Footprints paved their way across the path, drawing together, all converging to one place. In sets of twos or threes, in families, or alone, they make their way towards the doorway, they make their way in. And here come together people from so many different walks of life, here come together people from such different walks of faith. And yet all come together for one God, all come together to learn about one person, Jesus Christ.
A single church service can bring together a group of people whom may otherwise never have met. Whilst a church is a people, united in faith, we cannot assume that everyone there is at the same place in their walk with God. We cannot assume that everyone there is a Christian, that everyone there knows about Jesus, understands the bible, believes.
When I began going to church I had read the four gospels, I had talked lengthily with my best friends about what they believed but everything was new to me still, I was only beginning to understand. I was blessed with a church that showed Jesus clearly to me, sermons in which our pastor explained every word or detail that I would not otherwise have understood, a family that welcomed me, showed me God’s love. And recently I have begun to see how important this was.
Through The Globe Church and the preaching I heard at the Carey Family Conference over the summer, I have come to realise the importance of every part of the church service. Of the acts of welcoming, of singing, of prayer, of the delivery of the sermon and of the central and most important message. Of pointing to the saviour in every little piece of the church service.
And so the service has begun, and the pastor speaks to welcome everybody. Because every one there is so very important, because everyone there is loved, because God is reaching out to every individual and showing them his love.
Welcoming is a very important thing. To someone who hasn’t been to church before or is looking to join a new one, it can be very lonely to find yourself a newcomer amongst a close knit group. The fact that so many people reached out to me, made a real effort to welcome me when I started going to church last year has played a very important role in my eagerness to return and in my becoming a part of a church family.
And they unite together in prayer, their voices as one reaching up, calling to the God who listens.
When I started going to church I was in wonder at the concept of prayer. I had heard about prayer all my life but it really struck me how amazing it was to speak to God as a child does to a parent, to have a personal relationship with such a great being. And for someone to stand at the front and pray for the church to which they belong, this didn’t just bring us together in prayer, it taught me how to pray myself, it helped me to take my first steps in my own prayer life.
And in prayer we come together, we acknowledge that we cannot do this alone, that everything we have is given by God, that our wisdom, our gifts are evidences of God’s grace in our lives. And we thank God for everything that He has done for us, for everything that Jesus has sacraficed for us.
Now they stand up, now they lift their voices, now they sing. And it is more than the act of pronouncing the words, more than voices and an acoustic tune, it is the sound of praise, of a people raising up their voices to our creator.
Though at first I was a stranger to singing, I saw instantly that the act of singing in praise of God is a very powerful thing. I saw the love, the joy, in those that sang around me. And as I slowly began to learn the words of the songs, I began to take in their meaning, to see the power of song in expressing our response to the grace of our God.
The song below, In Christ Alone by Stuart Townend struck me singificantly, I treasured what the words gave me. I learnt about who Jesus is not only through the sermons, but through the very words of the songs we sang.
In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone! – who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe.
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied,
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine –
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand:
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.
Hymns and lyrics are very powerful ways to communicate God’s word. I heard in the songs that we sang at The Globe Church, the very message that the whole service was centred around. I was inspired how many of the songs that we sang took us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, laying out before me the centre of the gospel.
And then a figure walks to the front, stands still, holding a book in their hands. And then the book is open, and the pages are turned, and life comes forth from the printed words. Because in this very book we are hearing God’s word. Because this book is the Bible.
I didn’t realise how wonderful it is to belong to a church that centres itself so fundamentally on The Bible until I faced a summer without the the sermons and bible studies at The Globe. And yet it was wonderful again to have such bible based teachings on the occasions that I found myself at York Evangelical Church. God has given us His amazing word, He has given us The Bible from which we learn unceasingly, He has given us such a blessing that it would not do to refuse. To base a church service away from the bible is to teach from our own authority, and to perhaps even reject God’s Word. To centre all church services on the bible is to understand that we are not capable of everything, that we need the guidance of God.
And now we’ve reached the centre of the service, the bit that everything before is leading to and everything afterwards is reflecting on. Here we are taught God’s word, here we understand.
For me, the sermon is perhaps the most important part of the church service. Through the sermon we hear God’s word, we are shown who God is, who Jesus is. what he has done for us. We are reawakened to our desperate need for the gospel, refreshed in the joy that this gives us and reminded of the importance of sharing this word too.
In a way it was only when I missed the regular teaching over the summer, only when I was away or tried a new church that did no have weekly sermons, did I realise just how much this teaching was valuable to me, how much I depended upon it.
We are forgetful, as humans, we are imperfect, we need to be sustained. At The Globe Church I treasure everything that I learn. The sermons are direct, clear. I find myself both laughing and crying throughout the sermons, truly feeling what is being taught to me. And from the very beginning at The Globe it was never assumed that we knew everything, never assumed that I knew anything. Every detail was explained, every significant word was defined. And I valued this so much because it didn’t feel like a closed group, like an exclusive meeting in which everybody else new something that I didn’t. It felt like a home, a family whose arms were open to me, who welcomed me without hesitation, with no judgement of who I was and who I used to be, but with a love and kindness that only few have shown me before.
And the voices lift to something yet greater than before. After everything that everyone has learnt, the words have a greater strength, they run deeper, they reach further.
And then we can share the time we have together, then we take hold of the the opportunity thatwe have be given, the family that we have been welcomed into. At The Globe we share a meal. At other churches it may be different. But the most important thing is that we show our love to the church family that we have been given, that we recognise our place amongst the international church and that we are always reaching out and welcoming new people to our church, welcoming new people to the kingdom of God.
I find comfort in knowing that in every church service we are there to pray to the God who listens, to praise the God who created us, to hear the words of the God who loves us, and to centre our lives around the fact that Jesus took on our sins, received our punishment in place of us, and died on that cross so that we could be forgiven.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.