This is the article I wrote for the current the January 2014 edition of my church’s newsletter. It discusses a different type of worship gathering which will be held this coming Sunday, December 29 in place of Sunday school and our regular type of gathering.
“I am anticipating that you will receive this Newslight before Christmas. Because of that, I would like to encourage you to be in attendance for a different type of worship gathering to be held on December 29th. On that morning, there will be no Sunday school. Starting at 10AM in the fellowship hall, you are invited to gather together for brunch, which will be served from 10-10:30AM. You can come at any time during that period and be able to get some food.
The “official” start time for worship will be 10:30AM and it will be held in the fellowship hall as we are gathered around the tables where we have just eaten or some who will be finishing up. During this gathering, please continue to enjoy a cup of coffee or juice as we worship and build up each other through sharing.
As I said, this worship gathering will be different. It will be what I call an ‘organic’ worship gathering. What that means is this: while there will be a theme for it (which is “Looking Back: Moving Forward”), there will really be no set order for this gathering like there is for a ‘typical’ worship gathering. The goal is to look for the order to be set by the Holy Spirit and have shared what He would have shared that morning as we look back upon 2013 and prepare to move forward into 2014.
And because the Holy Spirit moves and speaks through His people, you are crucial for this gathering to be successful. Worship is both a culmination and a beginning. It is the culmination of the days since the last gathering of the body in sharing what the Spirit has done for, through, and in us as individuals which should cause amazement and awe in us, resulting in praise, adoration, and joy. It is also a beginning because what the Holy Spirit reveals to each of His people is to be used to build up the body of Christ, the church, in some way, as we move forward. It could be an exhortation to move in a certain direction. It could be an encouragement of some sort. It could be a song that really spoke to someone during the previous week, words that someone in the gathering really needs to hear, so we together sing it.
The idea is that this gathering would begin with those at individual tables and then “break out” from there to include the whole gathering. That could be a testimony shared; it could be a song to be sung by the entire group; it could be a prayer request shared and then the whole body prays for that person or circumstance. It could be a passage of Scripture through which the Holy Spirit impacted someone. The idea is for us to be continually wondering what the Spirit is going to do next in the midst of our gathering.
And it will be a conversation-oriented. As Baptists, we believe strongly in the priesthood of all believers. The Apostle Peter, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, called all those who are followers of Christ a royal priesthood, but often the way churches operate in practice is that it is the pastor or a small group of individuals who is viewed as priests because it is through that person or small group that the Holy Spirit speaks. The Holy Spirit speaks to each of His priests, and if you are a follower of Christ, that includes you. This gathering will give you an opportunity to operate in that capacity and reality.
I realize that many people struggle with things being different or change, but I would ask that, if you plan on being present for this gathering, you ask the Holy Spirit in the days leading up to this gathering to share with you what He would have you bring to this gathering for the edification of the body, the church. The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:26-31,
‘When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two – or at the most three – should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God. Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.’
As I conclude, you may have noticed that I have not call this gathering a worship ‘service.’ I actually have removed that word from the way I describe our coming together to worship. I now call them worship “gatherings.” Here is the reason the Holy Spirit has pushed me to change my language. It speaks directly to how each person present is viewed, what his or her purpose for being there is. The Holy Spirit has shown to me that a “service” is something that is done to or for me. I take my car to a mechanic to have it serviced. He or she is doing something for me that I’m not doing myself. Worship is not something that is done for or to me. Worship is something that I do along with others with whom I’m gathered. In this way, each one present is vital to the depth and character of the worship when the body gathers. The gathering on December 29th is designed to reinforce this reality.
I look forward to worshiping with you in this way as we look back at 2013 and prepare to move forward into 2014.