Our church community is 10 years old, and most of us are going away today together for the bank holiday weekend to celebrate. We'll have morning and evening prayers for those that want to join in, a large BBQ, Andy Hickford is coming to speak at the service we have on saturday, we have a communion service sunday, and birthday party monday. Movies, sports, relaxing, and I hope most of all in the fast pace london lifestyle, the gift of time, of each other too each other.
As we celebrate 10 years, and look forward to what our Lord is leading us into, the further mission of our lives together in our community, I've been asking myself, how do you sum up and measure the life of a church plant, over 10 years?
Most church planters use numbers, and I estimate that we've had over 1,000 people visit the organised side of the life of the church, about 400 people actively involved in the mission of the church over that time, with presently 250 adults, and 120 kids. But how do we measure the larger community life of the church? Through the local community projects/missions we started and are engaged in 1,000's of people are impacted annually, then there is the resourcing of Emergent, with the many thousands of monthly downloads from our sites. Yet measuring numbers can be so gauche, what else that is harder to measure, has taken place?
For me the church has been a place to go from being aged 28 to 38, and grow in my faith, where all the doubts, fears, anxieties I have had about church, have been tended lovingly by the people around me. There has been the privilege of a community of people exploring and risk taking together, to grow a missional community, beyond wishful thinking, and into reflective action.
To see so many unchurched people find a church home, so many people come to faith, so many find a place where their faith can connect to the world they find themselves in outside church has been a blessing. And it has been a difficult place, from the aweful mistakes I have made, along with some of the most painful hurt caused by people I have loved. I never imagined Christians could hurt each other so deeply. And in that our community has been deeply flawed, and broken, and yet somehow profundly beautiful and amazing. And in that I brokenness and beauty it has been, I think/hope/believe/pray 'church'.
As I let rememberances flash past in my recollections, of births, marriages, divorces, deaths (of the youngest to the oldest), of laughter, parties, the sense of the prescence of Jesus, of mission and action, of waiting and wrestling, of depth, pain, questioning, and hopefullness, celebration and mourning, I thank God for this amazing family he has placed me in. And maybe something even more wonderful for me, if I wasn't the paid senior pastor/minister/leader, I can image how I would still be part of it, embedded in it, serving, giving, praying, living. Most of all our community is not one where my primary identity is as the 'pastor' but as a family member.
And as I write this, it does seem impossible to sum up 10 years of doing life together in mission, with Jesus. Thank you everyone at Vineyard Church Sutton, past present and future for all you are and all you bring into following Jesus together.