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Please join us on Sundays at 9:30 using Zoom. You can access the Zoom meeting here.
If you missed the service, you can find a recording on The Message Youtube Channel
Jesus began his public ministry with a Gospel (good news) announcement, that the Kingdom of God had arrived. In summary the Kingdom of God can be expressed as “God’s rule over God’s place through God’s people as they experience the blessings of His presence”.
While not mentioned explicitly its roots are located in the very beginning of the Bible story. God created the heavens and the earth and He rules over it. His intention was to express that rule through human beings and so He created mankind to rule and take care of creation under Him. They were to be His image bearers, serving as kingly priests reflecting Him into creation. While doing so they were to reflect creation’s praise back to God as they worshipped Him and lived in loving and obedient relationship with Him. All of this was very good, and so God pronounces His blessing on all of creation.
However, that sadly was not the way things remained. Adam and Eve rebelled against God, deciding for themselves what was right and wrong (the Fall). In rejecting God, they found themselves becoming worshippers of the creation. As a result, the image of God in them was broken, every aspect of their lives became distorted by sin. They lost their role of priestly kings, they were driven from the presence of God and God cursed creation so that it no longer serves as a safe home. Sickness, suffering and death entered our world.
God did not give up on His plan. His purposes would still prevail. He starts the process of ultimately restoring humanity and creation to what He intended it to be. This process started with God calling Abram in Genesis 12. He covenants with Abram to undo the effects of the Fall, promising to make his name great, to give him many descendants, to bless Him and through him to bring blessing again to all the peoples of the earth. It is a promise to re-establish the Kingdom of God. This promise is unilateral, without conditions attached. In other words, God is absolutely committed to doing what He promised.
God starts to fulfil that promise in the nation of Israel. As He rescues them from slavery in Egypt, and brings them to Himself. He declares that they will now function as His kingly priests (Cf. Ex 19:6), provided that they walk in obedience to Him. Like with Adam, they fail almost immediately, but again God does not give up on them, but continues to dwell amongst them. He eventually gives them a king and promises that one of King David’s descendants would rule eternally and His Kingdom will never be opposed.
Israel however, fails as a nation, and instead of worshipping God and reflecting Him to the nations, they worship idols and become worse than the nations. Eventually God drives them from His presence. But again, He has not given up on His plans and purposes. The prophets start to look forward to God graciously coming back to His people, rescuing them from their exile, forgiving their sins and establishing His Kingdom through the reign of His King, a king who would be God with them and who would rule with justice and righteousness. Under Him, the effects of the Fall would eventually be done away with: sin would be dealt with; the curse would be removed; death destroyed, blessing restored, not just to Israel, but to all the nations of the earth.
So when Jesus makes the announcement of the arrival of the Kingdom, He is essentially saying that the time has come for God’s promises to be fulfilled. And immediately He starts to demonstrate that through His ministry:
• He calls his first followers, the first of His Kingdom people
• He drives out demons, the spiritual enemies of God’s people
• He teaches with absolute authority especially concerning the nature of the Kingdom and life in the Kingdom
• He heals the sick
• He restores the outcast
• He forgives sin
• He subdues creation
• He raises the dead
• He lavishly provides for God’s people in the wilderness
When the disciples finally recognized Jesus for who He is – the Christ (Messiah, the anointed King of God’s Kingdom (cf. Mark 8:27-30)) they expected that the next thing on his agenda would be to overthrow all the enemies of God’s people and restore everything to the way it was meant to be! But Jesus had other plans. The Kingdom would come not in overwhelming power as its King triumphantly conquers everything in its path. Rather it would come through weakness and apparent defeat. It would come through the King dying on a cross!
And that is exactly what happened. While the disciples failed to grasp this, Jesus made it clear that He had to suffer and die. So He ends up being rejected by all people and goes to the cross. It is as the King of God’s Kingdom that He hangs from the cross and dies, but it is in His death that He achieves the greatest victory. There on the cross He defeats the devil There He pays the price for our sin (cf. Colossians 2:13b-15), securing our forgiveness and making it possible for people from all nations to enter the Kingdom of God and enjoy the blessing that God promised to Abraham all those years ago.
