I wrote last week about the many things for which we could give thanks as a church over the last year. So what have we got planned for 2016?

The first week of January sees our week of prayer. We saw so many answers to prayer from the equivalent week last year. Any encouragements that we enjoy as a church come from the Lord and so we want to express our utter dependence on God again at the start of the year.

January also sees us launch our vision for the year. I wrote a few years back about these vision statements- they are essentially a tool for us to focus on some aspect of biblical teaching in a concentrated way. We try to go for something that we feel in danger of overlooking. Our vision verse for 2016 is as follows:

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Colossians 3:1

In the following verse Paul goes on to contrast this heavenly Christ-centred focus with having our minds fixed on earthly things. What is my hope for this vision verse for the coming year?

– It would be wonderful if we were a church that was increasingly captivated by Christ. As I wrote last week, there is much for which we can give thanks as a church. But I suspect all of us would say that we could grow in terms of having Christ at the centre of our affections and thoughts.

– I hope that we will be reminded afresh of the wonder of being united with that Christ. It isn’t that we gaze on Christ from afar- we have been raised with Him. To be fair, I don’t think union with Christ has been lacking from our teaching over the past few years- it is too much of a hobby horse for me. But given that it seems to me the principal foundation for Christian living in the New Testament it won’t do us harm to look at it again.

– The vision verse should also give us opportunity to consider Christ in a different way. Intentionally we have spent quite a while in the Gospels over the past few years- it is always good to look at Christ. However, this verse calls us to consider an interesting question- what does Jesus look like now? What is He like in heaven? What is His role now that He is no longer on earth? It will be good to have our hearts and minds refreshed as we consider that question.

We are going to start our Sunday mornings in January with John encouraging us to look to the future with Christ from Philippians 3. Thereafter we are going to work our way slowly through Colossians 3 with two sermons from the opening paragraph on 10th and 17th January before we consider the difference that this heavenly vision makes to our lives from the rest of Colossians 3 on 24th and 31st January.

I am particularly excited by our Sunday evening series in January. Iain will get us started this Sunday from Colossians 1. Thereafter we will spend time pondering the question as to what Jesus looks like and is doing now, particularly drawing on Old Testament prophecy to answer that question. I am looking forward to preaching from Song of Songs again- and I may write a blog to explain why I think it is appropriate to preach on the work of Christ from the song. So please do pray that these series will enable us to fix our eyes on the ascended and glorified Christ.

Lastly, in terms of 2016, it is worth mentioning our church weekend on the last weekend in June. We will be returning to Moorlands College three years after our last weekend away. We were reflecting on the fact that the church has changed so much in that time- a new building, many new people having joined us and Wheatley Community Church having started. It felt like this weekend would be a good time to take stock of all of that- an Ebenezer moment (1 Samuel 7:12) if you like. So the first half of the weekend will involve looking back with thanksgiving whilst the second half will revolve around looking forward with dependence. I am delighted that David Earl will be with us for the first half of the weekend. Our hope is that this weekend will be useful for two groups- for long term members to be able to look back and for those who have joined us recently to get a grasp on what the church is and that both groups together will be able to seek the Lord for the future.

The Lord has blessed us significantly over the past twelve months. Let’s pray that, in His mercy, we would enjoy similar growth in the future- both numerically and in our devotion to Christ.