Consider the impact of congregations on your own life. Suppose someone could extract from your life all the influences that God has had on you through faith communities. Imagine if you could pull out of your mind and heart all the thousands of sermons you have heard, the tens of thousands of hymns you have sung, the pastoral prayers and personal devotions that have formed you. Remove all the people from your life and memory whom you have come to know and from whom you have learned and with whom you have worked -- the pastors, friends, colleagues, laypersons, youth leaders, Sunday school teachers. Extract from your soul all the work projects, the meetings, the conversations, the service initiatives, the soup kitchens, the mission trips, hospital visits and support from others you have experienced. Extract all the weddings, funerals, volunteer hours, stewardship campaigns, prayer vigils, children’s programs, mission fairs, camp experiences, and youth ministries.
If you could remove from your life all the influences congregations have ever had on you, who would you be? You’d be someone substantially different from who you are now. The congregations to which you have belonged -- their people and pastors, their ministries and teachings and programs, their worship and service, their music and rituals, their communities and caring -- these have been the means God has used to form who you are. They have shaped you.
Congregations are a primary means by which God reaches down into our lives to work on our behalf. God uses congregations to create us anew, to claim us as God’s own, and to call us to God’s service. It is through congregations that God’s spirit shapes how we understand ourselves, how we relate to our families, how we view community, and how we participate in the world.
-- U.M. Bishop Robert Schnase from his blog at www.fivepractices.org