The Big Table seeks to be a community that is increasingly characterised by the values articulated here. It’s by no means an exhaustive list you see here, but they’re biggies for us. Have we arrived at any of them? No. Are we ever likely to arrive this side of heaven? No, most likely not. Should we pursue them with our heart, soul, mind and strength? Absolutely.
The Big Table loves Jesus. It is a community that begins with Jesus, is directed by His Word, and lives in the power and joy of His resurrection and the gift of His Holy Spirit. We anticipate His return when we will enjoy Him forever. Our desire to be centred on Jesus informs how we live, love, give, worship, talk, work and play. It’s in Him we live move and have our being. It’s in Him we are fully known. And it’s in Him that we find the grace to live regenerated lives that bring glory to God the Father.
The gospel is central to everything. Not a home-owner improvement for an otherwise cosy life, but something that challenges and sustains us to the core of our being. It is the breathtaking, unexpected, transforming truth that Jesus has paid an eternal price for sinners like us. It is the story of a loving and holy Father sending the Son to take our place, forgive our sins, clean us up, make us right, adopt us as sons and daughters and give us life forever with him and begin conforming us to the image of the One by whom we were created. It’s good news, alright. To talk about. To sing about. To preach about. To meditate over. To wonder at.
This cuts two ways. First, we open our lives, our houses, our wallets and our hearts to those around us and many more who are our neighbours in a local or global sense. Our giving is not an obligation or a duty, but a response to the God who initiated His giving to us from the get-go.
Second, we acknowledge the source of our time, talent and treasure and seek to use it all for the glory of God. We’re a giving church because we have received abundantly and because Jesus, in grace, gave everything. Wwe’re on an ongoing journey of becoming channels of Jesus’ grace, compassion and forgiveness by seeking to live out our faith with lives that stack up with our calling. Our openhandedness is demonstrated in our 50/50 approach to financial giving (50% to sustain within, 50% to empower beyond). We consider this one tangible manner in which our stewardship of all God has given us is manifest.
We’ve been commanded to go and make disciples. We believe this begins in our homes, in our street and in ever-expanding circles of influence. We value the proclamation of the Word in ways that engage the culture in which we live through being Jesus’ hands and feet as we seek to proclaim the Gospel through word and deed. We seek to embrace the broken and the proud with grace and mercy believing we are each broken vessels who, through our willing participation, can be restored, reformed and filled by Jesus. We are a community that is uncompromising on the value it places on the cross, on community and on using His word as our compass—not seeking to wield, nor strut, nor judge those who are on a journey towards Jesus, but to use this ministry of reconciliation we have been given.
Our view of community is broad enough to encompass our next-door neighbours and our global neighbours alike.
We are a community that accepts that if all we are offering is kind sentiments, we’re not offering anything much at all. We take seriously God’s commands to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, free those who are wrongly imprisoned, give welcome to wanderers and act fairly wherever we exercise power. God gives all people good gifts – starting with personal freedom, dignity and resources of many kinds. Where these things are unjustly taken away, we will not turn away. We’ll seek to act in ways that restore justice. We know that God hears the cry of the oppressed, and we are continually seeking to hear what He hears.
We love because He first loved us and gave himself up for us. We are intentional beyond convenience. While we enjoy being with one another other and connecting with the community around us, we acknowledge that even that enjoyment can come at a sacrifice and a cost. We gladly make that investment for the sake of living out the gospel.
We recognise that church is not a place but a people. We’re about building deep, authentic community responding to a life-altering message in concert with a bunch of people who are responding the same way. In many ways this is a pleasure – living out the gospel while pursuing organic expressions of deep unity. As we act with relational intentionality towards each other, we recover a little more of God’s intent for his people and allow His Kingdom to come to earth as it already is in heaven.
Whether it’s a big or small group, it’s too easy to fake it. We don’t want to – we want to pursue intimacy that is coupled with trust and love. How does this look? It rejoices with the rejoicers and weeps with the weepers. We partner in our struggles and celebrations in the knowledge that we’re being continually transformed. Coupled with authenticity is the grace to accept each others weaknesses and the courage to help each other confront them. We will not let conflict remain unresolved – while it’s possible when we’re superficial, it makes no sense when we’re committed to caring for each other, being accountable to one another and carrying one another’s burdens.
We’re happy recipients of God’s gift of salvation, by grace, through the person of Jesus Christ, His Son. We were ill-deserving of this gift but, in love, God the Father through God the Son and by God the Spirit continued to do good for us. This changes everything. Our response is deep thankfulness for His gift to us and to be continually reminded to flavour our conversation and our actions with thankfulness.
9. We love planting churches
We see The Big Table as a multiplying church. Not monolithic, but reproducing. We think reproducing is God’s idea and was one of the hallmarks of the early church: growth through multiplication. While spiritual communities of all shapes and sizes are part of God’s plan to build His Church, we believe that the Bride does some of her best work when she’s out there faithfully multiplying so that new people can receive and respond to the gospel. We’re pursuing this value tenaciously with a deep conviction that it will continue to happen.
10. Everyone’s on mission
We believe everyone has a role to play in bringing God’s kingdom to earth as it is in heaven. That there is one mediator between God and men: Jesus Christ. We are liberated by His gift to us and his gracious invitation to work alongside Him on works that he has prepared for us to do. We believe that God has abundantly blessed each one of us with gifts to help build His body, the Church, and seek to encourage, celebrate, validate and activate those gifts within community so that the body might be built up.
11. Being shaped by the Bible
We want our lives and our life together to be formed and shaped by the story of redemption we discover in God’s Word to us. We believe the Bible to be the reliable, authoritative, sufficient Word of God, and are therefore committed to good bible learning knowing that His Word contains life. We will not act on the basis of tradition, habit or pragmatism without reflection in the Bible. We do not see the Bible as the sole authority (solo scriptura) but we do hold it as the ultimate authority (sola scriptura). We see Bible teaching not as an end in itself but as that which must shape our thinking and action. We have a conviction that good orthodoxy results in good orthopraxy. When the living Word takes root in our hearts through the Holy Spirit right thinking is outworked through right living.
12. Theologically considerate
The Big Table believes that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, all for the glory of God alone. The Gospel is about God first, not us. His grace, first and last. He acts, we respond. And even our response is a gift of faith birthed in us by God’s Spirit. Yes, good works flow from the Gospel, but they are not the cause of our salvation. God has freely chosen to show grace to us through no merit of our own. He called us, saved us, regenerated us, forgave us, justified us, adopted us, reconciled us to Himself. He did. We gladly go along for the ride. And even now, as we run after Him, it is His Spirit that enables our running: that sanctifies us, that pulls us toward holiness because He is a holy God who wills our holiness. These doctrines of God’s free, undeserved grace to us eliminate any arrogance and self-righteousness from creeping into our church life, and they also overcome all despair as we realise that life really is about the God who has given it, and not us. We rest in the fact that salvation belongs to God.