Our corporate priorities: Preaching, Worship, Prayer
In this article, we discuss the next three values in our mission statement: preaching, worship, and prayer. These values are not just ideas but are rooted in the Bible and represent the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. We explore each value and their significance in the life of the church. We emphasize the importance of the Word of God and the centrality of Christ in the life of the church. We remind readers that the entire Christian life is about being caught up in the dynamics of the loving relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We begin by reading the following passages in the Bible:
10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For both He who [a]sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 saying: “I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly, I will sing praise to You.” 13 And again: “I will put My trust in Him.” And again: “Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.”
14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. 17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
There’s a very famous American author named Mark Twain. You may have heard of him, he wrote several books and one of them is called The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He is not really somebody to model your life after, but there’s a little part in the book that I want to consider.
In the book, Tom is having a conversation with a friend. She asks him what his church is like. He talks about his church, and mentions the preacher. His friend replies that her church has 17 preachers. He comments that, “well that must take forever if they’re all preaching. We only have one preacher a day.” I’m paraphrasing. Then he says, “well then what do the others do?” And she says, “well, they don’t do much. They kind of collect money, they pass the bag around. But other than that they really don’t do much.” He asks what are they for? “They are there for style.”
I couldn’t help but wonder about that, if somebody were to ask you, “what is your church like?” What you would say? Or if somebody were to ask, “what do you guys do at church and why do you do it?” What would you say?
We want to grow in our values, and maintain a culture that reflects these values. We need to understand who we are in Christ, what we are doing with Christ, and why we are doing it.
In the last article we considered our first value: Christ is our head. This sets the tone for everything else. He is in charge. At Calvary Chapel Heidelberg, it’s all about Jesus. All that is done in the life and the ministry of the church comes from the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is giving us life. Jesus is doing the work of the ministry through us. He has preeminence.
Today we’re going to look at the next three values in our mission statement. These are our corporate priorities, they are what we want to be doing together when we gather.
- A strong emphasis on preaching
We preach the word of God to exalt Him, to edify His people, and to equip them for a life of worshipful service. Preaching is central for the life of the church.
- Worship that stirs the heart and renews the mind
In the words of Jesus, we worship in Spirit and in Truth. Worship is God’s idea and it is God’s command.
- Steadfast in prayer
We pour out our hearts before God because His strength is made perfect in our weakness.
Let me say that these are not just ideas that we’ve come up with over a cup of coffee. I have come up with a lot of good ideas over a cup of coffee, and by the grace of God I have been spared from many of them.
These core values are deeply rooted and sourced from the Bible. We’ve done our best to craft statements that articulate what the Bible says about the church.
From Hebrews 2 and 4 these values represent the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. His ministry is one of preaching, worship, and prayer. Our mission statement says, “we seek to follow Him.” So we come together and gaze upon the Lord Jesus Christ saying: this is what He’s doing and this is what we want to do.
Even more so, this is what Jesus is doing in and through his people. Jesus is the Prophet who preaches the Kingdom of God and proclaims the gospel. Jesus is our High Priest who leads us in the worship of His father. As our High Priest, he teaches us, cleanses us, and pastors us. As our older Brother he shares His Son-Father relationship with His father with us. We share in the Sonship of Jesus. Jesus brings us along in his prayer life, enabling us to pray in His Father’s name.
We want to emphasize that the life and the ministry of the church is something that He is doing. Through our union with Christ, we are partaking in His life, His worship of the father, and His ministry from the father. Through faith we have become united to Jesus. And when you think about this idea of being united to Jesus, you can’t help but recognize that there’s a sense of intimacy isn’t there?
When Jesus speaks to His sheep they know Him intimately. It is God’s Spirit that moves in our hearts as we sing. There is intimacy as we pray to a compassionate and loving Father who loves us. The entire Christian life is being caught up in the dynamics of the loving relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are brought into the life of the Trinity.