God, in raising Jesus three days later from the dead, unequivocally declares that Jesus is the King and that the Kingdom of God has been established on earth (in part, but not yet in full). Jesus, the King now reigns over all people and all the earth. All people are now called to come bow the knee to King Jesus (cf. Matthew 28:18-19b).
But for now, Jesus doesn’t enforce this. Following His ascension, Jesus declares a grace period that will last till he returns. This is a period that gives people the opportunity to submit to Him willingly, to have their sins forgiven by Him, to enter into relationship with Him and to live as His Kingdom people in the world. They receive all these blessings by grace through faith, that it, by trusting that Jesus is indeed the Lord and Saviour of the world. These Kingdom people, referred to in the New Testament as the Church were given a particular task: that of bearing witness to Him in their being, in their words and in their actions. The goal of the church’s witness is to gather more and more followers of Jesus from across the entire world. To empower them to do that Jesus sent them the Holy Spirit.
One day this period of amnesty will come to an end. Jesus will return to judge the world, that is, He will rid it of all evil, all sinful distortions and brokenness, and restore it to what it was meant to be. Eventually all God’s plans and purposes for humanity and his entire creation will be accomplished in the renewed heavens and renewed earth.
“Image of God” is not only temple language, but family language as well. A son bears the image and likeness of his father. Humanity was created to be part of God’s family, bearing His family likeness. God is in his very essence love (cf. 1 John 4:8). For all eternity Father, Son and Holy Spirit have been in a perfect love relationship. And we are created to share in that love. Sadly, in rebelling against God we became lovers of self, and so enemies of God and haters of one another. Incredibly though, God in Christ has reconciled us to Himself and us to one another. Further, He has given us new birth into His divine eternal, triune family of love. We now have God as our Father, Jesus, the Son, as our Brother and the Holy Spirit as our indwelling Comforter. The result is that now we start to take on the family likeness. Love becomes the primary characteristic of our relationship with one another. This love transcends age, stage, gender, colour, tribe and class and is expressed in our daily lives as we do life together. It is maintained through cultivating our relationship with our heavenly Father.
We try to give expression to our being family in a number of ways:
Because love (and hence relationships) is at the heart of church life, we are not satisfied with simply gathering on a Sunday together. On Sundays we have limited time and thus cannot develop the sort of relationships that being family requires. So we aim to have everyone participating in what we call Gospel Communities (GCs).
GCs are not meant to be a fancy word for a small group. They are the primary way in which we live out our family identity. A GC consists of a group of people, often a fairly diverse group of people, who seek to do life as family. So they meet, not just weekly for Bible study, but over meals, and around other social events. In our GCs people get to know each other’s stories and they practically demonstrate love for one another. Being in close proximity to each other means that sin will often hamper relationships and so they learn to bear with one another, forgive one another and carry each other’s burdens.
Flowing from that, given the consumeristic nature of the world in which we live, and our tendency to bring the consumer mind set into the church (i.e. we go to the church that meets our spiritual needs, and when it fails to do so, or upsets us in some way, we just move on to the next church). We as The Message church are constantly working to resist that tendency. Instead we call people to commit to being part of the church, and not simply to leave when things become frustrating or uncomfortable. Rather should people feel God is calling them elsewhere, they are encouraged to talk it through with people in the church whom they trust.
Further, given the history of our country, we believe that both diversity and unity in that diversity is crucial for God’s people. We don’t want to be a church where only one people group feels comfortable and the rest have to adapt. Rather there is a sense that we will all feel uncomfortable in one way or another. But in that uncomfortableness we are committed to listening to one another, sharing stories, sharing leadership and maintaining the unity we have in Christ.
Lastly because we are family, and we believe children form part of the family, we are committed to including them in church life, whether it be in GC life where appropriate, or in our Sunday services.
The word “mission” comes from the Latin word “missio” which means “to send”. Just as God sent Jesus into the world to save the world, Jesus has now sent us into the world (cf. John 20:21) in the power of His Holy Spirit to be His witnesses. God has given us the ministry of reconciliation, which we fulfil by exhorting people to be reconciled to God (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:16-21). So where we live, work and play, we’ve been sent there by Jesus as his ambassadors to call people into relationship with Him. We do this in dependence on Him as it is His mission and He is the one who opens people’s eyes spiritually so that they can see the glory of God in Christ through the Gospel.
