A quick read of the New Testament shows us a picture of a mobile and dynamic church. A church committed to each other, but also to making an impact in their towns and cities, and to the task of reaching the world with the good news of Jesus Christ.
Today in the UK, we have a well-developed network of 12,500 Church of England parishes. This parochial approach is an amazing reminder of the spread of the church into every corner of our nation, as parishes were planted after pioneering ministry. We see a similar network of chapels in Wales, reminding us of the great revivals in that nation.
However, many church buildings and chapels today have been sold and repurposed. And 'parochial thinking' ('parish thinking') has become a byword for small-minded thinking, with civic Parish Councils often trivialised, considered to handle only the minutiae of life.
Back in Acts, we see that God doesn't want parochial thinking, but rather what we might call pioneering or apostolic thinking.
The word apostolic, which at its root simply means 'sent'. As OCC, we know that God's heart for us is to be an apostolic church, a resource church, a sent church, with a big dream for our world. You can read more about our dream here, and about our understanding of 'apostolic' here. (Incidentally, this idea of being an apostolic church is not a unique idea to OCC: read about new resource churches and the minster model in the Church of England.)
OCC, we're called not to be a 'parish church', thinking only about West Oxford (where our building happens to be) or even the City as a whole (where most of our people live and work).
Think big - think apostolically!
Rather we're called to "think big, very big", and to "extend the place of our tent" (Is 54). That calling comes from our foundations when the church was planted. It fits with Oxford city as a place of education, training and going - and increasingly as a City of many nations. Of course, it is also God's call for his whole church: "Go and make disciples of the nations!" (Mt 28).
Thinking more about being an apostolic church, here are 9 characteristics of the sort of church God wants to build:
- A church with vision: having a non-parochial, big, multi-ethnic vision for nations/people groups
- A church with team: multiplying team(s) with diverse gifts, to train and develop leadership
- A spiritual church: a prayerful church, filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit
- A training church: a teaching and training base
- A sending church: sending and supporting people into communities, the marketplace and nations
- A pioneering church: pioneer innovative approaches, developing
- An engaged church: playing our part in the flourishing of society where we are
- A connected church: growing partnership in our in city and beyond
- A generous church: resourcing others, with people, resources and finance
For more on this you might like to listen again to this talk from November 2018.
What does this mean for you? How is God calling you to give, serve, learn, grow while you are part of OCC? When it's time to move on, how about asking God to make that a purposeful move in his purposes?