Sherford Community Church is officially one year old! We started our congregation on Sunday 16th September 2018, not quite knowing what to expect. We didn’t quite know who would come, and whether they would come back. We didn’t quite know how we could possibly fulfil our big mission to make disciple-making disciples of Jesus and establish a lasting Christian community in Sherford. And we certainly haven’t got everything right, or always had an easy time of it. Yet we have so much to be thankful to God for over the past 12 months.
Here are a few of the lessons I have learnt this year:
Lesson 1: God provides what we need
The first thing a baby learns to do is feed and cry: they need to be nourished, and they need to be able to call out to their parents for help – for absolutely everything, in fact. And the Christian life – and the life of the church – is no different. Church planting training is often largely about strategy, but the most strategic things you can do are the most basic: pray (a lot) and open the Bible (a lot)!
It has been such a privilege to see God at work as we have done these two simple things this year. To see how God has used our talks in Mark’s Gospel, Luke’s Gospel, Ruth, Philippians and Psalms, as well as our homegroup Bible studies and Life Explored, to draw people closer to Him. To see how God has used our weekly prayer walks both to grow those who pray and to bring us into contact with those who so desperately need our prayers. I am thankful to God that He gives us nourishment in the Bible, and that He is even more ready to listen to our cries for help than we are to call out to Him.
Lesson 2: God's plan is better than ours
It’s encouraging as a parent to know that your baby doesn’t have to be the tallest on the chart so long as they’re putting on the right amount of weight! Not that I had a specific end-of-year figure in mind, but I have found myself once or twice this year wondering why we haven’t grown as big as I had hoped. But what God has chosen to do instead is actually more exciting: establishing people more firmly and growing people in their faith. Under God, this is more valuable in the long term than seeing large numbers of people attending our church but not all being grounded in faith. Having said all that, when we started I would have bitten your arm off for 130% growth in our first year!
Lesson 3: God's timing is perfect
It can be frustrating as a parent watching a baby develop at what seems like such a slow pace. Why can’t they walk and run yet? Why can’t they talk yet? Why can’t they read and write? But we know that the basics have to be established first: you can’t run until you learn to walk, and you can’t walk until you learn to crawl. So it is with a fledgling church: the basics have to be established firmly first, before all of the extra things can start. I have wondered a few times over the past year whether we should have done x or y extra service, or a or b extra ministry. But the thing I have kept reminding myself is that growing a church is a long-term project, much like raising a child. We were never going to be a fully rounded, all-singing, all-dancing church within 12 months, but that doesn’t matter. There’s always next year (or the year after, or the year after)! On the other hand (very much by God’s grace) what we have done, I believe we have done well. I pray the same would be true for year 2.
Lesson 4: God is the One with the power
Lastly, and most importantly of all, a parent (or a grandparent, or a doctor, or a health visitor…) cannot make a child grow. Only God does that. It’s God who provides growth, increasing strength and maturity, both to children and churches! I’ve been blessed with a fantastic core group with so many skills and talents, and so much wisdom. But planting a church rightly brings us all to the very ends of ourselves. All of our church family have done our best, but only God can make things really happen. And I hope and pray that we will never forget that, either as individuals or as a church. I wonder what He will do in us, for us and through us over the next 12 months? I’m excited to find out!
Sherford Community Church
Minister: Revd Tom Brassil
Tel: 01752 547492