I want to emphasize that our values are God’s values, and that the life of the church should model after the life and ministry of Jesus. Christ is our head. We belong to Him. There is not a single thing that isn’t all about Jesus at Calvary Chapel Heidelberg.
This morning I want us to look at these from three perspectives.
1. Theologically—to understand the “what” of what the values are.
2. Practically—to understand the “how” of it all.
3. Doxologically—to understand the “why” of it all.
A strong emphasis on preaching
What is really going on as God’s people gather? For some, it may be like Tom Sawyer—you don’t understand a lick of what’s going on in the church. When somebody asks you might say, “oh my church—it’s got blue chairs and you sign up when you come in.”
What do you emphasize when you describe the church?
For Calvary Chapel Heidelberg, first and foremost Christ is our head and we are a Bible preaching church. We believe in the authority of the Word of God.
Sadly, this is not the case in many other churches. I don’t say this to gloat, but I wonder how many churches in the city of Heidelberg are faithfully preaching the Word of God with authority and conviction? This is important because as soon as you move away from the centrality of God’s Word, you move away from blessing, from faithfulness, and from life.
And then there’s a greater question: what’s going on right now as I speak? Paul tells us that the angels are here. They’re watching and observing us. They are in awe of the worship of the church. We are corporately participating in the life of the triune God. As Christ gathers us He says: “here I am with the children God has given me.”
Also in worship God is the actor. God brings us into eternal fellowship with the eternal Godhead. When the church comes together we are not just marking off an hour of our week. We are not saying “I’m going to get some good stuff, and then do good stuff in the bad world.” That is not what’s going on in the church.
In the church, we are coming together as God’s people, and together we fellowship with God. He draws us ever deeper into experiencing the fullness of joy that He has had from all eternity. We love, worship, and fellowship together with the members of the triune Godhead.
So, what should our focus be? It should be on God’s focus.
Hebrews 2 might be my favorite Bible passage. It says that you have a High Priest who is like you. He’s a human who suffered for you and through Him you are sanctified. You have an older Brother. He shares in your humanity. The emphasis of Hebrews 2 is the humanity of Jesus. It’s marvelous.
14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him
In order to die for humans, he had to die as a human. Verse 17:
17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest
He is an older brother. Hebrews 4:
15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
As a human He can sympathize with our weaknesses because He was tempted in every way, like us, yet without sin.
Our union with Jesus is a spiritual one. Yet, is also a physical one because He has walked in flesh and blood. Therefore, it is through the shared humanity of Jesus that we can come into contact and fellowship with the divine. The humanity of Jesus means everything if we want to have a real relationship with God.
Hebrews 2:11 says that He is not ashamed to call us His brethren. God is not ashamed of you—this is true! He is your brother. He is your priest. And He shared in your humanity in order to sanctify you. It is a good thing to hear that God is not ashamed of you.
I know what it’s like to have the devil harangue me and say “God’s ashamed of you.” Do you hear those nagging thoughts? “God’s ashamed and disappointed in you. You’ve let Him down too many times. You should be disgusted with yourself.”
I know I’m not the only one that’s heard those thoughts, right? But these are not true. God is not ashamed of you in any shape or form. He’s sanctified you. He says, “I am joyfully with the children whom God has given me. My brethren I love them! And it is through my suffering that I am perfecting them and bringing them to glory.”
God is not ashamed of you! In Hebrews 2:12 says, “I will declare Your name to My brethren …” He shares in our humanity, He is our older Brother, He is our High Priest, and He’s not ashamed of us. He is declaring the name of the Father to us.
In other words, how do you know who God is? You didn’t just discover it alone. You didn’t pick up a book on apologetics and say, “okay all my questions are answered, that’s good.” It’s not the whole story—it’s even more than that!
