Dear AOX Family,
As we head into the New Year, I sense a hunger from many to know Jesus more. I am humbled to walk with a group of people who have such a YES in their hearts for Him. That YES leads us into joy and peace, and it also leads us into facing areas where He is leading us with kindness, to change the way we think and live. As I look back at 2016 and into 2017, I know that our good Father will continue to invite us into embracing a lifestyle of repentance. Let’s not get weary in that, but know that we have a good Father who is faithfully committed to forming and growing Christ in us.
I wanted to take a few minutes to let you know about some important things that are coming in 2017. These are things that our leadership team has been praying through for several months now, and flow out of our hearts’ desire to be faithful to be who God has called us to be.
When we started our journey as a community in 2011, we wanted the focus to be on sharing the life of Jesus in authentic relationships. We envisioned that the best way for us to fulfill our mission (disciple, equip and release sons and daughters of the King to impact every sphere of society for the glory of God) was to focus our lives on the life of Jesus and journey together.
But really… this journey can sometimes feel very lonely. I know from talking with many people in our community, that it can be easy to feel on the outside of things, not really connected in the ways that matter most. Seriously, if we could hear all the ways that the enemy invites each other into isolation, we would laugh and cry together. Does this sound familiar?
⁃I want to be connected, but everyone seems busy
⁃I feel like I'm on the outside of our church family
⁃No one understands where I'm at in life or what my family needs
⁃How am I supposed to do all the adult things I'm called to do (work, pay bills, lead my wife, take care of my children) AND make disciples
⁃How can I choose family and my dreams
While we never changed our minds or hearts about those priorities, over time, I can recognize that there was a drift from the clarity that came from focusing on sharing life together. Most of you have heard me talk about how God had been leading me to repent of feeling stuck and the frustrations and weak leadership that accompanied that. God’s kindness has led me to remember that regardless of how things are going around me, there is always life when I fix my eyes on Jesus.
Out of that time of repentance, I have sensed two clear priorities emerging over the past several months:
The first is that we are clear on our commitment to follow Jesus and make disciples. For me, the core of discipleship is pointing people to Jesus as we share life with them. This happens over time and in authentic, committed relationships. Together, as we say yes to this responsibility of making disciples, we create a culture of discipleship where we are mutually pointing each other to Jesus. Over the years, I have been amazed by the way God faithfully brings transformation in the midst of humble, imperfect relationships. There is something about following Jesus with others that makes following Jesus less like a things-to-do list, and more of a lifestyle to live from. As others invest in me and intentionally invest in others, I become free to be who God made me to be as an individual. This empowers me as a son, husband, father and friend, and to be a healthy part of the body. That is why it is essential for us to recognize any drift away from the sharing of our lives with each other and commit to encouraging each other on our journey together.
The second priority flows from the first one, and it is to make sure that we are faithful to invest in the foundations of families. This means that in the same way that we recognize the need to invest in each other as individuals, we also recognize that there are specific investments required in the forming and growth of marriages and families. Beyond a written core value that is listed on a piece of paper, we have truly been blessed to learn how to embrace church as spiritual family. We are learning this, despite that fact that many of us come from dysfunctional, broken, or at best - imperfect homes. As we are faithful to steward what we have learned about spiritual family, we want to be intentional to invest the increase into the physical families that are forming with in our midst.
We want every family to be fully resourced to grow and develop into all that God intends for them to be.
We want every husband to feel confident that they are able to love, lay down their lives and lead their families.
We want every wife to feel known, connected and supported to be the fullest expression of who God’s created them to be.
We want every parent to know that they have what it takes to love, parent and disciple their children.
We want every child to be fathered and mothered in a way that allows them to live their entire lives in the spirit of sonship.
I believe that it is God’s plan for the church to be a place where family overflows because the church is full of strong families.
So...What Now? Next:
Knowing that these are the priorities coming into 2017, we are committed to focusing our lives on Jesus and knowing that the most authentic expressions of the life of our church will happen as we are following Jesus with each other in everyday ways. We want every one of our AOX gatherings to be meaningful, but know that the life of our community is not confined to our church meetings. Our meetings should serve the life of our community, not define them.
With this in mind, we are making a few major adjustments to the way that we meet together.
Starting on January 8th, we will begin meeting on Sunday mornings at 10:30. This decision has been made as we have recognized the growing number of families with small children in our family. We have experienced so much growth in this area, but this is just the beginning. We want to make room for our families to feel like they can be engaged in our collective times of worship and the study of the Word of God without feeling that they are disrupting their family’s life by keeping their k\ids up late heading into a new week.
Along the same vein, we are in the process of getting everything in order to provide a nursery for our children under 3 years old. We continue to have a high value for having our kids with us in worship, but we recognize that our parents can struggle to be a part of worship or time in the Word if they are focused on trying to keep their kids occupied. We will continue to encourage families to have their children with them when possible, but feel it is important to make room for a nursery. (As we launch the nursery early next year, we have asked the parents to help take turns and selected a few people to assist us as we learn all that will be involved in providing this gift for our families.)
We will have a lunch following our gathering on 1/8 where we will lay out vision for how we see these changes impacting the life of our church (including leaders brunch and simple churches). We will also share our plans for how we will be engaging our long awaited journey into identity, sexuality and gender.
If you are a part of our AOX family, please do whatever you can to be join us on January 8th for our gathering and lunch.
As I was teaching from Isaiah 9 this last Sunday evening, I was reminded of how the increase of God’s government and peace is for ordering and establishing His purposes. Coming into this new year, let’s believe together that as we say YES to Jesus, He is bringing His order to and establishing His purposes in our individual lives and to the life of our church. As we receive the increase of His power to prevail, let’s re-fix our eyes on Jesus, commit to love each other and share this Journey together.
Please let me know if you have questions regarding this email. I am so thankful for the journey that we have been on, and look forward to growing together.
Love and Blessings,
PS - Adriane, Abigail and I will be hosting our Sunday worship time at 6 PM on New Years Day. We will do worship, share testimonies and pray together. Bring some cookies or fruit, we will provide the hot chocolate, coffee and tea.