With our "One Another" sermon series, we are seeking to "develop a culture of care as we devote ourselves to the 'one another' practices of scripture." The church is not a restaurant where we are trying to create the right atmosphere or the best "menu" of experiences so everyone can pick and choose their favorite options. Instead, the church is a family that expresses love to one another in the way they relate. We are a body in which all of the members are interdependent.
One of the biggest challenges to viewing church this way is our common tendency to consider the church as a list of "programs" that are offered for our personal development rather than a "people" in whom we are personally invested. In saying this, I'm not advocating that we throw out the church calendar and stop having scheduled events. I'm also not suggesting that personal growth is unnecessary or unworthy.
What I hope to do instead is demonstrate how each of the ministries that we have on our calendar at Oak Hill is more than a "program." A program is something we "go to," while a "people" is a family that we "gather with." A program is something that we seek to get through, while a "people" are those in whom and with whom we are invested.
Consider with me a few events that are a regular part of our church family's calendar, and think through how they are "more than a program":
Gospel Communities - One of the most perilous ministries to think of as a "program" is our Gospel Communities. If someone only shows up at Gospel Community every other week because the "program" is on the calendar, they are missing the point of what these communities are meant to be. Certainly, it is important for us to put the every other week gathering of our Gospel Community on the calendar to ensure regular interaction, but we must be developing the relationships beyond that so that we are supporting one another in prayer, speaking the truth to one another in love, and processing/applying the truth that we are receiving in sermons, personal bible study, etc. These relationships are meant to be primary as we consider our responsibility to obey the "one another" commands. How are you intentionally developing relationships with others in your Gospel Community?
Intergenerational Discipleship - It is important that we have outlets to teach and learn theology, and one of the ways we are doing that as a church is by studying the New City Catechism together. However, theology is relational, not merely intellectual. Jesus did not just say, "teach theology to one another," but rather "make disciples... teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you." The vehicle for discipleship in theology is a relationship, not merely a classroom. You might feel like our "Intergenerational Discipleship" is beneath your theological depth. Excellent, that's why we need you there - to help the next generation gain theological understanding as you invest in them personally! Likewise, you might feel like our "intergenerational discipleship" is for the kids. There is a sense in which it is true that we are investing in the next generation but is this not our calling (see Titus 2)? And unless each of us can explain our theology to a child, do we really understand it ourselves?
Men's & Women's Intensives - We haven't even started these yet, but let's have the right perspective going in. The last thing we need is another "program" on the calendar. However, we have seen the need for men to get together and encourage one another in what it means to be a man, and likewise for women to get together and encourage one another in what it means to be a woman. We also want to strengthen our spiritual muscles to properly study the word and then bring that personal study to bear in conversation with one another. The prep work is "intensive," but to see this as a "people" with whom you are gathering will mean that you will prepare so that you can mutually invest in other men or women who will be there with you.
Sunday Celebration Gatherings - There are so many "one anothers" that can and should happen on a Sunday morning, both during and outside of the service. We are called to "address one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs," which probably never happens in your life outside of Sunday mornings. We are called to "greet one another" in the Lord which is such an important part of deepening our relationships, and Sunday mornings are a great opportunity for that. When you come to gather with the church on Sunday, how can you be intentional in your investment in other people whom you will encounter?
I hope what you are seeing here is a vision for developing a church culture that cares deeply for one another, not merely for the programs that fill our personal needs. The same principles could be applied to other student and children's ministries, AROMA ministries, prayer events, special meals, and more. We pray that every member of our church would be personally invested in the other members, and that comes from a correct mindset of "who we are" and "what we do." The result will be the type of commitment, counsel, and care for one another to which the Lord has called us. These are essential ingredients for making disciples.