The challenge to step into more focused outreach, mission and expansion
God is calling Elim to a fresh wave of mission and ministry to the nation and the nations. That belief is the driving force behind Vision 20/20: a three-year initiative to mobilise the whole Elim movement to respond to that call, writes Chris Cartwright, Elim's General Superintendent.
The Imagine conversations that have been going on throughout Elim over the last year and a half have left me in no doubt. After more than a century of the extraordinary story of what God has done through Elim there is a renewed appetite right across our churches and people for a fresh season Holy Spirit empowered mission.
There is much evidence of the grace of God in our churches and ministries. We rightly celebrate the many creative and compassionate expressions of ministry that are taking place as local Elim churches engage with and serve their local communities.
Literally, thousands of volunteers are embedded in local communities making a real difference in the name of Christ. Growing numbers of churches are also not just open for a few hours a week for their worship services but exist as vibrant hubs of all age ministry and serve as beacons of hope in so many challenging contexts.
Whilst all this is true, there is also evidence of what I believe is a 'holy discontent'. However much we give thanks for what is already happening, we recognise in an increasingly secular society that so many around us don’t know the reality of the life-changing love and power of Christ. We must do something to reach out beyond where we are and what we’re doing to those who have not yet heard the gospel and experienced God’s redeeming and transforming love for themselves.
It’s in our DNA
Elim’s spiritual DNA is an evangelistic pioneering and church planting movement. It’s hardwired into our history that we will not be content to simply maintain even fruitful programs and ministries.
In fact, in Elim’s early constitution there was written in an expectation that every Elim church would look to extend beyond its walls to reach other parts of the town, the city and the area where they were located. It was expected that they would plant other congregations and churches in areas where there was no full Gospel or Pentecostal witness. What’s more, it was encouraged if any Elim member or family moved to another town where there was no in Church they would seek to establish one.
That might seem very strange today where we recognise our partnership with Christians from other streams. However, there is something profoundly challenging about that commitment to extend beyond ourselves. We are not a commercial franchise just looking to get the name of Elim on another part of the map. Our desire must be Kingdom minded. Yet, we are called and commissioned to keep on adjusting our vision and committing our faith and resources to moving out to those around us.
Again looking back through our history, it seems that every 20 years or so the Elim Movement comes to look at this vital Great Commission call afresh. You can see it after the 2nd World War when in 1946 Elim launched out into fresh evangelism and church planting following the ravages of War and the huge sense of loss and emptiness in the nation. Again in the 1960’s as the population was growing again and new towns and suburbs were springing up all over Britain, Elim gathered its forces to target these new communities for fresh gospel outreach.
It’s the model and the mission of Jesus
At the end of Luke chapter 4, we see Jesus demonstrate what seems like two competing priorities. First Luke tells us “when the sun was setting” many who were sick were brought to him and he healed them all. Jesus didn’t send the needy away but met their every need.
This surely reminds us that he has called us to meet the needs of those who come to us. As a healthy church grows it needs to care for those who have come to Christ and help them grow and mature in faith. In Elim, we recognise the call to and we commit to growing churches where people encounter the presence of God in life-changing ways.
But we also recognise that this is not the only thing we are called to do. Luke reveals that the very next morning, 'when it was the day, he departed'. The crowds try to cling to him to stop him from going. Yet, Jesus tells them “I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God to other towns as well.” Wow! The same Lord who ministered to the needs of the crowd stepped away from them to fulfil his “purpose” of going to everyone everywhere.
So, we are likewise called to strengthen local churches in all they are doing to meet the needs of those who come whilst also doing all we can do to move out and into the vast areas where people can only meet Jesus if someone goes to them.
VISION 20/20 and faith-filled goals
We are blessed to have churches large and small in cities, towns and villages all over the nation. Those local churches are getting on with seeking God’s vision for their own local area. Yet, there is a bigger picture of our calling as a Movement, a family of churches with a shared history, heritage and purpose. Our joined-up story and identity give us great potential, in partnership with the Holy Spirit, to make a greater impact for Christ in our nation.
