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Our Vision

Download this Vision Statement as a pdf

Just so you know what to expect, this isn’t a traditional vision statement of the ‘We exist to…’ type. We don’t often get excited by those things. This is more a vision in the prophetic sense. We think this vision is from the Holy Spirit for his church in Sydney, and we want Christians to hear it and pray for the Lord to fulfil it.

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We invite you to discern for yourself whether this vision truly is from God.

Canterbury Community Church

Vision Statement

THE MISSION

1. The Georges River Region represents a vast, largely unreached mission-field at the heart of our city.

We believe God has brought the nations of the world to Sydney to hear the gospel of Jesus. However, most people in this region have not heard the gospel. Many don’t know an evangelical Christian or even a friend who knows one.

2. The task of gospel mission in the Georges River region is Christ’s and therefore his Church’s task.

In the gospel we see the mission of God to his world. Christ is the one sent by God to do the mission. Our participation in Jesus shapes our identity as co-workers with him in God’s mission (3 John 8). But this participation in Christ is the birthright of the church. So the mission was entrusted to the apostolic church, and we live in continuity with them, sharing their calling as ‘sent’ ones. Responsibility for mission to this region lies with the church.

3. God has entrusted this mission to the churches of Sydney.

The needs and neglected condition of the people in this region make a powerful claim on the hearts and energies of Sydney’s Christians – who will reach out to them if not us? God has brought them to our doorstep: they have become our neighbours, whom we are called to love. Mission to these unreached people groups should be top of our churches’ ministry agenda.

4. We want to answer God’s call by being a missional church in Canterbury.

Our mission-work is therefore churchly, and our church must be missional at its heart.

5. We want to be a church for the nations.

A multi-cultural, multi-ethnic congregation is a good expression of the reconciling power of the risen Christ. We will seek to learn practices and habits of cultural openness, inclusiveness, and flexibility. Our church culture must continue to change as the makeup of the congregation changes, so as to be inclusive of all. We want to adapt to help newcomers feel at home, rather than expecting them to do all the adapting. We will find expressions of the gospel that are meaningful for the people in our area.

6. Our members will think of themselves as in some sense missionaries devoting themselves to this gospel mission.

This will be a significant part of their life and identity, probably more than before. It will be a focus of their week. It may mean leaving other things, and giving up other activities – lifestyle change – just as it would if we were doing tent-making foreign mission, though not to the same degree.

7. We will adopt a stance of loving, self-sacrificial service toward the community around us.

These communities are quite alienated from us and from our gracious God. We will need to embody his grace to them, so they can understand it. We come as servants, unequivocally for them, not against them. This means an open, friendly stance rather than a suspicious, closed, or indifferent one. Our first message to our neighbourhood will be a manifestation of the overflowing goodness of God in Christ. If they believe nothing else, we want them to know that we love them. This provides the proper context or ‘atmosphere’ in which to declare the gracious reign of Christ, and call people to submit to him (1 Cor. 9:19f; Gal. 6:10).

8. We won’t prioritise ‘transfer’ growth, but rather ‘conversion’ growth.

Though we do want to see more Christians join in this mission, transfer growth does not in itself represent effectiveness. It is not the goal. The goal of mission is the lost. For us, this includes anyone not currently attending a Christian church. Though we will welcome Christians from other churches, we do not see this as ‘kingdom growth’.

9. We will limit the geographic sphere of our mission to a reasonable radius, to keep it ‘local’.

The further afield you go, the lower the level of impact and involvement in your community. We want to maintain our vision for community engagement.

10. We will establish a prayer meeting as central to the life of the church-plant.

The more activity the team engages in, the more the danger of forgetting that the mission is God’s. Only Christ can plant churches. We see our church-life as caught up in the arrival of God’s kingdom in the world by his Spirit. Inspired by the promise that this kingdom must grow and increase, our basic act as the church is to call out ‘May your kingdom come!’ (Luke 11:2) The mission must honour Christ by seeking his Spirit in everything (Luke 11:13). And that means corporate prayer.

