This morning over coffee my spouse and I were reflecting on how much we appreciate the worshiping communities we serve. It means a lot to both of us to be able to gather with other Christians for worship, service, and fellowship. I wonder if we take for granted this gift of intentional community, or if we fail to maximize our relationships and opportunities for spiritual growth, mutual support, and shared mission and ministry?
Quite often I’ll be talking with someone about “church stuff,” and hear a response like this one: “Oh, I don’t need to go to church. I have a relationship with God that can go anywhere.” I agree that one can and should have a relationship with the Creator that is a 24/7 proposition, but I can’t imagine doing it without gathering regularly in community. I can even agree that one can worship God alone. But is that enough? Can one be a disciple, a follower of Jesus, in a vacuum? My conclusion is no.
Scripture is full of references to God’s people gathering for worship. While an exact “worship menu” or prescription is not clear, there is an implicit assumption that communities of faithful will gather to glorify God, build one another up as the Body of Christ, and equip each other to serve God in the world.
Worshiping communities are not “one size fits all.” Different denominations understand the form of worship and ministry in different ways. Even within a denomination, a particular community or congregation may exhibit differences. Within our denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, one can experience traditional worship in urban, suburban, or rural contexts and find the same liturgy, hymns, and corporate prayers. One might also find the liturgy simplified and celebrated in an alternative worship space with a jazz band and minimal worship furnishings. Congregations in a variety of settings support the same global missions and various local initiatives, finding both strength in numbers and meaning in context.
My hope and prayer is that everyone can find a community of faith to call home, a place that’s a comfortable as favorite jeans or a much-loved sweater. Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, where I serve, is a small congregation with a big spirit and welcoming arms. The people of this community truly want to learn and grow as disciples of Christ. They have a will to serve and are exploring new ways to be in mission, ministry, and community together. We aren’t perfect, but we’re trying to serve faithfully and discern what God’s plan is for us.
I’ve only been there a few months and already it feels like home. That’s a good thing, a really, really good thing. Yes, I am thankful for my present worshiping community and also for the other communities who have helped shape and mold me for service. Thank you to West End, Brainerd, Cross of Christ, Trinity (Hixson), St. John (Harper’s Ferry), St. John (Potter), and the Sheyenne-Oberon Area Ministry.