The Holy Living column with Peter Dodson
Ripon's New Life Church is a family-centred congregation. It meets every Sunday on Water Skellgate. Its Statement of Faith stems from the early 2000s when the name was changed from Assemblies of God Pentecostal Church.
Ripon’s New Life congregation is convinced that new life is found only in and from Jesus the Messiah or Christ.
The lively gatherings include a wide age range and an impressive array of ethnicities, led by Pastors Johan and Melanie Gericke.
Their move to Ripon followed what they believed to be a divine call to relocate from their South African homeland.
Visitors to Ripon’s New Life Church have expressed a positive reaction: “What a wonderful time we had worshipping God today. We are so blessed to be able to worship so freely.” This freedom in worship is echoed in a quotation from the church’s website which reads, “Our daily lives outside of the building [are] all worship. When we get together we celebrate our Father’s goodness in songs... with the purpose of praising Him only.”
Pastor Johan recounts the mission he believes God gave him, expressed in instructions to those of Christ’s followers who worship at the Water Skellgate premises: “Love God wholeheartedly. Love people unconditionally. Go share Jesus obediently. [Promote] fellowship purposefully. Care passionately. Proclaim and prophesy fearlessly. Serve enthusiastically. Do everything professionally and excellently.”
In March this year, I experienced New Life’s vibrant and uplifting style of worship. I joined in the worship songs, the words of which were electronically and clearly displayed on a large screen. The devotional songs were followed by Pastor Johan’s enthusiastic preaching of Holy Scripture.
Pastor Johan’s sermons, together with messages by Pastor Melanie and visiting ministers, may also be seen on Facebook
I was pleased to learn that New Life Church does not take a literalist view of Holy Scripture and Christian teaching; the congregation clearly understands the metaphorical power of religious language.
Via a long series of teaching sessions, Ripon’s New Life Church has explored two vital aspects of Christian experience: i.e. Covenant Relationship which is expressed in the Bible’s: e.g. “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called the children of God” (1 John 3 NRSV) and, secondly, what it means to be a true servant of God.
The word “love” emphasises God’s immense desire and longing for the well-being of every human being.
Committed Christians freely respond to their threefold God’s loving desire. Christians do this by gladly serving God, as experienced in Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. This glad service costs “not less than everything”!
Authentic Christian service stands diametrically opposed to the current trend for the dominating kind of power which exploits, abuses, and even brutally crushes people and nations. In spite of those who wish to destroy the Church and everything for which it stands, the words of Jesus the Messiah continue to cut sharply into the public arena: “Among [my followers],” said Jesus, “it will be different; whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant.”
The Old Testament’s prophetic “Suffering Servant” tradition spoke of “a lamb that is led to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53. 7). Jesus’ supreme authority was demonstrated by his lamb-like death on the Cross.
There could be no greater love.