Last Sunday, I spoke about our sense of how Jesus is leading us. There wasn’t time to go into detail about the specifics, so here, I share a little more. I would love it if you could read, pray over, and share your thoughts, comments, and questions about this vision. Consider what excites you, what challenges you, where you see gaps, and what you think we need to pay attention to. How do you sense God speaking to you about the vision for St John’s?
Vision talks are not about the vicar telling everyone how things must be. Rather they are about sharing the sense that leadership has of how the Spirit is leading us and then inviting all of us into an ongoing prayerful conversation about it. We aim to discern our collective vision. When we discern and own our collective vision, it helps us all individually find our place within it. Our vision arises from our ethos or values; you can read more about our values in last week’s post – click here.
The Sunday before, Scott spoke on God’s vision for the earth. He made the point that vision begins with God; it's about his call, his purposes, and his leading. We can only grasp and make sense of his vision if we get a vision of God himself. His vision is about the here and now, what he is doing in our city and county. Amazingly, God chooses to realize his vision by working through his people; he has a role for ordinary people like us.
In recent years, we have sensed the leading of the Spirit to simplify our vision and values around the simple essence of what it means to do church Jesus’ way. Jesus’ life, mission, and ministry are our inspiration and model. Jesus came to inaugurate the next phase in God’s kingdom project. He sends his followers to share in his mission by proclaiming and demonstrating the kingdom and teaching others to follow Jesus as he did. Jesus released and equipped leaders and calls us to do the same. He desires to reproduce his life in us. Here’s what we think that means for us here at St John’s going forward.
Church Planting and an Emerging Network
St John’s is designated as a Resourcing Church. This means we have a Bishop’s mandate to plant churches and resource mission beyond ourselves. We have been given resources to help us do that. However, being a Resourcing Church is much more about what we give away than what we get; it’s about giving more than receiving, sending more than gathering, serving more than asking, equipping, and releasing more than centralizing. We are keen to work out what it means to do Resourcing Church well.
On our Resourcing Church journey so far, we have tried one or two things that haven’t worked and others that have. Currently, Shirley Parsons and Ali Simpson Smith lead the Emmaus Community (meeting in church on a Wednesday morning) which is growing, and we have sent Jon and Beth Tearne and a small team to St Peter’s. Coming up, we have two planned initiatives and a few more embryonic possibilities. The two planned initiatives are:
Sharon is planning to launch BeLoved in the Knighton Fields area. You watch a short video about this here.
St Peter’s is launching a ‘church in the pub.’ You can find out more by watching the video here.
Sending Sharon and a team out in this way is both exciting and painful. I love Sharon’s heart and the obvious way God is calling her. However, surely God can’t be calling us to send out Sharon! But Resourcing Church is about generously blessing and serving others by sending out our best. Note that Sharon will not leave St John’s. She and her family will continue to be part of our extended family with Sharon holding a different responsibility.
Additionally, to these new initiatives, we have existing relationships with several churches where we have strong relational bonds and a shared ethos. We sense the leading of the Spirit to invest and strengthen these relationships. We can do more together; the kingdom opportunities of a network of churches that share an ethos are significant.
If you are anything like me, as soon as I start thinking about our role in these things, I immediately think of all the negatives: we can’t do this, we aren’t big enough, we haven’t got the resources, we can’t lose Sharon, we still have lots of developing and growing to do ourselves, and many more doubts and questions. However, God has always been in the habit of calling unlikely people and unlikely churches and equipping them as they go. Jesus’ disciples were not impressive humanly speaking; their strength was that they shared a Jesus’ shaped ethos and were willing to trust that Jesus would work through them. Jesus is looking for people who know him, who are willing to say ‘yes’ to his call, and who trust him to pour out his Spirit and to provide the necessary resources to fulfill his vision.
It only takes a couple of these new communities to be successful for us to gain a sense of momentum, that God is doing something. What is exciting about all this, is not the structures of new or existing churches, but the idea that God is building a movement of people who share a Jesus-shaped kingdom-minded ethos connected by relationships willing to hear the call of Jesus to go and bring the love and power of the Gospel to our city and beyond.
Leadership Learning Community
As we emerged from the Pandemic, we closed our evening small groups and ran ReGroup. ReGroup was a significant time of reconnection and relationship building. Since then, although we are aware that some of us have felt the pain of the lack of small groups, we have sensed it right to carefully discern how to start new groups. It is so important to find the leaders who are called and establish the right culture.
Adam Simmonds and Scott Else have established the Leadership Learning Community. This is a group of people who are going deeper in their personal discipleship and exploring whether and how Jesus is calling them to lead. Adam and Scott are expectant that at least four new groups will form in the coming weeks. More details to follow.
A key principle in small group formation is that we want to build the mission of the church primarily around the outward call of God on individuals and teams rather than on centrally run activities. This is a more empowering approach and is the Jesus way. We will of course continue to run certain things, like Alpha, centrally. The Leadership Learning Community is designed to journey with people as they explore how Jesus is calling them, and then support and equip them as they step into that call.
If you are interested in joining this group, please speak to either Adam Simmonds or Scott Else (email@example.com).
Related to the Leadership Learning Community is Catalyst. Simon Brown, Fiona Aldridge, Daniel McSharry, James Banks and Scott Else are overseeing this exciting initiative. Catalyst creates a learning pathway to support and equip ‘lay planting teams.’ This is a project we are doing in partnership with Myriad (you can find out more about Myriad by clicking here - Myriad - CCX). The BeLoved team led by Sharon and the Black Dog Pub team under Jon’s oversight will attend Catalyst and potentially in the future, one or two other groups from St John’s. Catalyst will not directly affect many of us but is a significant initiative for us in fulfilling our Resourcing Church mandate.
You can find out more about Catalyst by clicking here. If you would like to speak to someone about it, please contact Scott Else (firstname.lastname@example.org).
With Sharon likely to transition to a new role in the New Year, we are at a transitional point with our Children, Youth, Families, and Schools work. This creates a need for careful transition planning. In this, we are sensing the need to go back to first principles as we discern the way ahead.
With our long-term transformational kingdom values, mission and ministry with families, children, and young people are critical. Children are both the church of today and tomorrow. Sadly, the decline in church attendance nationally among the young in recent years has been dramatic. Leicester is a recognized blackspot with fewer than 1:200 children in the city regularly attending church. St John’s, with its high proportion of families, location, relationship with the school, and Resourcing Church designation is uniquely placed to develop this ministry. Our passion has always been to enable children and young people to grow from zero to adulthood in a discipling community, to release them in appropriate ways as missionaries and leaders, and to develop leaders and workers in this ministry.
The term ‘Growing Faith’ refers to the recognition of the power of partnership between schools, households, and churches. The most powerful experience of discipleship is experienced if a child grows up in a household, church, and school founded upon a Christian ethos working in partnership with one another. We desire to strengthen family life, and the Christian ethos of the school, and develop the church’s ministry with children and young people to achieve this.
A first step towards this is that we are exploring with the school the idea that we succeed Sharon with a full-time person who is a part-time chaplain in the school and a part-time children’s worker in church. This person would play a bridging role between church and school. More details on this to follow.
Of course, many other significant things are going on in the life of our church: MOLO, BuZzy Bees, SatDads, Food Bank, Alpha, At the Table, Sunday Services, Sung Worship, and more.
I hope this gives you a flavour of how we believe Jesus is leading us. Please pray and share your thoughts. And consider how Jesus might be calling you to be involved. You can find out more about ways to get involved by reading last week’s blog – click here.