I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
As we look forward to a new ministry year at TCC, we have felt it helpful to pause and reflect on what God has done this past year, and consider what God is leading us into for the year to come. Last year, our Partners in the Gospel theme rooted in Philippians helped us launch new initiatives such as “First Sundays Together“, a refreshed 11am education hour, and renewed partnerships in missions and giving, culminating in our first all-church service blitz, Serve 72. It was a great year!
Our Theme this Year
Every Spring our staff team begins to prayerfully discuss potential themes for the following ministry year. We also consider the insights of the congregation and our own observations of the life of this community. During the past few months, Jesus’ words above from John 15:5 kept coming to the top as a key verse for our church.
Jesus’ words, “I am the vine, you are the branches,” is a call to vulnerably trust God to the point that our connection with him produces Christlike thoughts, emotions and actions.
“In a nutshell, abiding in Christ means allowing His Word to fill our minds, direct our wills, and transform our affections.”Sinclair Ferguson, “In Christ Alone”
Out of that connection flows a flourishing lifestyle which produces an abundance of many kinds of fruit. Sometimes fruit can be internal changes in our own lives: generosity, patience, a renewed love for God’s Word, or other fruits of the Spirit. Other times fruit can be external: friends turning to Christ, changed relationships or physical needs met with abundance.
Jesus then said, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit, and apart from me you can do nothing.” These words are at the same time both a great source of fear and of comfort. The branch does nothing to produce fruit on its own. Its only job is to stay connected to the vine. Cut off from the vine, the branch withers away and dies.
Are we connected to (abiding in) Christ, our source of life? Or are we cut off and struggling to produce life on our own?
In the parable of the growing seed (Mark 4:26-29), Jesus reminds us that we don’t need to worry ourselves with exactly how to produce fruit (“the farmer knows not how”), we should just be faithful to the tasks given to us.
What exactly does that look like? Here are several ways we hope to thrive in 2019-2020.
Our Focus this Year
LIFE Groups Cultivate Faith
Jesus tells his disciples to abide or remain in him. The Greek word here, meno, often translated abide or remain, also means “live” or “remain in one place for a time.” For us, this is a call not only to remain connected to God through prayer and Bible study, but through the many ministries with which we already play a part. When we stick with it, God will produce the fruit.
One such ministry we want to prioritize is LIFE groups. Within these small groups we cultivate true friendships and build environments of transparency and encouragement. We like to think of them as little churches. Within each of our 16 LIFE Groups is a community that cares and supports one another, prays for each other, serves together, and studies God’s word.
We want to invest in these groups, and especially in the LIFE group leaders. We want to support and train them to teach how to study the Bible and help them as they care for people in their homes. This year, we will bring more training to LIFE group leaders through special training sessions and more pastoral visits to LIFE groups.
“Saturday Seminary” – GCTS @ TCC
Our Christian Education hour on Sunday morning will continue with new classes in the fall (at 9:30am – stay tuned for announcements on new classes). We are also partnering with Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary to offer a unique seminary course right here at TCC! Dr. Jim Singleton, Associate Professor of Pastoral Leadership and Evangelism, will teach “Evangelism and Discipleship in the Local Church,” made possible at a very low cost in part through a grant from a Lily Endowment and through support from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. That class is offered September 20-21 & October 25-26, 2019, and space will fill up quickly, so signup soon! Read more about that course and register here.
3. Bearing Fruit
Loving others with service to the community
Last year’s church-wide service project (Serve 72) was such a great reminder that we want to be a church that serves others. As we helped our neighbors with yard work and cleaning, we made connections and built relationships. In addition to our Guatemala mission trip and other short-term trips, as well as our work at the Bridge House, Pearl Street Cafe and Emmanuel Gospel Center, we hope to continue these service projects in the fall. We are organizing a service blitz centered on doing yard work for the local elderly and those in need. We will also participate in another spring Serve 72 weekend. We hope that the projects and relationships sparked by initial church service projects will be a catalyst for deeper relationships with our neighbors and more potential possibilities to serve others.
We also look forward to renewed efforts from our Deacons in opening up the Deacon’s fund to support new special projects to serve our community. This fund is an effort to make our mission to serve one another as the body of Christ a tangible reality, encourage deep and supportive community ties within TCC, and reach out into the broader community of MetroWest as an example of the love and light of Christ. The goal is two-fold: 1) to use the funds collected by the Deacons to serve real needs within our community: home maintenance, babysitting, meals, companionship, etc. and 2) to encourage members to actively seek out needs that may be small or unspoken but, being met, would serve as opportunities of love and connection. Learn more about the Deacon’s Fund.
Starting something new at 11am
We are focused on how we engage our entire church community on Sunday mornings. To that end, we are excited to offer a new worship service at 11am.
What will the new format look like? We are in active prayer and conversation mode on the particulars of the order of worship. The non-negotiables of our worship hour at 9:30am are not changing (a blend of hymns with other scripture-based and theologically rich spiritual songs; the centrality of Christ and His atoning sacrifice and forgiveness; the importance of confession and intercession; the centrality of the reading and proclamation of the Word; giving as a full act of worship; focus on mission and evangelism). At 11am, we will continue TCC’s passion for authentic and reverential worship and will enhance participation. In the tradition of Tim Keller, we will include Q&A time with Pastor Tom after the sermon as well as time to respond to the message with a few discussion questions to help us apply the word to our lives.
There are several reasons why we want to modify the 11am service with adaptive changes. First, we want TCC to be a house of blessing and prayer to people of all ages and life stages. As we actively seek to reach our non-Christian friends and neighbors, including area college students and young adults, we pray that this modified service will be a place where they can connect. With outreach to young adults we are renewing the tradition of Pastor Don Ewing who had an active and successful ministry to college students in the area.
Second, children’s and student ministry leaders and some volunteers attend the 11am service, sometimes with families in tow. We want to make sure we provide a worship hour that has the same energy and enthusiasm as the first service. The purpose here is to continue toward the goal of multi-generational worship, so all our volunteers feel the sanctuary is also their own place to worship the Lord.
Third, we have reached capacity in the 9:30am, while we see the 11am consistently underpopulated. We hope that by creating a new format, some people who normally attend 9:30am who prefer a different format will want to join a new service at 11am. This will help open up seats for more new people to come at 9:30am (our main worship hour, with full Children and Student ministries services).
We are confident that as we invoke His presence at both 9:30am and 11am, the Lord will make Himself manifest so that we might draw closer to Him, until the day comes when the knowledge of the Glory of the Lord will cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14).
So that is what we want to do this coming year as a church. Or rather, it is what we believe God wants to do to us. He wants us to thrive! Join us as we follow Jesus this year and celebrate with us each Sunday in worship.