Our highest priority is worship. The most basic New Testament definition of worship is “to draw near to kiss.” This has to do with intimate relationship with God. We live to glorify God and to enjoy his presence. Our work and our play become worship to Him because all that we do is devoted to Him and all that we do is done in partnership with Him. In our corporate church gatherings we become a choir of sorts singing to an audience of One. We come together to touch the Father’s heart.
In our gatherings we sing as an expression of worship to God. The goal is to express with our lips, our bodies and our instruments adoration of and to God. He inhabits the praise of his people. We know that he hears us and responds to us in this time of worship. As we entertain his presence we bless God as best we know how and he blesses us in return. Generally the Isaiah 6 pattern for worship takes place – we come into the sanctuary, we see the Lord in all of his majesty, we then see ourselves in relation to his holiness and we are undone, conviction of sin follows, we repent, we are forgiven and cleansed, we are called to join God in his work, we surrender, then he sends us into his service. This pattern can be repeated daily if we choose.
Worship and the Word go together. Occasionally a worship service will involve only music, but for the most part the preaching of the word is involved. The music is not simply a warm-up act for the preaching. The musical expression of worship can stand alone, however, the pattern we see throughout scripture is that communicating the Word was vital, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. But how will they hear without a preacher?” The leadership gifts listed in Ephesians 4 all involve verbal communication skills. Why would God give gifts of teaching and preaching to the church if they were not needed? Scripture is very clear about the need to hide the word of God in the heart, to know the word, to memorize the word, to meditate on the word day and night, and to proclaim the word. If we are not renewing the mind we are being conformed to the world. Certainly a major part of this renewing process has to do with meditating on scripture and engaging in discussion with and encouragement and exhortation from other people. To the degree that we do not know what God has said, we are susceptible to being deceived. The word is a vital part of our worship experience.
The priority of fellowship is second only to worship in our church.
1. Fellowship with God
In John 14, Jesus’ words teach us that the essence of fellowship begins with Him, and that we have been invited into eternal relationship already existent between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In a popularized sense, to fellowship usually means, “to socialize.” Koinonia is the Greek word in the New Testament translated fellowship. Koinonia basically means, “to share things in common.” It is the common sharing of the grace and blessings of of God. This sharing calls for a lifestyle of giving and receiving God’s love.
The essence of fellowship then begins with a relationship with Jesus (John 14:6-15). Here we discover that the only way to the Father is through Jesus. He and the Father are one. They have always had relationship.
During the earthly ministry of Jesus, He demonstrated a relationship with the Father that was profound and magnificent. Jesus said only the words the Father told Him to say. He did only the works the Father told Him to work. He moved in authority, responsibility, and ultimately judgment, based on what the Father told Him to do.
Jesus has invited us into this relationship. We have literally been called to speak the words and demonstrate the works of Jesus in the same way he followed the lead of the Father.
2. Fellowship with God's People
We have been called into this fellowship with the Godhead and also called into fellowship with one another. The journey we are on and the mission we are called to is only accomplished in fellowship with others. It is not enough to have a personal commitment to Jesus. We must also commit ourselves to His body, the church.
This commitment to love others can be best expressed through time commitments designed for fellowship. In the middle of our Sunday service we have a designed time of fellowship. This is not a haphazard throw-away time in the service, but a precious time designed to connect with one another. Relationship cannot be passive or left to chance. We must be intentional about fellowship. Small group activities, workdays, Bible studies, training events, prayer groups, ministry groups, outreach groups, and fun gatherings are all important in this process. If you can’t seem to fit into any of the things that are ongoing, then you are encouraged to create something that will work for you.
According to Matthew 28:18-20, the Church has been called to go and make disciples. The word mathetes (math-ay-TES’), from which we translate “disciple”, is defined learner, pupil, or disciple. When we think of learner or pupil in our Western minds, we usually think of classrooms with desks and students. While that is not bad, it is not what the N. T. means in its use of the word.
The Greek pupil or Rabbinic student bound themselves personally to their master and looked for objective teaching. Their aim was becoming a master or a Rabbi. Jesus’ call to discipleship was different. His call was not training to become master or rabbi, but a call to the unconditional sacrifice of one’s whole life.