Understanding ourselves as being missionaries shapes what we do in a number of ways:
We come out of a context where the way to reach people was to invite them to church. This is called the “Attractional Church Model”. While this still works for a few people, more and more unbelievers are not interested in going to a church service. However, if we understand our missionary identity properly, the Biblical pattern seems to be more that we will go to where people are and build relationships with them there, rather than simply expecting them to come to our service. So while we want to make our services as outsider friendly as possible, we place a greater emphasis on every member seeking to reach the people God has placed in their lives.
One of the ways we are trying to reach people are through our GCs. Working together with other Christians in an intentional way can be a huge help in reaching unbelievers, compared to trying to do it all on my own. In addition to that, according to Jesus one of the key authenticating characters of the Gospel is the love Christians have for one another. So working as a community together means our unbelieving friends get to see and experience the love Christians have for one another.
While we are all called to be missionaries where we are, we also recognize that the Gospel needs to go to all nations and contexts. We want to keep mission, both local and international on the radar. So we also support missionaries financially, as well as highlight countries that are in need of the Gospel during our Sunday services.
Our primary purpose in meeting together on Sundays is to corporately worship God. He is the focus of our meeting. As we worship we are promised that God is present amongst us – that is both our expectation and experience. As we come to worship we also experience covenant renewal, that is, we re-enter into God’s story and have our lives shaped by Him. Our services are therefore ordered to reflect that reality and include songs of praise, corporate confession of sin, responsive prayers, Bible readings and Bible-based sermons. Our sermons are usually expository (we preach through books of the Bible) and often there will be opportunity for questions afterwards. Communion is celebrated once a month.
The congregation itself is diverse in terms of age and culture and include children, students, young adults, families with children and empty nesters, all from a number of different backgrounds. The song choices, prayers and sermon applications seek to reflect that reality. Following the formal part of the service, people usually hang around and chat for about an hour over a cup of tea or coffee and something to eat.
Children are very much part of the church community and so are included in much of church life, including the Sunday Service. They join the congregation for the first half of the service before going to Sunday school.
2-3 year olds: Even young children are able to learn about Jesus. In the Toddler Sunday School a Bible story is taught in a simple, interactive and age appropriate way. A child attends accompanied by one parent, thereby providing an opportunity for parents to get to know one another as well.
4-12 year olds: The older children are taught by a team of two Sunday School teachers who work with them through portions of the Bible, encourage the learning of memory verses and provide opportunities to talk about life.
Our Gospel Communities (GC’s) are the primary way in which we facilitate relational connection. More than a Bible study, our gospel communities consist of groups of people who meet regularly to encourage each other, share life with one another especially over meals, dig deep into God’s Word, and spur one another on and assist each other to share the good news of Christ in daily life. Each GC takes on its own character and way of doing things that works for those who are part of it.
In addition to GCs, we also have a number of Discipleship Groups (DNA’s), smaller groups of people of the same gender who meet to study God’s Word, hold each other accountable and share one another’s burdens. Because these groups are smaller and more intimate, they allow for a greater level of vulnerability and support and often lead to the forming of deep friendships.
While we have no formal ministries, congregation members are involved in all sorts of Kingdom motivated work – leading mom’s groups, leading and serving in a school for vulnerable children, teaching in Christian schools, serving on boards of social justice organizations, actively involved in university student societies – to name a few. We desire to see all God’s people being used by Him in the contexts God has placed them.
To be a disciple is to be a learner. It involves listening and learning from someone to become like them. God created us to listen and learn from Him. In doing so humanity would flourish and enjoy life. Unfortunately, our forefathers rebelled against God, listening instead to the serpent. So we became followers of the devil and the world under his control (cf. Ephesians 2:1-3). Instead of being shaped by the truth of God’s Word, we learnt the ways of the devil and the world. Jesus, having being appointed as the One with ultimate authority in both heaven and earth, and as the One who Himself is Truth, has now called us by grace to become His followers. He calls us to come learn from and listen to Him in order that again we may truly live. In learning from Him, we are to become like Him, being obedient to the Father in everything.
