Ivy has had an exciting year of MORE hasn’t it? So many things to be thankful for! And now we’re in our year of EXCELLENCE, encouraging one another to do my best for God, with what he has given me, wherever he’s put me.
But what would God want us to look like five years from now? By the end of 2020? John Wimber said most leaders overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what you can do in 5 years.
I’ve been here just over 6 years now. I’m 50 in a couple of weeks. It feels like a biggie to me. I’m at a stage in my life where there are only two things I want. I want to do God’s will for my life with all my heart, and I want to do it in community with people I love and who love me. 50! I might only have, what – another 70 years of ministry, unless the Lord comes back! What kind of impact could we have in 5 years? What goals should we set? What should be stopped and what could be started?
This week we met together as staff, then as elders – and I reported back on my week in Kenya; the challenge and huge opportunity I believe God has put before us by Ivy being part of the New Thing network.
It was a pretty intense week! I was there with Pete Edwards who came to represent Westminster Theological Centre and how that could help, as we were talking and praying with a small group of church leaders, a few from North America who founded New Thing, with others from the Philippines, the former Soviet Union, Albania, India and of course African leaders.
New Thing is a church planting network now connecting 50,000 reproducing churches in North America, and I’ve told you before that I’m at the beginning of the work here in the UK, as New Thing UK. The idea from Dave and Jon Ferguson’s book Exponential is that you draw your vision on a napkin. Last year at the AGM I said God had been expanding my vision so I drew not just the M60 and around it. (draw it up – to UK and Ireland)
The fabulous humble guys who wrote that book and head up New Thing, brothers Dave and Jon Ferguson established 4 values to connect churches together; I talked about it this morning at Kingsway and I encourage you to listen to that podcast but to summarise we are partnering in Relationships and Resources, establishing local Residencies in churches to host and train up new leaders, and Reproducing at every level of leadership and serving.
Some of you will have heard me say how recently at a conference I was in conversation with a friend, Alan Hirsch, a well respected theologian, that just made me a little wobbly at the size of the job, opening up in the future as New Thing UK.
The Sunday evening after I came home, a man I haven’t seen for about 20 years since I was in the Police turned up with a prophetic word for me. He told me exactly what I was worrying about (without me saying a word about it) then said, ‘You are going to be part of a movement that will lead a billion people to Jesus, so you can be sure that God will bring alongside you the people you need, when you need them – so relax – and be yourself.’
That took the pressure off! And to be honest, the only thing I could see in my life that could really be part of that billion is New Thing. Last week showed me how the dream could become a reality, and a lot of it has to do with the next 5 years.
By the end of the week in Kenya the vision just got bigger; because we were talking about movements like New Thing Europe, and even Global New Thing.
We’d all read a great book by Steve Addison ‘Movements that change the world,’ which you’ll hear a lot about this year – and I really need you to come to Ivyfest in Buxton on the first weekend of July where I’ll be unpacking it fully as the focus of the teaching there. He describes how movements grow that change nations and cultures. What makes movements in history happen? And it’s a very disturbing book!
It’s the kind of book you read and have to ask, ‘How does this apply to us?’ What am I going to do about what he says? Where do we go from here? Do we have the courage to engage with what he’s saying?
The book has 5 sections, because there are 5 things at the heart of movements. I haven’t got time to go into all 5 but I will at Ivyfest and I’d love it if you got hold of the book and read it first, maybe in Grow Groups after Easter?
He starts out looking at the life of St. Patrick, who travels into scary remote places to barbaric peoples in the face of great opposition, to establish decentralized churches all over Ireland that fitted the culture there – and you still see the impact of that hundreds of years on.
Then how the Methodists got started, here under Wesley and in the USA under Francis Asbury, who was what they called a circuit rider, who called and raised up hundreds of young people to go into ministry, and the growth of Methodism was unparalleled, like wildfire – when they didn’t try to control it. But within 100 years that impact had died, organized to death, formalized it and sterile.
He says Jesus was a movement catalyzer of course, and we all feel that impact. So what was it about what he and Paul and others did, that had such great impact, which lasts? I’ll just outline a couple of the 5 briefly:
He says, ‘Movements begin with men and women who encounter the living God and surrender (all) in loving obedience to his call.’
Oscar Muriu who hosted us in Nairobi said Missionary zeal is developed in the mortar of spiritual discipline, pounded by the pestle of persecution and crisis.
So where is the white-hot faith around here? Oscar said it’s hard for us to have white hot faith in countries where it’s comfortable to follow Jesus. Where is our mortar and pestle? How do we stoke and develop this kind of faith? Because we’re very comfortable. But you can see white hot faith in the places where there is a cost to faith.
