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We’re living in times where everyone is incredibly well connected. At any moment we can have a chat or a face-to-face video conversation with a friend or family member anywhere in the world. We have access to unlimited knowledge at the tip of our fingers. We have countless social media connections and have often intimate knowledge of what is happening in the lives of all sorts of random people. We know where they went on the weekend, we know when they last exercised (and how far or how fast they ran). And similarly, many people know all sorts of personal details about our own lives. Often a person’s emotional well-being can rise or fall on the attention (or lack thereof) that these little titbits can garner for them. Increasingly our very identities are being shaped and formed by these virtual audiences. 

And yet, how many people actually KNOW you? How many people genuinely know or care what is going on in your heart? How meaningful is your connectedness?

One of our core values as a church is Significant Community. We long to see every member connected into the life of the church through meaningful friendships and gospel centred community. The reality is that, as far as normal church sizes go, Rosebank Union is quite large; and as a large church, it is very easy for people to come and go each week without ever being genuinely known or loved or cared for. Consequently such a person’s experience of real church will inevitably be superficial and a bit cold. They may enjoy the worship service, they may be fed by the biblical preaching, they may be encouraged by hearing testimonies or in times of reflection and prayer, but their growth towards maturity in Christ will be stunted without relationships where they can be known, loved and cared for. 

In scripture, the church is described using a number of different organic images. Jesus said that he is the vine and we are the branches and that if we abide in him (stay connected to the vine) we will bear much fruit (John 15). The church is also described as being the flock of God – a community that follows Christ and receives care, protection, and leadership through Jesus Christ, the good shepherd (John 10: 11-16; 1 Peter 5: 2-4). And the church is also well described as being the body of Christ where Christ is the head and we all form the various parts according the gifts and grace God has given us (Romans 12: 4-5).

In all these images, the concept of being connected, or belonging is very important. The bible knows of no such thing as unconnected Christians. 

Because of this, one of our goals as a church is to have every member connected to some form of group. 

It may be a serving team where people can use their gifts to serve together

It may be a workshop or class where people can learn together or share together during some specific life stage (like a marriage course or Griefshare or bible course)

It may be a social community where people can connect with like-minded Christians (like KnitWits or Section Community)

Or it may be a Community Group or Life on Life Missional Discipleship Group where people can people can come together for intentional discipleship and bible study. 

In whatever way suits your life and availability, we want to encourage you to Get Connected!

Over the last few days I have been re-reading part of Timothy Keller’s great book, “Prayer”, focusing particularly on his chapter entitled “The Prayer of Prayers”. As you would expect, it’s about the Lord’s Prayer.

Keller reminds us that the Lord’s Prayer was given to us in plural form. We ask God to give us what we need, meaning that, as much as possible, “the prayers of Christians ought to be public . . . to the advancement of the believers’ fellowship.”

Prayer is therefore not strictly a private thing. As much as we can, we should pray with others both formally in gathered worship and informally. Why? If the substance of prayer is to continue a conversation with God, and if the purpose of it is to know God better, then this can happen best in community.

C. S. Lewis argues that it takes a community of people to get to know an individual person. Reflecting on his own friendships, he observes that some aspects of his friend’s personality were brought out only through interaction with a second friend. That meant that if he lost the second friend, he lost part of his first friend that was otherwise invisible.

“By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want lights other than my own to show all his facets.” Keller continues, “If it takes a community to know an ordinary human being, how much more necessary would it be to get to know Jesus alongside others? By praying with friends, you will be able to hear and see facets of Jesus that you have not yet perceived.”

These insights underline the significant value of our Community Groups. We cannot know Jesus fully alone. It is as we pray with others and study the Scriptures together that we get to know Jesus better that we ever could on our own. I have often found that a sentence in someone else’s prayer or another’s insight into a particular passage in God’s Word provides me with a glimpse of my Saviour I had not seen before. And I like to think that I have helped others in the same way. I am sure that was part of Jesus’ intention when he called twelve men to follow him in community. That’s part of the reason we urge all at RUC to be part of a small group of some kind. We want to know Jesus better, and we get to know him better together.


