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Why we gather together

Meeting together as the Church on Sunday is more than singing a few songs, listening to a sermon and sharing coffee afterwards, says Mark Waterfield

For almost 2,000 years, groups of Christians have gathered in many different spaces, from people’s homes to ornate cathedrals to underground caves. There is something vital about gathering together as followers of Jesus. We gather to be encouraged and remind ourselves that we belong to the family of God – children of God and co-heirs with Christ.

We gather to grow in our faith and understanding of Jesus Christ as our Lord and saviour – to go from spiritual babies to mature men and women of God. We gather to then be sent out into our week to impact the world we live in as followers of Jesus – salt and light in this dark world.

The principle of gathering as Christians, to then be sent out as scattered servants to love and bring healing to this broken world, is key to understanding the importance of Christians meeting together regularly. Again and again in the book of Acts the early Church gathered and then went out on to the streets, proclaiming the Gospel in word and deed.

Even in the midst of persecution and hardship the early Church gathered not to hide away and lick their wounds, but to be reinvigorated and refreshed to go out again and preach the Gospel. It is not an either/or as some people promote, but both – gather to be sent!

One of the reasons that churches can become toxic and unhealthy places is because their sole focus is on one another, and the gaze turns inwards to our own personal preferences and likes/dislikes, rather than outwards to how we can reach a world that needs Jesus. A church exists primarily for the world we live in and its function is to bring about kingdom change, proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ to cities, towns and villages across this land and to the ends of the earth.

Church on a Sunday, mid-week prayer meeting, a big summer Christian celebration – why bother attending? Is it just something you do? To tick a box? It is so much more than that. We gather to be sent! Many of us need to rediscover the purpose, the power and the impact that the gathered community of Christians can have.

Almost 20 years ago in 1999, I was sitting in a church service listening to a preach. I can’t remember what the preach was on, but I do remember God saying, “I want you to put on the birthday party that Jesus would have wanted – go and make a difference!”

A long train of events later led to a large amount of money raised to put on Birthday 2000 on 3 January 2000 at Alexander Palace in London. The head chef at Shell came for free to cook a three-course meal; more than 200 people gave up a day of their time to volunteer and wait on tables; there was a live band and more than 400 homeless people had a joyful and unforgettable evening at Jesus’ birthday party! Where did the idea originate from? The gathered community – we gather to be sent!

So next time you go to church or gather at a Christian festival, ask yourself this question: What am I being sent out to do as a servant of God in my community? It might be to set up a mums and toddlers group, re-launch the local youth centre, befriend an elderly neighbour or join the team at the local foodbank … We gather to be sent! What will you go and do?

Mark Waterfield has been Lead Pastor of Hope Chuch, Newham since it began in 2010. He is married to Jen, with three children and recently co-hosted the Ekklesia Conference with Andy Frost of Share Jesus International.

Opportunities to meet together this summer

Heart for mission? Head to Hamilton Road Presbyterian Church in Bangor for the Bangor Worldwide Missionary Convention 23rd – 31st August and be inspired by Don Carson www.worldwidemission.org/year/2019

Ready to go and do? The theme at One Event (23-27 August), held at the Lincolnshire showground, is Multiply, which this year focuses on growing the Church. Find out more at www.one-event.org.uk
Tel 01522 542166. Alternatively head to the Staffordshire showground (23–26 August) for Devoted, which aims to inspire festivalgoers to go out into everyday life and impact the world. www.devotedevent.org

Looking for traditional teaching? Visit Keswick between 13 July and 2 August and enjoy Bible teaching amid beautiful scenery. Amy Orr Ewing is the key speaker for week three. Find out more at
https://keswickministries.org/convention/2019 Tel: 017687 80075.

Keen on the arts and justice? Wit and Wisdom is the theme for this year’s Greenbelt (23 – 26 August) at Boughton House in Northamptonshire, offering world-changing ideas, engaging theatre, poetry, music and more. Visit www.greenbelt.org.uk for full details.

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