11. We will put in place measures to maintain missional focus as growth occurs.

We want to promote not only a missional culture, but a church-planting one: e.g. setting a definite goal to plant another church once the first plant reaches a certain number of adults (maybe 25 incomes?). Church-planting is a permanent feature of church-life.

12. We will discipline ourselves to always seek to speak the gospel to people within a context of loving servanthood.

This is core for us. It means that our first approach to people will be to befriend them, love and help them, and pray for them, rather than simply preach. We want to share the gospel through everything we do, so that we embody God’s grace for the people around us. On our side, this discipline pushes us to self-sacrificial, costly, cross-bearing love. It will help us avoid thinking of gospel faithfulness purely in terms of speech. We will do things for people that have no direct evangelistic ‘payoff’. We will learn to be generous to ‘strangers’, and so model Christ. This discipline will push us to pray. It will help us think of people as more than just evangelistic ‘scalps’ (Heb. 13:2).

On the community’s side, this means we want to speak to people as they are ready to listen to us. We recognise that this usually comes through relationship. As our neighbours experience something of the grace of God in our community, they will want to know more. As they gradually come to trust us, they will be ready to hear more from us. This is the context in which we expect the most effective gospel proclamation to happen. We believe that a transformed community will powerfully attract people to hear about and believe in Christ.

This discipline also makes us aware that the mission is not going to be quick. Breaking up of ground, preparation of soil, investment in the lives of the people of the area, are vital to successful church planting. The Macedonians may have been ready to hear Paul, but the Georges River is not ready to hear us. The long haul, rather than the short blitz, is required (cf. 1 Peter 3:1-2, 15).

13. We want to prioritise the poor and neglected in our neighbourhood, and so reflect the gospel of Jesus.

As Jesus was rejected by the powerful and rich, but welcomed by the poor, the weak and the marginalised, so we will expect the same reception (John 15:20). More than this, we will give special attention to the weak and vulnerable ones, as God does (Luke 14: 12-24; Acts 20:35; James 2:1-7; 1 Corinthians 1:26f).

THE TEAM

14. We will prioritise and nurture a strongly centred community life as the basis of mission.

Just as the church is missional, so the mission-team is a church. Gathering is at the heart of our identity and church life. God has not made us a new creation individually, but ‘in Christ’: he has saved us into his body (2 Cor. 5:17). And before we are an active, missional community, we are a passive creation of God. As the church our basic stance is that of together receiving God’s grace in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The priority of meeting and the delight with which we meet are a powerful witness to the eschatological (end-times) identity of our community: we are the goal of God’s mission, the renewed people of God, gathered by him at the end of the ages. We are the saints gathered in the Spirit around the risen Christ to feed on him and declare his praise (1 Cor. 10:16-17; Heb. 12:28-29).

It is in this gathering that the gospel is ‘given flesh’, its power revealed. Most of our evangelism will happen here, rather than ‘out there’, as this is the space where God’s gracious presence is known and enjoyed. This joyful fellowship and worship in the Spirit forms the heart of our witness to the world around us. Our participation together in the one body of Christ powerfully proclaims the reality of the crucified one (1 Cor. 10:16-17). It is not a case of ‘mission vs worship’ but rather ‘mission through worship’: what is sometimes called an attractional model (1 John 1:3). That means that although we ‘go out’, our goal is to see them ‘come in’ (Psalms 40:1-3; 48; 57:6-10; Acts 5:12-14; 1 Cor. 14:24-25).

15. We will develop a team culture that emphasises community.

The church is our Christian community, the place where much of our identity is found (Acts 2:42-47; 1 Cor. 12:12-26).

16. We will cultivate a spirit of corporate as well as individual discipleship.

Our faith and hope and perseverance are not just individual: they are also corporate, as we participate in Christ together (Philippians 1:27-29), sharing in one Spirit. We aim to grow, not just as Christians, but as a body growing up to the maturity that is unity in the faith. This unity is essential to our worship of God (Rom. 15:1-7). Our lives, then, are orientated to building up this body (Eph. 4:11-16). This is expressed in the importance placed on our gatherings (1 Cor. 10:16-17).