I believe it is time for the whole Elim Movement to step forward in more focused outreach, mission and expansion.
The next three years – 2018, 2019, 2020 – we are encouraging every church to join with us in setting fresh faith-filled goals to see people come to faith in Christ, to baptise new believers, to enable people to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to pioneer new churches and faith communities and to start a host of new ministries which will meet the real felt needs of those we are called to serve.
We are called to a future that is intentional, transformational and supernatural.
Vision 20/20 will need courage and faith for us to pray, plan and commit to stepping forward with clear goals not just at our offices in Malvern but in every place where God has planted us. There comes a time when we need to step up and step out into intentional and deliberate action. Not recklessly but radically with determined faith.
The goal must not be simply about starting another meeting, opening another building or putting the Elim name on the map. It must be about raising and releasing people and ministries and churches that are truly transformational. The gospel changes lives. It can also change communities and society.
The church of Jesus Christ doesn’t get to that point automatically. Rather, Christ calls us to learn to love one another, live sacrificially, go against the grain of our selfish consumerist culture and become a 'transformed community' of healing and compassion and grace.
Perhaps the most important factor of all is dependence on the Holy Spirit and a recognition that we can’t do this in our own strength. We need God to do what only He can do. Only His living presence can fully satisfy the hunger and thirst of this generation.
Our identity and experience as a Pentecostal people remind us that God promises His presence and power for His great mission. All we have to do as we go is to continue to yield to and depend upon His empowering presence.
I urge you to pray for a fresh touch of His power upon your life, your ministry, your family, your church for the sake of the call and the cause of Christ. Pray for a Supernatural breakthrough: for miracles and signs and wonders which witness to Christ and reach right into the hearts and lives of ordinary people.
Our 4 key missional priorities
What has emerged from the Imagine conversations and consultations is that we recognise some key priorities which we all share. These are the areas which I believe Elim as a family, a network, a community of churches can work towards more effectively together. Whilst they will in many ways already be familiar, I pray that we will be able to approach them with a genuine sense of the Spirit’s leading and confirmation.
Here are the four priorities that we are committed to.
Making and maturing fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ who live for him and serve him in every sphere of life; disciples that are totally committed to sharing the good news of Jesus in relevant and creative ways; disciples who grow into mature and fruitful influencers, disciples who help to make other disciples and whose lives are marked by godly character, courage in the face of opposition and sacrificial compassion and love.
Planting and growing healthy, transformational, life-giving churches in every city, town and community; churches that add value to local communities and bring blessing to the place where they are planted; churches that are communities of hope and provide shelter, healing and dignity to those around them; churches that are creative and innovative, communicating eternal truths in relevant and real ways ; churches that are shaped not by the fashions and formulas of prevailing culture but by the values and vision of God’s kingdom.
Identifying, training, equipping supporting and releasing Christ-like servant-hearted leaders in all spheres of church and society; leaders who regardless of age, gender and ethnicity are exemplary in character and service; leaders who navigate and are fruitful through the seasons of life; leaders who equip, empower and give opportunity to the next generation to take their place in fulfilling the purposes of God.
Reaching out to other nations to extend the kingdom of God and the mission of the church to every people, tribe, nation and language; sending missionaries and workers to raise up and support indigenous leaders and churches; establishing Elim ministries and networks in other nations; taking responsibility for our part in a worldwide harvest by partnering with our Elim Global family to reach the unreached.
Watch Chris Cartwright highlight Elim's four priorities at ELS17 [Starting at 57m 34s]
Vision 20/20 marks the first steps in a new season for Elim. We are a missional movement that is being called to accelerate our response, in urgent times, to the mission of The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Secure in our identity, clear in our values and focussed in our mission I ask you to join us, to make a commitment of your heart and will, to step into this New Year with renewed consecration to God and to make yourself available for a fresh joined up faith adventure with your wider Elim family.
Chris Cartwright - Elim's General Superintendent