We are growing.
We’ve prayed for growth since before we started The Oak. Many of those who planted with us and have joined us since have prayed, fasted, cried out, pleaded and sought God for growth in maturity (depth) and in number (breadth). It feels like every visitor and every person who has given their life to God has been fought for in prayer. We have seen God do wondrous things in us over these past five years.
And, we are growing.
We have been through seasons of no growth and now a season of growth. We are currently hovering around 100 people who call The Oak their church, a number we have prayed we’d reach for almost two years. It’s awesome. There, I’ve said it. It’s awesome. When you cried out for it and you see it, it’s awesome – awesome because I am in awe at what God is doing in and through us as a people, awesome because it’s something we are unable to do but that God is – He is awe inspiring!
People are finding God. People are getting healed. People are discovering the richness of God in the pain of suffering. People are being sent to other nations. People are getting free of addiction. People are finding community.
More than all of that, God is being worshipped on a Sunday, in our Oak Communities, in our Life Groups, in our workplaces, schools and colleges, in our tots groups, Treehouse groups, Oak Youth groups and our work with vulnerable adults and families.
And, we are growing.
But growth brings about change. Change that, whilst sometimes difficult, creates the space for the next stage of growth. Many things that were easy when we were tiny are now a little more complicated. Things we took for granted need some shape and things we were able to do in one season need changing to release potential in the next.
So here’s a few.
- We are being flexible with our space.
As we figure out how to create space for a growing Oak Youth on a Sunday led by our incredible volunteer team we’ll need to move things around. As we welcome almost 50 people each week into our ‘Coffee & Chaos’ tots groups we will need to start clearing up the chairs from the upstairs hall every Sunday after the gathering.
- We are being mindful of our visitors.
We have guests. We went through a season where we had hardly any visitors. Now we have visitors every week and often people who are wanting to find out more about Jesus. It’s so encouraging to watch the church welcome, sit with, make coffee for and pray with new people every week often inviting people to a mid-week group of some kind. We have people knocking on our door during the week looking for help and healing – our door is open.
- We are being focused on who we are.
Our vision, to build communities that are rooted in god and serving the world, becomes more and more honed as we grow. It’s important that what we do matches up with what we believe and what we feel called to do. It means we haven’t created a conference centre with our building but a family space to be used by the church for the community. It means we prioritise the growth of our oak communities and life groups as places of pastoral care rather than a ’top-down’ pastor model because we believe the church is a people not a hierarchy.
- We are investing in our children.
We used to gather on a Sunday, only 18 months ago, around 30 people including children. We are now gathering 70-80 regularly with a staggering 40% children. That means we have gone from 5-10 children at our gatherings to often nearing 30. That is incredible and such an opportunity, but it means we need to think about how we lead our children in worship. It means we need to invest in our children’s resources and children’s teams. We have recently employed James Archer for a day a week to continue to grow our work with our children and will be almost trebling our 0-18 budget next year to facilitate the growth. This is just the start.
- We are being a family.
We have recently moved the church toys that used to be at the back of our upstairs room to the new ‘Nest’ room downstairs on a Sunday morning. We have realised that whilst the toys help to keep our children busy (mine included), they inadvertently teach our children two things:
1. That Sunday Gatherings are an unstructured free play time where adults sing and children play. We want our children to learn through play (our entire children’s work is set up that way!) but we need to encourage our children with appropriate play that helps them to learn to join with the whole church in worshipping God, joining with their parents in learning songs, dancing in worship, praying for the sick and growing in their walk with God. I was so encouraged this week to hear of a child who had been at our Gathering on Sunday singing one of the songs over and over again - truth sinking deep into her heart.
2. That Sunday Gatherings are about the individual. Somehow, and this varies from child to child, we need to help our children (and our adults) grow in responding to what God is doing in our lives and the lives of those around us – that on a Sunday the primary goal is to lift up God and lift each other up to Him. That someone may be crying and need prayer, that someone may be dancing and need a partner to boogie with, that someone might be stuck, unable to focus or see God and need to see someone else find Him for them to know He’s there. We are a family – everyone, and we all have a part to play, as the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthian church: Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
We know it’s hard, believe us, we're tackling this head on with our four wonderful children: choosing to help them encounter God, encouraging them to dance with other people in the church, to enjoy worship and singing, sometimes needing to sit down and talk through how a four-year-old grasps that. We're not saying it’s easy, if we're honest, facilitating their play was just as hard – but there’s an opportunity here and we need to take it. This isn’t about noise, this is about an opportunity.
- We are seeing our differences and pursuing unity.
As we are growing, the diversity in the church is growing – it’s a wonderful thing to see and something we’ve prayed for. But as we grow we need to see our differences, see past them and unify around Christ – forsaking all others for the sake of knowing Christ Jesus. We need to help people find ways to be part of the body even when we’re difference – to join life groups, to be part of a community, to find help.
- We are growing our leadership and governance structures.
Our Leadership Team is now working with a new ministry team (those leading specific areas in church life) to prayerfully find ways of growing, supporting and encouraging every aspect of church life. We are working on the policies and procedures (not very glamorous I know) suitable for The Oak as she grows to be a safe, accountable, stable and growing community of faith and hope.
- We are reaching the nations.
We started the church with a dream to reach and serve the nations both here in the city and across the world. We are currently supporting Ellen in Cambodia, working with those rescued from trafficking; Andrey in Ukraine and India, planting churches and raising leaders in new places and war torn cities; Joel, Amie, Neil and Becky in Istanbul, as they plant a new church in a huge city. We are a part of that. That means we are investing in these nations with finances, staffing, mission’s teams (2017) and regular skype conversations. Look out for the new nations walls appearing in the next few months.
These are just a few ways in which we are growing. And everytime we grow it’s both painful and joyful. We get to do new things and grow in God in the process. In every season there is an opportunity. This season presents an opportunity to grow again. Grow in God and grow in number.
May God bless you as you love and serve Him and grow you in ways you could never have thought or imagined.
Yours in Christ