When the New Testament church is born in Acts 2, the first thing we see, the 'birth cries' of these new born believers, are Acts 2:42 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” In private and in public, in personal and corporate worship, Luke notes their devotion to these spiritual disciplines.
Despite the enormous amount of spiritual growth books being churned out today, we are convinced that God’s picture of spiritual health and his plan for the spiritual growth of his disciples today is the same as his plan for his disciples then: devotion to the Word, fellowship, the sacraments and prayer.
For this reason among others, we encourage people to make corporate worship the one non-negotiable part of their walk with Christ. In corporate worship you are reading the Word, hearing the Word read and preached, you’re singing the Word, you’re in fellowship/communion with the people of God from every kind of background, you’re partaking of the Lord’s Supper in communion with Christ and his people which is a foretaste of glory, and you’re praying prayers of confession, adoration, and petition. Corporate worship is a massive dose of what we call “the means of grace.” We don’t call them that because they save, but because God has promised in his word to especially bless and use his Word, sacraments and prayer to build up his people and make us more like Christ.
If corporate worship on Sunday is our highest priority as disciples then it makes a difference in our day to day schedules. We encourage students, for example, to get their work done ahead of time so they can actually devote themselves to worship and rest. We encourage employees to ask their employers to be able to make worship a priority on Sunday, if not in the morning than in the evening. We encourage parents and their youth to draw a hard line against playing sports during corporate worship or whatever else would conflict with that time. Very practically, we encourage everyone to prepare themselves for worship by things as simple as praying for the service and getting a good night sleep the night before.
You’ll also find in addition to corporate worship that there are a number of different kinds of discipleship groups that meet throughout the week, each with their own ratio (if you will) of the Word, fellowship, and prayer. On Sunday mornings prior to the worship service you’ll find a number of adult discipleship courses which run the range from exploring the Christian faith in the book of Mark, to ESL, to topical studies on Marriage to in-depth verse-by-verse considerations of a book of Scripture. Most of the teachers and topics change quarterly. These are ideal places to grow because of the quality of the teaching materials, the fact that they run the same time as our excellent childcare and children’s Sunday school ministries and because they help prepare us for worship.
Small Groups are another vital means of growth for many during the week. They range in their emphasis from being more care and prayer oriented to being more mission oriented to being more study oriented, but all of them are great opportunities to develop deeper relationships with believers.
What about prayer? Out of all the priorities of the early church, this particular spiritual discipline is the one that has fallen on hard times. While we pray in every group, corporate worship, Sunday school, small groups, our evening service is oriented around quality time in prayer. We still sing and preach, but we also make time to pray for one another, for our church, for our community, for our nation, and for our world. Especially if you’re new to the church we’d encourage you to visit the evening service, kids included, and make not only worship on the Lord’s Day, but praying with the Lord’s people a priority.