The Christian vision of virtue, of character that has become second nature, is precisely all about discovering what it means to be truly human—human in a way most of us never imagine. – N.T. Wright in After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters quoted in You Are What You Love
What are we here for? What’s the point? What is the purpose of worship?
Interestingly, Wright’s answer is the same for both questions: “What we’re ‘here for’ is to become genuine human beings, reflecting the God in whose image we’re made.” The end of worship is bound up with the end of being human. In other words, the point of worship is bound up with the point of creation. The goal of Christian worship is a renewal of the mandate in creation: to be (re)made in God’s image and then sent as his image bearers to and for the world. – You Are What You Love by James K. A. Smith
We have been working through The Story during our Sunday gatherings over the past several months.
The teaching has challenged us to look at the Bible as a story and we have learned that it is God’s story. The author of You Are What You Love argues that we should take this one step further. He contends that we need to enter into God’s story and that the place we learn to do that is the Sunday morning gathering. When we gather together the things we do and the order in which we do them should tell the gospel story. The process of repeating the gospel story week after week forms us so that living out the gospel during the rest of the week becomes unconscious.
Smith identifies four chapters to the Sunday morning story. Gathering includes both a call to worship and confession. We start by being reminded of who God is and why we are gathered together. We continue by recognizing our need for God and His grace. Listening includes readings from the Bible and instruction on how to live it out. Communing involves activities that promote interaction with one another with the goal being the recognition that we are the body of Christ. This time could include congregational singing, communion, and offering. Sending is the closing chapter and is a reminder that we are a sent people. Our purpose is to be God’s people on mission to His creation all the time.
I was introduced to this concept in the book The Big Idea by Dave Ferguson. His point was that the programming of the church each week should be centered on a single idea. Smith carries that one step further by arguing that the order of presentation of that idea matters. It matters because we are not just listening, we are also practicing. We are participating in something whether we are active or passive. I think we should encourage one another to be as active as possible in telling the story each week to maximize the formation that occurs.
I love gathering with the small group which meets each week at the Greenwood Community Church in Elk. The congregational singing is simple and the building rings with the sounds of only nine voices. The teaching time is highly interactive, and we get a chance to hear multiple voices. We share in communion with one another and then close with a prayer circle and the Lord’s Prayer followed by a group hug. Everyone leaves knowing they are loved by God and sent to love the community they are a part of.
What story does the Sunday gathering you participate in tell?
For my grandchildren:
Don’t just “go to church” on Sunday. Be an active and interested participant. Talk with Mom and Dad about the story you experience.