Find a Community Group that suits you: Click Here!

Earlier this year in our Basic Training series I quoted John Stott on the subject of community:

“Aloneness is not the will of God either in ordinary life or in the Christian life. People need fellowship, and it is God’s will that they should have it . . . But this basic, biblically recognized need is not completely met by Sunday churchgoing. There is always something unnatural and subhuman about large crowds. They tend to be aggregations rather than congregations —aggregations of unrelated persons. The larger they become, the less the individuals who compose them know and care about each other. Indeed, crowds can actually perpetuate aloneness, instead of curing it. There is a need, therefore, for larger congregations to be divided into small groups, such as one imagines the house-churches were in New Testament days. The value of the small group is that it can become a community of related persons, and in it the benefit of personal relatedness cannot be missed, nor its challenge evaded.”

RUC is not a mega-church, but it is certainly big enough to get lost in. It is possible to come and go for years and never get ‘connected’ in a meaningful way to other believers in a way that leads to mutual encouragement and edification along the Christian way.

If we are to grow spiritually and become the disciples Jesus wants us to be, significant involvement in significant community is a must.


In the RUC context, where may significant community be experienced? Let me highlight four areas:

1. SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIPS

You may have one or two or more (usually not too many) good, godly friendships . . . friendships founded and centred on Christ, friendships that have been built over time, friendships where there is trust and where truth can be spoken, friendships where strength and support are both given and received, friendships where the Word of God is central. These “David and Jonathan friendships” are a great gift. Do you have one or two such friendships? If you do, cultivate them; if you don’t, seek them. Ask God to give you a spiritual friendship.

2. LOLMD (LIFE ON LIFE MISSIONAL DISCIPLESHIP)

About three years ago we began LOLMD groups. These groups are small (leader plus 3-5 people), and they are gender based (men discipling men, women discipling women). The LOLMD groups meet weekly, memorize Scripture, do homework, follow a three year curriculum, and use the TEAMS format (Teaching, Equipping, Accountability, Mission, Supplication). The aim is that after 2 to 3 years each member of the group will select 3 or 4 others and begin the process all over again thus multiplying disciples. Of necessity LOLMD is a slow process, but it will gather momentum as more and more people are trained and begin to disciple others. LOLMD is not a ‘secret society’ for the spiritually elite as some have thought. Pastor Justin is leading LOLMD, so please chat to him if you’re interested in knowing more.

3. COMMUNITY GROUPS

The main place where significant community happens in RUC is in the community groups. Around 60 groups meet weekly in homes and at the church.
The leaders of these groups are shepherds to their little flock of anywhere from five to twenty people. Shepherds are responsible to 1) Know the sheep, 2) Feed the sheep, 3) Lead the sheep, and 4) Protect the sheep.
These groups focus on the study of the Word, sharing of life, caring, praying, and serving. It is in these groups that the “one another” commands can be put into practice leading to increased spiritual health and growth of all the members. It is in these groups that significant community can be experienced.

Join a Community Group

 

4. SECTION COMMUNITY

At the morning services 15 February my wife, Irene, introduced the concept of Section Community as a way of making a big church feel small. Our church sanctuary can be naturally divided into 10 sections and we have observed that most people tend to sit in the same place every week. This means that each of those sections has the potential to become a mini church comprising 100 to 150 people. It is possible in that context for people to greet one another by name, to get to know a bit about each other, and to be able to identify and welcome newcomers who sit in their section as well as occasionally meeting together for tea after a service.
We were absolutely delighted when over 900 people completed a connect card expressing their support for this initiative. Section Community has begun with leaders being identified and receiving training. Stories have already begun to trickle in about the impact intentional friendliness is having on the lives of individuals. It has a long way to go but we are really excited about the potential of this ministry. This is something everybody can do right where they are.

Your friend in community,
Leigh

“The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer


As we focus on community life this month; I searched the dictionary for a definition of the word ‘community’ and found the following elements instructive:

Community

    noun:- a group of people living together, having a particular character in common; unified by common interests, and practicing common ownership.

