A pearl without price
Looking back at 2016 and forward into 2017
Jesus told us these parables: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. Matthew 13:44-46
Let us reflect, where was the pearl without price last year? Where is it buried in 2017?
The Lord spoke to us in many ways last year, not least through our times of prayer and fasting (Taking Stock in January and then Prepare the Way in September – see below for some of the words and prophecies we have received). At the beginning of 2016 I shared two things that the Lord had given us: one was that we were going to make steps toward becoming a more invitational church. The other was that we would buy a building in Headingley.
Over the course of the year we have learnt what it means to make an invitation, how we were first the glad recipients of an invitation and how making an invitation to others is just the start of the gospel story. We learnt that the way people respond is not the measure of success but overcoming our fears to make the invitation is. We are not done on learning to be invitational but we have made a start.
When I said we were going to buy a building I confess it was a leap in the dark! Partly because we would have been unable to buy anything until we sold the Vineyard Centre and partly because there is very little commercial property for sale in Headingley. We reach the end of the year without having bought a building but we have sold the Vineyard Centre and we have found a building we could buy.
Both of these were God-given steps forward. So we find ourselves entering 2017 on the cusp of making an offer on a building which will transform our presence in Headingley. I hope to say a lot more about this at the end of January.
The Lord has revealed a pearl of great price in this opportunity. It will be a costly pearl and will mean sacrifice and a big step of faith but the prize is worth it.
There were many treasures last year:
We baptised 8 people;
Dedicated 5 children;
Assisted in 1 funeral;
Tim Boocock and I did a pulpit swap and our working relationship with the Methodist congregation has gone from strength to strength. It is a good witness to the community;
Ivan & Libby continued to minister in Mexico and Ruth in Asia. Rob invested 6 months working with children in South Africa;
We celebrated and thanked the Newman family for their years of inspired ministry amongst us and then pointed them North as they set about preparing to plant the Edinburgh Vineyard in 2017;
Toward the end of the year we ran “Reverse Advent” and your generosity resulted in 21 presents for the families involved in our Child Contact Centre and 53 hampers for individuals and families within and beyond our church community;
We closed our Debt Advice Centre but celebrated a precious 5 years of highly successful ministry to scores of people thanks to the amazing Gwen Procter and her team;
The Child Contact Centre continues to provide an essential service to the community with an average of 5-8 families attending every fortnight;
Every month the Healing on the Streets team are out in Headingley praying for people and sharing God’s love;
Our small groups continue to flourish, increasing in number and variety with some 27 groups running by the end of the year with 175 people attending (our best year ever);
20 people attended Alpha (our best year ever) and 4 people decided to follow Jesus as a result;
We have been able to welcome a whole bunch of new students with well over 20 attending regularly and involved in the life of the church (our best year ever);
The sanctuary is regularly full for weekly worship on Sunday mornings with over 300 people attending our Christmas services;
We have been privileged to have prayed for hundreds of people and seen God heal and restore many lives. I continue to be overwhelmed by the Lord’s mercy to us as individuals and as a congregation.
His kingdom is truly a pearl without price.But great treasure awaits us in 2017 too. The Lord is at work in Headingley and we will unearth precious pearls in the coming months as we seek his kingdom. Pray and prepare and keep seeking. If we are to take hold of the pearl of great price we will also need to make sacrifices, not least in our wallets and purses!
Just as we did in 2016, in 2017 we will say a sad goodbye to some friends but we will also gladly welcome many new people into the church community. The biggest challenge will be buying the building but we will continue to dig up other precious pearls as we worship, teach and pray for one another.
I expect that we will dedicate many more children and baptise many more people. We’ll be telling hundreds the good news, praying for the sick and the lost and seeing them healed, restored and turning to follow Jesus. We’ll be feeding the hungry and caring for broken families. We’ll be bidding farewell to the Newman family and continuing to support Ivan & Libby in Mexico and Ruth in Asia. Finally, look out for party times, kicking off with Hygge in January!
Our teaching theme for 2017
Our teaching theme for 2017 will be, “Who is Jesus”. It seems that our post-Christian world is often oblivious to this hero of history, this titan of the universe - and so we will learn more about who he was, who he is and who he will be. Be prepared because, just as the man in the parable sold all he had to buy the field for the treasure, the more you learn about Jesus the more precious this pearl becomes and the more you will be challenged in your response!
A lot of our teaching will be based on the gospel of Mark. I also commend Tim Keller’s book King’s Cross as a good introduction to the theme.
Alison and I consider it a joy and a privilege to belong to Leeds Vineyard. We are so very grateful to the many alongside whom we have served in 2016 and we look forward to doing so again in what promises to be an exciting and challenging 2017. We wish you a Happy New Year and invite you to press on with us into 2017 as we search for the pearl of great price!
Here is a small selection of the words and prophecies shared in the Engine Room during the month of prayer and fasting:
Alison – “they are loved by you” (changing the words of the song toward the people around us rather than us - from Good good Father).
Annette – Let us be even more open. There is still a fear of opening our doors. Everyone is welcome.
Jeffrey – Be open to invite people. Come and see. Thinking about the invitation of Jesus to Zacheus.
Sally W – Ambulances remind us of the call to be rescuers (pastorally & as a GP). We are being challenged to find more ways to be open – dressing station, 1st Aid.
Theresa – Psalm 139 - if I go to White’s, Costa, Headingley stadium, the library, the Arndale Centre … you are there.
Restore O Lord the honour of your name. There have been many vibrant churches in Headingley over the centuries, his desire is to root a change that will last.
Anna – Hospitality. Not just entertaining but a posture of the heart (Romans 12 in the Message). Steady & constant calling, personal God, get along with each other and God. A life of invitation begins in the soil of the heart cultivated by the love of the Father.
Anne Button – a picture of poverty within one mile of HM. 2017 is the year of plenty, so we ask God to make us generous to feed the hungry. No to poverty, yes to generosity. No to loneliness, yes to family. Let us feed all the hungry within that radius.
Picture of businesses in Headingley, with embers glowing inside. God is doing stuff with those people, he is working in them. Do not be discouraged.
The doors are wide open. People going in and out, lots of people.
When Jesus fed the poor he did it miraculously and it drew people to him. We want to bring people to Jesus not just meet their needs or do good things.
The new £5 note. Don’t be afraid of the new £5 note. It is better, longer lasting just as valuable as the old one – even if it is new and smaller.
Keys - we have to use them. Revelation is about knowing Jesus and who we are, so what does using the key mean? Make us constant users of the keys of the kingdom.
And during a trustee meeting Steve shared this – “I see Persian carpet, which starts with the simple crossing of two threads. We’re starting to cross the threads. A blanket for Headingley – bringing comfort, protection, warmth, love for Headingley. It looks beautiful.”