January 2020 Newsletter
Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, celebrating the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and are looking forward to the year ahead.
It is my intention to start writing regular newsletters to the Church, within which I will share our plans for the future, what God has been speaking to me about and some reflections about what God is doing in and through our Church. At this point, I am not sure how regular the letters will be (perhaps every other month) but I hope you find something of benefit in this one. As I write, I feel a bit like Paul and feel I should have opened my letter by saying “Duncan, servant of Christ Jesus. To all the Saints at Christ Church Fareham, who have received love and mercy from God our Father, through the salvation won by Jesus Christ, and have been richly blessed by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” I will try and resist the urge to write like Paul though.
Firstly, I am writing to say thank you. Paul would have written “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, making my prayer with joy!” I do truly think of each of you with joy and pray for you all. Every single one of you receiving this letter has blessed Rachael and I in many ways, whether we’ve known you now for years or just a few weeks, and we are very grateful to you. We launched Christ Church Fareham in September 2018. We moved to morning services in January 2019. What God has done in that time is amazing. In terms of numbers, we have more than doubled in size. Attendance in November and December 2019 was comfortably the highest we’ve seen as a Church and new people who have visited have immediately started coming regularly. I am also delighted at the way God has spiritually grown us and deepened our faith over that time. I think we are growing, not just a Bible-believing, Gospel-proclaiming, Spirit-filled Church, but a family and a community of love and joy. Thank you for all you have done for us as a Church and family. I am so excited about what God has for us moving forward.
Secondly, I write to encourage us to press forward into 2020. I will launch a sermon series on 5th January called “Resolutions”, preaching four sermons focused on areas I want us to grow and flourish in 2020. The four areas are listed below with a few brief comments (There will be greater detail and clearer Biblical teaching in the sermons to come). Please do pray and consider how you might grow with us in these four areas in 2020.
1. Making disciples
At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus gives his disciples a command – The Great Commission -“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”. This is the mission of the Church. And therefore it should also be the mission of every Christian. It’s not just Church Leaders who make disciples, it’s all Christians. Together, we desire to make new disciples, sharing the Gospel with unbelievers and seeing them give their lives to Jesus, but also to deepen and strengthen the discipleship of those within the Church who are Christians already. You have a role to play in that, evangelising to your friends, family and neighbours and discipling people within the Church. I would encourage each of you to think about how you can make disciples and teach Jesus’ commands to others in 2020.
I do not know whether there is a greater privilege in the Christian faith than prayer. That God hears me when I speak to him, that I can call him “Father”, that he answers my prayers and speaks to me in times of listening is astonishing, glorious & only possible through Jesus Christ. It is and should always be a joy to pray. In Luke 18:27, Jesus says “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” What we want to see happen in Fareham is impossible with man. We want to see hundreds and thousands of people becoming disciples and being baptised, even though we live in an increasingly secular society that rejects, even laughs at, Christianity. So, we must pray. I confess that I do not believe we have got Prayer Meetings quite right as a Church yet. In 2020, it is one of my priorities to encourage us to pray better as a Church and this may involve moving our prayer meetings from Sunday evenings to a better time for people. However, would you bear with me in January? We will hold Sunday evening prayer meetings on 12th and 26th January from 7pm – 8pm. If you are able, please put those times in your diary and join us. As a Church, as Life Groups and as individuals, let each of us grow our prayer lives in 2020. I know that will honour God and do each of us great good.
3. Growing in spiritual gifts
The Church is a body and every member has an important function. When the Church gathers, everyone has something to contribute (1 Cor 14:26) and even when we are not together as Christians we should be using our spiritual gifts to serve God. I long to be a part of a Church where everyone knows their value, their gifts and is growing in their gifting for the good of the Church. In 1 Corinthians, in chapter 12 and in chapter 14, Paul writes about spiritual gifts. He lists some of the gifts in chapter 12 and it would be worth reading that list and praying about how God has gifted you. But chapter 13 is about love. That’s no coincidence. We should desire and pray for gifts because we love one another and want to serve one another as best we can. And we should use our gifts as often and as well as we can, because we love each other and want what is best for the Church. A Church that truly loves one another will also grow in spiritual gifts. For that reason, I pray each of us would grow in our gifts in 2020 and as a Church we would release many into their spiritual giftings this year.
We now have our own Christ Church Fareham bank account. Previously we had been running our finances through ChristCentral Portsmouth (the Church we planted out of). There are of course many things we could do with more finance, but a focus on giving isn’t primarily about Christ Church Fareham’s bank balance. Rather, God’s command to give in the Bible is about worship. When we give money to God, we show that we love God more than we love material possessions. There is greater joy in loving God than anything money can buy and so God, in his love for us, commands us to give cheerfully and regularly. As a warning, I will be preaching on Giving on 26th January. And I do pray that as a Church, we would express our love for God by giving generously and sacrificially to his mission. When I preach on this, I will let you know the practicalities on how you can give to CCF, while also appreciating that some of you who are newer may not yet be ready to give to us as a Church and that is absolutely ok.
Wouldn’t 2020 be an amazing year, for our Church and for our town, if together we made disciples, prayed, used our spiritual gifts and gave generously to God’s mission? I hope and pray this sermon series will challenge us and lead us into more Christ-like lives.
Finally, I write to point you to Jesus Christ. I know that in many ways I sin and fall short of God’s standard of righteousness. And so, I am grateful to Christ for his life, death and resurrection that have won my forgiveness and salvation. I am grateful that it is Jesus who leads our Church and the Universal Church. He is our King, but also our Brother and friend. In every circumstance, look to Jesus for your help and guidance. He is the good shepherd who cares for his sheep. Make disciples, pray, practice spiritual gifts and give in 2020, but all of those things are of less importance than trusting and following Jesus. He is the Saviour of the World and the King of Kings. Trust and follow him.
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