Personal Prayer

Material for Study and Reflection

A shared sense of purpose

In his second letter, Peter says, ‘We have everything we need to live a life that pleases God’ (2 Peter 1:5, CEV). Do you agree? What kind of life is it that pleases God? What resources has God given you to enable you to live a life that pleases him?
In his book, Conversion and the Origin of Christendom, Alan Kreider argues that in the early church, conversion meant a change in what people believed, a change in how they lived, and a change in terms of their readiness to commit to belonging to a church. Conversion thus affected what they believed, how they behaved, and whether they belonged. How important are belonging, believing and behaving to our understanding of conversion today?
Is belonging to a church an integral part of being a Christian? What does that belonging look like in a post-covid world? And what is the point of church anyway? The church is not an end in itself, but a means to an end – but what end? What is the purpose of church? What should our aims and goals as a fellowship be?
How do you measure a church’s output? One way is to count baptisms. That works if each and every baptism represents a life redeemed, turned round and dedicated to God’s purposes, but a cynic would say that counting baptisms simply measures how effective the church is at trying to perpetuate its own existence. Nevertheless, should we aiming for people to be ‘converted’ in accordance with Kreider’s understanding of the term? How could we be more effective in this field?
And what about our impact on our town? What if BRBC simply disappeared? Would Horsham notice? Would the town be adversely affected? If so, in what way?
The church, arguably, exists to provide five things: community – discipleship  - evangelism – service – worship. Do you agree? I have simply listed these in alphabetical order: is there a logical order, an order of priority for these five things? Is there anything you would like to add?
To what extent should we be intentionally focusing on these five objectives? Should they be the driving force behind our weekly church programme? Our staff team? Our Sunday services? What would Brighton Road look like if we were to become a ‘purpose-driven Church’ (to use Rick Warren’s phrase)? What changes would this entail – and would we (you!) be ready to embrace them?
At the start of his second letter, Peter focuses on personal qualities more than on programmes, suggesting that our effectiveness depends as much on the kind of people that we are, as it does on the amount we do. Certainly there is no point in being busy with bad grace! Peter seems to suggest that, if who we are is characterised by faith, goodness, understanding, self-control, patience, devotion to God, concern for others and love, then our lives will be meaningful and useful (2 Peter 1:5-8, CEV). Do you agree? If Peter is (even only partly) right, how do we set about developing these qualities in our own lives and in each other?
If you are doing this study with others, can you all agree on a shared sense of purpose as we move forwards together? In a single sentence, can you answer the question, ‘What is the point of Brighton Road?’
For thought and prayer…
For Soren Kierkegaard, the most important thing about truth is that we embrace it personally:
‘What I really lack is to be clear in my mind what I am to do, not what I am to know, except in so far as a certain understanding must precede every action. The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do; the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die…that is what I now recognise as the most important thing. That is what my soul longs after, as the African desert thirsts for water. That is what I lack, and that is why I am left standing like a man who has rented a house and gathered all the furniture and household things together, but has not yet found the beloved with whom to share the joys and sorrows of his life.’
(The Journals of Kierkegaard 1834-1854, Fontana 1958, 44; cited in Ward & Wild, The Lion Christian Meditation Collection).

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