Why do we gather as a church on Sundays? Is it simply for our own encouragement and edification? Or do we meet for a service on Sunday mornings in order to reach out to the community, intentionally and deliberately gearing everything we do for them? For us the answer is both (although we lean more towards building up the body of believers through the gospel).
We want everything we do when we gather on a Sunday morning to teach, equip, and encourage the church to be on mission with God to make disciples AND to be missional in itself (missional means to be on mission with God as he saves the lost, making disciples for this glory and our joy). At Hiawatha Church, nearly everything we do during our Sunday gathering is intentionally both. Let’s go through a typical Sunday gathering and show how each aspect sets the agenda for mission and is also to some extent missional in itself.
Gathering: We gather on the Lord’s Day to remember Christ’s resurrection, which gives us the desire and ability to live on mission with Him. We also gather as one body to remind us of our need for each other, the relational aspect of God’s love, and to serve and encourage each other. These gatherings show the world that we are his disciples by our love for each other and display a community (a spiritual family) that attracts many.
Being Greeted as We Enter the Building: This reminds us of the gospel in a particular way. At the cross Christ brought us into fellowship with himself. We also purposefully put a few people at each door so that every single visitor is greeted, given a smile, and is welcomed. We want a newcomers’ and non-believers’ first interaction with Hiawatha Church to reflect how Christ has welcomed us spiritually to God through his death and resurrection..
Hospitality: We’re reminded that Christ is our spiritual sustenance and gives us true friendship, nourishment, rest, and satisfaction through the ospel. To non-believers it gives us an opportunity to meet and talk with them and demonstrates that we care about both the body and the soul. It also demonstrates Christ's generosity to us and hopefully makes the church feel like more of a safe place to check out.
Welcoming and Fellowship: We welcome both visitors and members at the beginning of each service, reminding us that our God has welcomed us (his former enemies) and has brought us back into relationship (fellowship) with him through the cross. This also gives us the ability to forgive and to be reconciled to our neighbor. All are welcomed in a spirit of non-partiality as we shake hands, introduce ourselves, share stories, and cross aisles of all types to bring unity and show that we’re all sinners in need of a savior and his grace.
Communion: We remember the gift of Christ's body and shed blood regularly and communally as a church. As we do this, non-believers understand that they cannot partake in all parts of church gathering and realize that they are still in some ways an outsider, in need of forgiveness and grace. But they still continue to hear the gospel explicitly and are called to belief, repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.
Reading the Word: We read the Bible because it is God’s Word, a missional text to us, telling us His story and inviting us into mission with him by the power of the Holy Spirit. It prepares us for the rest of our worship service by re-centering the mind and soul around something (and someone) much bigger than us and whatever we bring into the room.
Prayer: When we pray we remind ourselves that we’re in need of grace, the ever-present Holy Spirit to empower us to be on mission and to do good, and to praise and thank our God for the cross. Prayer also is missional in that it gives the non-believer a glimpse into the intimate communication between a Christian and their heavenly father that we can have because of the gospel.
Worship: We respond to the good news (gospel) through worship, reminding ourselves of what we’ve been saved from and saved to. We choose to sings songs that proclaim the gospel, remind us of our sin and God’s mercy, and are done in a relevant and culturally appreciated medium in hopes of creating no stumbling blocks to the gospel, other than the gospel itself.
Preaching: We need to be continually reminded of who we were, who we are, and how we’ve been redeemed. These reminders spur us on to more belief, to love and good deeds, and are used to give us a heart for the lost as we see own stories in theirs. This is our most explicit form of missional intentionality as the lost are saved (and the saved are saved afresh) through the hearing and preaching of the Gospel.
There are many more things we do to intentionally be missional and set the agenda for mission (i.e. children's ministry, giving, testimonies, music, etc.) that we could mention as well but this is a good start. We are not perfect at this, by any stretch, but we have been deliberate in crafting our Sunday gatherings for both the believer and unbeliever who attend. And the main strategy for this is to make the gospel central to everything we do.
SPENCER PETERSON / COMMUNITY LIFE PASTOR