Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Week in Review

Theology of Worship

Written January 11, 2007
By Minister Jewel D. Williams (posted 11/09)

Why do we worship God? There are many ways that individuals may answer this question, but the best way to answer it is through biblical models. When one understands what the Bible says regarding worship, it can help in preparation of worship before the Lord within the church.

“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7, also in Deut. 15:7). This scripture is normally used when individuals are referring to the giving of money, but I would like to show another application of this verse.

God calls all believers to be givers of all of their self; their time, their finances, their talents, and we are to do that with the right spirit. When we come to worship it should be done with a cheerful and ready heart. God does not want us to come out of obligation or with the wrong spirit. “And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and will all your soul,” (Deuteronomy 11:13). Therefore, our worship of the Lord calls us to come giving cheerfully of our entire self, our hearts, mind and soul to the Lord, along with our talents and abilities. He also wants nothing else to be above him in our lives. We see that clearly when we look at the tabernacle.

I was able to obtain useful information from the website,, from lesson 2: The Basic Layout of the Tabernacle and the Gate. In the study of the Tabernacle, we can glean some ideas of how we are to worship God. First, in the way the tabernacle was set up, we see where God wants to be in our relationship. The tabernacle was set in the midst of the camp and the Israelites’ tents all faced the tabernacle. When they came out of their tents in the morning, the first thing they saw was the tabernacle and the last thing they saw at night was the tabernacle. This reminds us that our Lord should be on our minds throughout our daily lives, not just on Sunday morning. He is the one we should seek in the morning as we begin our day and the one we should thank as the day sets. The tabernacle was also a reminder to the people of God’s presence was with them at all times. It is imperative that when we come together we are reminded of the importance of seeking God everyday of our lives. Worship within the church should also help us to understand this important fact, that we must worship God daily.

Another significant point we can glean from the tabernacle is the gate. The gate of the tabernacle was always in the east. This is important because as the people entered the gate they were always facing west, and the sun was always behind them. This was a direct opposition to the pagan sun worshippers of the day who always faced east (Ezekiel 8:16-18). God wants no other God before him, for he alone is worthy of all our praise. God then calls for worshippers to focus all on him when we come to worship. God does not want anything to take his place in the service of worship.

One of the last examples that will be used is the book of Psalms. From the book titled, Encountering the Old Testament, written by Bill T. Arnold and Bryan E. Beyer vital information is given to help an individual understand the usage of the psalms. The word psalm comes from the Greek word psalmos, which means a song or a hymn. The Hebrew word for the book is tĕhillîm and it means praises. The book itself contains 150 songs used in the life and worship of the people of God. These were songs that were dear to the people’s hearts and reflective of their personal experiences (304).

The psalms were written in different classifications. For example, there were some that were hymns. These were written to praise God and offer him thanksgiving for who he was and what he had done in the lives of the people. An example of hymns would be psalms 8, 136 and 150. There were also penitential songs. These psalms expressed sorrow for sin (example psalm 38). The other types of psalms are wisdom (general observations on life, especially God and our relationship to him), royal (focus on the king), messianic (describe some aspect of the Messiah’s person or ministry), imprecatory (call for God’s judgment against God’s enemies) and lament (lament one’s condition) (307). This helps us today to understand that in worship music has many different roles it plays within the service. Music should help the worshipper be reflective of their experience with God. It should help us express praise to God, our life experience and our walk with God. This is a good example of how much music plays a part in the worship service of believers and we should be free to use different styles to help with the worship service, just as the people did in early biblical times.

Why do we worship? We worship because scripture shows us it is a part of what God requires of believers in order to have a healthy relationship. We worship because God deserves our devotion and our adoration. We worship because God calls us to come fellowship with him with all of who we are, our hearts, minds, spirits and soul. When one is able to glean this understanding from biblical background, it helps the worship leader better prepare the people to come and worship in spirit and in truth.

Work Cited

Alden, Robert L., et al. Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995.

Arnold, Bill T., et al. Encountering The Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999.

Lesson 2: The Basic Layout of the Tabernacle and the Gate. 2004. 05 March 2006.

The Week in Review

Educating Congregations- Part 2
Written 8/06 (Posted 11/09)

Some of the flaws in the church’s educational system as stated by the author are, (1) the loss of corporate memory, (2) the irrelevance of our teaching from the Bible, (3) the subversion of Christian educational goals, (4) the cultural captivity of church education and (5) the collapse of the church’s educational strategy.

This first flaw deals with the lack of information to participate effectively in the church life. This ignorance or lack of information has led to young people dropping away from the church. “Many young people do not find in the church a source of meaning for their deepest and most pervasive questions” (86). The author states, “in a poll taken in 1955, only 4 percent (or one person in twenty-five) left the faith traditions of their childhood. Some thirty years later, one out of every three persons had left the communal traditions of their childhood faith” (23).

The second flaw deals with how the Bible is seen as irrelevant to every day living. Foster states, “For many young and older people the Bible has become irrelevant to their quest for meaning and purpose. The problem, however, is not the irrelevance of the Bible. It is the irrelevance of the ways we teach from the Bible (25). “Today laity have the words but lack the methods of biblical interpretation and theological reflection possessed by scholars and clergy to discover how to read ancient texts from the standpoint of their lives at the edge of the twenty-first century” (26).

