It's now 12 months into the pandemic, and we've been fairly protected here in Western Australia. With the first lockdown, Cheers transitioned fairly well into Cell Church mode, using digital tech to relieve the isolated, and our usual small group discussion format to keep Biblically centred.
- the young adults settled into 4 groups
- our teens re-gathered quickly
- Church 247 met on alternate weeks in Home Groups, and gathered in the Community Hall as able.
Adults were less confident to lead Home Groups than I'd hoped. It's not so difficult to run a small group, especially when compared with meetings and other responsibilities they conduct at work, and they have all they need in terms of knowledge, skills and tools, yet most still seem bluffed by leading a small group around the Bible. Not sure what to do about that, but press on. However it does show the importance of training young people who seem to be more likely to learn and do the stuff.
During the year some of our young adults married and moved to the country, taking their training with them and we're cheering for them, confident that they will find ways to bless and benefit their new part of the world with the Gospel. Others have done this in the past, and more are set to do so in the next year or so. We pray this outflow will result in multiplied mission.
Biblical Feasts summary
Feasts are more than just great times. They bind communities together around shared concepts and experiences in common. Like a wedding feast celebrates around our common support of the union of these people. Likewise the feasts that God instructs his people to observe, bind them together too, around concepts core to their identity. And because these core concepts are fulfilled in Jesus, they are also about our identity too.
Due to our communion services, many of us already know how Passover relates to our life in Christ (the prophesied Messiah). Likewise, so do the other feasts.
1) Christ is the spotless Passover lamb, whose blood saved us from death, and slavery to sin.
2) Christ is also the Unleavened Bread, broken, wrapped, and buried to return later.
3) Christ is the First Fruits of the resurrection.
4) Christ’s Spirit is given at Pentecost /Weeks /Second Harvest, to gather Gentile believers as a second harvest.
5) Trumpets will announce the coming of Christ, the start of the age to come.
6) Christ will cover us on Atonement Day, the Day of Judgement - he's also The Judge - sorting out this mixed up world.
7) Finally Christ Shelters with us, as in the wilderness of this life, as he did as God in the flesh, and does now by his Spirit, he'll be with us in the Heavenly feast to come.
So although not all Christians observe these feasts, we can celebrate that Israel's core Scriptural feasts are fulfilled by the Messiah who grafts us in to His Story. Thus these feasts can bind us together very deeply.
New Life Church in Fremantle made these cards (I made minor embellishments) to consider how Jesus fulfils these Feasts, instituted in Lev23:1-44. Num29:12-34. Deut14-16.
2) Noel had a way of dignifying normal life. We college boarders saw each others’ bad hair days, and once Noel asked my friend for a razor to shave because he’d left his at home. He was not embarrassed because he was genuinely humble. He knew that his little moments were just as significant as his global work. His gracious attitude was the same in all circumstances, everything was a gift from Christ. From the podium to the kitchen he was Christ's grateful servant. This inspired the community with integrity from top to bottom. Lk16:10 faithful in little things
3) Noel kept Christ at the centre of the community. Without this, communities inevitably drift. But Noel’s communities stayed true. He would often remind us that the college was to teach us to “think theologically,” because through Scripture we get to know Christ. Noel knew both intimately, which is why often you could tell he was led by the Spirit to say just the right thing, to have that gracious humility, to love that enlivening way. If everyone bathed in the Word and the Spirit like that, counselling services would become redundant. Eph5:26 washed with the word
Each house at this school has a theme, Courage, Character, Compassion, and that of Vose house is Community. This might surprise if you only knew Dr GN Vose from his Wiki page, looking at all his academic achievements and the Theological College he started. But that College was a Vose-like - no, Christ-like - community. It pulled people together. And I’ll warrant that same enthusiastic community was a hallmark of Noel's presidency of the Australian Baptist Union, and then of the Baptist World Alliance: he pulled people together. Noel regenerated discussions between Baptists and Mennonites in a way that hadn't happened since 1630! He planted a new church at 70! Community was his legacy. Back then we used to tease him about being "The Pope of the Baptists.” But he kind of was - in the best sense of “papa,” building up all of us who came to orbit around his truly Christian community.
Don't Squander Your Chance
For many this forced layoff is a chance to reset our priorities and activities. The decks have been cleared for us. So what shall we do with this time? First thought: have a rest! Yessss!!! Watch some movies, read some books, sleep longer…. Maybe get some jobs done, clean up, sort out… But after you’ve caught up, then what?
Well, what do you consider most important after all?
Now is a great chance to start doing what you really deep down want to do.
How about these top five practices for life:
5) Be generous with toilet rolls. If we don't share when we have, who can we ask when we need?
4) Spend quality time with the people in your household. Don't be isolated in your screens, make time to reconnect. Have dinner around the table; ask "what do you thank God for today?"; play a board game; do some craft; a jigsaw… google family fun ideas.
3) Reconnect with extended family and friends via calls or videolink.
2) Re-introduce yourself to God. Actually pray. Get to know him better. Day by day. (We can help with Core Stuff, and the Bookmark of HPOWER).
1) Meet for prayer, care and sharing around the Bible, in groups of 3-6, via videolinks if necessary, to actively grow in the Spirit, and share the love with others. (Cheers can help with this, and get you BOPping!)
