Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Over the next four weeks here on the blog, I'll be looking at four core values for the new community of faith growing in North Oshawa. (In case you missed it, read the introduction to the series here!) And don't forget to check our our new Instagram page, with photos to go along with this series!
These four core values are what I hope will guide the shared life of our community, and help shape our culture as we move from these early stages into our next phases of life. These four values are:
And all of these values stem from Hebrews 10:23-25. We'll work our way week-by-week through each one of them, and I'll show you what I mean. So today - let's begin with Gathering.
For most people, perhaps Gathering is what we think of first when we think of the church. The church is the place where you gather for worship - usually on Sunday mornings. It's what I'm most often asked about regarding the new church - where are we located, and what time do we meet on Sundays? (The answers, by the way, are at my house, and we don't...yet. But, we do meet on the 2nd Saturday of the month at 5 pm! Email me for details.)
And you know what? I love those gathering times of the church. I love worship. In fact, at my Christian liberal-arts college, I majored in Music in Worship. I love gathering together God's people to worship the Creator of All Things in scripture and in song.
However, there is a stream of thought - perhaps especially in the world of church planting - that argues that our gathering is of lesser importance in the church today. Some argue that gathering has become the only thing the church values in recent years, and it's time for a shift away from a focus on worship and gathering and toward involvement, relationship, and service in our neighbourhoods.
I empathize with this idea. I've been a part of churches where the whole life of the church was packed into the Sunday morning event. Everything we did to care for one another, to build community together, to worship God, and to learn from Scripture was packed into that hour on Sunday morning. We even relied on our worship times to reach out to our neighbours, thinking - like the movie Field of Dreams - that if we build it, they will come. If we just make our worship good enough, exciting enough, with the right personality and production quality, then people outside of the church will be drawn in. But, perhaps unsurprisingly, it didn't work. We weren't connecting with our larger community, our congregation didn't feel connected as brothers and sisters in Christ, and we weren't growing as deeply into our faith as we would have hoped - all because we tried to pack all these things into one hour on Sunday morning, rather than recognizing that each of these elements are a piece of a larger rhythm of life.
And so I can understand why some might want to downgrade the importance of worship in our churches. And yet - if you look in scripture, worship is still an immensely important part of the life of God's people. Worship matters, and it matters deeply. When we gather for worship - when we come together with other brothers and sisters in Christ and sing songs, read Scripture, pray with and for one another, and hear what God has to say to us from His word, it matters. Our faith is formed and our lives are re-oriented to God. In worship, we make space to glorify the One who created and sustains the world, and in doing so, we are encouraged and reoriented to God's loving will for our lives. We are able to hold onto hope, and remember God's faithfulness to us. When we gather, we strengthen one another, we grow in our faith, and we're shaped into a more faithful people.
Worship matters, and it's only one part of the rhythm of life for God's people. Worship matters, but to fully live into the full rhythm of Life in Christ, we need more than just the practice of Gathering. We also need to Scatter - to be spurred on to love and good deeds. To love our neighbours and serve them in real, tangible ways. And we need to both Gather and Scatter in the context of a sense of our place, in a community shaped by grace.
So, in our new community of faith in North Oshawa, we will Gather. We will "not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing," as it says in Hebrews 10. We will have regular times together to sing, pray with and for one another, and learn together from God's word. We will encourage each other, holding on to hope and remembering God's faithfulness. We will seek to grow in our faith together, allowing ourselves to be reoriented to the God who loves us and calls us by name. And we will do it all together.
And it's this practice of Gathering that will allow us to live into the rest of our rhythm of life well.
So - stay tuned next week for the next value in our rhythm of life: Scattering.