Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Purpose Teams

When asked what the most important commandments were, Jesus replied with these words:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31)               
Back in November when we met for a Vision Sharing meeting we thought about the idea that there are some vital components within these two commands of Jesus which have to be present if we have any hope of doing what Jesus said we should do.
1. Respond to the love of God
We love God because he first loved us and through Jesus we know that we can turn to him. Our response to this amazing God and this amazing love is to want to focus on him, praise him, to offer our lives to him for him to use for his honour and glory. In other words, we want to worship him.
2. Receive from God
However our relationship with God is not just about what we offer to him but he is a
living God who moves, speaks, teaches and trains his children through his word and by his Holy Spirit. He offers us a new way of living through following Jesus. God’s people become disciples.
3. Relate to one another           
The people of God are just that, a people. They are family.  Relating to one another is an important component of loving God. In fact the Bible tells us we can’t love God without also loving our brothers and sisters. This relationship to one another involves meeting together, caring for one another, giving one another accountability, supporting one another and working alongside one another in loving community.  The word we often use to describe this is pastoral care.

4. Reaching Out in with the gospel 
Worshipping God, following Jesus as disciples, caring for one another pastorally are vital but something is missing if the people of God are not reaching out to those who do not know about the love God and his plan of salvation. The people of God have a mission to the world to share good news.

5. Rebuilding communities through loving action              
The separation from a relationship with God, which is experienced by people because of sin leads to damaged individuals and communities. Hearts that are filled with the love of God and people who have committed to follow the example of Jesus will want to find ways bring restoration and healing where there is brokenness. We are called to care not just to one another but to care in our wider community.
So you will have hopefully picked up that there are 5 very important things individuals and the people of God need to be engaged in if they are truly going to fulfil the command of Jesus to love God and love others.

Pastoral Care
Community Care

Most churches and I believe this corps has each of these aspects or purposes going on. However the challenge is to make sure that we do them all equally well. It is also important to help everyone play their own part in fulfilling God’s purpose for this corps.  
Last year we shared the vision of organising our structures to help us to do this. The vision is to set up teams around each of the 5 purposes and the reason we are meeting today is to communicate and hopefully to encourage you to think about where God is calling you to get involved.  
All of these teams are open to you to get involved in. You can join as many teams as you believe God is leading you to be part of and according to what is realistic with the demands on your time.
A leaflet is available for you where the remit of each team is outlined and space  is provided for you to express your interest in finding out more about some of the suggested areas the team might explore together. Please remember that the activities listed are suggestions and if they are taken up may take time to implement. The development of Purpose teams will take time.
The word of God shows us that everyone has been given gifts and ministries that need to be used in building the kingdom.
So may we ask that you open up your heart to God to allow him to speak to you about what it is he is asking you to serve?  At the same time may I ask that you also open up your heart, to allow him to speak to you about what it is that God wants you to receive from the ministry the corps is offering.
Now let’s have brief overview of each of the 5 Purpose Teams.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to his name;             
worship the Lord in the splendour of his  holiness

Psalm 29:2

a) We can worship creatively               
In the Old Testament, the worship of God’s people used all the senses. There was the beauty of the Tabernacle, lots of music. Touch was used as the head of the animal to be sacrificed was touched to symbolise the fact that it was taking their place. They raised hands in praise, worshipped God in processions to the temple, expressed their love through sacred dance, beat their chests in penitence and knelt before God in submission. The sweet smell of incense pervaded the atmosphere and all the festivals involved food.  If the characters of the Old Testament could be that creative there is no reason that we can’t. In fact we have even greater freedom because are free of so much that held them back.
2. We can worship differently
There is no one size fits all approach to worship and you certainly don’t bring glory to God by trying to be somebody else, yet so often the church expects a whole bunch of very different people worship God in the same way.

 3. We need to worship sincerely          
It is also very easy to get stuck in a rut and worship can easily become routine.
Isaiah 29:3 “These people claim to worship me but their words are meaningless and their hearts are somewhere else. Their religion is nothing by human rules and traditions which they have simply memorized.”

Heartless worship is not worship and God is not pleased with us carelessly using clich├ęs or just repeating what we have heard others say.
It is envisaged that the worship team will work alongside Alan and I in the organisation of worship gatherings including Sunday worship, prayer meetings and special meetings. Obviously as the spiritual leaders of this Corps we need to take the lead in shaping the pattern for preaching and teaching.
Please do not imagine that this means sudden and dramatic changes to what you already know and experience. It is simply that the worship team will have opportunity to introduce new additional worship services which can bring a fresh approach, offer more variety and creativity which takes into account styles, culture and ages.  It is also good to facilitate worship for people who are at different stages in their spiritual journey. 
The team will also focus on encouraging and facilitating opportunities for prayer.  It will also be responsible for organising stewarding and welcoming teams for worship events. 

 DISCIPLESHIP TEAM                      
In Matthew 28:19 Jesus gave this great commission to the church.

“Therefore 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.”

We often focus on the therefore go of this verse and rightly see this instruction of Jesus as a spur to share the gospel and bring people to the point where they commit their lives to Christ.  But if we leave it at that our fulfilment of Christ’s instruction is incomplete. First of all Jesus tells us to make disciples and disciples are by definition people who are involved in on going learning and secondly it neglects the final part of his instruction to teach people to obey everything Jesus commanded.
The early church was committed to the apostles’ teachings.

