One word can make a big difference. What seems like a subtle shift may have big implications. Two words that at first may look like synonyms may convey very different ideas.
About a year or so ago I very intentionally started calling what happens on Sunday morning a “worship gathering” instead of a “worship service”. After using the word “service” most of my life I often slip up, but am intentionally trying to shift our thinking to that of a “gathering”. Let me explain.
When we describe our Sundays as a service, we are saying that we get together for the pastor, musicians, and others to put on an event as a service to the congregation and the community. The question people ask is, “what can this church do for me?” We are implying that we are a service-providing organization that primarily focuses on meeting needs.
In the New Testament, the word we translate as church is the Greek word ekklesia, which means gather, meeting or assembly. An ekklesia is a gathering of people. In Acts 2:46 we see the early church “day by day attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes”. They were a people of the gospel who gathered regularly.
A church is a people, a worshipping community who have met Jesus, been made new by his message of grace and are joining his mission. Church is not a building. It’s not an event. It’s a community that gathers and scatters.
We are always worshipping. We were made for worship. As we delight, honour, cherish, and esteem things, we are worshipping them. The Gospel Community is a people who live all of their life as an overflow of worship. They share a lifestyle of continuous joyful worship that makes much of Christ and displays his grace.
Likewise mission is not an event, program or something that happens across the ocean. A Gospel Community lives all of life as mission. Everything we do connects with the mission that Jesus has given us to make disciples. We live with the gospel on our lips.
What do we do on Sundays then? The Gospel Community that spends the week scattered across the city worshipping Jesus and living on mission, gathers together to worship all together and to proclaim the gospel to each other. We never stop being the church, we just gather and scatter as the church. The church is not an event; it’s our identity as a community of Jesus.
We’re always worshipping, on Sundays we gather to worship louder.
(originally posted at Delve on January 23, 2011)