O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together. Psalm 34:3
A congregation that can worship together should worship together. Since 1966, Providence has regularly held two Sunday worship services, a practice that began when the congregation could no longer comfortably fit in the space that is now Randolph Hall. For now, at least, space restrictions are not an issue for us. We are, once again, in a position where we can worship together at Providence. Therefore, we should worship together at Providence.
The primary considerations driving this conviction for me have to do with the spiritual unity of our church, the quality of our relationships within the church, and the vitality of our mission as a church focused not on ourselves but on Jesus Christ. When we regularly worship together, week after week, in one Sunday service, we get to know each other better. We learn to recognize one another’s faces and remember one another’s names. We become one congregation of Providence people, as opposed to a church made up of “8:30 people” and “11 o’clock people.”
Gathering for worship as one people reinforces the good news that, in Jesus Christ, God has made us into one body of believers “through the cross, thus putting to death the hostility that once divided us” (Ephesians 2:16). The joy and energy that our spiritual unity in Christ generates is a gift from God. We notice it when we worship together during the summer months. We are now in a position to celebrate this gift from God throughout the year.
Strong family relationships develop at the dinner table, through conversations in the den, and in the course of doing everyday activities together. Gathering for worship as one people every Sunday allows us to become brothers and sisters who regularly sing, pray, and listen to God’s word together. Being together for special occasions also strengthens family ties, which is what happens when we share communion, dedicate babies, ordain deacons, welcome new members, and witness holy baptisms. These moments in the life of the church—both the ordinary and extraordinary—are gifts from God. It is possible right now for us to enjoy these gifts together as a church family each week.
Finally, the habit of gathering as one people every Sunday to worship the one, true God revealed in Jesus Christ serves as a healthy reminder that our mission as a church must be less about our preferences and more about God’s priorities. When we worship God together with one heart and one voice, we are saying something critically important about our purpose as the body of Christ. We’re saying that we’re here to point others to Jesus. A Sanctuary filled with grateful Christians praising God together not only encourages us as members of this church family, but it also sends a strong message to guests worshipping with us for the first time. It speaks of the vitality, energy, commitment needed to fulfill our mission of connecting people to God in Christ. This sense of purpose and opportunity are gifts from God.
Granted, it’s been more than 50 years since Providence last worshipped together on a regular basis as one congregation throughout the year. That’s a long time. The very idea of making a change like this probably seems a bit daunting. Few of us welcome big changes in our lives, especially at the outset. It takes time to adjust. In fact, I recently came across the Providence church directory from 1967. In its preface, one of my predecessors, Gordon Weekley, observed that the church had grown to the point of being “forced into two morning worship services.” The new directory, he hoped, “will enable us to know each other better” now that the church family could no longer worship together. We adjusted then. We can adjust now.
But, in order for us to adjust together, we’re going to have to talk together and work together. As spiritual leaders of Providence, our deacons began last spring discussing the prospect of returning to a single, unified Sunday morning worship service. After much conversation, they recommended at their August meeting that the Providence ministry staff lead the congregation in a process to discuss “the best way to worship God at Providence Baptist Church.”
It’s time to begin that process. We will hold church forums on Sunday, March 24, at 4:00pm; Saturday, April 6, at 10:00am; and Tuesday, April 16, at 7:00pm to begin discussing together how we can, as a church, best worship together. These three forums will be identical in nature. The idea is to present the same information and opportunity for conversation on three different occasions in hopes of maximizing congregational participation. I hope that you will choose to join one of these three conversations. It’s important that everyone’s voice be a part of this process.
Will the transition to one Sunday worship service be seamless? Probably not. Will it require some give-and-take? Most definitely. Will it take some time before we hit our stride? Yes. All of us will have to make some adjustments. That’s to be expected. But I am confident that worshipping together will make us a stronger, more vibrant and unified congregation. That’s reason enough to move forward—together, and with Christ at the center.
May the peace of Christ be with you!