The church community is an amazing initiative in God’s providence. In his wisdom He has assembled us as one, yet coming from diverse social backgrounds and cultures. Come to think of it, this is just a rehearsal for the day when we will stand before the Lamb – from every nation, tribe, people and language worshipping God.

We are a community because we share something in common and we have a vision and a mission to accomplish for God’s glory and kingdom. RUC seeks to build a visible and vibrant community. Our aim is to attract many whose desire is to participate in this lofty objective and help us realise the goodness and the enjoyment of living in community.

Over the years of facilitating classes for new members, I have been fascinated by the reasons why people want to join our church.
These are some of the things applicants say:

  • I want to belong
  • I want to serve and contribute meaningfully
  • I want to grow spiritually
  • I want to be accountable
  • I enjoy the preaching, teaching and worship
  • What these aspirations tell us is that meeting the need for connection and nurturing the development of genuine spiritual relationships are crucial to living out purposeful community life.

    Join us in creating a healthy community – be on the alert and recognise our guests in all our services. Welcome them and make them feel at home.

    Pastor Ndaba Mazabane
    Pastor of Community

    The date is the 24th of August 2013 and it was time for the Harito family to go boldly where no Harito has gone before….camp….not just any camp- a church camp. Now for most of you that must sound incredible but for me who doesn’t camp and my husband who was raised as a Greek orthodox a church camp was certainly not on the cards ( I mean who would look after the cafe if they all camped).

    Needless to say my brother, Wayne Vanderwagen, organised the camp and I was desperate for a meeting with God. I must also add that I really wanted to get God’s grace- a sermon by Louie Giglio led me to this: I know I have God’s grace but I needed to get it ( this is profound- I promise so keep reading). So off we went with our 7 month old daughter (crazy I know) to the YFC centre not knowing what to expect.

    Let me just say it was nothing I expected it was so much more. I met the most incredible people. In fact my husband and I (talking out the corner of our mouths as one does to try not look conspicuous) said, “everyone is so inclusive” and “they treat us like we one of them”. And from the Greek orthodox, “these people are so normal”, a look of relief rushing over his face.

    Everyone meeting for the same purpose. My brother’s words echo in my mind , “Jeanne we all have one thing in common- a deep love for God”. Profound.

    Nat….amazing…True greatness wears an apron. No really, he wore an apron. Nat showed me a side of Jesus I had never thought of before. I’ll say it again True greatness wears an apron. Even more profound.

    Never did I ever imagine having my husband run up to me dripping with sweat, a smile reminiscent of childhood, in gasps saying “Babe. I’m. Having. The. Time of. My life.” And he wasn’t even breaking plates! Profounder than found…you get where I am going.

    The weekend did not even end there. It had only begun. A talent show (my daughters big debut as a bird-God has big plans for that one I tell you! ), dancing nuns, talented children and dancers, singers and a skit about a lost soul named Edgar.

    But what got me was Sunday’s communion. People were sobbing at the story of the cross. Wow these people really do love God I thought. But then I got it…remember I said I wanted to get it what I had already gotten??? Grace- John 3:16…that’s how much I am loved???? Profound!

    So not only did we camp…with a church…my daughter wore a bird, my husband wore a black swan…and me…I got Grace.

    As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable1 Corinthians 12:20-22

    We are Forest Farm Community group, a small group of Christians based at Forest Farm, the residential home for adults with cerebral palsy, located next to the Pick ‘n Pay on William Nicol Drive and have been growing in Christ since 2009.

    Our first few meetings were a little daunting and met with apprehension as you can imagine but we soon got familiar and comfortable with each other. We read and discussed the book of Nehemiah and went through ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ by Rick Warren. It was an amazing 40 Days for both parties and I got to know the small nucleus of regular attendees rather well. I realized soon afterwards that the group, which had grown to about a dozen, were hungry for God’s word so it was important to give it to them in a communication mode that was suitable to the majority of them. I started to bring DVDs to the meetings: Andy Stanley, Louie Giglio, Bill Hybels, Angus Buchan and Joyce Meyer. The more I brought, the greater their hunger for God’s word. I have become well known throughout Forest Farm by the management, staff and residents; not just our own group which now fluctuates between 15 and 20 attendees…. Glory to our Lord!