This virus, now, is an opportunity for humanity to turn back to God. Let’s take it.
As Ferris Beuler famously said, Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.
What is Cheers doing during the CV19 lockdown? Meeting in cells of 3-6 in homes, (digital attendance is also ok as long as it is person to person interaction, not anonymous viewing.) In some ways we’ve been doing groups of 3-6 for years whenever we gather around the word. Now we just have to do it at home. You’re welcome to look through our crash course summary on how we provide a balanced diet in the groups with a simple bookmark. We call it the Bookmark Of Power (BOP).
We see the CV19 lock-in as being in solidarity with Christians in China who can’t meet in groups bigger than 5, so when they hit 6 it is time to split, and by then both triplets need to have someone who can lead. Thus it empowers and multiplies - it disciples. I can see why God might want to equip us all in such a way. So let's make the most of this time. Perhaps our BOPs will work for you in your own circles. Here's youtube's Cheers Playlist for the CV19 lock-in.
Keep Moving Forward is morphing to Keep Moving Closer.
During the year we continued working to empower our people to follow Jesus in helping others follow Jesus too. The teenagers and young adults seem most able to adapt, develop, and try new things. In third term two pilot groups started.
- A pilot youth group in Ellenbrook proved too difficult to sustain...
- The new "Rookies" group for upper primary schoolers is kicking on into the new year led by three young people.
- A new 18+ group looks ready to commence this term as well, led by a handful of young people. [Update: The Shed has established itself well this year. ]
In both instances they will continue to use simple tools featured in BOOST training.
At Camp in April 2019, Cheers focussed all the more on not just moving forward in mission, but moving closer in relationship. Using games, objects, and clips from the movie Epic, Geoff illustrated the book of Philippians during all-age “Family Times” after breakfast. Teens+adults dug deeper after younger ones’ bedtime. The Way is a Person, His death and resurrection, His Way of discipling, His Spirit, and His Body.
The Pathway is a Person! Human nature makes it too easy to turn love into a task, mission into a method. We want to have our love with Jesus motivating and overflowing into spirit-led action. We want to be led by his Spirit, not merely our conscience.
So Cheers 247 continues to focus on the books of the Bible (using thebibleproject.com), where they fit in the big picture, and what the Spirit is saying to us through them. The repeating themes include the Gospel which is that we are given righteousness, the Goal of which is growing relationships. And our young people are putting themselves in lead situations where they have to rely on God more - they keep moving closer.
And so we remain hopeful that we will eventually (pray soon) multiply outwards to bless and benefit Banksia Grove and beyond.
The theme for 2018's Banksia Grove Family Camp was "Through Heaven's Eyes." Using this graphic and the movie Prince of Egypt we learned that through Heaven's Eyes we can see: WHOLE truth, with our heart, mind, soul, strength, not just a selfish fragment; WORTH of people; WONDERS of God all around us; WORLD history as HIStory.
Families worked together on: a family crest (depicting your family values heart, mind, soul, strength); sock doorstops for each valued family member; white-crayon paintings showing where God is at work perhaps unseen; and a 7-Color Story booklet showing the arc of all good stories, of the Gospel, and of Biblical/World History.
As usual Camp was a great boost for the relationships between families, between family members, and between us and God. This year saw the further development of about 8 high quality young adults, developed at Cheers, now taking on much of the responsibilities that make camp run. This made it that much easier for all concerned. The same young adults also are playing various roles in delivering BOOST to other young people. They are advancing along The Pathway.
Last year we were joined by a gentle soul with a true prophetic gift, having died, visited, and returned from heaven. We were just beginning our study of Revelation, and she could confirm numerous aspects of it for us. So unassuming, she's a real blessing. Also, early this year we had a new family move in to the neighbourhood with a fully functional Christian mum & dad. Sadly that's a rarity where we live, and we are thanking God that they've thrown their lot in with us.
We continue to look to God for the nooks and crannies to bless and benefit Banksia Grove and beyond. The life in this movement is wonderful to be a part of. We continue to work and pray for open hearts with whom to share the Gospel of Jesus, and for some of our trainees who are becoming trainers to launch and multiply elsewhere what God is doing here.
Looking back so far this year...
Church 247 continues Sunday afternoons at the Banksia Grove community Centre. It has settled into a routine based on Discovery Bible Study, Looking Back (did you do what you said you would last time?) Looking Up (prayer, worship, Bible Study, listening for what God is saying to us), Looking Forward (planning to obey that word, community announcements, engaging with the neighbourhood). We've worked through Mark, now a series on varieties of mission (including doing Clean Up Day and Tree Day in our time slot), and look likely to tackle Revelation in term 4.
Cheers' Family Camp theme was Hearty Times, appreciating the role of various emotions, based on the Bible, using the movie Inside Out. We learned that:
From J-Walkers to J-Workers.
Building from last year's theme, Keep Moving Forward, we have been training the young people forward along a pathway toward leadership and mission. They are no longer just Walking with Jesus, they are also Working with Jesus - J-Workers. They run their own studies, help run Church 247, get involved in blessing and benefiting their neighbourhoods, schools, and workplaces. They are now beginning to step into camp leadership roles. This training is open to all ages, but it is mostly young adults attending - and growing forward. This is where BOOST is beta tested.
Previous Cheers logs back to the beginnings in 2003 can be found here.