Sunday, October 21, 2007

Worshiping Together

I said some pretty extreme things about worship this morning:
  • Worship is the number one purpose of our lives.
  • Every other Christian activity--fellowship, outreach, discipleship, service--is included in and exceeded by worship.
  • Worship is the fundamental activity of a Christian.

It's no accident that I didn't say any of these statements about any of the other topics we've addressed over the course of these 40 days. Nothing is as important as worship.

At our church, the worship service plays a central role in helping us accomplish our mission: To meet people where they are on their spiritual journeys and lead them to become fully devoted followers of Jesus. We present our worship services in such a way that they are interesting, intelligible, and instructive to unbelievers, without sacrificing the needs of believers. Thus, we minister to believers, but we use the same service to be an invitation to unbelievers to join with us on this Pathway of faith.

How do we do this?

  • We don't skimp on worship music, but we do choose songs that are easily understood. Some seeker-sensitive churches have only 1 or 2 songs in which the congregation is invited to sing along. Instead, they focus on cultivating a concert or performance atmosphere, since that is what unchurched people are more familiar with. However, we believe that worship music instructs us about who God is and our rightful relationship with him. If we want spiritual seekers to consider the Christian life, we should demonstrate to them what that looks like--and it is a life of worship, ascribing praise, honor, glory, and strength to God; acknowledging him as the source of life, love, fulfilment and joy. Even so, we avoid the songs that use archaic words and grammar, and we employ musical styles that unchurched people are familiar with.
  • We don't dilute the message, but we do make it relevant. Some seeker-sensitive churches concentrate only on "felt needs," which are the needs that spiritual seekers already know about and currently feel in their lives. They reduce the good news about Jesus to a self-serve, self-help seminar--here, try this and see if it makes your life better. Now, that is part of the good news--Jesus does make our lives better--but it's only part. We also talk about struggles, sacrifice, suffering, pain, and doubt. We talk about relinquishing authority and submitting to God's will and God's plans. These are not popular ideas, but they are essential for understanding what the Christian life is all about. Even so, when we deal with these ideas, we put them in terms and talk about life situations that non-Christians can relate to.
  • We don't teach concepts, but we do challenge assumptions. Well, ok, we do teach concepts, but not just that. We don't have services that are just educational (e.g., "Here's a 5-part series on the soteriology of the apostle Paul"). Any teaching that we give is actually applied to life the way we live it every day. So there's often not a lot of content--you could usually sum up each week's message in one sentence. Instead there's a lot of application and a focus on what this really means for us if we take God's word seriously. Very often we find that the word of God and predominant American culture are at odds with one another, and our job is to conform to God's instructions, not our culture's expectations. The emphasis is on living in accordance with God's direction, not absorbing knowledge.

Our worship service is designed to be the main entry point for unchurched people to come into our church. They can come through an activity, like Trunk or Treat. They can even come through a small group. But most people will come into our church by being invited by someone else to join them at a worship service. If they keep coming, after a few weeks, they should begin to understand that God is our rightful authority, that he has revealed his will for our lives through the Bible, that it is our obligation to follow his instructions, and that we can understand the purpose of our lives only if we follow him.

These are the lessons that are observed from watching God's people worship, which includes fellowshipping with other believers, reaching out in love to our community, growing closer to God, and serving him.

1 comment:

Wendy in Florida said...

HI...I just wanted to say that I LOVE how you teach the way of the Lord...the concept of putting it in terms that can be applied to the here and now of today's world...
I really miss that connection!
BLESS you, the church and the people gathered together in the name of the Lord.
I love you all....Wendy