They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42)

Commissioner Robert Street in Called to be God’s people writes,
“The Salvation Army cannot exist without people who are cultivating their faith. Without them there is no real growth. Faith is not static. It must develop to stay alive. It must be exercised and it ceases where it is not applied

The purpose of the Discipleship team is to encourage and provide opportunities for followers of Jesus to understand what it means to live a life rooted in Kingdom values, to develop faith and to mature in their relationship with Christ and with others.
This team’s role is also to explore ways to nurture new Christians in their faith including the preparation of recruits as soldiers or adherents.   It has the task of organising home nurture groups and will seek to offer opportunities and resources for spiritual development.  
PASTORAL TEAM                                 

We return to Acts 2:42 to get a picture of the early church. We have already seen that there was a focus on discipleship as believers met together for teaching. However the verse also recognises that believers also come together for a mysterious thing called fellowship. 
“They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship.”

True biblical fellowship is about more than friendship it is about people being committed to each other’s emotional, spiritual and physical well-being.
There are three particular areas that a pastoral care team can help to us to be a loving and caring fellowship/

1. Helping people feel that they belong         
So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it. (1 Thess 5:11The Message)

One of the hardest parts of coming to a new church is making a connection with the people who are already there. People need answers to questions like:    
How can I make friends?
What is this church all about?
Where do I fit in?
Do I belong here?
Where can I help?
It can feel a bit like coming onto the motorway from the slipway. A Salvation Army Corps can be a place which is, full of busy people, who find it difficult to slow down to let other people get in.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a team of people who are actively helping people find their way in?   This might simply be through befriending people but could also in time lead to creating more groups which act as connecting points. 

2. Helping people stay connected                  

There are times when circumstances arise, which mean people are unable to share fellowship through participation in the Corps programme.  The circumstances can range from illness, lack of mobility to pressures of work or family. It is important that we help anyone in that circumstance to feel that they are not forgotten and that they are supported and that they can stay connected.
We already try to do this through visitation and through the DVD ministry. One of the pastoral teams roles will be to make sure that this ministry is joined up and that those involved feel that they are supported in what they do. This team will also organise with the CO the visitation of those who are ill, shut in, bereaved or in crisis. 

3. Authentic relationships  
The third thing that is a feature of true fellowship is that our relationships are able to go beyond a casual greeting and that we can be real with one another. Knowing that there are people who care, who will listen, who are non-judgemental and who will provide support through the ups and downs of life is vital and provide us with accountability is vital. The dream is to build a team of people who will use their caring and listening skills but also help us all to live this out.
MISSION TEAM                                     
Jesus stated His purpose for coming to earth in Luke 19:10 “for the Son of man came to seek and to save what was lost.” He then commissioned His church to take the gospel to the nations in Mark 16:15 “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” Jesus predicted that when this task was completed the end would come.

 So what would a mission team be for? 

1. Enhance personal evangelism          
All believers are commanded and encouraged to be a witness for Christ in word and deed. This commission was given to every follower of Jesus. If you are part of God’s family, this is your commission.
The setting up of an evangelism team is not about getting a group of keen people together within our corps who will “do” evangelism for everyone else.  In fact, these days there is a greater understanding that a lot of people come to faith in Christ through friendship with Christians. Large scale crusades may still have a place but even their success is more dependent upon individual believers having the courage to invite their friends than on general advertising.
So a corps mission team will first and foremost be about finding ways to enhande and support the personal witness of each of us. This might be through working with the discipleship team in providing some training in how to share our faith or putting on an event which can confidently bring our friends along to.   

 2. Build bridges to the lost                           
Of course if we Christians only concentrate on witnessing to people they know there may be people who will never hear the good news because they just don’t know any Christians and too often the only friends some Christians have are other Christians. Somehow there has to be a bridge between those in the church and people who have yet to hear the gospel.
In the past sometimes the approach of the church has been to invite people to cross the bridge from their world into ours where we can welcome them in. Surely, a better way would be for us to cross the bridge and meet people where they are. It has often been said that at the heart of the great commission is the word go, not come.
Therefore one of the tasks of a mission team will be to seek to understand the people in our community and to seek out opportunities to connect with people in their own environment.
3. Stir us to action                    
The third thing is that the Mission team will have a role in stirring us all to action. There are times, when a church can get caught up in its own organisation and programmes that it starts to become insular. It is important to keep an outward focus and the mission team has an important role in encouraging the corps to keep the reaching the lost at the heart of our life together.

COMMUNITY CARE MINISTRY                           

The Salvation Army has caring in its DNA.  We have long since dealt with the theology of whether churches should get involved in social action. To simply preach the word of God without practically serving those in need is not an option for us.
In fact it was initially felt that our caring for the needs of people is mission and this ministry should simply a part of the Mission Team.  Our community care is motivated by the love of God and is a vehicle through which we express that love and is a way through which the good news of Jesus is made known.  Caring for our community’s needs whether it be through providing a meal for the homeless or a present for a child at Christmas has to have evangelistic values underpinning it or we are in danger of failing to communicate that we believe that everyone needs more than community care, they need Jesus to be their Saviour. Nevertheless, we came to the recognition that we have a very needy world and the call upon us to serve and meet that need is great.  At this time, more than at any time I can remember during my time as an officer, secular organisations are looking to the churches and asking, “Can you help us?”  So we feel we need a team which focuses on this ministry.
We cannot hope to meet all our community’s needs and in setting up a community care ministry team we know that we must work at the pace the Holy Spirit sets and under his direction.
Like the mission team, there is a need for careful research and a need to seek wisdom about how to best use the resources available.  
We also need to remember that the community of the Salvation Army is bigger than just its expression in Exeter and we have a responsibility to support the social and community outreach of the Army on the UK and overseas. One of the ways we do this is through taking part in the Big Collection and through our own giving.
We believe that we are in challenging times as we live in what seems like an increasingly secular society but they are not any more challenging that the days of the early church.  And look what God did with a handful of people empowered with this Spirit.  God has not changed, the power of the Spirit is still available, and if we will trust him we are convinced there are new things God wants to do with us and through us for his glory.
 God bless you
Alan and Carol