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The Gathering

VINTAGE GRACE COMMUNITIES

Three Reasons Why the Gathering is Important


Introduction: A part of the DNA of every human being is the need to gather together with other people. People gather together all the time and in various places such as sports stadiums, concert venues, business suites, movie theaters, and church buildings. However, the Christian church is so much more than a building. In this article I want to provide three reasons why the Christian church gathering is important: 1. To worship God, 2. To invite the nations, 3. To equip the saints What Is the Gathering? The teaching in the New Testament is crystal clear that Christians are to regularly gather for corporate worship. In fact, a consistent Greek word that is used in the N.T. is ekklesia which means gathered assembly of Gods people. A routine of Vintage Grace Communities is to follow the historical Christian church and gather together to celebrate Gods extravagant and unending grace and blessings. Community groups who are on mission to uniquely express the gospel in their area come together to form an expression (some call this a church plant/church). Although we gather usually in our community groups we also regularly gather as a large family at our expression every Saturday night from 6p-8:30p to share stories, discuss the gospel together, come to the Lords Table, pray, confess our sins, and sing together. We invite everyone (those who are skeptical and those who are convinced) to the expression/gathering as a way of displaying Gods glory (Lev. 23; Acts 2:42-47; Heb. 10: 24-25). Three Reasons Why the Gathering is Important 1. To Worship God On my iPhone I have a folder on the home screen that contains applications. The title of that folder is 'It's all About Jesus'. It's got Bible applications, sermon applications, Bible research applications, Biblical library applications, church network applications, etc... In other words, it's all about Jesus. That phrase should describe us as we live out a life transformed by the gospel in community with a mission focus. For example, when we gather to worship Him as a faith community, we need to do so with the intention of praising, proclaiming, celebrating, experiencing and being renewed by Jesus. And this is really important: we need to do it not only to exalt the name of Jesus for ourselves as followers of Christ, but we need to do it to demonstrate the transforming truth of the gospel for visitors and not-yet-believers. We know that Christ died for the church (Eph 5:25) and that we are to do all to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). We also know that we are to be unied as Father, Son and Holy Spirit are so that others will believe (John 17:20-21). So our gatherings (whether the worship gathering, missional community groups, outings, service, missions) are not for us. Our gatherings are all about Jesus and how we missionally show the world the gospel of Jesus. 2. To Invite the nations At Vintage Grace Communities we like to say there is never an in-house moment; meaning, we are a community of faith for the community. In the Old Testament and New Testament we encounter a God who is on a redemptive mission in the world (Exodus 19:3-6; Rev. 5:9-10). In Genesis 12:1-3, God chooses to bless Abraham with an end in mind. Gods ultimate endeavor is to bless the world through Abraham. The church is now commissioned with the responsibility and privilege to bless everyone. God has chosen the church to embody Gods blessings and show the world who God is and what God wants them to enjoy. cont.

A missional community believes that people and culture are not the enemies of the church; instead, they are broken and are in the process of being restored by God (Rev. 21:5). Therefore, our challenge is to create a gracious, sinner-friendly environment, in which unbelievers and bruised reeds are able to process the gospel as they see its beauty, logic, and truth without the subcultural attachments. Our challenge is to create a culture where the gospel is being lived out in relationships, ministry, and life so others can see the gospel embodied and applied. Lastly, our assumption is that non-Christians are always in need of explanation, always wondering what in the world we are talking about. We assume that they have no idea what we are talking about 90% of the time. Therefore we must constantly answer the why question. Another way to say this is that our gathering should have a missional focus. As Mark Driscoll says, Worship should be intelligible. This means that not only is the service conducted in the known language of the hearers, but also that technical doctrinal terms are explained so everyone understands what is being said and sung. This also means the pastor should not seek to impress the congregation with his vast knowledge of Greek and Hebrew terms, but as John Calvin and other Reformers argued, love his people by speaking to them plainly; the pastor should want the people to be impressed with Jesus Christ rather than himself. Because there are non-Christians present in corporate worship meetings, people leading those meetings need to be hospitable to non-Christians. This would include the preacher presenting the gospel to the nonChristians, someone explaining why the church meetings have certain elements such as communion or singing, and explaining Christian terms in a way that allows the nonChristian to understand what the Bible says. This does not mean that the entire service is to be seeker-sensitive and designed mainly as an evangelistic rally, but a sincere effort is made to help non-Christians understand and experience the gospel...Human beings are, as Gods image-bearers, culture makers, receivers, and interpreters. Subsequently, it is

