Throughout 2022 Beyond Church, with our vision theme ‘BELIEVE’ sought to help a weary community believe that God is still good and his plans for us are good and eternal. We leaned in to belief in the power of prayer and that miracles still happen today. In a still unstable environment, we committed ourselves to going deep and being consistently gathered in life groups so that we may continue to seek after God and learn about him in community while so many restrictions still limited our larger church service gatherings.
NOW, with a new year ahead in 2023, we can see a new dawn arising. The theme we will focus on for the next year comes as a result of seeking God for many months about where He is leading us as a community. This has been confirmed by what we can see happening in the world around us, as well as the journey we personally have been on with God as your senior leaders over the past few years. We strongly believe it is time for us to lead our church community on a journey of returning to God with an ALL HEART kind of devotion.
We will take our ALL HEART theme verse for 2023 from many places in the Bible, as it is a recurrent theme in the story of God seeking to reach us. God wants to reach you, reach the REAL you, the authentic you and not just the parts of you that you think He wants to see and know. And so we will anchor our theme in Deuteronomy 30:6:
Deuteronomy 30:6 NLT The Lord your God will change your heart and the hearts of all your descendants, so that you will love him with all your heart and soul and so you may live!
However, if we look at the entire opening passage of Deuteronomy 30, we see in just a few verses an example of the meta-narrative of the whole Bible. It’s the recurring theme which we see outworked again and again where God invite his people, you and I, to trust him enough to bring our full selves in surrender to him and watch him continue to be faithful to his promises not just in this earthly life, but forever in eternity.
God invites us to bring every part of ourselves, the true heart of every matter we are concerned about, and trust him enough to bring good things in all areas of our lives. Does your heart seek to know Him? Does your heart long for someone you love to know Him? Does your heart seek a healing? Does your heart long to be connected to another heart through the covenant of marriage? Does your heart yearn to bear fruit and multiply by bringing children into your family? Does your heart want to serve God through a career or business or ministry endeavour?
God reminds us again and again throughout the narrative of the Bible that he sees us, knows our real hearts and can be trusted to be good and faithful always, IF we are prepared to give him our WHOLE HEART, holding nothing back.
Deuteronomy 30:1-10 MSG Here’s what will happen. While you’re out among the nations where God has dispersed you and the blessings and curses come in just the way I have set them before you, and you and your children take them seriously and come back to God, your God, and obey him with your whole heart and soul according to everything that I command you today, God, your God, will restore everything you lost; he’ll have compassion on you; he’ll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered. No matter how far away you end up, God, your God, will get you out of there and bring you back to the land your ancestors once possessed. It will be yours again. He will give you a good life and make you more numerous than your ancestors. God, your God, will cut away the thick callouses on your heart and your children’s hearts, freeing you to love God, your God with your whole heart and soul and live, really live. God, your God, will put all these curses on your enemies who hated you and were out to get you. And you will make a new start, listening obediently to God, keeping all his commandments that I’m commanding you today. God, your God, will outdo himself in making things go well for you: you’ll have babies, get calves, grow crops, and enjoy an all-around good life. Yes, God will start enjoying you again, making things go well for you just as he enjoyed doing it for your ancestors. But only if you listen obediently to God, your God, and keep the commandments and regulations written in this Book of Revelation. Nothing halfhearted here; you must return to God, your God, totally, heart and soul, holding nothing back.
And so, Luke and I know it is time for us as a wholehearted kind of faith community to return to an ALL HEART level of trust in God and devotion to His ways and plans. After 3 years of disruption and instability and with more uncertainty and potentially difficult times on the horizon, the ONLY SAFE PLACE to be found is within the will and plan of the God who is above it all. The One who holds all authority and the keys to the heavenly kingdom.
Our 2 ALL HEART vision goals are these:
- Being ALL HEART in our return to worship
This past season has changed things for so many people, but those whose hearts seek after God know it is time for us to become wholehearted again in our devotion to gathering as the community of God’s people.
