Last Sunday, Pastor Bill shared with us that beginning October 2, we will be transitioning to one service of worship beginning at 10:15 AM. This decision came after months of prayer and planning through the strategic planning process. Over 100 members of Heritage met in various locations all over Lakeland beginning in February to discuss God’s work and the future of our ministry. Those people were divided into three focus groups in order to strategize more effectively. The focus groups were to consider: worship, community, and discipleship. As the worship focus group met, it became increasingly clear that the time to transition to one service has arrived.
In the rolling out of this initiative, many great questions have surfaced. Some of those we have tried to answer in an FAQ document that is available in the worship center or for download at the bottom of this blog. Undoubtedly many more questions will arise as we make this transition beginning October 2. In this, we ask for your patience as we iron out any wrinkles. The pastoral staff has been extremely blessed by the overwhelming support and excitement with regard to this initiative.
As we enter this new season, one we hope is marked by gospel-centered unity, we’d like to communicate a few great hopes we have with regard to our service of worship. Here are three things we humbly ask of you during this transition.
- Pray for unity.
God has preserved for the Church some of the great prayers of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. In John 17, often called the “High Priestly Prayer,” one of the main things Jesus asks of the Father is that his followers would be unified. He rooted this unity in the very unity that exists between the members of the Godhead (Father, Son and Spirit), and he said that the kind of unity he was praying for would serve as a key apologetic to an unbelieving world.
In light of this, we ought to fiercely pray for unity. Jesus’ acts of redemption in his death and resurrection were the culmination of God’s plan and purpose to unite all things in him (Ephesians 1:10), and part of the way we experience that kind of unity is through worshiping together. Unity in worship is also a foretaste of that which we will engage in for all eternity in the presence of God. There’s a lot at stake in our public worship services. Let’s commit ourselves to pray for unity.
- Prepare for worship intentionally.
Heritage is extremely blessed with an influx of young families. It is not uncommon to have over 25 babies in our nursery each week (not to mention the numbers in preschool and primary). This means that young families are making a sincere effort to worship God together on a weekly basis. It also means that preparation for worship starts on Saturday night! Bed times, meal times, nap times, clothes, food, etc., these are all things that parents wrestle with each week as they bring their children to worship. We encourage young families to sit down and talk about a game plan for preparation for worship, beginning on Saturday. We also encourage those whose children are grown to find ways to serve these young families as they bring their children to worship. Serving in nursery and preschool are great ways to do that!
Each week, we will begin our worship service promptly at 10:15 AM. Beginning at 10:00 AM, the announcements will be displayed on the video screen, and soft music will be played to help you prepare for worship. We will also provide a worship guide in order to help you reflect on the service elements for each week. We pray you will use this guide to become familiar with some of the newer elements in our worship services. We also encourage you to find a seat well before 10:15 AM so that you will be prepared to engage in the worship of our King!
- Preach the gospel to yourself and others.
Each week, we endeavor to preach God’s Word with boldness and with great intentionality with regard to Jesus’ own principle of interpretation: the whole Bible is about him (John 5:39). But in addition to a weekly service of worship that lasts only an hour and fifteen minutes, we need a steady diet of God’s Word in our lives! We need to preach the gospel to ourselves through Scripture reading, memorization, meditation, and more! We need to engage in biblical community, taking care to invite people to speak the words of Scripture into our lives when we are blinded by our sinful bent.
We also need to preach the gospel to others. In his book Let the Nations Be Glad, John Piper famously says that “missions exists because worship doesn’t.” He means that the end goal of mission is that God would be worshiped in all nations! Missions stokes the fires of worship by calling people from all nations to identify with God’s people and worship Him alone. But it also works the other way around. Each week as we gather for worship, we are nourished and trained by God’s Word for the mission he has given us, so that a worship service in some sense serves as weekly fuel for missions. It is our intention that we would be “arrows out” people, seeking to share the good news about Christ out of the overflow of joy in our hearts. In this way, our worship services are intensely missional!
Let me finally say that the chief goal in worship is to glorify God. We are asking you to do each of these things not as ends in themselves—as if unity could exist apart from the gospel of grace, or as if a worship folder could truly prepare our hearts to enter the presence of the King. We are asking that you walk with us into this new season with a heart that is prepared to worship in awe and wonder, desiring God’s glory above all else. This is our chief end, our highest joy. What a privilege to worship our God together!