The change in Christian educational goals from salvation and sanctification to “needs” has been another flaw in the educational system of the Church. When the church becomes more concerned about the needs of individuals and not the biblical training the body suffers. Foster states, “the inability of congregations to sustain an educational ministry for the individual learning of children, youth, or adults has culminated in the subversion of most church education into learning activities designed to enrich student religious experience rather than to build up transformed and transformative communities of faith” (28).

Foster states that flaw number four is the most serious. “A clue to one of the most serious flaws in the church’s education has been it proclivity to sanction the cultural status quo rather than to embrace the transformational message of the gospel for the emancipation of people from their spiritual, social, political, or economic bondage” (31). The church must be aware as it tries to educate, to examine cultural bias. This bias limits the gospel message and keeps the transformational character of the message from being heard.

The last of the flaws, deals with that which happens outside of the church. “Clues to the changing systemic dynamics affecting church education are often heard in the complaints of church leaders about the lack of parental cooperation and support, the competition for time by schools and other community activities, the difficulty in recruiting volunteers willing to take the time to do a good job, and the lack of clergy involvement in the educational life of the congregation” (33). The pull on today’s families has increased and with it a decrease in the amount of time given to volunteer for church educational programs. The church also faces the fact that it is the only place that teaches Christian values. Schools, jobs nor communities promote Christian values that would help to support the teaching one receives at church.

Foster talks about this change when he states, “during the past fifty years, however, family and community involvement in the religious education of children and youth has diminished significantly. Few families read the Bible or engage in devotional practices in a disciplined or sustained fashion. Public schools no longer include prayer, religious celebrations, Bible reading, or explicitly Christian moral instruction in their daily schedules” (37). So the question is, what do we need to do to change this situation inside the church?

Foster gives some suggestions. One way he suggests is in the involvement with “events” of the church. “These events not only tell us who we are, but also to whom we belong” (39). The life of the church is shaped around the way it responds and remembers certain events. These events like, Christmas, Easter, Homecoming and Mother’s Day give the church an opportunity to prepare its total membership in the event (41). This allows the traditions and stories to be passed. Foster gives a list on how to prepare for events, which can help a congregation rethink why and how they prepare for these events. One of the vital questions I saw was, “what is the purpose of the event” (153). Sometimes churches become accustomed to doing something, without really knowing why they do it. If they take the time to understand how this event can be used as a teaching opportunity to pass on the traditions and the truth to the congregation, they very well may change how events are planned. This opens up the opportunity for churches to better prepare the congregation for these events. The Sunday school, Junior Churches, Adult Bible classes, and other areas within the church could all begin preparing the members by teaching the messages around the event (Christmas for example). The lessons would help the members understand the importance of the event as well as encourage outreach to share with others the importance of the event.

Another area that Foster suggests we examine is how we build communities. “Many strangers find their way to that worship service. They are a diverse group. Some are young adults. Some arrive in expensive cars and wear clothes of the latest fashion. Some are often seen in the homeless shelters of the city. When I asked the senior minister where they come from, he told me most of the unfamiliar faces are not member of the church. Most come only on Christmas Eve. Most prefer anonymity. When I asked why they come, his reply surprised me: ‘It is the only story they know’” (52). Foster suggest that congregations should prepare for these types of sacred events so they can be prepared to witness to those strangers that come within their doors. He also suggests that these sacred understandings should not simply be left to only these times. If the congregation hears these messages again and again, they will be better able to tell it to others. Foster states, “ignorance prevents us from discovering who we are and to whom we belong” (54). If we as the body do not fully understand these sacred times, we cannot help others to learn more “stories” from the Word.

It is important that as the body, we understand what needs to happen so that we can learn. If the body is to learn what God’s Word means we must begin with intentional listening into the creating Word for redemptive, graceful, judging word speaking to our conditions. It continues as we listen to the thoughts of the words we use to address God. We must then respond to the content of our hearing. (58). Another important thing is in the building up of the community of believers through the nurturing of partnerships (64). The church must purposely teach so that its believers understand they are in need of each other to grow. It is also important to build community through the building of the church education, which links strangers as neighbors. (66). The church must convey to the believers the importance of going outside the doors of the church to reach those around them. When the church does this, the believers begin to understand the importance of the Word that commissions us to reach the world. Yet, none of these things will happen until the body is taught its importance.

Finally, Foster proposes that churches reevaluate how they teach. “Much of our learning does not take place in classrooms, workshops, retreats, or conferences. We learn from television and radio. We learn from reading. We learn by observing what is going on around us. We learn in conversations. We learn from people who would never describe themselves as teachers” (137). Even though all ones learning is not done this way, intentional settings are still important. The church must teach certain behaviors and values that will help members feel a spirit of freedom in worship and community. The church also must teach systematic processes. “These efforts are crucial if people are to make sense or meaning from their experience and relationships, their encounters with the stories and vision of Christian faith, their consciousness of human pain and suffering and their participation in the worship and mission of the congregation” (138). This must be sustained over time so that the body can continue to grow. Foster’s book is a sobering one, yet I am not discouraged. I believe he wants the reader to take serious the task of preparing those that come behind.

If the church is to continue to educate and equip believers for service, we must internalize Fosters thesis, which states, “the congregation is the context, and its mission – to praise God and serve neighbors – the impetus for Christian religious education” (13). We must never take the educating of a community for granted. It is important that churches come together to find where they are lacking and with the help of the Holy Spirit; they can again become educators of its members. We can then do as scripture commands us, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:” Matthew 28:19-20a

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.