Summary: Although discussing our own vision, the points are general about the purpose and function of ’church’.

Good morning and welcome to the first exemplar study from New Study Church. I’m really quite excited about today.

This is the start of something completely new. Over the summer I’ve felt a lot of things laid on my heard and I want to share some of them with you over the next few sessions.

Just before I do, there is a brief bit of business to get out the way. You are able to print off these studies. The reason for this is we are also releasing PowerPoint shows which you can use along with these transcripts and, in order for you to read one and view the other at the same time, you need to print this off. We’ve also made up some study packs with a range of tools to help your Bible studies which you can download from the website.

Instead of doing a John Fletcher-style “Click, please”, whenever you see the mouse icon,  that indicates it’s time for you to move onto the next slide.

With all that said and done, let’s begin. Over the summer, the team and I sat down and talked a lot about New Study Church. One thing we really felt we needed was a mission statement. I have the very dubious honour of being gifted with Pastor John’s jokebook. He actually gave it to me! I’m not sure whether it is an enormous privilege or a total curse, but I looked up a quote that I’ll share. It says: “Progress has little to do with speed and much to do with direction.”

That short phrase is very apt. I really believe we’re moving in a huge way this season, but we need to know where we are actually going.

You can put up the first slide now. Here is the New Study Church mission statement:

New Study Church is a church community drawing closer to God by diligently dwelling on His Word in order that it may be illuminated, testing everything and reflecting together.

That just about sums up this whole operation. I want to spend today, the first in a three-part series examining just where we’re coming from, teasing that statement apart. There is a briefer explanation of the mission statement in these study packs, but for today I really want to explore it.

The first key phrase in there is “church community” . You all know the line. Church isn’t a building or a specific group of people. Church is the body of Christ.  We can recite that parrot fashion, especially when we’re sitting in a building with a specific group of people. But this isn’t a building, and this in many ways is where the test of your understanding comes in.

As New Study Church, we exist as a community of believers sharing together. That makes us church. Now, I’m not saying that this is the only thing church has to offer, neither am I decrying the need for attendance at a fellowship. New Study Church doesn’t offer pastoral support, and you can’t give tithes and offerings. But if you wanted to sum up what we do, ‘church’ is the definition.

 The first mention of church in the Bible is in Matthew 16:18, which says: “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not overpower it.”

‘Church’ comes from the Greek ekklesia, which means ‘called out’.  It was the common term in the day for those called out or assembled in the public affairs of a free state or a body of citizens called together by a herald. The New Testament refers to all who were called by and to Christ in the fellowship of salvation.

Are you free? Have you heard the herald of Christ? Are you called by Christ in the fellowship of Salvation? Then you are the church! And so are we. And that makes this church.

 The next part says “diligently dwelling on His word”. It’s based on two verses  – John 5:39 which says, “You [diligently, NIV] search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life, and it is these that bear witness to me.”

That’s an important point. Christ spoke those words and his point was this: people were searching the Torah so tightly so they could recognise the Messiah, and all along they were too busy to click on to the fact he was standing talking to them!

That’s something to constantly bear in mind.  The Bible points to Christ, but we must follow the directions to get to him. Reading it alone is not enough. If you had a map in your hand, you could sit and scrutinize every nook and cranny of every bend and landmark, but until you start following the direction it’s pointing you in, you’re still going to be sat sitting exactly where you were when you started!

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