New horizons are what we face in 2019, and I think with a New year it is appropriate to ask the question, “Where are we going?”
Where are you headed in your personal life, your family, your work, and where are we headed as a church, as a community of believers here at Ignite? Certainly at the end of last year we faced difficulties, especially in the area of coping with the numbers coming to church here. So we need to put things in place both for the short term and also the long term.
As I prayed into this over the summer, the Lord spoke a phrase to me that has lit up my life… New Horizons. I believe God has new horizons for us to move into this year. New for me, new for you and new for this church… I’m here for the long term, to see God transform Ignite into the church He wants. Interestingly, I also after writing this learned that the name given to the NASA space probe that has just sent back images from the furthest distance anything manmade has ever travelled is also called “New Horizons.”
FORGET THE FORMER THINGS
Isaiah 43:18-19 (ESV Strong's)
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
As people, it is very tempting to dwell on the past. In 2019, nostalgia is alive and well! We always talk about the good old days, but I was there for many of them, and they just weren’t that good! Simpler perhaps, less pace and pressure maybe, but without all of the mod cons we associate with good living today, such as mobile phones and the Internet.
Many of you will fondly remember the days of black and white TV, pot bellied stoves and cars with carburettors you could service yourself, but you conveniently overlook 38 degree days without aircon, washing clothes by hand and outhouse toilets.
You see, we always look back with rose coloured glasses, seeing the good, and many times blocking out the bad. We look back with fondness and thankfulness, as we should, while often forgetting the tough times. And that’s fine… Look at the many times New Testament Christians looked back on Jewish history in Acts, being reminded of the great things God has done in the past.
When I became pastor of this church 3 years ago, with the church facing overwhelming financial obligations, I told the Lord that I was not prepared to oversee an average church. We faced unbelievable hurdles, incredible new horizons, and had to raise a quarter of a million dollars in 9 months to save this church and God did it! This church is nearly 4 times the size of the one I stepped up to lead, but this is not the end, God is taking us together on a wonderful journey as we serve and love Him, and our community. Ignite is not just my story, it’s your story, so rather than watch it happen, I want to invite you to be a part of the great things God is about to do here at Ignite in 2019.
Look at how the church has grown, how leaders have been trained and raised up, how the community has been touched, how the Word of God has been proclaimed, and all of this in some difficult and trying times!
But if we rest on our laurels, we are wearing them in the wrong place. In 2018, I personally and our church generally received several awards and honours, but if I rest on those and fail to build on those, then we will never be raised to what God wants us to be. No, church, it’s hats of to the past, but coats off to the future! Forget the former things and let’s shoot for the stars!
WHERE ARE WE GOING?
What future? What is it that the Lord has put there for us? Where are we going? And who with?
Proverbs 29:18 (ESV Strong's)
Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.
First let me say that, whatever happens, we need to stick together. I know of so many powerful, committed Christians who, for completely valid and justified reasons, become dissociated or dislocated from church. I have had dislocating shoulders, and I can tell you the pain of a dislocation is extreme.
Many believers here on the Coast experience this pain of being dislocated from church, and Ignite has a vision to be a safe haven for those kinds of folk, providing a base where they can rebuild their spiritual lives and their service for the Lord safely, reequipping and reenergising them to become all they can be in Christ!
So whatever we face , let’s covenant to face it together, and to let nothing deflect us from unity and truth. In a world that is ridiculously quick to be offended (eg: Facebook world), let’s be slow in being offended!
So where we going? If I have no idea where I am going, even a GPS cannot get me there! In the future, I see us moving to a new, larger premises with more car parks and more toilets. I see a strong, stable Ignite Centre from which to grow, with hundreds of people meeting every week and many growing ministries that will impact nations.
Don’t accept the lie that if the church grows we will lose community. Already I know God has created a unique environment and atmosphere here at Ignite, one based on love and unity, and as we grow, we need to not lose this but rather amplify it! If we stand in unity and love as we have been doing, 2 services, a change of venue, even differences of doctrine should not compromise community!
But I also see beyond this, to a time where we can plant dozens of churches in communities across the Coast and beyond. I see leaders trained and raised up to serve. I see whole communities won to Christ by our faithful witness in their midst. Together we can do more for Christ and reach new horizons in 2019!
REACHING FOR NEW HORIZONS
So what does God have for us in this New Year? New horizons, and I believe that, like the people of Israel entering the
Promised Land, we have new, fresh and glorious horizons and opportunities before us, and we should be excited, not fearful about coming into 2019.
Deuteronomy 31:6 (ESV Strong's)
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
So how do we move towards these new horizons and face these new challenges? How do we not only preserve but build upon the great things God has done here at Ignite? Here are 7 ways we can move ahead towards our destiny as a church. We do it by…
1. BEING A CHURCH
Matthew 16:18 (ESV Strong's)
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
The church is God’s solution to a dying world. Church is not Plan B, it is God’s plan to reach a world heading to destruction. But mankind has taken God’s plan to reach the world and turned it into institutions, into lovely buildings, into great performances with lights and smoke and theatre. At the end of the day, we have to be a church!
