A few months ago, a friend in his 40’s passed away in his sleep. He was someone I’d gone to church with for many years at Forefront Manhattan. I didn’t really know him very well, but the news of his death affected me. When I left weekly services at Manhattan to help start Forefront Brooklyn we only saw each other on occasion, but every time, we smiled, hugged, and took time to genuinely connect.
In the weeks after his death, Forefronters from all over the world wrote on social media to share their memories of him. It became a beautiful opportunity to be reminded of the impact of community on our lives. In a busy, evolving city like New York, having a place to anchor yourself with God every Sunday morning made all the difference in our lives. Some of us found spouses there (I am one of them). Others found jobs, apartments, and lifelong friends (I found all of these things too).
Through the steady, dependable routine of Sunday morning worship, we found a community – a home – in our chaotic city. I met people who were in my life for years. Even if we didn’t know each other very well, we shared common memories and had a connection that I’ve really come to appreciate over the years as I’ve grown and watched others grow. Though I mourn the loss of my friend, I am deeply grateful for the memories I have of serving alongside him on Sunday mornings for many years.
As I continue to reflect, I believe more than ever that the weekly gathering still matters.
Weekly Gatherings are a time to worship…
As progressive churches, we can use the corporate worship experience to reimagine old
traditions. Launchpad churches are not so post-evangelical that we don’t still need “church.” The ability to point to a weekly rhythm that people can step into, whether they want to be anonymous or jump right into serving, gives us the opportunity to invite people into something bigger than themselves.
…to cast vision and set values
Pastoral care comes in many forms. It can happen at the bedside of the sick or dying just as much as it can come from the words of a preacher on Sunday morning. We care for our communities by casting vision for who God is calling us to be. We put that vision into action through articulating shared values that our people can put into practice in their own lives. Everything we do at the weekly gathering reflects our vision and values, from the coffee we serve to the musicians on the stage. It’s all an opportunity to reflect who we are, what we care about, and who we desire to be as a church.
…to pause and assess your spiritual life
So many of us are yearning for a space where we can ask the hard questions in life. In our fast-paced world, it’s hard to justify taking time to slow down and sit with God. For some people, the weekly worship gathering is the only spiritual practice they feel comfortable embracing. For many more, walking through the doors of a Launchpad church will be the first time they’ve head someone articulate their beliefs out loud. Our weekly gatherings give us the opportunity to be a healing place where people can breathe and be with God from wherever they are on their journeys.
…to connect with people
For those who’ve been without a church home for many years, the opportunity to connect with people who share their spiritual beliefs and values can be life-changing. Weekly gatherings help us introduce people and establish relationships. They give us the opportunity to start serving in our community, to see others serving and to feel a shared sense of belonging. As pastors and staff, these weekly gatherings are essential opportunities for us meet people and to minister and model service to our community. We never know when a five minute conversation before or after worship can reveal a need or meet one or be the beginning of a life-changing relationship.
…to share in the sacraments
Throughout the gospels and letters we see Jesus and his disciples sharing meals together. As Christ walked along the road to Emmaus, he opened up the scriptures to his disciples, then he broke bread with them and revealed himself. Just a quickly, he then vanished before their eyes. This story is a reminder of what can happen when we invite the presence of God into worship through sharing the sacraments. As progressive Christians, sharing the communion table together becomes the great equalizer, welcoming all people and giving them each the opportunity to glimpse at Christ themselves. It unites us in a shared identity and salvation that we each come to know as we journey together.
Worship – part of something bigger than self, etc.
Cast vision/share mission/set values – weekly gathering reinforces corporate spirituality and shared identity, salvation, and experiences
It’s an opportunity to pause and assess spiritual life – something we don’t get to do often, it’s healing, a chance to slow down, breathe and be with God
About people, not production – vital opportunity to build relationships, minister and model service to your community, mission and vision are seen through every aspect from worship to leaders to the coffee and programs.
Shared sacraments – road to emaues, opportunity to invite God in and you never know what that can do for someone