Our vision as a church is to see a ‘great awakening of faith in Jesus, transforming Fulham and beyond’. We’re inspired by what we read of the early church where God stirred people to faith in Jesus through the proclamation and the demonstration of the good news of Jesus, in the context of generous and sacrificial fellowship, growing in God’s word with a priority of prayer. Each time the church prioritises these things we see growth and Kingdom life and that’s what we want to see here too.
This is big picture stuff, but what does this actually look like on the ground week to week? What is our part to play in this? Mark 1.17 seems to capture it very simply when Jesus says,‘come follow me and I will make you fishers of mankind’. Essentially Jesus says, ‘follow me and help others follow me too’. As we do this in our own contexts, each in our own ways and under God, we begin to see glimpses of an awakening of faith in Jesus. We have hundred of stories over the last number of years of people being strengthened and challenged in their faith or coming to faith and trust in Jesus for the first time.
Someone once asked us, ‘What is it you want people to feel when they come in through the doors, or into the community of St Alban’s church?’. Immediately our hearts were stirred as we thought about the answer. If we had to choose just three things, right at the core of who we are, we want everyone to understand and experience in a new way, that in Christ Jesus:
1. WE ARE LOVED – If we could summarise the Bible in three words, it would be ‘God Loves You’. We see this ultimately on the cross as Jesus stretched out his hands in sacrificial love. The son of God giving up his life for you and for me. The gospel in one verse is found in John 3.16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life’. We will spend the rest of our lives and the rest of eternity marvelling at and revelling in the love of God.
2.WE ARE NOT ALONE – Faith isn’t an individual private pursuit. There are lots of metaphors in the New Testament which show us something of interrelationship with others in the church. When we put our faith and trust in Jesus we are being adopted into the family of God (Ephesians 1.5); we are members of one body (Romans 12); we are ‘living stones’ being built together into a spiritual house (1 Peter 2.5). The early church saw that faith is best lived out in the context of community which is why we read that they ‘devoted’ themselves to fellowship’ (Acts 2.42). We are encouraged to love one another, bear with one another serve one another. We can’t do this on our own and we weren’t meant to.
3.WE HAVE A PURPOSE – Our chief purpose is to worship God and enjoy him forever. So wherever we are and whatever we are doing it’s in the context of worship. More specifically God has blessed us so that we may be a blessing to others around us. Even more specifically, God has given us unique passions, gifts, experiences and abilities that he wants to use to bless those around us. We read in Ephesians 2.10 – ‘We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do’
People describe values as ‘the way we do things around here’. These are the things we prioritise and do as we carry out our vision. They describe something of what we value as a community and that are important to us. Values are things that are typical of St Alban’s:
WE PRAY – Jesus continually withdrew by himself to pray and talk with God, he taught his disciples how to pray, and he rebuked the proud elaborate prayers practised by the Pharisees of the day. Prayer was such a prominent feature of Jesus’ life and ministry. Prayer is a ‘two-way conversation with God’ (C.H. Spurgeon), and through Jesus we now have access to God the Father who hears our needs, longs to extended his Kingdom on earth as in heaven and partners with us and our prayers to make that happen. What a powerful gift prayer is, and as a church we are utterly devoted to the private and corporate practise of prayer. Prayer undergirds all that we do.
WE WELCOME – People who come along to St Alban’s always say how much they feel welcomed and at home when they come along to an event or a service. That is wonderful. Our doors are open wide like the arms of Jesus on the cross who welcomed ‘all who are thirsty’ and ‘whoever believes’. There are no qualifications for entry into the Kingdom of God, just faith and trust. As the community of God’s people we simply extend the welcome of heaven.
WE SERVE – We take our lead from Jesus who said that leadership in the Kingdom looks predominantly like servant leadership. The world tells us that to get ahead we need to exert power and control over others. This isn’t the way of the Kingdom. Jesus ‘gave his life as a ransom for many’. One of our main aims is to serve those around us. To give our lives for others, to grow in the self-sacrificial agapé love that Jesus so radically espoused.
WE CREATE – God is creator of the universe. The Spirit hovered over the waters of the deep. Just read Colossians 1 to hear how Jesus orchestrated creation. It’s so interesting to think how in his earthly ministry Jesus put his hands to work and created and built things out of the resources around him. At St Alban’s we value making space to listen to the Spirit of God and create opportunities for people to encounter the presence of God. Like a jigsaw, we put in the corner pieces and side pieces first to create the framework, but then everyone is free to bring their piece, to fill in the gaps, and to build the picture.