You have a Shepherd, He spoke to you personally, and He calls you by name. You have shown that you belong to Him by responding. He has called you by name, and He revealed His Father’s name to you—a Father who says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” This changed everything, didn’t it? It is an entire paradigm shift to know there is a God who loved me so much that He sent His Son to suffer for my sins.
Jesus is calling you and declaring the name of His loving Father to you. Jesus says, “if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” He’s come to reveal God. Quoting Psalm 22, the author of Hebrews says, “I will declare your name to my brethren.” Isn’t that a wonderful thing? Jesus is all about declaring and proclaiming the name of His Father to his people.
Jesus often said, “I and the Father are one. The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This is what heaven looks like. Jesus proclaimed the kingdom and the gospel. That’s what his ministry was about.
Jesus is in the midst of his church. I say this all the time because we have to get away from the idea that the God is far away in distant galaxies. We come to church and muster up enough energy to sing, and hopefully God is interested. Every now and then we’ll say something like—“God is here.” But it is not enough. There is no church apart from Jesus. We see in Revelation 1 that Jesus is walking in the midst of His church.
When somebody says to me, “you know pastor, you really spoke to my heart today,” I say thank you, but the ultimate reality is that Jesus is the one speaking. We are not just here talking about good ideas, are we? You might be like me. You’ve had your cup of coffee, so your brain’s full of good ideas right? Well that’s what your journal is for.
We are preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ—week in and week out. Jesus is about proclaiming the name of His Father. Not a church, not a church movement, not a pastor, not anything else. This is why preaching is so vital. When God’s word is preached Jesus’s sheep hear his voice, know him, and follow him. When you read the gospels you might consider, “what was Jesus’s ministry like? What did he do?”
Of course, there were miracles. He cast out demons. He healed people. But all of that was done in order to verify the reality of His message. In His ministry, Jesus went about preaching and teaching the kingdom of God. He is all about preaching. Therefore, when we preach the Bible we understand that Christ is speaking to His people.
For instance, we don’t gather to hear a man. No matter how much coffee I have, my ideas are just that—ideas. They are not really helpful for me or you most of the time. We are not here to think about what social or political things are going on, or anything else.
We are here learn from the authoritative, inerrant, life-changing Word of God. In our preaching we are proclaiming the name and majesty of God, and none other. His love. His nearness, faithfulness, grace, justice, and beauty. We don’t want to focus on anything else. Why should we?
This is our priority because this is what Jesus is all about. Preaching is more than just giving some instructions about how to have an effective week. Preaching the word is to exalt God.
Worship that stirs the heart and renews the mind
The next part of Hebrews 2:12 says, “In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.”
Jesus is our High Priest. He is the Lamb. He is the Priest. He is the Temple. He is the place where we come to worship. We join in the worship of Jesus. This is His priority.
Notice the location: right here in our midst. Jesus praises His Father in our midst and brings us along. As Zechariah says, “He sings over us because he loves us.” Wherever heaven is—we sing and the words go to Him. But He is also in our midst. He is stirring us up and saying, “my Father is worthy to be praised. That’s what I’m all about!” Therefore, worship is a priority. The Bible commands it: sing, clap, shout, dance. All these things God says to do!
Steadfast in prayer
At the end of Hebrews 2:13, “…Here am I and the children whom God has given me.”
Isn’t that one of those profound things—“wow, I’m a child of God!” Because the eternal Son of God shared in my flesh and blood, and shares His Sonship with me, I can call on God the Father.
Jesus shares His Sonship with us. He prays to the Father and through Him we are able to pray to the Father. Prayer is a gift. We join Jesus in His prayers, and He sanctifies our prayers and presents them to the Father. Participation of His Sonship makes it a relationship. This is precisely what Jesus indicates when He says to pray to “our Father.”
Hebrews 4 says that we have a High Priest who sympathizes with us as one of us. Verse 16, “let us therefore come boldly”—what marvelous words. Throughout Jesus’ life He modeled a rich prayer life. The Bible commands prayer. Therefore, as a church we want to be steadfast in prayer.