17. We will adopt practices that affirm the value of every member.

As a community constituted by God’s grace, we want to build, not the self-esteem but the relational confidence of each person, so that all feel secure in their connection and importance to the community. (1 Corinthians 12:14-25) We do this by expressing toward each other the acceptance, warm-heartedness, forgiveness and honour that we have found in Christ (Rom. 15:7; Eph. 4:32; 1 Cor. 12:23-24).

18. We will prioritise caring for our team over caring for outsiders.

Despite an outward focus, our ultimate goal is to build a loving, servant-minded fellowship that cares for its members and so reveals the kingdom of God in our neighbourhood (1 Peter 2:12). Baptised into one body in Christ, we are empowered and gifted by the Spirit to serve one another in self-giving relationship (1 Corinthians 12:1-13). Without this community of servant-love, our care for outsiders is undermined and emptied of meaning (Gal. 6:10; James 2:14-17; cf. 1 Tim. 5:4-8).

19. We aim to foster a sense of corporate responsibility for each other.

Our lives, our burdens, our decisions etc are not purely private matters, our own to cope with alone. The team is a place of trust where we can share these things, whether good or bad, and enjoy the loving involvement of brothers and sisters as they stand with us. Our fellowship is not restricted to ‘religious’ matters but extends to many areas of life (Gal. 6:2, 10; cf. Acts 2: 42-47; 1 Thes. 5:14-15).

20. We will adopt a two-tier approach to church involvement.

There are team members and all others (visitors, non-Christian attenders, newcomers, new Christians etc). If there are Christians who want to transfer from evangelical churches to join us, in time they will be expected to ‘join the team’. There is no ‘inner ring’ of super-committed Christians.

21. We will make Sunday church/mission day.

Especially at first, as many team members will live at some distance, this should make it easier for the team. By limiting our expectations, we want to avoid burn-out. However, we do need time to meet together and to reach out to the community. This needs and deserves more than one morning per week. We would aim to use much of the day-time hours on Sunday. Team members will be encouraged to not plan other activities on Sunday apart from the plant, so that Sundays are kept clear and no one is overloaded.

22. We will regularly review and adapt our practices and expectations to effectively include and care for our team members in the changing circumstances of their lives.

23. Team members will be expected to accept responsibility and take part in the decision-making of the church community.

This acknowledges the eschatological (end-times) nature of our community: we are not a worldly organisation but the renewed people of God, ruled by Christ through the directing of his Spirit. Since we all share in this one Spirit, decision-making for the team will be consultative. In this way we make space for, and do not quench, the freedom of the Spirit in the church. Being included in decision-making also helps team members take a high level of ownership of the church and its vision and activities. Decision-making for particular ministries will be the responsibility of those with involved: those doing a ministry will be entrusted with the freedom to make decisions for that ministry, and to try ideas.

MONEY

24. We will allow the team alone responsibility for the funding of the basic church-plant structure.

Nothing should interfere with the team’s sense of ‘ownership’ of the mission. It does not belong to a remote body: it’s our responsibility. (Gal. 6:6) Therefore all funding will come from or through the team. Any fundraising will be done by the whole team, seeking partnerships amongst their own network. We will avoid relying on any one concentrated source of external funding.

Other outside funds given will generally be used for specific purposes/projects (community outreach work etc).

PASTORAL LEADERSHIP

25. We will cultivate pastoral leadership which is not primarily executive or administrative, but rather prophetic and prayerful (cf. Acts 6:1-10).

The pastor will exercise his authority largely through:

•    preaching the gospel from the Scriptures: constantly re-centring the community around the risen Christ, who is the source of our life in the Spirit. It is there that we will find everything that is needed for our life and godliness (2 Peter 1: 1-5).
•    prayer, by which he together with all the saints calls down the Spirit to bring in the kingdom of God in the church and the community (Luke 11:2).

