People don’t live in our city by accident. God sets everyone’s times and places, so ‘that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way towards him and find him’ (Acts 17.27). Right now God is in our city, drawing people to himself. Our privilege is to be involved in that same work - week after week, day after day.
This is why we do what we do: We want to help people find their way back to God.
If you’re new to us you might wonder what kind of ideas are held around here and how we tend to operate as a church. We are committed to the bible and the historic creeds of the church, but here are some of the core values at the heart of Emmanuel.
The bible is final, our first call is prayer and leaders who follow can be followed.
By becoming human, being baptised with sinners, the Son of God forever joined Himself to His people: the church. He is Emmanuel: God with us. His leadership is as real as ever: nurturing, protecting, maturing and teaching His church, until she’s mature.
In Emmanuel we aim to remember that He’s our chief, so we can stay a bit humbler and worry a bit less. Whoever is ‘in charge’ here, they’re working for Jesus. He gets his leading done in three key ways: the Bible, prayer, and leaders who follow Him.
It seems strange to 21st Century people that we take the Bible so seriously at Emmanuel, but Jesus loved it and treated it as God’s words. He also said it was all written to teach us about Him. We’ve realised that if we love Jesus we’ll have His attitude to the Bible. So we’re glad to celebrate and submit to it. It’s the way He shows Himself to us, leads us, and helps us know how to live.
Though we must take care to interpret it rightly (not using it to say what we want it to say), in the end, the Bible must be the final word at Emmanuel. The whole world badly needs to hear God’s voice. Jesus instructed his disciples to see to this at the beginning, and He is involved when the Bible is taught today, speaking life to a dying world.
We show our dependence on His leadership by gathering to pray as a church. We’re dependent on Him so we call for His help. Over the years we’ve done our best work when we’ve gathered to pray.
He also leads us through those leaders who give example, care and instruction. They are far from infallible, but with God’s help they set the course for the church and show us what life done with Jesus should look like.
We ask “what is best for right now”?
Like any organism, Christ’s body, the church, has a genetic code. This is what shapes its unchangeable nature. Every local church should be an expression of this same pattern: the truth of the gospel (the good news about Jesus) and the mission to share it.
It’s the gospel that is God’s power. Nothing else comes close. Churches can be tempted to replace it with moral advice, life skills or hash tag opinions – partly because these paint humanity in a less broken and messy condition. But when we interfere with the DNA we stop being church.
Organisations go wrong when they forget their DNA and make the wrong things the main things. The Bible shows that religious people especially do this: majoring on minors and minoring on majors. We too easily fight for our own cultural preferences but compromise the truth of the gospel. In Emmanuel we want to be fixed on what is fixed, but flexible with other things.
Ironically, churches can lose their focus because they grow. Instead of continually reaching out to the city, talking to the surrounding world, the church can end up talking to itself.
The cultures, languages, colour, music, art and customs of our cities, far from being separate from Jesus, can be theatres of worship. The church, like her master, is sent to be in the city, the real city, showing what the city could be, in Christ. But those cultures change all the time, so unless our ‘ways of doing church’ have their roots in the bible, they are no more sacred than the wallpaper we threw away last year.
So, in Emmanuel, if something doesn’t help the gospel, we should hold it lightly.
However great I am, I get to be part of something greater.
When Jesus meets you He begins to work on your ambitions, bringing your hopes and desires in line with God’s urban dream. What God has in mind, in His heart, is an eternal city (so different from the city of man) called the church. 21st century people tend to be embarrassed of the church, but Jesus is utterly inspired about Her. He died because of love for the church.
In Emmanuel we’ve begun to love the church like Jesus does. This has surprised us, not just because the church has a mixed reputation, but also because it seems more normal in 21st Brighton to pursue a personal dream – not a dream for a community. No one wants to be reduced to a cog in a machine. Following Jesus might seem more appealing if it didn’t seem like losing our individuality, to become part of a church.
But we’ve started to learn that when we live for something bigger than our ‘selves’ our real selves start to emerge, as they should have always been. And the ‘something bigger’ is the church for which Jesus came and gave Himself, in all her imperfection, failure and shame.
In Emmanuel this will mean loving, serving and preferring one another. It will mean each of us finding our part and learning to serve with the gifts God gives, covering each other’s weaknesses and always being each other’s biggest fans. Sometimes it will mean the church shining, while as individuals we are in the background unnoticed.
The world is full of ways in which men and women use people for their own career path or reputation. Meanwhile God is building a community where gifted people, who could do their own thing, gladly commit themselves to one another (even through pain and disagreement) because they have seen something greater.
Jesus calls us to adventure.
Some of us took a while to become followers of Jesus because we assumed we’d have to choose between that and having a life. It surprised us to find that doing life with Jesus is, in fact, more inspiring. Jesus told us He had come to give life in all its fullness – so we should take Him at His word. We didn’t give up our sin to be bored churchgoers.
He promised to live within us by His Holy Spirit. This means that the church is never to merely be a zone for theory and information. In Emmanuel we expect to go through life knowing God – His nearness, His guidance, His miraculous answers to prayer. This isn’t just an idea – we see it happen.
We are designed to love – not just to ‘know’. Christianity that doesn’t connect with our hearts (our desires, hopes and emotions) is not complete. In the end we all give our hearts in love to something. That’s what worship is, and we are all born doing it. Only, we worship the wrong things. We need to know the God we were born to worship. He will keep all Heaven inspired forever, so surely He can inspire each of us.
Life with Jesus is not reduced to probabilities and trajectories. Because He is with us extraordinary things can happen. Prayers can be answered, lives changed, bodies healed, the poor served, needs supplied, and even churches started. God’s power to change things doesn’t only happen to us – but through us. In Emmanuel we often know what it feels like to be stretched as we take risks for God. We didn’t completely expect this, but following Jesus is often an adventure.
Just as He called His earliest disciples with the words; come, follow me, Jesus invites us too.
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