What does this practically look like for our church?
Our mission statement says that our preaching should “to exalt God, edify his people, and equip them for a life of worshipful service.”
True biblical preaching is God-centered preaching. Christianity is not focused on man, it’s focused on God. We do not gather at church to hear a man speak about how to live a good Christian life. We gather to hear from the Scriptures, which focuses on the greatness and majesty of God. We gather to exalt God. Any preaching that doesn’t exalt God leaves us in the dust because we want to focus on Him. We want to join what Jesus is doing through us, and exalt the name of His Father.
One time after I preached a sermon in Turkey, a friend of ours, she’s passed away now, complimented me. She told me that my sermon was God focused and that God’s people need to have God explained and exalted to them. We are like the psalmist who says “I want to behold the beauty of God and to inquire in his temple,” and so we are all beholding the beauty of God together.
Preaching should lead us to awe of the God who loves us, the God who is gracious, the God who cares. Preaching edifies the church, it builds us up in our understanding of what the Bible says. There is no greater need in the church than to understand what the Bible teaches. We are talking about orthodox teaching—doctrine, in order for us to think right about God.
Paul says in Ephesians 4 that the pastor’s job is to edify the body of Christ. In other words: teach them truth. My job isn’t to entertain, but to instruct in the ways of God teaching and to equip a life of worshipful service. In Ephesians 4:12, Paul refers to “the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry.” So we begin with exalting God, and from that we get strength, understanding, and edifying, and through that we’re equipped to live the right way.
We want practically apply Bible teaching to every part of our lives. We are not just here to fill our heads. We are here to fill our hearts with truth and to motivate and educate our hands. This leads to another core value at Calvary Chapel Heidelberg: practical discipleship, in which we apply the gospel to every part of our lives.
Our worship should renew and stir the heart. We worship in Spirit and Truth. Therefore, we want to sing songs that are grounded in Scripture and focused on God. We want our songs to be like a Bible study set to music.
If somebody came to church and they only stayed for the singing, would they hear the gospel? We want to be grounded in truth and we wanted to be Spirit-filled. We want to give space for God’s Spirit to move in such a way that we’re overwhelmed at the goodness of God.
There’s contours to our worship, but we are joyful and expressive. You can clap, you can shout, you can even say hallelujah. Emotions are okay. Expression is okay. Freedom and energy is okay.
In a biblical way, we want to be sensitive to what the Spirit is doing.
We also want our prayer to be steadfast, as we pour our hearts out before God. We are told to come boldly to the throne of grace. We want our prayers to be personal, we want them to be consistent, and we want them to be full of faith. We want prayer in this church to be a lifestyle. Think about what Jesus said: you get to pray to His Father, your Father.
One time, I was in a discipleship program in southern California pulling weeds with a guy named Juan. I didn’t understand what doing garden work had to do with discipleship, but was told to do it, so I did. As we were pulling weeds Juan said, “hey, isn’t it crazy that we get to talk to the God of the universe?”
When’s the last time you were blown away by the fact that you get to talk to the God of the universe? There is so much going on in prayer and yet it’s so simple. We want to be people that pray the promises of God together—full of faith, full of dependence on Him.
In Ephesus Paul said, “God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, beyond anything that we could even dare to imagine or ask.” Wow! God invites us into the relationship and fellowship of prayer, and to explore the generosity and abundance of his gifts.
What do you think we could be missing out on simply because we’re not praying about it? We want to be a church given to prayer.
What does this mean doxologically for our church?
Briefly, we will consider this doxologically. What is the reason for all of this? We want these things to orient ourselves to God. The point is to worship Him to give Him glory. In preaching—we exalt him. In worship—we exalt him. And in prayer—we exalt him. We want everything we do in this church to be entirely God centered. We are orienting ourselves together, as a church, towards the God of the universe.
Sermon by Fortenberry
3 October 2021
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