KINGDOM OF GOD
Even a quick look at the life and story of Jesus Christ will reveal what he was about. The Kingdom of God. He told all those who would listen ‘The Kingdom of God is near, repent and believe in the good news’ (Mark 1:15) or ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand’ (Matthew 3:2). When he sent his followers out into the world he would tell them to "proclaim as you go, saying ’The kingdom of heaven is at hand’’’ (Matthew 10:7). And when his followers asked him how they should pray, the second prayer was ‘your kingdom come’ (Luke 11:2). Then when Jesus left, he tagged his followers in, effectively telling them: It’s your turn now, go and do what I have shown you (Matthew 28:20).
And they did. They proclaimed that the kingdom of God was near, and lives changed. The sick were healed, the dead were raised, the outcasts were included, the hopeless were given a new hope, and best of all, those who were far from God drew near to him.
At Central Vineyard, our heart is that we would be a people who participate in this ongoing story of the Kingdom of God, that we would be a people who proclaim that the kingdom of God is near. That we would look to see what God, our father is doing, and we would partner with him in that. We pray ‘let your kingdom come,’ or, come, Holy Spirit, and he comes. What does this mean? This means we pray for the sick to be healed, we feed the hungry, we invite the uninvited, and we introduce people to Jesus. We are recipients, participants, and ministers of God’s grace and mercy.
The beginning passages of the Gospel of John reveal something mysterious about the life of Jesus Christ. It reveals that He is the embodiment of ’The Word.' 'And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14). He was an image of something much greater than a man. As Paul writes 'He is the image of the invisible God’ (Colossians 1:15). This image, however does not stop with Jesus. We are all encouraged by Paul to ‘Be imitators of me, as I imitate Christ’ (1 Corinthians 11:1) or as he celebrates others 'And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit’ (1 Thessalonians 1:16).
And this has carried on. Those who followed Jesus learned to imitate him. Then those who spent time with them learned to imitate them. Followers formed followers. Disciples made disciples.
This is our vision for those who are members of the Central Vineyard whanau. That we would be embodiers of 'the Word' to make all things new. We hope to be a people who would help each other to be all that they can be as embodiers of Christ. That we would be saints who equip saints to operate freely in the gifts God has given them, to realise who we are and become secure in our identity as children of God.
Throughout the Bible, we read of many powerful things happening when believers in God gather together. When the Holy Spirit first fell on the followers of Christ, the Bible says ‘they were all together in one place’ (Acts 2:1). And later on it says that ‘Day by day they attended the temple together, and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people’ (Acts 2:46-47). Reading the letters Paul wrote to believers across ancient Rome also reveals what they were to do when they gathered together: ‘Encourage one another and build each other up’ (1 Thessalonians 5:11), ‘Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour’ (Romans 12:10), and many, many more.
And so, they gathered together. They shared meals with each other. They loved each other. They prayed together. They worshipped God together. They stirred one another up to love God and each other more. And when they did this, the Holy Spirit came in power, their lives and entire cities changed.
At Central Vineyard, it is our conviction that gathering together in love is a core action in the life of believers. We gather as a large group on Sunday mornings to worship and pray together, we gather in community groups to eat together and ’stir one another to love and good works’ (Hebrews 10:24), and we gather together in twos or threes over a coffee to encourage, exhort and rebuke each other.
Jesus Christ came to this world not just to create a people who would get together and worship him, but also to send people out into the world as missionaries. His final words were spent urging his followers to ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.’ (Matthew 28:19-20) Or, recorded another way ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8).
This is the story that the book of Acts tells. It speaks of Jesus followers first gathering together in large quantities in Jerusalem. And then, as the world around them begins to turn on this growing group of followers, they are scattered. They spread out through all of Judea and Samaria. Churches are planted first in ancient Palestine, then in ancient Syria, and across to Turkey and Greece, and within two centuries, all of the Roman empire, from England all the way to India, the name and teachings of Jesus Christ were made known.
Eventually, on Christmas day of 1814, the first teaching of Christ was heard in New Zealand, and now Central Vineyard has been planted to continue this mission of God to the world. And it does not end with us. We are a church who will constantly be sending people out. Sending people to share the love of Jesus into their homes, neighbourhoods and workplaces. Sending people to share the love of Jesus to the rest of this and other nations. And sending people to plant churches locally, nationally, and internationally.