It's customary at this time of year to look back and reflect. It's also a time set aside for looking forward.
I'd love to share that process with you for a moment.
If you know Sian-Lee and I you'll know we aren't really into making a big deal of things or taking too much of the lime light. At the same time it is a really important thing to celebrate what God is doing and has done. As Pete Greig rightly says - "We find faith for the things to come in the celebration of what's already been done".
So let's celebrate for a moment. This year as a church community we've had opportunity to pray for many people on the streets, seeing God heal chronic back and shoulder pain, partially deaf ears, and lead a few people to invite the risen Christ for the first time into their story. We've given 25 women in crisis a glimpse of hope, in the form of a 'box of hope', partnering with Foyle Women's Aid. We've given over 50 bags of food to the pantry project to be distributed to the poorest in our city. Our Sunday gatherings have grown, our kids by 60% and adults by nearly 50%. We've been able to bless families affected by the floods both financially and in practical ways, the highlight for us was throwing a BBQ in St Cannices. It was as if the atmosphere changed in the streets of the estate from despair to a glimpse of hope. We've seen 12-16 people show up at Alpha, a number of whom are exploring Jesus for the first time. We've been so encouraged by our kids growing in their faith and confidence in Christ, praying for others and sharing prophetic words for the church. It's been thrilling to watch many of you step out in risk to see the addicted set free, to see the foreigner find shelter and food, to serve the least. The stories we hear of you praying for your co-worker, inviting people into your homes, sitting with the broken to listening to their story are incredible. We applaud you. There is so much to be thankful to God for, so many things to celebrate.
As we look forward to 2018 it is with full hearts and also with anticipation. One of the challenges of leading a community of people and also of following Jesus is that His dreams for our lives and for our cities are so much beyond our imagination. We can't even begin to comprehend the breadth and depth of them. So, we choose celebrate what God is doing and say thank you as we breathe in and as we breathe out towards 2018 we let our hearts fill with faith and expectation. We know there is so much to be done, so many in our city who don't know the beauty of Christ, His love and transforming power. There are so many needs. And yet God has called us to get involved, partnering with Him to see his Heavenly Way established in our world. So we wake up to 2018, to the dreams God is stirring in us, to the pain around us, to the beauty of Jesus and we say YES! Yes, Lord! To quote our friends from Causeway Coast Vineyard in their prayer RELENTLESS - "To my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ I say, however, whenever, wherever, and whatever you ask me to do, my answer in advance is YES. Wherever you lead and whatever the cost I'm ready. Anytime, anywhere, anyway - whatever it takes Lord, whatever it takes."
Here's to 2018!