Consequently you are no longer ... but now ...
Its an important concept for us as a church - we are here as a church not because of some static idea, but because something has happened. The consequently is there because of Jesus and what God has done in Jesus. Because of Him things have changed!
For it is because of Jesus that we are no longer foreigners/strangers/outsiders, people at a distance. Instead, because of Jesus, we are fellow citizens, joined with God's people, members of his household. It effectively gives us a new passport, and joins us to God's household, i.e. a big extended family, all of us come together, and every one of us important.
So the number one Big Thing for Us is that Church is People. But it is not any old people - it is a people because of Jesus, and what He has done. So at Countess Free Church we are a people walking together with Jesus in His mission - we are about Him, what He has done, and what He wants to do with us in the world.
That brings us to our second Big Thing: that for us Discipleship Matters. Its about what He has done, and how that is now working out in the rest of our lives - this is called 'discipleship'. Verse 20 says we are built on a foundation of apostles and prophets, on the chief cornerstone of Christ. This confirms that our roots are in Christ - without Him it makes no sense, yet such a foundation does not allow things to be simply static! With Christ things are dynamic - hence the apostolic and prophetic dimensions. These imply movement: apostolic implies being sent out, and the prophetic continually calls us back to the purposes of God. So this is not simply a club with a noble founding principle, but a movement. We don't follow traditions, we follow Jesus!
With the importance of discipleship we therefore urge anyone of any maturity to take responsibility for their own walk with Jesus, since for each of us in Countess Free Church our discipleship is mission critical. But we do not do that in isolation - we recognise that God called us to be in relationship with each other, and so we encourage people to find ways to Share the Walk, doing discipleship together.
Verse 21 introduces the concept of 'building', which is curious since it is so clear that church is people! V22 clarifies - the term 'building' is a metaphor, meaning the body of people. We together become "the building", in fact "a temple", i.e. a place where the presence of God resides and where people can discover God, a dwelling for His Spirit. This is massive! You, me, us together is a place where God dwells. He sets up home, forms an operational base for His work, making us a place where others can encounter Him.
Yet none of this makes any sense if we just keep a lid on it. So number three Big Thing for Us is Engagement with the Community. This is taking the lid off! We want to be open and generous, for God is at work, and we want to see that shared. Being a household/building/temple as a people is such a wonderful thing. It means when we go out there, scattered into work, community, places of play and so on, we go as church. We go as followers of Jesus, with His presence, able to minister, to declare Kingdom life.
Our vision as a church is to see Kingdom Life across the city.
If church was just a physical building, see how limited this would be! Yet if we go out as church we can do much much more. This is why we talk of Countess Free Church as a Resourcing Base with Discipleship in Mission. Every member is in mission, and expressed through the myriad things we do. Some are organised by us and for these we have Mission Activity Teams. But here is the thing: while some are physically in our building on Chapel Street, they are still conceptually out there in the periphery, where are discipleship is done in mission. In other words being physically in the building does not make it a 'resourcing base' activity, but rather a mission activity that makes use of the building as a resource.
The point is that each of us does our discipleship out there, in the mission field. Therefore we also consider our small groups and prayer partnerships and so on to be out in the periphery, helping us do our discipleship in mission.
There are other things which we can draw attention to (listed on our Big Things web page). Yet the fundamentals, the key to understanding about us as a church, lie in the foundations in Christ: what God has done in Christ and is now doing in the world through us as followers of Him. We are brought together to be a people by what Jesus has done. Our discipleship really matters. And with that we want to engage with the community.