Hometown Knowledge

Published on January 25, 2017 by Paul Ryan  

“Did they change the name of this street?” I asked this question on a recent visit to my hometown. My dad answered, “No, it’s always been named that.”

I realized in that moment that I never learned the name of that street. In fact, I didn’t know the names to most of the streets. I could drive to my high school and local grocery store. I knew the quickest route downtown, and I could bike to my best friends’ houses blind-folded. But I had never bothered to learn the names of the streets.

For many of us, we came to know our faith this way. We learned early on the important landmarks: the Bible, creation, sin, Jesus Christ, faith and obedience, everlasting life… But if asked, we may not have been able to label them or locate them on the map of Christian doctrines and believes.

At some point – maybe catechism or a Bible class – someone pointed out these landmarks. Maybe we memorized them, loading up our Christian GPS system. We likely, however, already had some familiarity with these things. For example, we knew God created the world, but gave little thought to the doctrine of creation. We had no idea what eschatology meant, but we knew about life after death.

We knew these things, in part, because we had visited them weekly in worship. In praise, we got to know God as Lord, creator, and savior. In prayer, we visited a world of the broken, sick and needy. In sermons and scripture readings we became acquainted with a book that has authority. In confession, we recognized our need for forgiveness and gave thanks for a savior.

Over time, apart from a teacher and a chalkboard and without quizzes and homework, we became familiar with these landmarks. We came to know them not through instruction, but experience – like coming to know the local playground or grandmother’s house.

This is one of the profound blessings of worship. In these weekly gatherings we come to know God and our faith through experience. It’s not merely a time for teaching or instruction, but a time of visiting with our God. During these times we come to know him as Lord, trust him as savior, and understand that he has a calling for us. We may not be able to name these part of our relationship with God, but we participate in our relationship with God!

When we think about our youth, what landmarks have they come to know through worship? How might we as leaders help them experience more fully their faith in worship?