What Whitiora Bible Church has to say.
This is a story of how God’s redemption can impact a church and a community.
Whitiora Bible Church was going through a season that a lot of churches can relate to, they were in a place of discouragement. Some people had left; there was a sense from others of feeling alone and each ministry was feeling disconnected. They knew they wanted to be a church with an outward evangelistic focus, but didn’t know how to get there.
What changed everything was actually an email just like the ones we (Tandem) send out each month, which you may have received before.
One of the elders was reading an email from Tandem Ministries that talked about a Love Your Neighbour series called ‘Redemptive Family’. He clicked the link and after praying about it, he recommended the idea to his church. During September and October 2019, they went through the series, which explores what it means to be a church family on a mission together.
The material consists of devotional books for church members to read and study, small group studies, surveys, six Sunday sermons and a weekend workshop. The books and prayer helped to prepare their hearts and minds for the workshop; it got people thinking. There was a building sense of seeking the Lord and of God having brought them together. Before the final message, they realized they weren’t ready for the workshop because they had other things to work through, so they took a Sunday off from finishing the series to have a time of prayer and humbling confession.
The workshop, held at the end of November, was marvelous because it highlighted people’s similarities rather than any disagreements or division. It brought a united sense of purpose and the idea of “oh, there are actually 30-40 people who are on the same page as me!”
At the beginning of the workshop on Friday evening they started with a meal to help people relax and ease any apprehension as they arrived. They had what was called a ‘World-cafe’, with small groups at each table, where people could share freely and feel heard. One person would stay at the table while others would move around and have discussions with different people. Everyone had a chance to take part and contribute and together they made a new definition for what they wanted their church to be; an agreed-upon vision.
Lynette and Howard Webb from Love Your Neighbor were there for the workshop and were “true facilitators, not putting words in people’s mouths, but guiding the conversation”.
Issues were brought to light during the workshop and the church realized that though they wanted to refocus on evangelism, they actually needed to start with themselves and ensure that every member of the body of Christ felt loved. Stepping back and looking at the bigger picture helped them see God showing them something else to focus on first, a starting point to bounce into witnessing and evangelism.
This workshop wasn’t a dead-end however, it was a catalyst to try a new idea. They left the workshop with a practical experiment planned that they had discussed and agreed upon together, which they called ‘A New Way to do Church’. Their plan was this: the first 30 minutes of church would be a time of morning tea, discussion, and prayer in small groups sitting at tables, which would give them a better sense of community and unity as a church.
They are still doing this today, however it was adapted after lockdown to only be every other week. After lockdown ended they had a day camp together as a church which helped get more people at the church on board and enthusiastic with the Church’s vision. The refocusing that happened at the workshop wasn’t a one-time deal, but created a culture of fixing their eyes on their purpose and vision as a church, because change in a church ‘doesn’t happen overnight, it is a ripple effect’.
The Church’s heart is to equip their members with an evangelistic witnessing perspective. They are sharing with friends and neighbors the good news of Christ and then welcoming them into Church, so creating a loving, welcoming atmosphere has been key. Not everything is rosy and wonderful yet, but what the Redemptive Family resource did was give them the processes for how to handle difficulties and issues as a church.
The Redemptive Family experience is a brilliant opportunity for any church, no matter where they are at or what their needs might be. Change however, has to come from God. “God can take you wherever your church is at, if you’re willing to work with Him.”
The Redemptive Family material opens opportunities for conversation to help a church renew their vision. It “strengthens the Church’s focus; if needing clearer vision, it sharpens the focus; or if struggling, it can bring God’s focus.”
God has used the Redemptive Family series to renew Whitiora Bible Church. Do you think it could help to renew yours?