Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Week in Review

Theology of Worship

Written 11/07 (posted 11/9/09)

The greatest challenge for today’s worship leader in a postmodern world is how to help individuals feel and think within the worship experience. These challenges cause trouble for the worship leader because they must try to blend different worlds together. In the book Experiencing God in Worship, Leonard Sweet, the author of the piece titled, A New Reformation: Re-Creating Worship for a Postmodern World, states “Here’s the point: In postmodern culture, the experience is the message. Postmoderns literally ‘feel’ their way through life. If postmodern worship can’t make people furiously feel and think (in the old ‘modern’ word, we would have said only ‘think’), it can’t show them how God’s Word transform the way we ‘feel’”(177).

With this understanding, it is vital for the worship leader to seek God’s direction for the Spirit to guide the worship process as stated here, “worship is not about style; it’s about spirit. If the ‘spirit’ isn’t right, presentation means little – no matter how contemporary or high-tech. Ten times zero is still zero. And, if the Spirit is there, presentation also means little – no matter how traditional or bookish” (Sweet, 181).

The worship leader’s job, with the help of God is to help the congregation address some of the problems facing worship today. First, the congregation needs to be given an understanding about the purpose of worship. In the book Experiencing God in Worship, George Barna in his piece titled, Worship in the Third Millennium, states, “Most adults will contend that a Christian has a responsibility to worship God. However, when asked to define what worship means, two out of three are unable to offer an appropriate definition or description of worship…For most Americans worship is to satisfy or please them, not to honor or please God” (15).

A worship leader must allow God to work through them to create a worship service that will grasp the attention of the worshipers and call them to interact with God. The worship leader must create an atmosphere that calls for individuals to thirst for God, and that can be difficult when trying to blend different music and artistic styles. It is important then for the leader to introduce changes, such as music, dance, video or other artistic mediums in the service in a gradual way, with much prayer and leading by the Spirit of God. Some will complain and that is unfortunately due to the fact that individuals think worship is more about them and their likes or dislikes. “The problem is that American Christians do not have a heart that is thirsting for an experience with God, eager to express gratitude and praise to him, and open to his response to their efforts to convey humility, appreciation, acknowledgement of his love and character, and joy in knowing and serving him” (Barna, 16).

A worship leader may also face difficulties because of the age and cultural differences within the worship services, along with the difference in music preferences. The step that can be taken to help is to teach the importance of worship. “Teaching individuals how to worship by helping them achieve a sense of God’s holiness, understand the meaning of worship, and commit to worshipping God is often necessary if more than just a scattered handful of attendees are to be engaged in real worship” (Barna, 25).

The greatest help the worship leader can give is to help individuals experience God in worship through the flow and choices made using different styles of music and artistic blends. The individual can then begin to move from the idea that worship is about one’s self and understand that it is more about giving to God. There is no one way of doing it, so each worship leader must seek to present what is needed for their congregation remembering that the most important factors are the leading of the Holy Spirit and prayer. Alas, with all changes, both good and bad, there will be individuals that will resist. The leader must not give up, but patiently help others see that the changes are not to move the church away from God, but to move his people closer to experiencing his presence.

Work Cited

Barna, George, et. al. Experience God in Worship. Loveland, CO: Group Publishing, Inc., 2000.

The Week in Review

Educating Congregations

Written 8/06 (Posted 11/09)

Educating congregations within the church requires God’s people to be prepared for the task; unfortunately, churches are not always able to keep up with this need. The church of today is faced with choices that could lead them away from being a church that educates the next generation, thus rendering it ineffective. Charles R. Foster, the author of The future of Christian Education: Educating Congregations, gives the readers some insight into what the church is facing and how to combat the negative effects.

Charles R. Foster brings to the readers attention, the state of the church in regards to educating her people. In his introduction he gives this sober statement, “The signs pointing to the diminishing effectiveness of the church’s education are everywhere. Declining enrollments in church education classrooms, diminishing influence of congregations on the moral tone of their neighborhoods, persisting racism, sexism, and classism in our churches and their larger communities, increasing evidence of biblical illiteracy and theological naïveté” (11).

The author calls for the leadership and all believers to take a sobering look at the state of our churches. When the church is not equipping people through the Word of God, they are not able to make a proper impact on their church, neighborhoods or world. This fact is largely due to the lack of understanding of the Word and the importance of getting involved with the world around them. It is through the educating of the church that individuals will begin to understand the importance of them going into the world and making disciples. There is also a lack of hope in people today and Foster states why, “Part of the responsibility for the diminishment of hope must be traced to flaws in the educational ministries of our congregations. Church education no longer provides an adequate structure for communicating hope” (120).

This dilemma is not a new one. Foster affirms, “Over thirty years ago James Smart warned us that the ‘strange silence of the Bible in our churches’ could be traced to problems in our education” (12). If this silence is not addressed, our situations will only get worse. If adults are not taught the word of God, they cannot in turn teach those coming behind. If our youth are not taught, the world will give them it’s truth and they will grow away from the church. If the teachings of the church (of the Bible) are not passed on, who will carry it?

This brings us to what the author says is his thesis for writing this book. Foster states, “the congregation is the context, and its mission – to praise God and serve neighbors – the impetus for Christian religious education” (13). The purpose of the church is to build up the community of believers to praise God and serve others to bring a change in this world. This can be done when we take a prayerful look at how we educate the body of believers.

The author tells a story of a congregation that taught its children from an early age about God’s faithfulness over and over again. The children were taught hymns until they were familiar with what they sang (17). This same congregation suffered a crisis, but because they had been taught, they survived (18). New people joined but did not know the traditions of the church (19). They again suffered a crisis, but many were so busy they did not notice (20).

He then asks the question, “Did the congregation survive? We do not know yet, because that is the situation in which most congregations now find themselves” (20). What the author wants the reader to understand is, the church has in a sense, fallen asleep regarding her state and is not aware of what is going on in her midst. She has moved away from the strong tradition of teaching and educating her members. The author mentions how adults telling them the truth over and over again taught the children. Part of this teaching may have come from the children’s home life. Some may have come from Sunday school, Vacation Bible School (VBS), children’s church and other areas. Wherever it came from, it was reinforced again and again until the children were familiar with the stories and the hymns of the church.

Work Cited

Foster, Charles R. The future of Christian education: Educating Congregations. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1994.

Thompson, Frank Charles, D.D., PH.D. The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, 5th ed. Indianapolis, IN: B. B. Kirkbridge Bible Co., Inc., 1988.