From Pastor Tom: In our new approach to worship we journey through the Gospel together every Sunday morning. There are eight steps in this weekly Sunday journey: call to worship, invocation, confession of sin, proclamation of the Gospel, response to the Gospel, listening to God’s Word, response to God’s Word, and benediction. (Please see the image to the right for a description of these steps.)
Although we take these same steps each week in our worship journey, you have probably noticed that our services do not always look the same. That is because many of these eight steps can be expressed in different ways. For instance, the call to worship can be expressed through a prayer, through a song, through reading a passage of Scripture (e.g. Psalm 100:1-3), or through words the worship leader says. This kind of variety has kept our services fresh.
However, what is more important than variety in how we worship is the heart we bring to worship. Jesus tells us that “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (John 4:23). Isn’t that amazing? The Father seeks for people who worship Him in spirit and truth.
So again I ask, “How are you doing with our new liturgy?” I invite you to bring your whole heart to worship and to put it into each of the eight steps of Worship Journey. What do I mean?
By way of illustration, let’s say you have been invited to a new acquaintance’s house for dinner. You don’t know quite what to expect. You barely know your host and he did not ask about your food preferences. As you sit down to the table, you happily discover that some menu items are familiar favorites. However, you also see foods on the table you do not recognize. What will you do? Eat the familiar favorites and “take a pass” on the other items? Or will you decide to be adventuresome and eat some of everything that has been prepared?
Now, thinking of Worship Journey as a meal prepared for you each Sunday morning, I want to invite you to take the second approach, the adventuresome one. In other words, I ask you to consciously decide to take part actively in each step. Intentionally, thoughtfully, from the heart.
Here are two things I would like you to do in order to engage in worship more fully. One, invest some time thinking about the eight steps of Worship Journey. Read the name of each step and chew on the brief definition in italics underneath the title. Seek to better understand what the point of that step is, and ask God to help you to truly enter into that step as we gather to worship. In other words, digest the Worship Journey liturgy.
Two, as you come to worship on Sunday, arrive in the worship center a few minutes early. Pick up one of the “Worship as a Journey” bookmarks from the pew rack. Remind yourself of what we are about to do and think again about what each step means. Then decide you are going to intentionally and personally engage in each step, doing your best be an active worshiper. Ask God to help you worship the Lord “in spirit and truth” and then dive into the feast!
A key element of our Journey Vision is outreach. In His commission to us, the Lord Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). We want to be passionate “goers,” journeying into our community to make disciples—“forming followers of Jesus who impact their world.”
Three important characteristics will describe this outreach journey.
(1) It will be sustained. In other words, this initiative will be long term. This will be new for us. As a church we have reached out into the community in many ways through short-term efforts. Those kinds of efforts are good. They will continue. However, over the past six years the elders have talked about and desired our church to reach out into our community through a sustained ministry effort. One that continues year after year. Now is the time.
(2) It will be an outreach in which all age groups within our church can participate. We want this to be something “owned” by our church as a whole, something in which every person can have a part. By engaging together in this outreach, we can encourage and strengthen each other in what is, to many, a scary thing to do—reaching out to others and telling them about Jesus. In fact, by working together in this sustained outreach we may very well be emboldened to reach out with the good news of Jesus to others around us in our daily lives. I truly hope that this happens, for all of us.
(3) Most importantly, this outreach will be a platform for the gospel. In other words, we want this effort to have as its intentional goal the telling of the message of the gospel for the salvation of lost people. We are surrounded by thousands of people who are “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). They are headed to an eternity of torment, cut off from God forever (Matthew 25:46). They need to hear the good news “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the
Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). We want to be “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20) who share this good news because “the gospel … is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). The only hope of heaven that anyone has is in Jesus Christ: trusting in Him alone, believing that His death provided forgiveness for my sins and that His resurrection guarantees me eternal life. Indeed, before the Lord Jesus returned to heaven, He told His followers to go forth proclaiming this good news: “And [He] said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem’” (Luke 24:46-47).
