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7 December 2014 Pastoral Letter: THE JOY OF GIVING THANKS!

“Give thanks to the LORD for He is good – His love endures forever”

Dear family and friends – fellow travelers on the road in Following Jesus!

I’m so enjoying following Jesus in personal companionship and community year by year, month by month, day by day. I choose joy, as Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I say, REJOICE!” (Phil 4:4). Why? Because “the joy of the Lord is our strength” (Neh 8:10). Despite all our hardships we must choose joy as Jesus’ younger brother taught: “Count it pure joy when you encounter trials of various kinds because God works in it to mature you” (James 1:2-3). How do we do that? By choosing to give thanks and praise to God in all things (see Eph 5:20).

The Psalmist instructs Israel in her journey of joy and suffering to “give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever!” Read Psalm 136 and see the many reasons why God’s people must praise him. We’ve come to the end of the year: the least we can do is to pause and think of all the reasons to give thanks to God. Today is our thanksgiving service to praise God for the specific things he’s done for us.

Gill and I want to thank God for a wonderful year of hard work with many challenges, but with victories and growth all round. We thank God for Following Jesus – we love it (“it” is all of you, but don’t take it personally!) We’re having such fun doing God’s work with you. We thank God for all who’ve worked so diligently and faithfully in volunteer ministry of all types, from worship and sound desk, to children’s church and youth, to prayer, healing and counseling, home group leading, marriage ministry, men’s and women’s ministry, welcome and assimilation, social transformation, etc, etc! If I had to mention names it would become a long list, but A BIG THANK YOU to God for each one (you know who you are!), for your love and service in Following Jesus and beyond.

A special thanks to Cathy Rocher for serving on the Oversight Team (OT) for many years. She now steps off OT but will continue to serve in various ways, including leading the Northwold home group. Welcome to four ‘newies’ in the OT, already walking an ‘intern journey’ with us – to either stay medium/long term or to step off at some point: Meg Willows, Nthabiseng Dladla, Jo Robolakis, and Lerato Moselane. And on welcoming… we thank God for church growth this year: a warm welcome to the new members who went through the Exploring Membership course and formally committed to walk the journey with us in Following Jesus. May you connect well, may God’s gifts in you enrich us all!

We thank God for the firm foundation we’ve been laying this year in Following Jesus – both as personal followers of Jesus and as church – Being God’s Beloved, pictured in the circled triangle of our three core values, each with four daily priority practices to make them a lived reality. Also, we thank God for the fruitful process of setting, before God, a five-year vision and plan. Make sure you get a bulletin every month as you enter church (keep it with you to see upcoming events), and read our Mission Statement on the front cover, and especially our 2020 Vision Statement on the back cover. Note the five key quality characteristics we’re aiming to fully grow into by the year 2020 and the quantity guidelines (communicated verbally) that give a practical picture of what we’re aiming at: a new or extended main hall for a worshipping congregation of 500 to 600, with all the implications in terms of home groups, children’s church, youth church, ministries, etc. This year we completed renovations and extensions to our existing hall, in terms of the toilet and kitchen facilities, and a new library and prayer room behind the stage. Much more is to come next year and following – exciting to see growth and expansion!

So we thank God for everyone who gave generously to make the building renovations possible. Please note: if you have extra to give over and above your tithes, we would appreciate you marking it ‘building fund’ so we can prepare for the development of VCC (Vineyard Community Centre – the church property). Thank you to all who have been faithful in tithes and offerings through the year. Our financial year runs from 1 Jan to 31 Dec. We will probably end this year with a surplus re our budget and expenses, thanks to a couple of sizable one-off gifts. On our regular tithes we’re still not making our projected budget of R110 000 per month. Next year’s challenge is to meet our budget and more, so that we’re able to expand our ministry in God. We all know times are tough financially, but I strongly encourage you to be faithful to God in your giving: Honour him with ‘the first-fruits’ of your income, and be specially careful NOT to overspend this festive season and come back financially stressed in January!

We pray for a blessed festive season for you, with special joy in celebrating God’s coming into this broken world in the baby of Bethlehem. Rest well. God keep you safe. And spend time with God to reflect and prepare your heart and mind for the new year.

God bless – from Alexander and Gill and the OT

Some initial key 2015 dates for Following Jesus events:

18 Jan, Sun: Vision Sunday – “Way Forward for 2015”
19-25 Jan, Mon-Sun: Week of prayer and fasting; Fri 23 Jan is our half night of prayer.
7 Feb, Sat 09:00-12:30: Spiritual Growth Ministry Retreat – training for all interested in SGM, re spiritual formation and guidance, preparing meditations, leading retreats, etc.
28 Feb & 7 March, both Saturdays, 09:00-11:30, Home Group leadership training
2-5 April, Thurs pm, Fri am, Sun am: Our three Passover/Easter services
17-18 April, Fri pm & Sat 09:00-13:30: Doing Reconciliation and Social Transformation conference for all our members and any people anywhere on planet earth!
8-9 May, Fri afternoon to Sat late afternoon: a Broader Leaders (BL) retreat
5 June: Fri night: “Following Jesus has Got Talent” fun evening for the whole church!

Alexander’s translocal ministry trips (diarize if you’re interested in coming along):

29-31 March, Sun-Tues: with City Life Church East London on Friendship with God
23-27 April, Thurs-Sun: “Doing Healing – The Equipping to Heal Conference” with Walmer Anglican in Port Elizabeth (and other invited churches)
12-18 May, Tues-Mon: Belgium trip to do healing conference with Brussels Vineyard
18-21 June, Thurs-Sun: Do “Kingdom Transformation – Personal and Social” conference with Glenridge church, Durban
16-19 July, Thurs-Sun: Church Unlimited & Vineyard in Nelspruit, to do The Equipping to Heal Conference
11-16 Aug, Tues-Sun: Global School of Supernatural Ministry and Harvest Church, Umhlanga Rocks, Durban
18-20 Sept, Fri-Sun: to do a conference at Durban North Vineyard (no theme as yet)
19-23 Oct, Mon-Fri: Vineyard National Conference in CT – all are welcome! After that… 23-25 Oct, Fri pm – Sun pm: doing the Equipping to Heal Conference at Knysna Vineyard