Every move of God comes in 4 parts, a man, a movement, a machine and a monument. It starts with a man, a John Wesley, a William Booth, a Brian Houston, a passionate, anointed man of God. In time he creates around him a movement, full of the same passion and drive, taking the world for Jesus. But over time this wanes, and the structure put in place to sustain the movement becomes a religious machine. Things look the same on the outside, but people are not as passionate. Then finally, after years of being a machine, the movement becomes a monument to past greatness, as we see in many of the established denominations.
We must never lose sight of the fact that we are the church, and we are God’s solution to the world’s problems, so let’s face 2019 as what we are called to be… not machine or a monument, not an institution, not an organisation, not a religion or a political party or a charity… we are the church, God’s solution, facing new horizons together.
2. BEING A COMMUNITY
Church is not a building, it is not an institution, it is you and I… Church is a community, a family, the body of Christ!
1 Peter 2:5 (ESV Strong's)
you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
God has established a unique and wonderful spiritual family here, living stones in a spiritual house, where people love and care in a genuine way for each other. Many people say, please don’t grow, we like a little church. But listen, growth does not mean we have to lose what this church is built on!
As any institution especially churches grow, structure must be put in place to enhance that growth. I planted some tomatoes, and they grew all over the ground, and before long the fruit was rotting and going bad. When I built a trellis, the plant grew up this structure and the fruit was preserved, and multiplied.
Structure in church is only valid if it supports the genuine, organic growth of community. Problem is, if structure successfully supports healthy growth, we then glorify the structure, not the true growth.
Our strength is in our oneness, our community of love and support. Every one of us has to guard this as we face new horizons, even if we change the structure, like having 2 services or a new building.
3. BEING SERVANTS
Mark 10:43-45 (ESV Strong's)
But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
A servant heart must be the hallmark of Ignite Church. This does not mean that as a pastor I am yours to command, but it does mean that all of our leadership, from the pastor down, serves selflessly and humbly. I am one man, and I work in my secular professions 4 days a week, so I cannot do everything for you.
Neither should I! We have teams of humble servants who can care for you better than I can. I know many of you have dreams of ministering, doing something great for the Lord, and if that’s you, let me tell you that you’re in the right place. If you want to grow into your ministry, any ministry, in this church or beyond, then the fastest way is to serve someone else’s ministry. If you come to Ignite and serve with all your heart, God can and will raise a mighty ministry in and through your life, and you will rejoice in the new horizons before you in ministry.
4. BEING A VOICE
We live in an age of tremendous moral decline, and I for one and this church will not float idly by into the moral abyss we call 21st century Australia! In 2019, despite already being criticised by some, I will not stop proclaiming God’s righteousness to this nation. Now more than ever, we need to be the prophetic voice of God to this community and this nation. I’m not here to keep the peace, I’m here to proclaim the truth!
Romans 1:16-17 (ESV Strong's)
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew ofirst and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
In this coming year. I will not back down from what I believe is God’s truth and righteousness, even if I am a voice crying in the wilderness. Despite laws our leaders pass, I will proclaim God’s Biblical standards without apology, even if others attack me. I do not have a political agenda, but I have a moral and a spiritual agenda, and I am not ashamed to proclaim these truths, the truths of God’s Word, even in the face of opposition, from outside the church or even from within. New horizons mean that this church must continue to proclaim God’s truths, not in condemnation and legalism, but with love and conviction.
We must all continue to be a voice to our sick, wayward nation that is heading towards destruction! It was a bush on fire that turned Moses aside, and it will be a church ignited and in fire that will turn a nation aside, that’s heading to hellfire!
5. BEING IN UNITY
Unity is a cornerstone of Ignite Church. Paul writes,
1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV Strong's)
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.
I have a zero tolerance for disunity at Ignite. Now understand, that doesn’t mean You cannot disagree with me, because unity does not mean we agree on everything, but it means we can disagree, agreeably.
A Canadian farmer lost his 2 year old boy in his corn field, and called all the men from neighbouring farms to help him search. He told the men to spread out to try and find the boy, but be careful not to trample the corn which was ready for harvesting. As the temperature plummeted to below zero and after fruitless searching, the farmer told the men to join hands and trample through the ripe grain, even if it meant destroying the crop. The soon found the boy, curled up in a hollow, dead from hyperthermia. The farmer turned to the men and said, “gentlemen, we should have joined hands sooner.”
Now is the time to join hands in unity, even if it means you don’t get your own way. If you love anything, your opinion, your beliefs, your doctrine, or your preference more than you love people, we will have disunity. If you love people more than your own desires, we have unity.
I appreciate that most people here do not let doctrine divide us. If it is not a core doctrine, if it is not a salvation issue, we can hold different opinions and still be in unity. Our standard must be the Word of God. But we must be careful to never hold any interpretation of God’s Word so tightly it is at the expense of unity. Whether it is tongues, baptism, the style of music, communion, the building, the way things are done, never love these more than your brother.
John 13:34-35 (ESV Strong's)
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The world will know we are His by our love for one another, not by how vehemently we hold to certain doctrines or fight one another. If it is not about God’s righteousness or salvation, as Paul says in Romans 12:10, prefer one another! Let's put one another first as we look to new horizons!