MOMBASA last Sunday – I am ALIVE! My faith is REAL!! I’m not just laying my life down in theory now…
How do we fight against the tendency to make Christianity easy, comfortable? To remove any sense of sacrifice and suffering? ‘Come to Jesus and everything will be nice.’ That’s not the gospel! If you remove the fire, lower the cost, you lose your zeal, the fire becomes embers. If we ask ‘Is it safe? Can we go into that place? Is there Ebola?’
Imagine if Jesus said ‘Is it safe for me to go to Earth?!’
Movements need leaders who embody and live out the cause! That’s Jesus, that’s Paul. Wesley was a trigger person, who led from the front and was passionate to be a movement carrier. And Zinzendorf. Have you heard of him? Austrian nobleman. Founded the Moravians. His missionaries were told they couldn’t talk to the slaves they went to witness to in the West Indies, so they sold themselves into slavery, became slaves voluntarily – so they could go into the fields where the slaves they wanted to reach were and tell them about Jesus.
We need the kind of Christian who will lay down their lives, so others find life. Who are these people? How do we find them? Where are they?
Some are at uni now, or they could go off and do jobs that do a lot of good or earn a lot of money one day. Nothing wrong with that, but some of them could be a new generation of leaders of the new generation of all kinds of churches the world needs in the future.
We don’t just want to say to young people ‘Give your life to Jesus,’ we want to say LIVE your life FOR Jesus! Lay it all before him! We have to gather and challenge such people and say, ‘Have you considered this? Some of you, God is calling you into full time church work! Get involved!’ Then we train them, empower them, release them. And we don’t measure our church by how many come but how many GO. The catalysts.
Addison says, ‘Movements happen when there’s a cause worth dying for, to change the world.’ And the fact is those between 17 and 27 are the most willing to pay the price to do this. The older people become, the more they have debt and are locked down by golden handcuffs and children, mortgage etc. If that’s you – your job is not done unless you model, mentor, pray for and help this next generation emerge.
One of the guys with us in Africa, Josh Howard, his church planters in India are all between 18 and 25. They’ve planted thousands of churches. We need to raise up the young leaders before it’s too late.
You know ISIS is a movement!? Who’s signing up for that? Leaving Australia and the UK to join up. Young, passionate, ready to die for the cause. This is meant to be spiritual warfare isn’t it? The Army know how to recruit, at 16 – they sign up, to suffer, to train, to be battle ready and to lead others. They get so much responsibility. They give them a tank! We give them table tennis. What are we missing? Is our cause worth dying for? IT IS!!!
We mapped the world out into 8 zones, and some of us took responsibility for various of them. And I got Western Europe, and the prayer goal of 250 new reproducing churches in the next 5 years! I need a much bigger napkin, and to get better at drawing!
We covenanted as a group to plant 10,000 new reproducing churches around the globe by the end of 2020. We said we will establish local training centres in various nations – including one here of course, to raise up and equip new young leaders who’ll go and create churches which become networks, which become global movements, which help a billion people find their way back to God.
We also committed to finding a top few % of those leaders and shaping them, through residencies, to be ‘Jason Bournes’ for the kingdom of God; people who are young, smart, flexible, with adaptable methods, fearless world citizens able to go all over the world learning from different cultures to better communicate the Gospel message.
These leaders will start new missional churches and kingdom movements- beacons of hope all over the world. Maybe spending 6 months in Africa, then 6 months in Manila, training to be movement makers for Jesus Christ. We’ll give and receive these leaders at Ivy.
When I was flying out of Kenya, and flying back into Manchester, looking out of the window at the lights of the cities, I was reminded of Jesus, who looked over a great city, started crying, and said, “There’s a lot of wandering sheep down there without a shepherd, without a Saviour, I long for them to come to me.”
I showed the video about being the lifeboat churches not the cruise liner church this morning at Kingsway. We haven’t got time to show it again tonight, but some of you were here 6 years ago when I showed it and you voted yes to me being the leader here. I told you then that you voted at the same time to be a different kind of church, a ‘Whatever it takes, man the lifeboats, there are people in the water’ kind of church. I’ve called you on that a few times, and you’re still here and you’ve been as good as your word – because we’ve seen a lot of changes and pulled an awful lot of people into the lifeboats on our journey so far.
