As an extra treat this week here is a Guest Post from Kathryn England re-posted from her blog Discover, Grow, Share. This is a great challenge to us as we continue to think about Missional Communities and the life we’re called to lead following Jesus. Enjoy!
Discipleship and mission are buzz words among UK church leadership these days. It’s great. So many church leaders I meet want to create a culture of discipleship in their church to enable their members to grow in their faith. They want to make true disciples of their existing church members because they know that this is the foundation that has to be laid if they want their church to become missional and impact their communities for lasting change in Jesus’ name.
Passing into history are the days of the vicar-does-all church, where the congregation turns up on a Sunday to earn their spiritual brownie-points, sit back and let the employed church worker or missionary do all the hard work. Today’s church leaders are teaching the Kingdom principles of grace, faith and every-member ministry, and building godly character into every layer of church life. Missional communities are growing up within churches – groups of smaller cells with a desire to reach a specific network of people with the gospel, be it their neighbours, work colleagues, senior citizens, addicts, the homeless, stay-at-home dads or new mums.
Christians are becoming disciples and churches are becoming centres for mission once more.
Many of these churches believe in living a balanced Christian life, a 3-dimensional life if you will: UP to God, IN to each other and OUT to the world. This is widely taught and understood as the way that Jesus lived his life. However, if we’re only talking about discipleship and mission, our churches run the risk of becoming 2-dimensional and if we carry on living like this, we’re going to end up in a sticky mess of our own making.
So what have we been neglecting?
In the 1990s, I was a member of one of the churches at the forefront of teaching on discipleship and mission. Hundreds of young adults like me were equipped to be the every-day missionaries they still are today. That church is growing, really growing.
But, this didn’t happen because we all went to a great course on a Monday night (though we did!).
It happened because the foundation for our discipleship and future mission was laid correctly: we had first become a worshipping community.
Worship and prayer were paramount in everything we undertook. You’d prioritise the church’s AGM because God would always show up in power as we worshipped – it was his business we were discussing! Prayer meetings were full of life and deliberately planned to last through the night. Our times of worship together were the crucible in which we were formed into disciples who would be sent as missionaries into every walk of life.
I think we’ve forgotten our history though and are teaching people discipleship and mission whilst overlooking the worship-journey we went on before those fruits grew up. We must remember that what we now take for granted may be new for others and must be taught as part of the whole package.
There are many worshippers in our congregations but I’m not sure we could all say that our churches have become worshipping communities just yet and, as I’ve visited different churches in the UK over the past ten years or so, that’s what I’ve observed.
Why do we put worship at the bottom instead of the top of our priorities?
I believe it’s because you can’t turn worship into a to-do list.
Most church leaders are activists. They want something they can turn into a project; a new vision or set of values for their church they can purchase from a bigger church that’s going to make them purpose-driven or seeker-friendly or 3-dimensional or … no doubt the list goes on.
The truth is, though you can teach worship (I’m a worship leader and know the hard work encouraging people to worship involves), it’s something that won’t happen if the church leader doesn’t see the value of it. And if all we do is shop around for church-improvement packages without putting our worship first, we’ll become a church that has a form of godliness but denies its power. I don’t want to go to a church like that, let alone lead one.
It’s in a worshipping community that the Holy Spirit can forge the character that grows disciples and it’s from the seedbed of corporate worship and prayer that a desire for mission will grow and from where people are sent out.
We need to wake up to the value of worship.
We need to gather worshipping communities before we send out missional communities.
Jesus said to the church in Ephesus, “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance …. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” (Revelation 2: 2-5)