What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises. What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord… They will continue to grow stronger.

Psalm 84:4,5,7 NLT

The godly will flourish like palm trees, and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God

Psalm 92:12,13 NLT,NIV

Last year our goal for 2015/16 was all about building; building our staff and volunteer infrastructure to support the growth we’ve had in recent years; building our growth pathways to support people’s spiritual development; building our influence as a church that serves its community; and of course, building new premises to facilitate the next stage of our journey together! It has been an exciting and challenging year, but hugely rewarding as we’ve seen plans and dreams become reality once again!

More than anything, our focus on building for life, has strengthened our mission as a church to see spiritually lost people become a thriving community of passionate committed followers of Jesus Christ. I believe we have laid the foundations for us to see this mission unfold in unprecedented ways over the next few years.

As we look to the rest of 2016, and 2017, our Vision to see “a growing community of influence; of people being transformed by Jesus and leading the regeneration of Newtownards and beyond,” only intensifies.

Psalm 89 says, “Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, Lord… You are their glorious strength. It pleases you to make us strong.” (Psalm 89:15,17 NLT) These and many other scriptures remind us that God wants to make us stronger.

Our goal for 2017 flows from our core values as a church, and brings focus to building a stronger Thriving Life Church, with stronger followers of Christ, bringing His strength and life to Newtownards and beyond.

There are 5 key objectives we believe will help us achieve our #stronger2017 Goal:

1. Stronger Culture of Invitation

Invitation is right at the heart of the call to follow Jesus. God never forces his will or his ways upon us, but it never stands in the way of his issuing the challenge to submit every other agenda to the more important invitation to do life with Him at the centre; with Him leading, as we follow. From Jesus and his very first followers, we learn the importance of inviting others to come and see, and find for themselves, the life we have discovered in Him. From the beginning days of TLC we have endeavoured to follow the example of Jesus in establishing a grace-giving culture of acceptance. As we have struggled more and more with space for new people, the momentum of inviting has waned to some extent. This objective urges us to put the emphasis more strongly than ever, back on the need to invite our world, to come and find life in all its fullness, through Jesus and his church.

2. Stronger Connection with God and Others

In Mark 12, Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ [and] ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ (Mark 12:30,31) There was no doubt in Jesus’ mind; our health and strength as people is directly related to the strength of our connection to God and others. This objective urges us to make “connections with others” accessible to every person who comes into contact with TLC, resourcing and equipping each person to commit to the church, find a small group, and the kind of connections with other believers where accountability is invited and where we learn to “speak the truth in love” to one another (Ephesians 4:15).

3. Stronger Foundations of Faith

As we see more and more people find life in Christ, it becomes more and more important that we, as a church, facilitate the strongest start possible for those stepping into a relationship with God. In the Great Commission, Jesus commands us to “make disciples (or as we say, apprentices)… teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” This objective urges us to do everything in our power to equip children and young people, their parents, and adult new believers with the tools necessary to go from strength to strength in their faith.

4. Stronger Culture of Prayer

When writing to the church in Ephesus, the Apostle Paul said,Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power…so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore…pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” (Ephesians 6:10-12,18) This objective urges us to strengthen and intensify our prayer culture as a church, from individuals through to groups and ministry teams.

5. Stronger Ministry of Compassion

What a joy it has been to watch the compassion ministry of Thriving Life grow over recent years. And of course, we want to continue becoming a church of influence; strategically loving and serving our town and beyond, in ways that lead them to Christ. We can do so boldly, claiming God’s promise to Joshua for our church: “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) This objective urges us to stretch further than we’ve gone before, expanding our compassionate influence, confident that wherever it takes us, God is with us, and we will see this ministry go from strength to strength.

Here’s to a stronger church, full of stronger followers of Christ, bringing strength and life to our town and beyond!