But now is not a time to settle. Now is not the time to pull in the oars or pat each other on the back. As of tonight, in the year of Excellence, the starting gun goes off, and doing our best means we charge into a future that’s going to be marked with even more evangelistic intensity. The same kind of evangelistic intensity that started this church in 1893, when Oliver Brockbank reached out across social and class barriers to tell people about Jesus, and soon after Ivy Cottage MISSION hall was established.
The same kind of evangelistic intensity has launched and will still fuel all our churches; whether here at Sharston, or at Fallowfield, Kingsway, Didsbury, Merseybank, and wherever else we meet as Ivy. We are not going to take the foot off the gas! We’ll press down even harder this year, and look for every way we can to make the Gospel message come alive in those gatherings and communities, so more and more people find their way back to God.
We want to re- emphasise the importance of everyone at Ivy being in Grow Groups; small groups where real discipleship, support and community happens. Friends, the next five years are going to be wonderful years for all of you who are in that kind of community, and they’re not going to be as wonderful as they could be for those of you who don’t. Christianity is never meant to be lived out in isolation. It’s still Knowing, GROWING and GOING here, and we want to encourage you to take responsibility for yourself to get involved community. You’ll never mature spiritually without it.
If you’re already involved or leading a Grow group, you need to make room for someone. You say there’s no room? Great – that means you need to multiply and start a new group so there’s room for a few new people. I’d love about 20 or 30 new groups to gather for this next Transformed series we’re doing in the run up to Easter, and you can host one, open your home, press play on a DVD, and let Rick Warren lead while you pray and talk with people. And hundreds more people can get connected to the church and to Jesus by Easter if we do that.
A verse that keeps welling up in my heart these days, Romans 1:16, says: “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. It is the power of God unto salvation.” Everything we’re doing, all this seeking of excellence, it’s not for excellence in itself, it’s because the Gospel still changes hearts and lives. That’s why you’re here tonight. Because someone told you – Jesus Christ died for sinners. You believed it, it changed your heart, it changes everything. That message is going to go out with frequency and with power like never before this year, and we’re going to keep on growing and planting more new Ivy Churches.
I want to encourage you that excellence means a call to full participation here at Ivy. This is not a cruise ship, it’s lifeboats – and it’s ALL HANDS ON DECK. You can get a lot out of this church. If you want a place where there’s spiritual presence and power in worship, where you can hear great teaching, have your heart touched consistently week after week, this is a place you can get that. But what about what you give? I include finances in this as well as giving your time and talents – and I’m so glad this year a lot of people have stepped up into regular committed giving to the church. How about you? This year. In the next five. Will you get in the game?
You don’t want to stand before a Saviour who shed his blood for you and say, “I said I’d live for you but I never committed myself to the body of Christ. Never found my spiritual gifts. Never became a part of the serving core of the church. But I got a lot out of it.” You don’t want unstained, uncalloused hands when you put your hands, in a hand with a hole in the middle of it.
What are you going to do that’s great for eternity? What are you living for that’s worth Christ dying for? We’re going to have another Membership Sunday, just after Easter – where I’m going to invite you to stand up if you haven’t done so yet and say, ‘Ivy is MY church. I’m going to give, to work, to protect the unity, to serve the vision, right here.’
And if you’re unwilling over time to throw your hat in the ring and say, “I’m going to get in the game and commit myself, to be a responsible, partnering, member, who speaks well of the church and serves wholeheartedly,” then, please, go sit in another church. I’ve said this before and it’s never meant to be offensive, but we keep filling up here; and we need that seat for someone who’s going to come to Christ and be a serious disciple, join a grow group, grow in maturity and become a contributing, participating member here. Because this is not club membership. It’s about redeeming a lost and dying world that is not going to be reached by people who sit on the sidelines.
We don’t just want to be a congregation. We want a white hot faith, fully committed, go anywhere, mobilized army who, in the name of Christ, become players and servers and prayers and givers to achieve the objective that God has in mind for us!
That’s how this church becomes a catalyst church in the nation. Like dominoes falling onto the next one. As part of New Thing UK. And New Thing UK raises up and trains leaders who plant many new reproducing churches, as part of New Thing Western Europe.
And New Thing Europe plants hundreds of new churches that establish reproducing networks, as part of a movement called New Thing Global, that reaches a billion people for Christ.
You know John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world.” In the Great Commission, Jesus said, “Go out into the world and make disciples.” God always thinks globally. God acts, loves and redeems globally. His heart breaks for the hurting, the poor and the lost, globally. We have in these days an opportunity and responsibility to the world, to expand the kingdom of God regionally, nationally, and internationally. That’s not hype. We’re serious. Because the world is waiting and longing.
