In a little over a week the Alton Mission Gathering will begin (Sunday, September 9, at 10:30 am, in case you’ve forgotten). People have been asking, “What are we going to do?” To which I like to reply, “Snake handling and interpretive dance.” But since that’s not helpful, here’s the real answer.
Remember that our calling is incarnational mission, which means, “Go be Jesus to Alton.” The worship gathering equips us for our calling by forming us into Christ’s body and then sending us into the city to bless our neighbors.
So the first and most important answer to the question, “What are we going to do?” is this:
“We are going to let God work in us.”
Being formed into Christ’s body is not a human accomplishment, it is an act of God. What God does is most important, and our side of the work is participating in the activity of his Holy Spirit.
We are not just a community that takes the sacraments, we are a sacramental community. It’s not primarily about what we are doing, but what God is doing in and through us. We become a sacrament to our city, a visible sign of the invisible God. We are the body of Christ. We are the loaf of bread on the communion table. Like the communion bread, we are taken, blessed, broken, and given. Jesus brings us together, forms us in the gospel, unites us with his sacrifice, and sends us out as fresh bread for hungry souls.
Now, we get to be active participants, so there’s work for us to do. Here’s a look at what we do to participate in what God is doing:
Taken: We gather together in worship.
Focus: Belonging to Jesus and to one another.
Looks like: Singing and praying in one voice, greeting one another
Blessed: We listen to the word of God.
Focus: Believing in Jesus.
Looks like: Testimony, scripture readings, sermon, creed, and thanksgiving
Broken: We share in the Lord’s table.
Focus: Becoming like Jesus.
Looks like: Prayer, communion, and worship.
Given: We scatter to bless our neighbors.
Focus: Becoming Jesus to our city.
Looks like: Commission, worship, and benediction.
You may be wondering how we’re going to do all of that. The answer is: “Together!” There are plenty of active roles to fill, so Restore Communities will rotate worship leading responsibilities. These will entail coming early to setup and pray for the service, as well as leading prayer times, reading scripture, and giving testimonies during the service.
We place a high value on children participating as much as possible in everything we do. But there is wisdom in not forcing a three year old to “sit” through a sermon. So we’ll have everyone together during the singing at the beginning of the service, then at greeting time children younger than kindergarten-age will go to an adjacent room. (Children kindergarten and above will stay with the rest of us during the service, which is our custom at Emmanuel as well.) A children’s program is being planned out by a very talented, committed, and loving group of ladies. If you are a covenanted member of a Restore Community, you will automatically be added to the leader rotation. The children will come back in to take communion with us and be commissioned to go be good news.
There are some things that need to get done by the ninth. Let me know if you would like to take on one of these.
- Communion Stations: For the two stations minimally we need a cup and a plate at each one. Beyond that, some aesthetic attention could involve table cloths, candles, etc.
- Offering Box: Something easy to transport, opaque so offerings can be discreetly made, and relatively secure.
- Sound and Media Volunteers: Control what we see and hear! Like buttons, knobs, and computers?
Most of what we’ve mentioned is familiar, but here are some familiar things we won’t have:
- Announcements: Since Restore Communities are the main thing, the Alton Mission is limited to weekly worship gathering and quarterly service projects. There isn’t anything to announce, except when we’ll shut down the worship gathering to do a service project.
- Greeters or Ushers: There will be no bulletins to hand out, for one. But since the worship gathering is not intended to be the place to attract new people, we expect that most new people will be coming with one of you. If other new people happen to come, it will be everyone’s responsibility to give them a gracious welcome.
- Offering: We’ll have a box people can put their tithes and offerings in, but no “pass the plates” moment. This is somewhat related to having no ushers.
I hope you’re getting excited about what God will do in us and through us as we yield to his hand.