Our priorities

These can be remembered under the headings of tree, tasks and time.

In the Old Testament Isaiah describes God's people as "oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendour" (Isaiah 61v3).

This picks up our over-arching goal, which is to honour God, to display his splendour - by speaking of it to others and showing it by living transformed lives.

Prioritising three tasks
The more trees grow upwards, the more every branch reaches outwards. And so we recognise that our three primary tasks as churches are:
  1. to grow up in Christ. The New Testament expects Christians to be continually deepening their faith, knowledge and godliness. It is by this means that they increase in righteousness - their love for God and others. Paul speaks of this as becoming "mature" or adult as believers (Ephesians 4v13-16).
  2. to reach out to the world. Again, the New Testament expects all Christians to do their best to love their neighbour, and particularly by helping them come to hear about and consider who Jesus is and what he has done. So we read that the believers scattered from Jerusalem "spoke the word wherever they went" (Acts 8v4).
  3. to involve every member. The New Testament also expects every Christian to play a regular part in the operation of the church. A church that relies only on a few is a church that stunts its growth. Instead, the Spirit gives gifts or abilities to every person so that they can serve in certain ways "for the common good" (1 Corinthians 12v4-7).
Prioritising our time
For trees to grow, they need to be planted in good soil, fed on good nutrients and watered regularly by rain. And so we seek to reflect the passions of the early Christians who "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, to the fellowship and to prayer" (Acts 2v42). As we do we recognise that in our busy day this means a prioritising of our time.
  1. The fellowship: A good church is the good soil we so desperately need to be planted in if we are to survive and thrive as Christians. So we prioritise time for church, ensuring that we are away as little as possible on Sundays so that we can gather for worship, that we make the most of homegroups and deepening our relationships informally through socials, hospitality etc. By these means we are able to learn together and help and encourage one-another to live the Christian life.
  2. The apostles' teaching: This alone gives us the nutrients we need to grow. And note that we need to be deeply rooted in the soil of the church to fully receive them. So we prioritise time for stretching and relevant Bible teaching, in services, mid-week groups and by taking ten minutes or so daily to read our Bibles with helpful notes. The early church was far more ambitious here than many Christians are today. The New Testament stresses again and again the importance of teaching.
  3. Prayer: Here we recognise our need for God to water his word by his Spirit, bringing the life and fruit Jesus so regularly spoke of. So we prioritise time for prayer in services, groups, prayer meetings and privately on a daily basis, praising God for his goodness and petitioning him for help in fulfilling our three tasks.
All this can be seen in the diagram below. We fulfil our tasks of mission, maturity and ministry through giving ourselves to church, the Bible and prayer. Of these church is our greatest priority as it is the hub from which our commitment to all else stems.