39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
To be a disciple of Jesus means to be bound to him and to DO God’s will.
46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
Those who followed Jesus were fully engaged in his lifestyle and trained with a “show and tell" style of leadership.
This leadership style is seen in Matthew chapters 8-9 as Jesus takes His disciples on a healing trip. Nine different miracle stories are included in this section of the story. Jesus is demonstrating the Kingdom of God for his disciples to see.
In Chapter 10 he commissions them to go and do the same things they observed him do. He demonstrated the power of God as they watched and then released them to do the what he did.
Using his example, we use this SHOW and TELL model to train people to pray for healing.
• first we model the healing prayer as others watch.
• with the trainee at our side we continue praying and interact as we go.
• next the trainee prays as we watch.
• we leave him praying and tell him to check with us from time to time.
• finally we instruct him to model for someone else and repeat the process.
Training then is being equipped rather than educated. It is being formed rather than informed. Education is good. I believe we must continually be learners, but theology and theory without experience is incomplete. Jesus never proclaimed the word without also demonstrating power. Our desire is to know the WORDS of Jesus and do the WORKS of Jesus. Words and works are inseparable.
One of the greatest joys in my life was when I (Joel) found out that I could do the same things the people on the stage in church and in conferences were doing. They demonstrated the evidence of being filled with the Spirit. They gave words of prophecy. They healed the sick. They preached the gospel and people were saved. They worshipped God and seemed to enjoy it so much. I so much wanted all of those things, but didn’t know how. Observing and learning about it wasn’t enough. Then one day someone said, “Now I will teach you how to do all of these things,” and he did. I prayed for the sick and he watched and answered questions along the way. After I learned he sent me out on my own and encouraged me to teach others.
A deliberate and intentional effort was made, not only to teach, but also to train me how to experience the presence and leading of the Holy Spirit.
We are a training center. It is not enough to talk about exciting things that are happening around the world and talk about knowing God and talk about and hope for revival. We want to experience all of those things on a regular basis. Our goal is that those things are the normal Christian life around here. It is not enough to be excited that God heals. We want to see it happen among us. It is not enough to love good worship. We want good worship to happen here as a normal course of action. We don’t want to only hear what God is saying to the church from far away prophets. We also must hear God speak. We don’t want to see salvation occur only some other place. Hype and fanfare is not in the plan. We want to be known as a place where the people are doing the work. "I need healing!" "Oh, they are doing that at New Life."
"I need to know how to worship." "That is happening at New Life and they will teach you."
Expanding on this point some more - Ephesians 4:11-16 is instructive in this area of training.
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Our hope in training is that all of us are equipped to do the work of ministry and that we are then motivated to do it. Not all ministry must flow through the central office and in fact, it cannot. No one person has the energy or gifting to do it all. Our hope is that all are equipped and motivated to create ministry opportunities and new programs. Gather people to work with you and we will bless you and support you all we can. The strength and success of this church is indeed the people of New Life. The more willing, available and motivated individuals are the stronger the church will be. No one will twist arms and compel people to do anything. On the contrary, our plan is not to motivate people but to identify those who are already motivated.
The more skilled and motivated people we have that are stepping out to lead, the better off we are. Another really good result of a church that functions this way is that it will not be focused and built upon any single person. The strength and longevity of the church will be greater. We really hope to give away everything that we can. We want for you to have all that we can give you plus much more. In fact, our real hope is that many of you become expert in a variety of areas and that you give what you have to the rest of us. There is a healthy interdependence that happens in that kind of environment.
The fourth priority flows naturally out of the first three. It is normal for the children to be like the parents. In fact, that is the plan. We want to be like our Father who loves us and gave his son for us. It is normal to love the things that he loves. We are trained and equipped and mature in the faith so that we can bless the world. It is not enough to know about all of these wonderful things. We all want to make a difference in the world.
We are created in the image and likeness of God and we were created with good works in mind. We have been filled with creativity that overflows from us as the expressions of God Himself. We are all ministers of the glory of God to the world. As we go we very intentionally spread the gospel of the kingdom.