“When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.”
1 Corinthians 14:26
In the run up to Christmas we often find that our diaries get booked out with parties. Like myself, I am sure when you are invited around to a friend’s house party you might ask “Is there anything I can bring?”, as you want to play your part in making the celebration one to be remembered.
I’m equally sure you’d recognise the usual responses to that question might include “No problem we have everything covered, just bring yourself!” or “Thanks for asking, could you possibly bring….(fill in the blank)”
Likewise, and as Paul exhorts the believers in 1 Cor 14:26, when we gather together each week for the corporate expression of our worship in response to the divine invitation to “Taste and see that the LORD is good” we each have something to bring, an important part to play. This cannot be separated from the very health and life of the church.
With this in mind, I want to stir you with three short thoughts that might help you to prepare to join in the corporate celebration each week and that I believe could see our times of corporate worship come all the more alive with the voice and “suddenly” of God.
Is there anything I can bring?
In the first place I would encourage us to start by always asking God what He wants us to bring. This in itself expresses our dependency upon God, that we are hungry for the life and ministry of the Holy Spirit in our midst and need Him to speak and communicate the very heart of God to save us ‘going through the motions’ of dead religion. You see, God is a speaking God and He is looking for those who are available to be used to express His love, to bless and build up the church family and further to communicate His truth and love to the hurting people of our city. On our part, this is about humbling ourselves, having a heart attitude of making ourselves available and being willing to be used as instruments of God’s grace. How exciting does that sound? Does that put a fresh view on coming to church on Sunday?
As you sincerely ask this question of God I know that you will certainly hear one if not both of the following responses:
Just bring yourself
I truly believe this short phrase is foundational to being authentic in our Christian worship. I believe God asks us always to “just bring yourself”. In that I mean not to come with a mask on, not to act as we think we should or other people might expect us to act. Not to leave our troubles, the realities of life at the door and enter a time of ‘unreality’ as a form of escapism. Rather, I believe God primarily asks that we live out our worship, including these corporate celebrations, in the reality of everything that is going on in our lives. He is seeking those who worship in Spirit and in truth, those who will praise him when all is bright and cheerful and also when there is ‘pain in the offering’, when the storms of life seem overwhelming.
It certainly can be a challenge to come as you are, ‘warts and all’, as it is easy to fear rejection or criticism. Yet if we come with open honest hearts then God can far more easily minister to us and even minister through us to others, often without us realising how. It is difficult to make yourself vulnerable before people, but if we do so the rewards will be great.
If we want to see more breakthrough in our corporate worship, more release of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, I would firstly encourage us to come ‘as we are’ before our God!
The important thing to remember is that even if God’s response is to ask you to bring a gift, it is always implied that you are coming as yourself!
Could you please bring…..
You might find in response to your question that God asks you to bring something for the building up of the church family. From 1 Corinthians 14:26 we find a list of gifts that are often exercised in corporate settings, and I would encourage you to be bold in seeking and asking God to give you gifts that will minister to the body. Further to this list He might ask you to do other things as we gather, maybe to look out for the stranger and make them feel welcome, to see a need and give in faith to meet that need, to bring a personal word of encouragement, to get alongside someone and to affirm them, even to give a warm smile and friendly hug!
So if God asks me to bring something what should I do? It is quite simple really, our part is to be faithful and bring whatever is asked of us, in the same way we would if asked by the hosts of a party.
The challenge to us here is not to limit what we could possibly bring. Maybe you are the person who would be completely fine with being asked to ‘bring a bottle’ but if asked to ‘bring a dessert’ would find yourself in a panic. Maybe you’d be concerned about people comparing your offering with the usual star dessert maker who never fails to create the most wonderful dishes for everyone’s enjoyment.
Is it the same for you with the bringing of spiritual gifts at church? Do thoughts such as ‘Who am I to bring this?’, ‘I can’t do that!’, ‘How will that be a blessing?’ run through your head? Well let me take this opportunity to encourage you that the pressure is off! If we come with love in our hearts and an attitude of true humility, being true to what God is asking us to bring, then we play our part and bring honour to God.
Of course we are all human and can make mistakes by bringing something corporately that is wrongly timed, that we have not fully heard or understood, or may just be way off the mark. However, my personal approach to this is that in the loving and safe environment of the church family, any such mistakes are ultimately an opportunity to learn.
Therefore, I would encourage you with all my heart to press on, and with a holy fear of God in your heart and with an ever increasing love for your brothers and sisters seek to make yourself available to be a channel of blessing to the church.
So let’s celebrate….
So from this time on let’s all be provoked to seek God for His gifts to bless and build up the church, making ourselves fully available and willing to act and share as directed. As we commit to love one another in this way, and in doing so honour God, He alone knows what could happen in our midst!