Hebrews 10:25 NLT And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
Hebrews 2:1 TPT This is why it is so crucial that we be all the more engaged and attentive to the truths that we have heard so that we do not drift off course.
This goal is all about strengthening our worship services to be consistent environments where people encounter the very real and tangible presence of God and experience transformation in their hearts which bears fruit that lasts. Practically, it’s about building the size and skills of our music teams. It’s about building the size and skills of our kids and hospitality teams where we will do hard heart work of continuing to make room for new people to become part of our faith community and church family. It’s about building the capacity of our Next Steps teams to empower people to connect more deeply with God and their own growing heart to love and serve God through church services, life groups, water baptism and all our other next steps. It’s about being ALL HEART in our commitment to and growth in our spiritual disciplines: reading the word, gathering with God’s people in community, sharing authentically, and serving God’s kingdom with our time and money. But doing all of this out of a motivation of LOVE for God and gratitude for his greatness and plan, rather than out of duty or obligation. It’s about being ALL HEART in our return to our “first love” of God and his plans having authority over our own.
I have had to live this return to an ALL HEART love of God myself this year. Luke and I will celebrate 10 years as Senior Pastors of this church early next year. In the course of planning a celebration event I’ve been looking back at old photos. In those days I was so full of the fire to serve God in a whatever it took, wholehearted kind of way that we were living very humbly and simply, giving our time to the mission of serving God through church ministry in an ALL IN kind of way.
Now, there were definitely some mistakes we have made along the way of not having the boundary lines in the right places and not having an entirely healthy perspective of God’s gift of limitations. BUT our hearts were definitely in the right place, which means God BLESSED us and PROTECTED us, even from ourselves when we were tempted to overwork.
Things look very different for us now than in this photo. We have gone from working several part-time jobs each in order to fund our volunteer time serving the church to now both being remunerated for our time and roles here at church. We now live in a much bigger home with room for our large family. We now work from SEPARATE offices during the week in our Cessnock church building which we now OWN as a church. And we have amazing staff and team who help us lead the vision of our church across three locations.
God asked me this year when I was reflecting on a 10-year legacy so far; would I be willing to still give up EVERYTHING to follow where he was leading? I don’t believe he was asking me or us to go anywhere different just now, but the question he was asking was all about where my HEART was. Was I still willing to be an ALL HEART kind of follower of Jesus, or had I gotten comfortable with my beautiful family, my home, my job and giving God the scraps of the time, money and energy I had leftover after pursuing everything I valued as most important?
If you’re a part of our church over this next year and your heart is open to it, I believe God is going to ask you some similar questions: how much of yourself are you prepared to give me? When you say your life has been surrendered to me, how much of it have you actually surrendered?
2. Being ALL HEART in our love for others
Matthew 22:37-40 MSG
Jesus said, “’Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hands from them.”
This vision goal is all about how we will continue to reach new people with the life-transforming good news about Jesus in our communities and the world in 2023. Specifically, we will be running the Alpha course in all three of our locations beginning in Term 1 of next year. Alpha is an amazing resource to connect the people who are on YOUR HEART with a series of conversations about God and faith. We will be asking you to seek God for an ALL HEART response to serve on one of our Alpha teams or be someone who LOVES OTHERS enough to do the hard heart work of inviting the ones you love to be part of the Alpha experience, and then for you to surrender your own time to be present with them while they engage with conversations about faith. We will continue to be ALL HEART for the three communities where our churches have reach and influence, through the ministry of our Creative Academy and our Above and Beyond Offering-funded local community projects. Lastly, we will continue to develop a genuine heart of love and service for the poor and vulnerable in our global community, through continued relationship with the missionary partners we support in Vietnam AND the return of a short-term missions trip to visit our partners in Vietnam!
So, these two goals: returning to an authentic love for God and expression of that in our worship, and continuing to grow in our wholehearted and authentic love for others, will be the markers of our year. We will spend a whole year learning how to examine our motives, place our trust more fully in God and begin or return to an ALL HEART kind of life of mission and purpose, holding nothing back.
Pastor Rachel Main
Co-Senior Pastor, Beyond Church