Matthew 28. 16-20 Jesus said, “Go and make disciples…”
An Overview of our Parish Mission Action Plan
10th October 2015
I wonder if you like making plans. One of my friends finds the cold and dark of our winters really difficult and one of the way she cheers herself up is to make elaborate and detailed plans for the family summer holiday. Most of us at some time will need to draw up plans. It might be planning a meal with friends. We plan who to invite, what to cook, maybe what we are going to wear. We might plan bigger things. How to organise a big event. How we are going to progress in our career. We might plan our retirement. Essentially we have a goal in mind and plan the steps to achieve it.
Jesus had a plan for telling the whole world about how they could have a loving relationship with God. He spent three years teaching and showing a small group of disciples about what this loving relationship looked like. Then after his resurrection and before his ascension to heaven, Jesus met with eleven disciples. He said this to them, ‘Now you go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’
Jesus had a goal and he had a plan. He wanted everybody in all the nations of the world to hear the good news about how they could have a loving relationship with God. His plan to achieve this was extraordinary. He told eleven very ordinary men to go out and tell people about him so that they too could be baptised and become his disciples. The first disciples did this. They made more disciples. Those disciples in turn made disciples. The baton was passed down through the generations until each of us heard the good news about how we could have a loving relationship with God through Jesus. Now it is our turn to hand the baton on.
For many years, many centuries in our country, it was assumed that everybody was automatically a Christian. This is no longer the case. Many, many people do not believe in Jesus. Many young adults and children know little or nothing about him. Many older people for all sorts of reasons live their lives without any faith in Jesus.
Jesus is asking each one of us to be part of his plan to hand the baton of the gospel on to those who don’t yet know him. Our diocese is rightly taking this very seriously and over the past three years, has put together plans and priorities about how the churches in the diocese can join in with the diocesan plans. Each church has been asked to produce a Mission Action Plan called a pMAP. This local church plan-this pMAP-essentially looks at the steps we will take over the next three years. We have produced a draft pMAP which the PCC considered and approved at a PCC morning in September and has now been sent to the relevant Deanery committee and Diocese for their comments.
This morning I would like to share with you a brief overview of this pMAP and how it applies to us.
Jesus modeled to his disciples what an authentic human life looked like in relationship with God. His life centred around three relationships. We can represent this with a triangle.
UP Jesus’ first relationship is with his heavenly Father, what we might call the ‘up’ dimension. A life of prayer. A life of praise. A life of thanksgiving. A life of intimacy.
IN Jesus’ second relationship is with his chosen followers-his disciples, what we might call the ‘in’ dimension. Jesus called this group of disciples to him so that he could be with them and build strong relationships with each of them. He taught his disciples, but he did more than that, he modelled to them what authentic healthy relationships are like. From those twelve, he chose three close friends, Peter, James and John. He ate meals with his friends. He laughed with them. He met their families.
OUT Thirdly we see Jesus relationship with the world around him-with people that don’t yet know his heavenly Father, what we might call the ‘out’ dimension. He came to preach the good news about relationship with God. He came to heal the sick. To drive out demons. To restore broken relationships. To set the captives free.
Jesus’ life gave the first disciples the pattern for their lives and this life is the pattern for our lives.
- It is to be a life with the ‘up’ dimension. A life of prayer, of praise, of intimacy with the Father.
- A life with the ‘in’ dimension. A life lived in relationship with other believers. A life of worshipping together, eating together, laughing together, caring for each other
- And it was to be a life with the ‘out’ dimension. A life that went out to people who didn’t yet know Jesus. A life of continuing the ministry Jesus had called them to do. Telling people the good news about relationship with God through Jesus. Healing the sick. Setting the captives free. Bringing reconciliation to broken relationships.
In our Mission Action Plan-or pMAP-these strands are interwoven. The diocese has four strategic priorities and I’d like to look at them briefly with you and see how they apply to our church.
Strategic Priority One We grow authentic disciples. This priority is about investing in our discipleship so that our own faith grows and is strengthened. We hope that as we do this we will grow in confidence in sharing our faith with others.
Over the next month or so in our services we are going to be looking at how we can listen to God through the scriptures and respond to him in prayer (focussing on the UP dimension). In the spring we would like to run a discipleship course to help us deepen and grow in our faith. I hope as many people as possible in our church will join in with this.
Strategic Priority Two We reimagine church. The thrust of this priority is to connect with people who are not well represented in our churches. It will involve looking at introducing ways of worship that are true to the gospel but are able to connect with our rapidly changing culture.
We want to continue to value and cherish our existing congregation and to strengthen our relationships with all who live and work in our community. Over the next year our particular focus will be on improving our connection with families and young people. We are beginning a consultation with local families as part of this.
Strategic Priority Three Social Transformation Essentially the aim of this priority is to see God’s kingdom come through prayer and practical influence in all of society both here and abroad.
As I mentioned in my talk to the APCM when I first became rector, we would like to begin small discipleship groups where a group of up to twelve people meet regularly for prayer, bible study, friendship and support. Each group would also have an outward focus. This outward focus could be one of a wide range of things. Examples might include:
- Social action e.g. supporting the night shelter
- Providing for the elderly
- Supporting one another to live as Christians in the workplace
- Supporting young families at the local schools
- Caring for neighbours
We would like to establish a weekly prayer meeting to pray for our local community and to underpin our practical response to the needs of the community.
Strategic Priority Four Stewardship and generous giving
This priority is about being good stewards of all that God has given us and being a people who give generously.
For us in Itchen Valley, there is a need to increase our regular giving to match our running costs, so as to reduce our financial reliance on fundraising.
We recognise the importance to the life of the community of the fundraising events, but we would like to reduce our reliance on these for our regular outgoings.
This is a very, very brief explanation of the diocesan strategic priorities and our response to them. It is important for us all to remember that this is not just the latest diocesan plan. For some people, as we get older, we can become cynical about new initiatives. We can have the attitude, ‘Been there, done that’.
This is an opportunity for us as a church to respond to the Great Commission of Jesus. To pick up the baton of the gospel. To grow and deepen our own faith. To grow as a community in reaching out to our local community and beyond with the practical love of Jesus. To pass the baton of the gospel on to the next generations.
My hope and vision is that as a church we will embrace the challenge.