the benefit of us preaching from the same passages across all four of our congregations and following these up with group learning and reflection has also been really fruitful. That’s why we are encouraging as many of our small groups as possible to join in with the series and to help us go on a shared journey together.
THE BIG IDEA – Participation | in Christ | in Church
The big idea holding all this together is participation in Christ and over the next few months, we want to explore together is how ‘living in Christ’ leads to a completely new way of seeing ourselves in relation to others and how ‘participation in Christ’, as forgiven and sanctified individuals, draws us into the kind of Church fellowship – participation in church – that tells the story of the gospel in and through our community life together.
Ephesians 1:10 says, “And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.”
Scripture teaches us that Christ came to bring all things, and all people, together in him and as we set off on a new season of church life, we want seek God for direction and clarity about what this means for us in our day. That’s why we want to encourage all of us to reflect together, on Sundays and in small groups through the week, to hear again God speaking to us as his body here in Reigate..
HOW TO USE THESE NOTES
These notes provide you with the following:
- The two bible readings from the Sunday services (with the main one first)
- An overview and introduction to the teaching
- A key take-away
- Some additional questions to help explore the passage and theme together that can be used alongside the four questions of the Discovery Bible Study Approach:
- What does this passage tell us about God or God’s plan?
- What does this passage tell us about people or ourselves?
- What should we do in response?
- Who should we tell?
I pray that as we journey together God will move powerfully in our church and in your small group. Jesus told us that he would ‘build his church’ and we trust that this is exactly what will happen in our own church at this time.
5 REASONS FOR A SERIES ON BEING CHURCH RIGHT NOW
- Responding to the loss of relationship and disrupted, fragmented worship through lockdown with an invitation to reconsider Jesus’ vision for his church
The last few years have been so hard on us as individuals and as families, but it has also been hard on us as a church family. With our rhythms of worship disrupted, our connections and relationships weakened, and our shared identity diluted, we have seen a change in attitude and behaviour. Some have lost the habit of gathering and drifted in their faith. A number have just found other things to do on the weekend weakening their sense of connection. All of us have had to rethink what church means in our lives and how to participate in it.
As we start again this September, we believe that we would all benefit from thinking again about God’s vision for church and to allow Jesus to lead us together into a renewed unity and deeper relationship. Together we want to honestly come to him again and ask him to remind us of exactly why church matters, to us and to God.
- Responding to the longing for deeper levels of community life and reflecting together for what this means for us as a local church
In an age of loneliness and fragmentation, God calling us into deeper relationship and community. While we feel the ache for this, we want to seek God together for how we can do this in our context here in Reigate and to find the spiritual resources needed to make it happen. As our hearts tend toward selfishness, we want to seek God for a renewal of our hearts that leads us naturally towards loving our neighbour as ourselves.
- Acknowledging our longing for wisdom and seeking God how we live as a community with shared values and ethics
All of us are looking for wisdom. We want to learn how to live well, to parent well, to build strong relationships and to grow in character. Living in the era of the Netflix, Amazon, Facebook and TikTok, we are having to learn again how live out the ‘obedience of faith’ and how to resist being swept along by the culture. We simply can not do this on our own. To survive we need a community, we need a church. Living in a culture with such a plurality of views can be overwhelming, and complex. We need to learn again how to be a community with a common set of values, beliefs, and behaviours, shaped by Jesus and the gospel.
- An invitation to go deeper into Jesus’ life – into discipleship, growth, accountability, and pastoral care
Living in Christ always leads us into family, relationship, and community. Fellowship (or koinonia) is fundamental to the gospel and the mission of God and participation in Christ always leads us towards a deeper participation in the life of his body, the church. Like tracks of a railway line, these two tracks always belong together and form one route forward. Going further into Jesus takes us further into community. Nothing could be more different from the direction our culture is taking us, a culture that emphasises individual fulfilment and self-expression. Liberating us from lives lived primarily for the self, the way of Christ draws us into a radically different vision of what it means to be human. As we explore this together, we want to deepen our discipleship and to discover more about what life in the Kingdom of God looks like.
- Praying for the ongoing renewal and growth of St Mary’s and seeking God for his way forward for us at this crucial time
While St Mary’s continues to be a larger church in number, the depth of our spiritual life and relationships with one another remains shallower than they should be. A consumerist mindset, so evident in our wider culture, can easily creep into our approach to church life and other priorities, especially for families, can further impact engagement and belonging. The invitation to live with God at the centre of everything cuts across the trajectories and values of our lives and we believe that the culture of discipleship, expressed as individuals and within families, needs further embedding among us as a church.
Being a larger church is such a blessing, but it also brings challenges in terms of relationships, engagement, accountability, and pastoral care. As we set a course for the future, we want to hear from God about how we ought to shape our community life together, especially as we seek to be used by God in blessing others. We can only share what we already have. We pray that this will be a season of renewal.