Being disciples of Jesus shapes us at The Message in a number of ways:
The way that Jesus calls us, teaches us, shapes us and rules over us is through His Word, the Bible, made alive in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. (cf. Colossians 2:6-7). The Bible is therefore central to our private and corporate life. Privately, we seek to develop a habit of regularly studying the Bible for ourselves. Corporately, it means that we are committed to expository preaching, wanting the Bible to set the agenda for us as a church. We also want to be in the Bible in our GCs and DNA groups.
The goal of learning from Jesus in the Bible is not simply so that we can grow in knowledge. Jesus wants obedience from us, and indeed, commands us to teach others to obey everything He taught. Thus living as a disciple is a very practical thing, requiring very practical skills. As with other practical skills, we learn best on the job, being shown by others what the skills look like in practice and then being “coached” as we develop the skills ourselves. For this reason we are committed to a life-on-life form of discipleship, where we are in each other’s lives and learning from one another. We do this in two ways:
God originally created mankind to be worshippers of Him, serving in the Garden Temple as kingly priests, filling the earth with His presence as we reflected Him into creation and representing creation in our praise of Him. However, at the fall we turned from worship of God and became worshippers of creation, with all its enslaving and destructive consequences. However, God did not give up on His temple project, and so ultimately in Christ, the Cornerstone of the New Temple, God redeems us to be the Kingdom of Priests, that is the True Worshippers He intended for us to be. And eventually the whole of creation will be a New Temple as God dwells amongst us as our God and we live as His people. As such we live now as worshippers of the Triune God, communing with Him, guarding His temple, gathering stones and serving Him in all of life.
Being worshippers of God shapes us individually and corporately as a church in a number of ways:
Firstly, we know that our hearts are prone to idolatry, that is wanting, pursuing, trusting and taking refuge in created things, rather than in God. Given that we’ve been renewed to worship God, we seek to live a lifestyle of constant repentance, meaning that we are always seeking to turn away from the idols are hearts are drawn to, and renewing our faith in and commitment to God. Given the deceitfulness of sin, we are open to both being helped and graciously helping others to do so regularly. This is always the reason why we together confess our sins every Sunday.
Secondly, we are committed to worshipping together as a community. History ends with all God’s people gathered together around the throne worshipping Him. So our Sunday gatherings are meant to be a foretaste and expression of that heavenly gathering.
Thirdly, it shapes how we worship as a church. We worship in response to who God is and what He has done. And so in our gatherings we try and reflect through our focus on God and in our responding to Him in praise, confession, prayer and attentive listening and obedience.
As creatures of the sovereign creator God, we were created to fulfil His purposes. As we did this, we would enjoy His peace and blessing. However, Adam and Eve chose to rebel against Him, seeking to take matters into their own hands. The irony and sadness is that instead of gaining greater freedom, they became slaves to sin. Mercifully Jesus transferred us into a new kingdom where we now live under His rule as His servants. Thankfully His rule is not oppressive, for He Himself is the Servant King, and He came not to be served but to serve us and ransom us (Mark 10:45). So in His Kingdom we have been set free to serve Him, one another and the world.
As a church we want to be intentional, particularly given our culture where everything is “laid on for us” to live out our servant identity. We do this as follows:
We don’t just expect the staff to be serving. Rather we are committed to developing an every member ministry where everyone is using their gifts to serve the community.
To develop the habit of serving, our GCs all take turns in serving at a Sunday service, through setting up, welcoming, serving tea and packing away.
We are committed to giving generously, aware that we are stewards (servants) of the material blessings and resources God has given us. We thus encourage everyone to commit to giving to the church on a monthly basis (preferably by EFT) as well as develop a posture of generosity to those in need.
We encourage everyone to think how they serve both God and people in the context of the roles and jobs they have, especially given that Jesus rules over every area of life. We aim to help people understand that our vocations are valuable and a means of serving God and people.
We encourage people to start initiatives that do good and serve the greater society and we support them financially or otherwise where we can.