26. We will intentionally seek to undermine the clergy/laity distinction.

While it is true that God gives his church leaders, yet every member’s basic competence and calling for prophetic gospel ministry comes from the anointing of the Holy Spirit, not from training or other qualifications. This means everyone who has been taught by the Spirit to confess Jesus as risen Lord, is qualified to build up the church with their speech and, when asked, to tell outsiders what God has done for them (1 Peter 3:15).

THE VISION

27. Leaders have a particular responsibility to guard and promote the church’s vision.

28. We will expect new team members to commit to the vision.

This is necessary to protect the vision, so that it doesn’t get watered down. (cf. 1 Cor. 1:10)

8 Comments
  1. Rowan permalink

    I have to say that number 18 and 25 are really a step in the right direction. Overall, inclusion and valuing diversity in every measure has to be the way, otherwise why would we have all been made so amazingly and wonderfully different from one another!

    For Number 24, the way the statement is framed seems to suggest that the assumption is that the community will constantly be off-centre and require re-centring by the pastor. Somehow, I feel that 24 and 25 sit somewhat askew because of this.

    24. The pastor will exercise his authority largely through:

    – preaching the gospel from the Scriptures: constantly re-centring the community around the risen Christ, who is the source of our life in the Spirit. It is there that we will find everything that is needed for our life and godliness (2 Peter 1: 1-5).

    Perhaps positively framed… “preaching the gospel from the scriptures: supporting the community’s focus which is centred around the risen Christ”.

    Just sharing some thoughts… my intention isn’t to be critical. I really do hope that the ideas can be effectively translated into reality.

    • Hi Rowan,
      Welcome to the Canterbury church plant forum. It’s great to hear from you. Thanks for your encouragement and wishes to see the vision ‘translated into reality’. Would you join with us in praying that the Lord will send us the people we need to get started.

      Totally agree with your comment on 18 and 25. Diversity is a kingdom blessing as well as a creation blessing. Paul goes to town on this theme of diversity in his letters – 1 Cor 12 for example. …there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. We don’t just want to tolerate difference – we want to embrace and celebrate it, and enjoy the richness of the humanity that Christ has brought to unity. That he has done that in his own body is his gospel glory, and we want to shine it out.

      I wish I better understood your concerns about 24. Is it just the term re-centring (maybe not the best expression!). Or the idea that the community might have a tendency to ‘drift’, and need its faith continually renewed and strengthened? Or is it more to do with having a pastor who exercises authority in the church? I’m particularly wondering what it is about 25 that clashes with 24 – does 24 seem to be reintroducing the clergy/laity divide that 25 claims to remove?

      Really happy to hear your thoughts, critical or not. But I appreciate the friendly spirit you wrote them in.

  2. Anna permalink

    Hi J,

    As I read this through again, I wonder if you could do a post on what you have in mind as the activities for the “day-time hours” of a Sunday. Perhaps, though, these are the sorts of things that would be worked out by the team once that is assembled. Your thoughts would be helpful.

    thanks
    Anna

    • Nice to hear from you, Anna. Thanks for thinking of us. That’s a very good idea, will follow it up. What we’re often hearing, and what you’re probably sensing, is a lack of concreteness in the vision at that point – the ‘what are we actually going to do’ point.

      As you have so perceptively guessed, it is a difficult area to give detail for at this stage. We do want the team to make these decisions, not have a program handed to them by me. That means making them gradually through the rest of this year as we meet together. It also means our plans will probably be revised on an ongoing basis as we discover opportunities next year, once the team comes to Canterbury.

      However, that creates a problem for the many people out there who find it hard to commit to something they can’t quite imagine. People say to us, I’ll wait and see how it goes, and maybe join if it takes off. Part of what I’m hearing there is, I want to see it before I commit to it. Occupational hazard for mission work and church planting in general!

      It’s a tricky one, but maybe we can do more about it than we have.

      Thanks again!

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