New Growth in the Autumn?

New leavesI heard a weather man the other day reporting that this September was one of the driest on record and as a result we should expect the autumn colours to be very vibrant.

The changing colours are one of the glories of autumn – a season of change, a season of fruitfulness and, harking back to student days, a season of new opportunities and progress as a new academic year begins.

It was interesting then that at the service last Sunday evening – just as autumn is beginning – Bob Dunnett brought a word from the Lord, which was a more spring like image!

The picture Bob saw in his mind’s eye was of a plant in a pot.  The crown of the plant was sturdy and well developed and had full coloured leaves.  His attention however was drawn to a lot of new shoots and leaves – new growth that was coming from the base of the plant.

Bob explained that the context of the picture was that he was praying for the church and he felt that God was saying ‘I am growing new shoots’.   Bob said that we‘re seeing new shoots … anticipate it … pray for it … and be ready to nurture new growth as God adds new people.

There were confirmations then, from individuals and groups, and several similar words since that cause us to weigh this as a word from the Lord.   It’s a timely word as many in the community are encouraged and full of hope as the busy autumn season in church picks up momentum and already we are seeing new shoots.

Over the summer God has raised up new leaders for the Sunday morning children’s groups and there was a real buzz during and following the Duggie Dug Dug praise party in September when several children gave their lives to Jesus.  The ALPHA and Freedom courses have now restarted with a good number of participants attending and with leaders who are full of expectation of what God will do.  The welcome tea for students at the start of the new term saw a many returning and new students coming.  It was encouraging to see such a good number of people and a great sense of togetherness in the evening service.

So in this season of change, of fruitful harvest and new opportunities, we should also be looking for new growth.  Our services in this season will reflect many of these themes.  Here’s a brief outline of the teaching programme and the thinking behind it.  The overriding theme is

Fruitful disciples – looking and learning from Jesus.

In the parable of the vineyard (Matthew 21:33-46 – drawing on Isaiah 5:1-7) Jesus described how a landowner set up a vineyard and rented it to tenant farmers to work it.  In due course – at harvest time – the owner of the vineyard looked to collect the fruit due to him.

In this parable Jesus identifies himself as the landowner’s son (i.e. the Son of God) and makes clear that Father God seeks ‘the fruit of the kingdom of God’ from His people.

This begs the question; ‘What is the fruit of the Kingdom that God seeks?

In this Harvest season we will look at Jesus and his teaching to explore some aspects of the fruit of the Kingdom that God looks for in each of us individually and together.  Bearing fruit is not just an inner attitude but is something that shows itself in action so there will be various opportunities to take action.

  • In part of October we will look at the fruit of generosity.   This will be accompanied by a presentation concerning the church’s finances, information about practical ways that we can show generosity and an opportunity to respond in a tangible way at the gift day on October 26th.
  • In November several guest speakers will help us look at the fruit of extending God’s Kingdom  and in addition to learning about various aspects of mission activity there will also be the on-going question of ‘How can I contribute … what’s my particular and personal calling in the work of extending God’s kingdom?’.
  • Jesus tells us, ‘Remain in me … you can’t bear fruit unless you remain in me’.   For the weeks of Advent, we want to create a little more space for waiting and stillness in our regular Sunday gatherings. The worship will be led in a more simple way – often with just one or two musicians. And we want to seek a little more silence and reflection, preparing our hearts for God’s leading into the future. Sermons in the short season of Advent will be under the general title of ‘Let every Heart prepare Him room’.

In evening services in October, November and the early part of December we will work our way through the book of First John – a letter that is a rich treatise on God’s love and how that should be demonstrated in us.   In January we will look at some important tools for fruitful living that the bible sets out for us to follow.

We are also introducing some gentle change in our pattern of evening services in this season.  On the second Sunday evening each month we plan to have a service which is more ‘open’ in format and which is not part of the planned teaching programme.

  • Open agenda
  • Open hearts, hands, mind
  • Open to God’s ‘now’ Word
  • Open to the prophetic and other spiritual gifts
  • Open to encouragement and inspiration through testimony
  • Open and ready to celebrate the presence of God in extended worship

Of course we want to foster such ‘openness’ in all our services, and believe that setting aside dedicated time each month in this way, will help to encourage and promote our openness more generally.    For want of a better title we plan to simply call these services OPEN!

Let’s come together week by week in our services, groups and other activities looking for signs of God’s surprising Kingdom; new shoots in autumn … life from death … light in the darkness!

May we be filled with praise for all that God has done, is doing and will do among us.

SHALOM

Antony

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