Many things go on in the activities of local churches. There are times when a local church gets so involved in a flurry of activities that it loses its sense of direction. We have listed in this
introduction the five primary activities of the church, which are to mark the ministry of each local church. Throughout the rest of this chapter we shall go into greater detail on each one of them.
The worship of God is the central activity of God’s people, the undergirding reality of all of life.
The Psalmist said, “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalm 34:1). For thousands of years this life of continual worship has been shaped and nourished by special gatherings in which God is praised and his saving acts recounted.
The unit on worship has the following sections, designed to help leaders prepare for vital worship today:
- The first section describes several core convictions about worship in Free Methodism in Canada.
- Then mention is made of sources for further resources and input.
- The next section explains the function of prepared services in Free Methodism.
Over the years the Body of Christ (through people with gifts and training in these areas) has
developed services using time-tested words to guide God’s people through special acts of
worship. The use of such services offers believers a framework in which Christian truth (in some fullness) surrounds these events, and the quality of the event is not so much dependent on whether the particular pastor involved has high skills and training in theology, liturgy and worship. As well, these “rituals” serve to tie together the Free Methodist family. Wise pastors use them, adapting only within areas of expertise – for the sake of the Body of Christ.
A number of prepared rituals are provided in folder format for easier use by officiants.
There is more to the Biblical picture of congregational life. In worship God invites his people to enter into his own heart for people. Believers are called to share the good news of his love so that more and more people may come to know, love and worship the one true God. The vocation of God’s people Israel was to be “a light to the nations . . ..” (See Isaiah 42:6). As that calling and vocation are fulfilled in the people of Christ, this call continues: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations ….” (Matthew 28:19) Evangelism is also at the heart of the life of God’s people.
This section gives an introductory explanation of evangelism, understood biblically as bringing people into the life of the kingdom of God, outlining the several dimensions in a full-orbed view.
Healthy churches seek every way possible to reach people and bring them into the life of the
kingdom – whether that evangelistic ministry be through the local church or through our
connectional ministries in Canada and around the world.
Those who come to God through trust in Jesus Christ are drawn into a shared life. The biblical
term is “fellowship.” This section distinguishes Christian fellowship from the variety of
meanings often held by church people when this word is used.
The call to a deeply shared life together comes to us from the New Testament, and was stressed afresh in early Methodism. It is in the context of this life together that Christians worship God, share his love with the lost, serve the needy and broken, and build each other up toward maturity.
Compassion and Justice Ministries
In worship we are called to the divine intention for the world. The God we praise has a heart for the lost and hurting. He is a God of justice and truth. In both Old and New Testaments, God’s people are called to great generosity for those in need. Instructions about worshipping, praising and fearing God can be found along with calls for compassion for the widow and orphan.
In this section we learn that a concern for the poor and the broken in our world and for seeking justice for the oppressed has long been an emphasis among Methodists. The Free Methodist Church seeks both to evangelize and to serve, to be light and salt, and urges individual Christians and local churches to seek a variety of means to do both.
Images of growth and development abound in the New Testament. The Free Methodist Church seeks to help every believer to grow up into Christ (see Ephesians 4). The same commission of our Lord which commands that we go and make disciples of all nations explains that in addition to baptizing them the church is to teach them to obey everything he commanded (Matthew 28:19-20).
The Christian nurture process seeks to lead people to Christ and church membership, help them grow to spiritual maturity, equip them with the skills they need for ministry, and enlist them in the world-wide mission of sharing Christ.