Worshipping as God’s People
By Emmy Tane
“We exist to make disciples of Christ who love God and love their neighbor.” This is the mission statement of Christ Fellowship Church and this unified focus is very evident in how this congregations gathers and stewards the gifts of community and evangelism. This body of Christ was planted in Birmingham to faithfully make disciples and “engage with the living God in authentic worship, giving him the praise he deserves as we read, sing, pray, preach and sit under the truth of God’s word and respond in obedience.” (All quotes from Christ Fellowship are from its website.) This church values authentic worship, biblical truth, sanctifying community, faithful evangelism, and diverse unity, along with hospitality, discipleship, and prayer. The congregation also holds true to its mission and vision statements to boldly live out the love of Christ and worshipping God through all they do. There are multiple ways to plug into this church body and join in the spirit of Christ-centered living through things like their single and united Sunday service, classes to learn from, prayer meetings, and various study groups.
How Their Worship Began
Christ Fellowship Church was planted by the Church at Brook Hills, a large congregation in Birmingham’s southern suburbs. Former senior pastor David Platt sparked a stirring of hearts among members to making disciples in Homewood. Soon a small group began meeting and discussing how their spirit of discipleship could foster into a new church home for many. Bart Box was overseeing the church planting process at Brook Hills during that time and met regularly with this group to talk about how the Church at Brook Hills could expand into Homewood. By September, these groups began growing and about 30 members would meet regularly on Monday nights downtown. They met under Box’s leadership and teaching of the Word and learned what it looked like to build a church. The group met for six months and then on April 1, 2012, Christ Fellowship Church officially began with 60 members. The church spent a few years worshiping in a gym on Southside, about five years in Rosewood Hall in downtown Homewood (where Auburn Community Church, Birmingham now meets), then finally moved into its new space at 76 Green Springs Highway on December 16, 2018. They have been meeting there faithfully ever since.
The Heart of Worship
The telos, or goal, of these worship gatherings is for people to encounter and experience God. There is a strong emphasis in their services on teaching and the development of Christian character. They are passionate about teaching truth that compels you to dive deeper. They encourage participation in Christ through rich liturgy and an emphasis on keeping each aspect centered and grounded in scripture, the very word of God. Nothing is overdone or fabricated, it is a very organic service that welcomes people into the space in order to worship, learn more about God and his church, and grow more deeply in relationship with God and His people. The leaders in the church care deeply for building personal relationships and discipleship while with one another. There are many moments for personal reflection and prayer within the service that open up space for thinking, discovery, and assurance of truth. This encourages church goers to become familiar with the practice of prayer and response within the walls of the church in order to carry it with confidence outside of the walls, into their homes and communities.
The ethos of this service is one that is intimate, personal, didactic, and mission minded. Christ Fellowship wants to equip its members. Leaders want to make qualified and well-developed disciples that go further than the church itself. They care deeply for teaching from scripture and guidance from scripture in all areas. It is also a very relational church. Like many in the Birmingham area, this body is built of people who are in community with one another more often the once-a-week worship service. These people know each other, they learn with one another and grow in that way as well. They are expanding the Kingdom of God together.
How This Church Worships
Worship professor Lester Ruth states that whatever a congregation regards as “the normal means by which [it] assesses God’s presence in worship or believes that God is made present” may be regarded as its “primary sacramental principals” (Ruth 2002, 48). In this sense, for the Lord’s supper is clearly sacramental at Christ Fellowship, so too are the time of silent reflection upon entering the service, and the prayer of confession. Christ Fellowship does an exceptionally excellent job following the four-fold pattern of worship championed by the twentieth-century Liturgical Movement. They gather, hear the word, come to the table, and are sent in every service. They gather to worship under word and truth spoken. They take part in the Lord’s supper, and have moments of response throughout the service to join in mind and spirit to sense how the Spirit is moving throughout the room and to encounter the Lord at work through the gathering of His children. Finally, they are sent out from the gathering under a declaration of truth and assurance of the Lord’s presence.
Christ Fellowship keeps a heavy emphasis on prayer. Prayer is not merely a mode of transition from one section of the service to another, rather, there are times allotted and intention behind each prayer incorporated into the worship design for the gathering. Some of these prayers are guided, some personal, some are congregational. Regardless, they have carved out time for God’s people to respond with words that are personal and intimate. One of their values this church states is “Bold Prayer.” This body desires, “to be a church marked by holy dependence and boldness–praying personally, praying with our families, praying in our Growth Groups, and praying as a church on the Lord’s Day.” During an average Sunday service, there are six different prayers offered throughout the service in between other liturgical elements such as musical worship, scripture readings, or sermon teaching.
Christ Fellowship excellently encourages its members to dive deep into the truth and Word of God. They are an inclusive church body that invites all generations, walks of life, and hearts searching for truth. They care deeply about the gospel being present and equipping their members to be faithful witnesses, knowing truth, and having a personal relationship with God Their humble and powerful worship gatherings are just a glimpse of the Kingdom work they are a part of.
Christ Fellowship Church
Location: 76 Green Springs Highway, Homewood, AL, 35209
Services Observed: Sunday Worship March 19, 28, April 2, 2023
Affiliation: Southern Baptist Convention
Church established: 2012
Moved to this location: 2018
Ruth, Lester. 2002. “A Rose by Any Other Name: Attempts at Classifying North American Protestant Worship.” In The Conviction of Things Not Seen, edited by Todd E. Johnson. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press.
Emmy Tane ’24 was a student in Christian Worship: History and Theology in Samford University’s Department of Biblical and Religious Studies in spring 2023.
Published April 29, 2023