It has been nearly a year since my family relocated to Sydney for work. Since the last editorial I wrote back in late January, we have settled into a local church five minutes’ drive from our home suburb in Turramurra. The church (Christ Church St Ives – https://www.christchurch.com.au) is made up of over 1,000 people split across three services. While it is an Anglican church, the services are fairly similar in style to what we enjoy at Hermon.
Work in Australia for both Mel and I has been very hectic this year, but, all praise to God, it has also been a productive year and He has seen us through it. Amid the busyness, we have made it a priority to join a Growth Group. This is only appropriate given how we ourselves used to drum home the priority of being part of a CG in Hermon.
A unique model for meet ups
This Growth Group (29 of us!) is made up of (7!) young families. We meet up every week at each other’s homes, four weeks a month on a Tuesday evening. Given the young children we have in the group and our busy schedules, we have adopted a unique rotation: Week 1 – adults only; Week 2 – women only; Week 3 – men only; Week 4 – whole family with dinner and a short devotion in which the kids can participate. It has been an enriching experience meeting on a weekly basis and both Mel and I have enjoyed this a lot. Even though we all have different backgrounds and nationalities, relationships are forged faster when you prioritise meeting so regularly. While we may miss bible studies every now and then given the rotation, we are still able to follow the study through the book since the bible studies mirror the ongoing sermon series. Maybe this is something we will be able to do when we come back to Hermon in the future after our work stint here in Sydney.
Stop going to church, start being the church
Even as I get plugged into the local community here in Sydney, I still tune in to Hermon news and services every now and then with much interest. After all these years, Hermon still feels like home to me. As an exhortation to you, my dear friends and family, I will end this editorial with an excerpt from a recent article by a ministry worker at Christ Church St Ives. It is titled Stop Going to Church, Start Being the Church.
“Stop going to church. Start being the church. Change the way you think about church. This is not something you do. This is not something you are obligated to. This is not something you tick off a list. Gathering together as the church is a deep spiritual expression of who you really are. When you became a Christian, the Holy Spirit entered into you and you were united with Jesus. And Ephesians 2:6 tells us that we are now seated with Jesus in the heavenly realms round his throne. We are called to live out this heavenly reality in earthly time and space. What we have going on here is a visible outpost of the heavenly church. And because we are constantly a part of that church and because we are headed to that eternity where we will be permanently in that physical reality of that heavenly church, we must give absolute personal priority to being that church here. It is where you are, where you are going, it is what you are even now.
So this church is not something you just do, or something you go to. This is an expression of your present and your future and so, we ought to give it absolute priority to be here and be the church. We don’t just go to church, we are the church.
We express our present and future reality by gathering together. So, why do you gather with others on a Sunday? Because you are the church and you are just giving physical expression to your deepest reality. So, let’s get practical – what does this look like? Here are several ways:
1. We diarise meeting up as immovable
2. Come early and stay late
3. Plan your Saturday night so you arrive fresh and ready to go
4. Come as you are without pretending so you can love and be loved, so you can comfort and be comforted, so you can weep with those who weep, and mourn with those who mourn; leave your masks at home and just come and be real!
5. There are lots of good reasons to be online and if they apply to you,
6. Invite a friend
7. Love the people who are around you
8. Pray with each other
9. Be a committed contributor, not a casual contributor
Why do you do all this? Because Jesus is worth it. So, stop going to church, and start being the church.”
My family and I will be back from 3 Dec’22 to 26 Jan’23 – we are looking forward to reconnecting in fellowship with many of you during this period! - Tan Jiahan