We want to change the question from, “When will things go back to normal?” to “What is God calling us to in this season?”
The Covid pandemic has changed everything, not least what we can do as Exeter Vineyard. Rather than waiting around for this to all pass, which could be a long time anyway, we’ve been making plans for 2021 and how we prepare for this over the next few months.
Sarah and I spoke about this on Sunday 20th September and, if you would like to see the talk, you can watch it here, but here is a summary of our plans:
We want to make discipleship the central purpose of our church. If you’ve been around church for a while, discipleship has become a word that means a special activity (usually a course) taken by the really keen people. This isn’t the Bible’s definition.
We looked at Ephesians 4:11-13, where Paul says the church is the place every believer learns how to live a Jesus-sized life, which includes doing the things God has for us, maturing and being in love with him. We want to start to take this seriously and put our effort into making church a place that helps this happen in our lives. We’re going to be thinking about, how do we, practically and in our everyday lives, become the sort of people Ephesians 4:12-13 talks about?
Jesus also describes this process of being discipled:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
To help this happen, for 2021 we want to make Hubs the heart of our church. Traditionally, the Sunday service has always felt like the central aspect of a church, but not only is this very hard to do with the coronavirus restrictions, we also don’t think the Sunday service is necessarily the best place for discipleship. Discipleship happens best in small communities where we can support, encourage and love one another.
Currently we don’t have enough small communities for everyone to find a place in a Hub. Also, when we started Hubs in 2020 we made a big deal about the missional project of each Hub, which wasn’t able to happen because of the lockdown anyway.
So over the next three months we’re going to undertake a ‘learning journey’ to prepare for 2021. We want to be clear about what and how of Hubs. We want to envision, recruit and train leaders. We want to give all of us a common understanding of the key ingredients of discipleship, so we’re on the same page.
We’re going to do this learning journey with a weekly 10-minute talk. These will be released as a video and podcast on Friday, but also as the talk for our Sunday online service. Ten minutes is a really good sized chunk to talk about a single idea or principle, which we can each then think about and consider how it would look in our own lives.
This means you can join in the journey in a way that suits you. However, we know from experience, it’s really good to find a weekly rhythm of engaging with this material. Also, if you’re able to do this with others (within the current rule of 6 or in a virtual meeting) it’s a much better way to learn, process and put into practice.
Launch and Elevate
Finally, we also know how hard it is for our under-18s to engage with church at the moment. We are looking to organise activities where the different age groups can get together in person. The aim of these are to build community, so they’ll be based around fun games and food, as much as any spiritual content. We’re currently surveying parents for the best time for these activities to happen and also looking for a suitable, covid-secure, venue.