What should happen when we meet together each Sunday?           (David Brown)

A healthy church is a place where Christians can grow as disciples. How can our Sunday services contribute to this? Acts 2.42 lists several things which the early church did : they were devoted to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. But do we do all this when the whole church meets each Sunday?

Do we need a change of paradigm in order to revitalize our churches?

In general our churches include a time of worship and Bible teaching. But I believe two other aspects should be included, namely      

              •      practical teaching on discipleship in the widest sense
              •      prayer for each other as we go back out into the world.

Is it legitimate to do this each Sunday? What does the New Testament teach in fact about our “services” ? I think that there are two answers to this question!

Firstly, that worship is an attitude, not a thing we do at a certain time of the week. Here are the only three verses in the New Testament which define worship and each one has a very wide application to our lives:
            •          Romans 12.1 “offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual (or reasonable) act of worship”
            •          Philippians 3.3 “we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh”
            •          Hebrews 12.28 “worship God acceptably with reverence and awe”.

The only vocabulary used for the time when Christians gather are very ordinary words such as “meeting” or “when you come together’. You can check this out in  Acts 20.7-8, 1 Cor 11.17-18 , 1 Cor 14.23-26 and James 2.2. And in the poignant plea : Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another (Hebrews 10.25).

This understanding of the regular meeting of the Church opens up new possibilities. We are not just limited to worship and expository teaching of the Scriptures.


Secondly, the global Covid pandemic has revealed (and accelerated) trends in society which were already happening and this forces us to deal with very practical issues facing Christians as we live out our lives as salt and light all through the week.

Is this new? I don’t think so. As the Gospel spread from Jerusalem throughout the Roman world, the apostles had to address issues which were not necessary to teach the early Jewish believers. For example, in 1 Corinthians, Paul develops a Christian way of thinking about marriage and food sacrificed to idols. Such practical teaching was indispensable to those living in a context where Biblical values were not the norm.

So apart from a time of worship and Bible teaching (and this is important in order to motivate us to live for God and his glory), I believe two other aspects should be included in our regular services, namely practical teaching on discipleship and prayer for each other as we go back out into the world.

Practical teaching on discipleship

So when we meet together as a church each Sunday, what should we include in our teaching today? Here is a list of subjects I have personally tried to cover :

          •    First of all, some explanation of the way contemporary society functions : the philosophical thought that underlies it, secularism, freedom of expression, and analyses of current culture (films, books, television series).
          •             Secondly, an understanding of the past : the main outline of the history of Christianity, the outstanding personalities (Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Blaise Pascal...), the development of world mission and the origin of our different denominations.
          •             Thirdly such ethical questions as ecology, racism, war, bioethics, the challenges of the LGBT movement, sustainable development.
          •             Fourthly, I discussed religious issues such as an overview of Islam and Buddhism, but also important topics of evangelical theology such as the transmission and translation of Scripture, and the interaction between the Bible and science.
          •             Finally, I tried to provide practical instruction on human behaviour and discipleship: marriage and parenting, management of time and money, the use of social networks and more widely our leisure time.


What does this mean in practice? How is it possible to cover all these topics? One possibility is to follow the "TED conferences" model : in 10-15 minutes a subject is presented in a succinct but interesting way, and there can be a time of questions and answers or dialogue after the presentation. We cannot deal with each subject in detail, but it's better than nothing. The real benefit of doing this during the weekly service is to communicate Biblical thinking on these topics to the whole church. Of course the pastor does not have to do this alone: he can call on members of his church (or from a neighbouring church) to contribute their knowledge (e.g. a  scientist, a doctor, a history teacher...), or he can download a  talk from the internet and use it as an introduction to the topic. 

I believe all this will contribute to the strengthening of each disciple as he or she lives in today’s world, but also help them to build bridges towards non-Christians.

Prayer and support for each other as we go back out into the world.

We need the encouragement of others to be salt and light in the community around us, and Hebrews 10.24-25 exhorts us not to give up meeting regularly so that “we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds”.

Here are three possible ways of doing this

          •                Sharing Biblical teaching and personal experience on work, family and social involvement, for example
          •                Helping church members to have a better idea of the different challenges each one faces through the week. This is why Neil Hudson (of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity) suggests including a short interview each week on “T T T”, i.e. This Time Tomorrow, in which a church member talks about their work, or their school or the way they use their time in retirement. In this way people can have  a better understanding of the issues each one is facing day after day






          •              Having a time of intercession, in one form or another, with some very specific prayer requests. Maybe someone has a job interview, or an important doctor’s appointment. Someone may want prayer for an elderly neighbour, or a student may be taking an important exam. Or perhaps another person has had a good chat about the gospel at work and is asking for wisdom for the next step in witnessing to this colleague. The needs and opportunities of the week are limitless!

I believe that by Including these four aspects (worship, Bible teaching, practical teaching on discipleship and prayer for each other) in our weekly Sunday gatherings, we can really contribute to making a church healthy and a place where Christians can grow as disciples.