nonsensical for Christians to ignore culture or assume Christianity, is in itself, a culture that exists completely separated from the cultures in which the church exists. To be missional, a church meeting has to fit the culture it is in rather than being a subculture imported from another time or place. This does not mean that older traditions (e.g., hymns, creeds) are not used, but they are used because they contribute to informing faithful worship of God rather than perpetuating a dated form that is no longer best for ministry. Still, this must be done with great theological reflection so as to not turn artistic expression and music into idols.1

3. To Equip the Saints The gathering is also a time for Christians to be equipped with the Gospel; meaning, everything about the gathering focuses on the worship and application of the person and work of the Son of God. The gathering is not a time for the Christian to focus on himself/ herself. The gathering is a time for Christians to come together to focus on the worship of Jesus-its a community of followers coming together in Christ to experience an organic, vintage, Christ-centered time of worship that is REAL. The by-product of this is sanctification for the church community. Since there will always be pre-disciples in our midst, the gathering also affords the Christian opportunities to model for not-yet believers and help not-yet believers wrestle with the claims of Christ. Lastly, the apostle Peter taught that the local church gathering is also a time to be trained in hospitality, theology, and apologetics (1 Peter 3:15-16). Notice that all of these things are motivated by the gospel. When Christians gather together for preaching (2 Timothy 4:2), the sacraments of baptism and the Lords Table (Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 11:1734), prayer (1 Timothy 2:1),reading scripture (1 Timothy 4:13), financial giving (2 Corinthians 89), and singing and music (Colossians 3:16), it is always to worship Jesus alone.

The Gathering

The Gathering

4. Dont Forsake the Gathering At Vintage Grace Communities we want to be careful that we dont define the church as the four walls or a worship service. Thats why we often say we dont go to church but rather we are the church. The church community simply comes together at a particular location to celebrate the person and work of Jesus Christ. The church is more about being than doing. So, living life outside the four walls is vital. When we have opportunities to be with our neighbors we should take advantage of those opportunities even if that means missing the gathering. Now, Hebrews 10:25 also says, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. A natural routine of every Christian is coming together to celebrate Jesus Christ (Acts 2:42-47). So, although we dont want to overemphasize the gathering, we dont want to underemphasize the gathering either. Regularly coming together to celebrate Christs work gives the body consistent opportunities to be encouraged. It also affords the church opportunities to serve not-yet believers in our midst the chance to see and process the Christian faith and Christian worship. How to Prepare For Our Gathering? 1. Pray Pray the night before the gathering and once the gathering ends on Saturday night, begin to pray for the next gathering that Christ would be exalted as Jesus challenges those who are not yet following him and those are His followers. 2. Prepare We have a saying at our house that worship starts Friday Night; meaning, the Ferretti clan is mindful that Saturday is our day to celebrate Jesus Christ. We attempt to lessen all possible distractions and commitments on Saturday before our worship gathering. Heres what we do: 1. Pray that our hearts are prepared to celebrate Jesus 2. Pray that we are not distracted by things (our own sin and spiritual warfare) Saturday that would interfere with celebrating Jesus 3. Prepare before the gathering time so we are not rushing into the gathering. 4. Prepare for the gathering by not scheduling events on Saturday that would affect attending the gathering (this doesnt mean you dont live life on Saturdays but simply protect your Saturdays) 5. Prepare for the next gathering by consistently praying throughout the week. 3. Repent So often we enter our worship gathering worshipping ourselves rather than focusing on the worship of Christ. Repenting of a consumer mentality (what I will get out of the gathering) is vital for one to experience a Christ-centered celebration. Repenting of your focus on yourself rather than Christs glory and honor will enable you to see and be transformed by the person and work of Christ.