Over the coming weeks I’m going to post a few thoughts on how we put together our Sunday gatherings in The Crowded House in Sheffield. The first post looks at how we view the aim of our Sunday gatherings and the principles behind how we shape our gatherings.
The aim of our gatherings
Our aim for our Sunday gathering is to reshape our affections by capturing the imagination and informing the mind. So it is not just about imparting information. We want a meeting that moves people to love Christ and worship him above everything else. We want people to be moved! We want emotion that arises from the truth (not truth without emotion or emotion without truth).
Our gatherings are not put together in a random fashion with various elements thrown together to pad out the time together.
1. We want the shape of our gatherings to embody the gospel
We want the component parts of a gathering to be true to the gospel. But we want more than this. We want the overall shape or flow of the meeting to reflect the gospel. Indeed we want the meeting to re-enact the gospel so that to participate in the meeting is to participate in the gospel.
So we want the shape of the meeting to embody the gospel.
- God is beauty, truth and goodness. We are made to know him and worship him. So we begin with a call to worship and an affirmation of his glory.
- We are sinners so we only come before God through his grace to us in Christ. So we include a time of confession and an assurance of grace.
- We know God through his word and his word should shape our hearts and lives. So the centrepiece of our time together is hearing God through the reading and preaching of the word.
- We respond to God revealed in his word with praise, love and service. So in our meetings we respond to God’s word in ways that are appropriate to the word we have heard. At the close of our time together we are sent out to live the word in our everyday lives.
2. We want the shape of our gatherings to be centred on God’s word
The word of God is one of the three core commitments of The Crowded House (the others being community and mission). We want to be shaped by the word and so the word is the centrepiece of our meetings. Before the Bible reading and sermon we want our meetings to prepare us for God’s word and after the Bible reading and sermon we want our meetings to enable us to respond to God’s word. There is a sense, then, in which our meetings follow the pattern of preparing for the word, hearing the word and responding to the word.