When we become Christians, we become part of a community established by God and Jesus. Church means the assembly or meeting of those called together by God. True Christian leadership is never solo. Christianity is not a solitary faith. "God and I" transforms to "God and we." Our connection with the Maker of Everything unites us with others. It’s basic. Whatever distinctions might have separated us before become unimportant in the face of the all-encompassing love of Christ.
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
The Christian community represents one of God’s greatest gifts for a spiritual leader. This gathering of people who also desire to know God provides tremendous support, inspiration, encouragement, and helpful accountability for living as Christ lived. Some in the early church figured they didn’t need a community of faith, and they stopped meeting together. Poor choice!
And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another …. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Weekly worship is a great practice of meeting together. Take this opportunity to attend worship with new perspectives. Instead of attending worship just to make others happy, joyfully dedicate this time to God. Instead of participating because its the expected thing to do and you’d feel guilty if you didn’t, come to see what God might say to you and to encourage others in their ups and downs in the faith. Now that you know what church is really about, support others through your greetings, actions, and participation. Give and receive. Participate with your whole heart, mind, and soul.
What happens in community worship? We have an opportunity to honor God and to increasingly make God the priority in our lives together.
O magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together. (Psalm 34:3)
In worship we have an opportunity to offer more of ourselves to God’s great movement of love. It is a time to think deeply and to counteract the messages all around us that urge us to worry almost exclusively about ourselves and what we want. This constant emphasis on superficial goals and temporary possessions has a real impact on us. We begin to conform to these worldly standards if we don’t consciously realize what is happening and seek the guidance of God’s Spirit. Participating in worship helps reshape our thinking and renew our minds so that we can pay attention to what God desires for us and the world around us. During worship, we can contemplate what really matters, what really lasts.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
Worship provides the opportunity for us to be joyful—to party and sing because we are alive, we are loved, and we are God’s people. It also gives us the opportunity to listen for what our Creator might be saying to us these days.
O come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and the dry land, which his hands have formed.
O come, let us worship and bow down,
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
O that today you would listen to his voice! (Psalm 95:1-7)
In worship we have a chance to hear, study, and remember all that God has done in our lives as well as in the lives of others, to affirm that we have a great future with God, and to say, simply, Thanks!
Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.
Full of honor and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures forever.
He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds;
the Lord is gracious and merciful. (Psalm 111:1-4)
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
on that very day their plans perish.
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The Lord will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord! (Psalm 146:1-10)
Spiritual Practice—Living the Lesson:
Participate fully in worship; be actively present with others to honor God. Pay extra attention to the elements of worship: the words of the songs, the focus of the Scripture, the point of the preaching, the opportunities for you to participate and be aware of God. Make a mental note of everything that might nurture you as a spiritual leader. How can you participate differently so that the flow goes both ways—so that you are both encouraged and encouraging others through worship?
Focus for Journaling, Reflection, and Prayer:
If I designed a worship experience, I would …
For Further Study:
Sacraments and Discipleship: Understanding Baptism and the Lord’s Supper in a United Methodist Context by Mark W. Stamm
Worship Matters, Volume 1: A United Methodist Guide to Ways to Worship, E. Byron Anderson, editor
Worship Matters, Volume 2: A United Methodist Guide to Worship Work, E. Byron Anderson, editor