    As a group, we talk of how we can be a blessing to others by using simple examples such as caring for their friends, talking to and supporting them, making a cup of tea for them when they are down, pushing their wheelchairs or sometimes just a smile. We have built up such a great relationship that we can confide and trust in each other at all times.

    This part of my life’s journey has been challenging and at first I wondered why I was prompted to take it on. Through the years I have realized that, as we all have a purpose in life according to God, I see this as part of my calling. I left my homeland many years ago, got married and have a fantastic wife and two wonderful children – one a ‘special needs’ child – but both a blessing to us! Jason has been and continues to be a challenge to us both but without God in our lives, we would never have coped.

    The experience I have gained by ministering to this group and the unconditional love flowing in and through them has helped me cope with some of the difficulties that I have faced with Jason and it has brought my own son closer to God in his own way.

    I continue to think of Genesis 12 v 3 – I have been Blessed by God and I can only continue to be a Blessing to others in Forest Farm through His name.

    The Apostle Paul, in Romans 5:3-5, says that we should “rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perserverance; perserverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

    The group do have disabilities and are different in many ways but share the same passion as you and I – for the Love of Jesus Christ!

    Leigh RobinsonNext to Billy Graham, D. L. Moody is probably the most famous evangelist America has produced. He was instrumental in tens of thousands of people coming to know Jesus in both America and Britain. Many people have heard the name of D. L. Moody, and today the famous Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and Moody Press Publishers bear on-going witness to the effectiveness of his ministry. Most people have never heard the name of Edward Kimball. He was Moody’s Sunday School teacher when he was a boy. One day he visited Moody and after sharing the gospel with him led him to Jesus. I bet he never dreamed that his witness to that one little boy would have the impact for eternity that it did. 

    We’ve all heard of Stephen Lungu. He’s the Director of Africa Enterprise and has a worldwide ministry through his preaching and writing (his autobiography Out of the Black Shadows is being made into a movie) but none of us knows the name of the young woman whose testimony God used to capture Stephen’s heart as he sat in the back of the tent meeting in Harare waiting to firebomb the event. Yet God used her to change the life of a young man he had chosen to use mightily.

    Yes, it only takes one.

    Stephen Lungu will be preaching at RUC this Sunday (8am, 10am, and 6.30pm).

    Invite someone you know to come with you to hear him! Who knows what God might have in mind for that one.

    EACH ONE INVITE ONE.

    “Community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us.” – Bonhoeffer.

    Occasionally I stand on the stairs adjacent to the church reception to get a view of the activities in the Street (our foyer). It is fascinating to watch as many of you line up to get something from the Street Café, some in deep and some in light conversations; I see some of you laughing, hugging and kissing! I have also seen, on occasion, some huddling and praying for each other. The buzz and the atmosphere that is created makes me thankful for being part of the RUC family. It is “good and pleasant” to behold.

    One of the greatest joys of being part of the church is experiencing community. I am amazed by the number of people visiting our church Sunday after Sunday, many in search of community life and a home for fellowship. It is always heart-warming to see those who then decide to stay on and be part of our community.

    No doubt, if you have been attending RUC regularly, you will have noticed that we are more intentional and deliberate in seeking to be a welcoming church especially to our visitors and newcomers. We want to thank each and every one of you for your role in inviting your family and friends to church and helping in making them feel welcomed. You will be interested to know that since the beginning of 2012 we have recorded over 175 visitors through the Welcome Centre alone. We are encouraged by newcomers who, after getting to know the church better, decide to be part of small groups and further deepen their commitment by joining as members. What I have noticed in most membership applications is that the main reason why people want to join our church is that they “want to belong, to be part of a community and serve.”

    May God help us to be a community of faith, a community of love and deliberate in pursuing unity in community.

    Shalom,

    Ndaba