Imagine the whole of The King's Centre alive with expectation, worship and art! That's the scale of the healing rooms at Bethel Church that run each Saturday morning. Prayer teams arrive early. They were already expectant and joyful to be there from the off. No one needed to drive the pre-event prayer meeting, but everyone knew how to engage with the Holy Spirit and get in step with him for what he wanted to do that day.
This was my first team trip to Bethel. I hadn't been in the team that visited in September 2022, but had many conversations with those who had been, and so I was expectant! As I've said before, such visits to other churches are really important for those of us that work in pastoral leadership roles - they keep us fresh and learning, and provide space for personal refreshing and encounter with God.
Arriving at Bethel for my first Sunday morning, I was struck by the scale of everything. Having been directed by a series of welcoming stewards to the huge car park, a sizeable building lay before me. As well as housing a worship centre for a thousand committed and enthusiastic worshippers, the building is also home to Bethel's Christian school along with several church offices and spacious training rooms.
A talk from Senior Pastor Steve Jones about how we see and do gathered worship in OCC.
We've just ended an important series in the life of OCC. As we explained in a previous blog, as we all emerge from the constraints of the last 18 months, the elders agreed it is time to invest again in our relationships with God ー both as individuals and as communities.
In the series we focused on nine 'keystone' habits, as we explained here, the habits most likely to lead to other changes.
When I started full-time employment in Oxfordshire Community Churches in 1995, I was taken on as effectively an Operations Director (although we didn't use that term then). We talked instead about the gift of 'steersman' or 'pilot' - a word with nautical roots that appears in 1 Co 12.28 and is variously translated leadership, administration, guidance and governing.
In our worship service yesterday, worship leader Chris Fulton said, at one point, "We have no plan! Over to you!" I don't know how you responded to that? Did you see it as an act of brave faith, or of reckless leadership?
"We have no pre-determined plan! Let's see what God does as we meet!" has long been a core practice of our sort of church. When I found myself becoming part of Oxford Community Church in the 1980s, it was standard practice to meet for what some call 'open worship' - and we used to call 'body meetings'.
In the spring of 1980, a few weeks after becoming a Christian, I was sitting in someone’s lounge, together with a group of teenagers like me. We all wanted to speak in tongues, but none of us had, even though a month earlier we had all had a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit. As someone was praying for us, I looked up and saw the ceiling turning fluid and something coming down onto us. The whole room was then filled with the presence of God. We all started laughing with joy and this amazing gift started to flow out of our mouths.
If you've ever been to an OCC meeting, you will know that we value participation. We see gathered worship as a participatory thing, not simply a service to attend passively. Everyone gets to play a part; not just those on the rota for the morning!
We draw this from the Apostle Paul's first letter to the Corinthians (1Co), which variously deals with various aspects of worship gatherings, including the Lord's supper (chapters 10-11), spiritual gifts in worship (12-14), preaching (1-2,9,15), baptism (1,10) and offerings (16:1-4).