Recreating the Community of Jesus
The Church We See
These statements describe the church which we hope one day to become. They were first introduced when I started leading the church in October 2007, and have been discussed and refined since then.
Kaleidoscopic — always willing to change in order to be relevant to the culture around us. Cultural relevance is not an option when it comes to engaging with society. The source of the light never changes, but the beauty it creates as it shines through our broken lives is constantly changing.
Excellence which honours God and inspires people.
Radical about making disciples. Jesus gave us the great commission 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you' (Matt 28:19-20). We want to be radical in our efforts to fulfill those words.
Infectious lovers of God and of people. Jesus told us that the two greatest commandments were to 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength' (Mark 12:30) and to 'Love your neighbour as yourself' (Mark 12:31). We want everything we do to be in an atmosphere of loving God and loving people.
Thankful & Generous people who overflow with thankfulness and generosity in their lives, with their time, with their gifts and talents and with their money.
Holy Spirit filled, prompted, empowered and dependent. We want to invite and expect the Holy Spirit to be a part of everything we do, and to live with a daily awareness that the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit is available to us every hour of every day.
Often cultures just develop without anyone thinking too much about it. For instance families develop their own particular way of doing Christmas. You'd probably be hard pressed to work out why one family waits until after lunch until they open all their presents, and another open them as soon as the day starts. And there isn't necessarily any right and wrong about when in the day the presents should be opened, or whether after lunch you crash in front of the TV or play games, it's just different.
But sometimes there come moments where we need to try to define and shape culture, what some have called being “cultural architects”. We can do that by painting a picture of what we would like the culture to be, and then striving with all our being to build the community we've described. That's what Martin Luther King did when he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. He painted a compelling picture of what American culture might look like if racism ceased to define the cultural boundaries of their society, if people were judged on the quality of their character rather than the colour of their skin, and if everyone was given the same chance to succeed in life. Ultimately that culture was changed to such an extent that a black man could be elected to be President of the United States.
My aim here is to paint a word picture of the culture we want to build in Kerith Community Church, based around the analogy of the peach and the coconut. This isn't so much a description of how things are today (although hopefully we're at least some of the way there), but more a picture of where we want to be. There will always be bits of what we do that don't live up to the ideal, because all of us are messed up broken people who bring our messed up broken lives into the community. But that must never stop us striving to build and to be the church, the beautiful bride, that Jesus has always longed for.
Some of the chapters deal with our core beliefs - things like 'who is Jesus?' and 'what did His death on the cross achieve?'. Others deal with some practical issues such as what do we think about money, about sex or about how we go about resolving conflict. If you read all of the chapters then you should have a pretty clear idea what it means to be part of the Kerith community.
My hope is that if you're thinking about joining Kerith, by reading this book you can decide whether or not this is a community you want to join and partner with. We encourage people not to rush that decision. Take time not only to read what's written here, but also to see and experience for yourself what our community is like up close. Join us on a Sunday, go to a lifegroup, go on a course or join a special interest group (look in the latest LinK magazine or go to the website for details on how to access all of those things). And please ask questions. We love it when people engage with what we're doing enough to question things they don't agree with, or which just don't seem to make sense. Maybe we just didn't explain it very well, perhaps we need to change what we do and the way we do it, or maybe we just see things differently to you and that isn't going to change. Questions are a great way to clarify which of those it is.
This book is also intended for those of us who have been part of Kerith for a while, to remind you again of the vision you bought into, and inspire you again to play your unique part in making this vision a reality. Unlike a building which once the architect has done his design and the building is built is static, a community is a living organism which constantly needs to change and adapt to the people in it and to the external pressures upon it. One of our core values is to be kaleidoscopic, always willing to change, and that goes for our "community blueprint" as much as for anything else we do. If in fifty years time people are still talking about "the peach and the coconut" it will probably mean that we've failed to move on, and that what we hoped would be a peach has turned into a coconut. I pray that won't ever happen!
I also realise that you might be reading this book as someone outside of Kerith who is simply interested in what we do and why we do it. If so I hope you find it interesting and informative. I’d encourage you to think about the peach and coconut principles and how them might apply to your situation. Please feel free to contact us if we could help in any way in making your church or organisation more peachy, or if you’d like to use any of this material in your context.
Although I wrote the first draft of each of the chapters of this book, the whole of our community then got to review and comment on each of the chapters. These comments were then included into the text, so that what you're reading here is truly a community effort. We've also included stories from people within our community which illustrate what we're saying. Sometimes we've changed the names to keep people anonymous, but all of these are genuine stories from people within our church.
I hope you enjoy reading “The Peach and the Coconut”.