The following is Part One of a Three Part Series describing what you can expect at all of our Sunday gatherings across Living Stones Churches. Simply put – this is our liturgy. We would also love to hear what you like about Sunday gatherings, please leave a comment below.
A Word Before
Many people today have a wrong understanding of Jesus’ objective for his followers. They are under the impression that the Christian faith is one that is intended to be kept private rather than lived in the public, kept in one’s head rather than professed with the mouth, a faith that is solely for the individual self, rather than shared with others in community. Such thinking carries with it the impression that being a follower of Jesus implies that he has assigned his people to fly solo or sit in alone in cubicles, and has them endlessly pining away at Bible study and prayer in isolation. Working out one’s salvation is for the individual. Such could not be further from his mission! This is merely Western, post-modern individualism that has crept into the Church. The results are tragic because the person forgoes the very design, plan, and love of God – the Church (Eph. 5.25). The sad lot of followers who silo themselves off from the rest of the world remain uninterrupted by God or somebody else along the way. Jesus did not create a community that hides from God, each other, or the rest of the world. He is disinterested in our radical individualism, with a privatized faith that sits on the sidelines, bored, awaiting his return, only then to be taken to heaven and live all alone in a big, cold, mansion forever. His plan includes vulnerability before God and others that brings about faith, repentance, and real joy! He has not come to short-change us. No, as the God of grace, Jesus insists on giving us both himself and each other.
Jesus’ desire is that his disciples be captivated by the love of God (Gal. 2.20; 1 John 3.1), forgiven of their sins (Is. 43:25-26; 1 John 1:9), receive new life by the Holy Spirit (John 3:6-8; Rom. 8:2-6; 2 Cor. 5:16-18), join the community, the Church (Rom. 12:3-5; 1 Cor. 12:12-26), and joyously go out on his mission to make more disciples all over the earth (Matt. 28:18-20), and they eagerly await his return, (Matt. 24:30; 1 Thess. 4:15-24) at which time, he will bring his people not into a cold, lonely mansion, but into a great city, the City of God! (Heb. 11:16; Rev. 21:2).
Since that is the case, we at Living Stones Churches believe that Scripture teaches us that our truest identity is rooted not in ourselves, our income, our hobbies, or even in our family of origin. We derive our entire identity from the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. The message of the gospel, through Jesus is our very foundation upon which we live. Because of this Gospel Identity, we are no longer viewed as enemies of God because of our sin (Rom. 5.10) but rather we are brought into a right relationship with God (we are justified) and we are now his family who cry out “Abba! Father!” (Gal. 4.6). We live in relationships with believers (we call this “community”) and those who do not believe the gospel message yet. We refer to this as being on “mission.” We have a sharp focus sharing the good news that God loves his enemies and wants to reconcile with them. This is one way of expressing our worship of God.
Below is what we call our “discipleship chart.” You’ll see on the walls at all of our churches as well as on our website and just about anything we print. A disciple of Jesus is a student or learner, or one who practices living out this gospel identity. Our chart is circular rather than linear because this speaks to the reality that all of one’s Christian life is lived in these rhythms rather than a checklist style, 1,2,3, step approach to discipleship. That is to say that there never comes a point in which the Christian outgrows or steps out of these rhythms.
Worship: Gathered and Scattered
Jesus was raised from the dead on a Sunday and thus Sunday is the day that Christians have always gathered to worship Jesus. The word “worship” was not always used in a religious sense. It was used to refer to someone who had great wealth; i.e., “much worth.” As Christians, we ascribe incalculable worth to God not just one day a week but every day of the week. And just as the days change so also our worship of God takes on many shapes. On Sundays, we gather together corporately as the people of God to pray, repent, sing, hear the Word of God proclaimed, to be reminded of the forgiveness of sins, to take communion, to participate in and celebrate new believers in Christ through baptism, to give our tithes and offerings, and rejoice as the people of God.
The church collectively gathers in all sorts of buildings, schools and restaurants. We come together wherever we have the opportunity available to plant churches. After gathering on Sundays, we then scatter as God’s people on God’s mission in God’s world for God’s glory. We go back to our homes and into our workplaces with the good news of the gospel of Jesus. But we don’t stay separated from one another for long. During the week, we gather in what we call “Community Groups” for more focused bible study, prayer, and mission in our local contexts. Our Community Groups often share a meal together and go find fun things to do on the weekends as well to just “be.”
In the Bible, Christians are known by many names and marked by many practices that distinguishes us in this world as we live in the world but are clearly not of the world (Rom. 12.2). Oftentimes whether a Christian or not, many folks simply don’t know why we do what we do when we come together.
Part Two and Three will follow after this post, explaining in detail the Liturgical sequence and meaning of Sunday Gathering – stay tuned.