6. BEING FOCUSSED ON JESUS
At a recent charity event I met Australian cycling legend and Olympic gold medalist Anna Mears. She told us she invested more than 70 hours a week for 4 years, training to win a race that takes 10 seconds. Now that’s focus!
Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV Strong's)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,
This year, we don’t look backwards at great achievements, as great as they have been, but we look forward at Jesus and His new, fresh goals for us. You cannot drive a car looking in the rear view mirror, so this year we must look ahead and keep our eyes focussed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
Philippians 3:13-14 (ESV Strong's)
But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
So we will focus on Jesus and His Word, proclaiming that. We will not veer to one side, we will not focus on what other churches may emphasise. You will not find me chasing political agendas, chasing signs and wonders, chasing gifts, finances, demons or culture, all of which is fine, but it’s not Ignite! We must keep the main thing the main thing and stay focussed on Jesus and the Word of God.
7. BEING FRUITFUL
So many believers, and many churches also, are not effective in reaching others for Christ. I know our emphasis here at Ignite is providing a church home or unity, love and nurture for those who dream of being great for God, a home where dislocated Christians can send down deep roots and grow and thrive once again.
But must always be effective in reaching our people for Christ, and we must pray and believe for fruit. Let’s not just say it, let’s do it, but not by programs and techniques, but rather by people who are so inspired, so empowered, so ignited and on fire for Jesus that fruit just follows! As Jesus said,
John 15:4-5 (ESV Strong's)
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Listen we can have a nice church, nice programs, nice groups and nice people, but the true measure of our church is our fruit… quantity and quality! People ask me if I want to see signs and wonders here, and I answer yes. But I don’t want gold dust, angel feathers and crazy excesses, the signs I am looking for are God changing lives, healing people, restoring relationships, filling people with power to live holy lives and seeing people saved. They are the signs I seek!
Maturity in the life of a Christian is hard to measure and quantify, but it is easy to see. I think we all agree that, whatever you believe the initial sign is, the true measure of being filled with the Spirit is the fruit of the Spirit. Abide in Jesus and you bear fruit, so our emphasis needs to be abiding in Him!
THE WAY AHEAD… ARE YOU FULLY COMMITTED?
This year is a year of New Horizons, and the challenging thing about the horizon is that the closer you get to it, the further away it seems… but we must never stop moving ahead.
This year I believe God is going to lead us on to incredible success in the things that really matter. If we are obedient, if we abide in Him. As Jesus said,
John 15:16 (ESV Strong's)
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
That’s a great challenge, but according to that verse, we can ask and if we ask in His name, which is not just a string of words but it means ask according to His will, if we abide in Him and
Matthew 6:33 (ESV Strong's)
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
This year, our destiny stands before us, and together, we have the greatest opportunity to see Ignite Christian Church become what God has destined us to be! If we seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, if we do not compromise and lose focus, if we covenant to obey the Word of God, then He will build His church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
THE EYES OF THE LORD
Today, at the start of 2019, the Spirit of God is looking across this auditorium. He is ready to lead us on to new horizons, He is ready to build a church that impacts this and other nations, but the question is, are you in or out? Do you want to be a part of what God is doing, or not? His eyes are looking for those who will follow Him, follow Him towards new horizons He has prepared for us.
2 Chronicles 16:9 (NIV-WS)
For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.
His eyes range across this room this morning, and I simply ask the question, are you one of those whose hearts are fully committed to serving Jesus in 2019? If you want to make a difference in this world, if you have a dream in God, we can see it happen together.
Are you the person who will say “Choose me, Lord?” Or can you not be bothered and just want to attend church? Will you join me in saying, “Lord I will serve you, no matter the call, no matter the cost, no matter the commitment”?
Bill Borden was heir to a fortune, a star college athlete, good-looking, and committed to Christ. As a student, he heard a call to reach Muslims, and following graduation he announced he was giving his immense inheritance to the cause of world missions. He joined the China Inland Mission, but his widowed mother wondered if Bill had done the right thing, giving up fortune and homeland. Bill wrote, “In the quiet of my room that night, worn and weary and sad, I fell asleep asking myself again and again, ‘Is it, after all, worthwhile?’ In the morning as I awoke, a still small voice was speaking in my heart, answering: ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only beloved son.… ’ ”
Bill Borden arrived in Egypt, but immediately contracted spinal meningitis. He was dead in two weeks, but he left a final message on paper stuffed under his pillow: “No Reserve! No Retreat! No Regrets!”
The story of his sacrifice was retold in newspapers across America and the publication of his biography resulted in a hundreds of young people offering themselves as living sacrifices for the Lord of the harvest. His was the shortest but most powerful mission experience ever!
As we face new horizons in 2019, we can either stay the same, stay safe, sta-tus quo, or we can step up and change the world. I’m asking you to stand with me today and into this year, to go beyond being a spectator, an attender or even a member. Are you content with the blessings we already have? Or will you say with Bill Borden, and with me, “No Reserve! No Retreat! No Regrets!”
Let me offer a tangible call to commitment as we face new horizons… will you join me this year in reading the Bible every day with our me Bible Reading Plan?