So many different aspects make up the contents of a church service. There’s singing, announcements, prayers, preaching, use of spiritual gifts, media, communion … there’s lots! But if I was to ask you to strip a service right back to the basics and to decide on what are the ‘non-negotiables’, the elements which need to be in a service no matter what, I wonder what you would choose to make up the service.
When asked a similar question as to what are the non-negotiables of a church service, here is how some reformed pastors answered it in the Heidelberg Catechism nearly 4.5 centuries ago.
“I regularly attend the assembly of God’s people, 1. To learn what God’s Word teaches. 2. To participate in the sacraments. 3. To pray to God publicly, and 4.To bring Christian offerings for the poor”.
At least for me, I find that a pretty thought provoking answer. Now this doesn’t mean that other aspects of Christian liturgy aren’t important or shouldn’t be included. And of course, this is a catechism, it isn’t the Bible, so it shouldn’t be our divine source of final authority.
But I do think it is significant that when Reformation churches were trying to define the bare bones of a Christian service – even in a society where people had far less money and possessions than what we do now – they included giving to the poor alongside prayer, the sacraments and the proclamation of God’s Word. I reckon it would be pretty interesting to know how many contemporary churches would agree today. One thing for sure is that the Apostle Paul certainly would, and we see that through a short passage in 1 Cor. 16:1-4. In this passage the Apostle does not just urge us to generosity, he teaches us HOW to give by providing four main guiding principles to help us along the way.
The principles are :
- Giving needs to be a priority (not just an after thought).
- Giving is a possibility for everyone. (The amounts of giving will vary but the reality of giving should not.)
- The proportionality of giving. (Each should give in proportion to their wealth.)
- The practicality of giving. (Plan your giving. Like all spiritual disciples, it won’t just happen by accident).
To have this unpacked in more detail, please join us at our evening services as we begin to draw our series in 1 Corinthians to a close! But for this morning, I challenge you to consider where your own giving may or may not be at in light of these principles.
Is your giving a priority? Is your giving in proportion to your wealth? Do you have a plan with your giving? As Christians, we are called to give what’s right, not simply what is left. And we need to do so remembering first and foremost that we give because of the One who first gave to us the greatest gift of all time in Jesus Christ.