And when you go like I did to the Kibera slum, see the church there among a million poor people, walk alongside a Pastor who used to be an engineer but now he’s moved in to the slum and grown a church from nobody to 100 in a year, meeting in a tiny tin shed next to an open sewer. When he says ‘All I need to build a church here is my Bible’, you see ‘I need to learn form you’ and you see it’s the same God at work in a foreign culture or church on the other side of the world! And you realize we can partner together to have even greater influence and impact, and you’ll never be the same.
You’ve heard how at the elders meeting we believed God was going to roll all the previous years into this one? More, Stretching, Surprises, Multiplication, Opportunity – with Excellence! That means the next 5 years will be the most exciting in the history of Ivy. You may be new here, that’s okay – because you’re here at the start of some incredible new adventures. You’re here tonight as the gun goes off for a new beginning!
We’re going to start a new series in the evening services looking at the book of Esther, and I don’t know why I planned to do that when I did but maybe it’s because there’s that famous verse in the Book where a man of God says to her, “Maybe, in the scheme of God you were appointed to live for such a time as this.”
It’s no accident some of you are in the room tonight, or listening on podcast. I think the whole course of your life led up to a point where you’d be saved and growing and enough of a Christ follower to be sitting there with a heart that’s bursting with excitement about where this is going. I think God appointed you for such a time as this. And now this year we need you to step up, to do your best for God, with what he’s given you, where he has put you. And some of you will be those movement makers of the future and others of you will help find and equip train them.
But finally there’s one thing I need you all to step up into with me in the next year. That list of focuses for this year wouldn’t be complete without this – and that’s prayer. I have to be honest and confess here, as I did to the elders on Tuesday before they anointed me for this next 5 years and for the huge scary goal of now looking at the whole of Western Europe as my mission focus; I haven’t done my best. Not really, not recently. Especially in prayer. I haven’t led you well in prayer, and I am sorry.
I’ve kept busy, but really – I got to a stage where I look at what we’re doing and I could think, ‘I can do this.’ I can preach a good sermon; leading a team of great people is easy, leading a great church is usually pretty easy. I don’t even need to pray very much to do it. That’s maybe why I haven’t called you guys to pray very much before.
But now, I’m calling you to pray. To pray like never before. Individually and corporately. In 2015, to pray harder than we ever prayed. To fast. I’m calling for a rhythm of prayer and various forms of fasting and I need to know when I do that, you have got my back and you’ll be there. Or we’re sunk before we started. What do you say?!
I look at a vision this big and I know we need people, and I know we need pounds, and I know we need plans. But most of all, we need prayer. Prayer, prayer, prayer.
I look at this global vision and I know – I can’t do it.
I can do church, local church, regional church, pretty well. But a vision so big as to be ridiculous – calls forth my very best, and drives me to my knees. And I have to say it’s great to be so out of the comfort zone, into the FAITH zone! My white hot faith is BURNING!! I feel like I did the day I arrived here at Ivy! I came back home from African and I thought, ‘Great! I don’t know what to do!!’
So I decided to fast and pray on Monday. I had a bad tummy so fasting was easier. Anyway, guess what – same day, I ended up in a phone call later that day connecting me to a leader of a huge prayer network, a very influential leader in the black churches in London, who wants to meet up I’ll be seeing him soon. Now if he got on board – we’d soon have to revise the targets! That’s just one day of prayer! And I’m not even good at praying. Some of you are miles better!
I can’t do this.
God can do this!! We need the Holy Spirit’s genius strategies, the big thinking, the people of bigger faith, those who will make the sacrifices, those who will help establish the leadership models and open the doors to create a movement that changes the world. But the only way this church, these networks, this movement can go forward, is with us on our knees. With MAD prayer, for HUGE miracles!
So can I ask you if you’re able – to join me there, right now, on our knees.
Isaiah 49: And now the Lord says –
he who formed you from the womb to be his servant, to bring people back to him; that they might be gathered to him – for you are honored in the eyes of the Lord, and God has become your strength—he says:
“It is too small a thing for you, my servant, to raise up the tribes around you; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
“Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”
In a time of my favour I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages, to say to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’ and to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’
They shall come from afar, from the north and from the west,
Lift up your eyes around and see; they all gather, they come to you.
As I live, declares the Lord, now you will be too narrow for your inhabitants.
The children will yet say: ‘This place is too narrow for me; make room for me to dwell in.’
Then you will say in your heart: ‘Where did they come from? Who has borne me these?
Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations, and raise my signal to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.
Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you, and lick the dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord, those who wait for me shall never be put to shame.
Then all flesh shall know that I am the Lord, your Saviour, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One.”