Sunday services at Roots are intended to refocus and realign our lives to God’s story, his work to reconcile humanity to himself and be the center of our lives. And one of the ways this is done is through the expository preaching of the Bible, i.e. preaching that explains the meaning of a biblical text.
While God’s Word ought to have a place in our lives outside of the Sunday gatherings, whether individually or in small groups, the corporate receiving of the preached Word is unique in several ways. Here are three:
1. For one, it is, or at least should be, done by one who is called and qualified to teach. One of the qualifications of pastor/elders given by the Scriptures is “able to teach” (2 Tim. 2:24). The weekly preaching and explaining of the Word is a big part of what it means for pastors to lead the church, and also a big part of what it means for the church to submit to its leaders (Heb. 13:17).
This doesn’t mean uncritically believe everything your pastor preaches (which is why you should be in the Word on your own), but it does mean to acknowledge that God has ordained that qualified pastor/elders lead and teach the church in all humility and awe, and that the church respect and submit to its leaders. A healthy church depends on both the pastors and the flock faithfully fulfilling these roles. In this way, the receiving of the weekly preached Word centers the church on God, his truth and grace.
2. A second way that the weekly preached Word is different from individual or small group study is that the whole church is gathered together. This act in and of itself does more than you might think.
It brings a sense of unity as we together turn our eyes to Jesus, as we together submit to the Word of God and the gospel as the ground of our identity (which is all the more powerful the more diverse the church is!).
It also reminds us that, whatever God’s Word has to say about how we live among others (and it says a lot!), it pertains first and foremost to these specific people. Without a specific, local church setting, it’s pretty easy to live your life and never have to actually do the hard, messy, persevering work of love. As we together hear and submit to God’s Word, we are given a common ground with which to live out our lives and interact with each other.
3. Finally, gathering corporately to hear the preached Word also communicates something to the watching world. As we make this a priority, it communicates that God’s Word holds a central place in our lives, that we are not an authority unto ourselves but look to God to understand the world, ourselves, and the purpose of life.