Below is a brief explanation of each of these words.
This might seem the most obvious. Together we come to worship in church as we gather for services. But worship is far more than what we do when we gather together in church on a Sunday. The Bible tells us that we are to “Love the Lord with all your heart.” This is worship. We worship God because we love him. Serving him comes down the list. If serving God comes higher up the list than worshipping him, then our willingness to serve God will be based on wrong motivations. If worship comes first, then serving him becomes something that we want to do, not something that we feel that we have to do. Worshipping comes first in the list because none of the others make sense without the root motivation of worshipping God.
Growing means that something happens. It means that as we journey together we are changed. One of the clear marks of a church that is doing well is that it grows numerically, and it would be foolish to ignore that as true. Jesus commands the disciples to make disciples and baptise them, so if we are doing what we are told, then we will see our churches grow numerically.
However, in terms of what we are as church, growing means much more than this. A growing church is a sign of a healthy church. A healthy church is seen when people grow in relationship with one another (fellowship), when they grow in understanding of their faith (discipleship), when they grow through their experience of worshipping together, when they grow in desire to exercise ministry together, and when they grow in number because people share their faith (evangelism). All of these aspects are necessary if a church is going to grow.
A key part of this is discipleship, because it is through discipleship that we learn that we are not only called to believe, but also to belong and to take part in the growing of the kingdom of God. And as we learn more about God, we discover that it makes a difference in the way that we think of and respond to things that are happening in the world. This is what lies at the heart of the 5 Marks of Mission of the Church of England:
- To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
- To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
- To respond to human need by loving service
- To seek to transform unjust structures of society
- To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
Sharing is a key word for the church. Primarily it is a reminder that the church is not ours, but that God invites us to share in it with him. The church is God’s church. It has been his church since it was created, and it will be his church long after we are gone.
Sharing is also a value that reminds us that we are called to share our resources together. Again, they are not ours they are God’s, and we are no more than stewards of them. This applies to our money, time, gifts and skills. Another word for this aspect of sharing is stewardship. Our generosity to God in each of these areas is often set by our awareness of God’s generosity to us. If we don’t really understand God, we are less likely to be willing to invest our money, time, gifts and skills willingly to see his kingdom grow.Sharing means that we are called to look out for one another, and to share in their lives.
This doesn’t mean gossiping about one another (sharing about people’s lives). It means taking care of one another, loving one another, making sure that our fellow human being is not in need. This applies both locally and further afield.
Sharing also happens when we engage in worship together. We share together in the taking of communion, in intercessory prayer, in declaring our faith, in hearing God’s word, and in the sharing of testimony to build up our faith. Worship is meant to have a corporate aspect to it. It is as we worship together that we grow in willingness to share other things together. This is why the monthly benefice services are so central to the survival of the churches here (as will the quarterly cluster services).
But sharing also points us outside of the church building. The words at the end of the communion service say “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” This is an instruction. We have joined together in worship, and now we are sent out to continue to worship God as we serve him in the world.
Sharing therefore is also about what God has called us to be each and every day. It is about the people that we live among, work among, study among, socialise among. It is about our family, our home, our wider community. It is about living as Christians where God has placed us. It is about being willing to share our faith unashamedly with those we come into contact with.
Sharing stops us being focused on ourselves. It means that we open the doors of our churches to welcome the passers-by, the baptism families that may or may not ever come back, the wedding couples who choose to mark a significant stage of their lives with us, the funeral families who come to grieve.