By now you may be asking, “So what is our new outreach effort?” Good question! We are currently researching outreach options which meet the above three criteria. Pray for God’s clear direction. With God’s help we will identify our Outreach Journey soon.
What we are talking about in this part of Journey Vision is evangelism, one of our six core values. We want to evangelize more intentionally. We want to do better at what Jesus has so clearly called us to do. That’s what Outreach Journey is all about.
God’s desire for His people is for them, for us, to be a family. Frequently throughout the New Testament Christians are referred to as brothers and sisters, and even as mothers and fathers. (See 1 Timothy 5:1-2.) Jesus teaches us to address God in prayer as “our Father” (Matthew 6:9).
As members of the family of God we are to care for one another, truly. As we journey together with Jesus, we are to care for each other along the way.
Listen to three of the many verses where we find God’s call for us to care for one another: “that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another” (1 Corinthians 12:25), “above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8), and “beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11). (Other verses you can read are Romans 12:10, Ephesians 4:2 and 4:32, and 1 Thessalonians 3:12.)
Note especially the words of Jesus in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” If we want people around us to know that we are followers of Jesus, we need to show this to them by loving each other, by caring for one another as a church family.
Now caring for one another in our church is nothing new. We do care for each other. We are grateful for the ways mutual care and love are being expressed in the body. In fact, we already have an area we call “caring ministries.” This includes the ministries of the deaconesses and of the visitation team. The people serving in those ministries do a phenomenal job of extending very practical care to members of the body.
Where we especially want to see further progress in Caring Journey is through our Life Groups. We launched Life Groups in the fall of 2014. Our vision for Life Groups is captured in the phrase, “Connecting, Caring, Community.” It is our desire that all who regard our church as their home church will be engaged in a Life Group. It is there—in the context of a small group focused on praying, learning from the Bible, and sharing life—that true caring can take place. It is there that we can be real with one another, open and transparent about our own personal journeys … weeping with those who weep, rejoicing with those who rejoice, bearing one another’s burdens. We can do better at that. We want all of our Life Groups to move forward in fulfilling the vision of connecting, caring, and community.
As we look forward to the Caring Journey, the challenge of 1 John 3:18 is very fitting: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
The idea of “equipping” is presented quite clearly in Ephesians 4:11-13, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
As these verses indicate, God has given church leadership the task of preparing church members to minister within the church, helping them to be ready to do the work of God. Someone has summarized this goal as “every member minister.”
Like Caring Journey, this is not new to our church. However, we want to be more intentional about helping one another take the next step toward maturity in Christ. We want to purposefully equip folks in our church to step further in discipleship, to step into serving, to step into leadership. This is the Equipping Journey.
Let me share an experience that motivated me to think about a specific aspect of equipping.
Over the past couple of years, a theme that surfaced periodically in our elder meetings was our desire that ministry leaders would reproduce themselves, that they would mentor someone who participated with them in ministry and help them be ready to take over the leadership of that ministry. Whenever we would talk about that, I would think, “What about me? Am I reproducing myself in
other men?” Out of that God placed in my heart the desire to instill in men the teaching and preaching skills God has developed in me: “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). This was very instrumental in arriving at the Equipping Journey component of the Journey Vision.
Even though this is part of the Journey Vision, we have already started! With the blessing of the elders to move forward, I developed a 2-year plan for equipping men to effectively teach and preach God’s Word. We call it “Bible Exposition Training.”
Pastor John and I began this course of training last September (2017). We just completed the first 9 months; the final 9 months will be completed in the 2018/2019 school year.
Bible Exposition Training is only part of the Equipping Journey. Pastor John is currently working on a plan for leadership development. Beyond these new initiatives, equipping is already taking place within other ministries of our church: children’s Sunday School and Awana, student ministries, Life Groups, Daughters of the King, and Men of Honor.
Equipping is taking place; we want to do it better. We want to purposefully equip each person for his or her next step forward in journeying with Jesus.