Friday, August 12, 2005

A Working Philosophy of Worship, August 12, 2005

I recently wrote "A Philosophy of Worship" as a requirement for class. It is a working philosphy/theology, one that I imagine is faulty in places and needs work in others. I hope to update it from time-to-time as I have more experience and as others lead me in a better way. I do not hold it as a prescription for everyone, but for myself, and perhaps, for my own church (should I ever have the privileged responsibility some day). It is very long, without apology.

I have heard it said that the only purpose for which humanity created is to worship of God the Creator. This may be partly true, but I think that God is more of a loving Creator than a demanding Creator. His jealousy may call for our attention, but his love calls for our genuine response to him and the Love that he is. If he was such a demanding God, I imagine that he could force us to worship him, much like the attempt of Nebuchadnezzar and his idol. But I am pretty sure that God is better than demanding – he wants the real thing. He wants humanity to choose to worship him, so won over by his love that she can only but worship him. That’s sincerity of heart, that’s spirit, and that’s truth.

A philosophy of worship must come out of a theology of God. While that may seem broad, our thoughts on God should rule the rest of our lives. Thus, my philosophy of worship comes out of who I believe God to be. His interaction with humanity in the past – scripturally, in my observation (including some reason), and in my personal life – helps form a theology of worship.

It will help to clarify a working definition of ‘worship’ for this paper. Actually, rather than a definition, perhaps we will call it an explanation. Definitions are often seen as exhaustive. Worship is not exhaustive. No “expert” scholar on worship knows it all – not Robert Webber, Marva Dawn, Randall Davey, the Pope, or anyone else. Our worship of God will not and can not even come to culmination until all believers are together around the throne in the perfect and holy loving presence of God. Worship is not exhaustive and is forever changing on this earth. In fact, I might even say that the Jesus who walked on this earth did not know all there is today to know about worship. You see, if worship is to be genuine, and if we are indeed to choose to worship God, then worship will always be a working project, changing according to the ways in which worshippers choose to worship to be the most genuine that they can be. Worship is not static. It is a dynamic, changing enterprise that changes with the culture and response of the worshipper. Basically, God doesn't care what or how we do, he cares why and with what heart we do it (this applies to way more than worship).

That said, the working “explanation” we will assume in this paper is that worship is our affirming response to God’s love. This may be explained a number of ways, but primarily by surrender and praise. Surrender has to do with the giving of every aspect of our lives. Praise has to do with declaring God’s glory.

Scripture
Some might think that it is hard to put an overall theme to the Bible as a whole. Even after several reads, this could still be true for any individual. I however believe it to be not only possible, but the very intent of God in scripture. God is a loving God and a desire to commune with humanity demands from that love. Throughout scripture, God’s intentional desire is to lovingly commune in holiness with humanity. He is already there (holiness). So his action with and amongst humanity is in an attempt to bring us into his holy love.

Rather than banish Adam and Eve to death, stricken from existence, in his grace, he gave them the opportunity to return to communion with him. He gave them and the rest of us who have followed their suit in sin the choice to make a u-turn (that’s called repentance) back to running after him towards his perfect love. Though Israel was unswervingly sinful, often blatantly dishonorable towards God, he even today has provided salvation from the sinful lives they lived.

Then Christ came to walk the earth and demonstrated the epitome of love – he laid down his life by his own accord. His death on the cross is the greatest demonstration of love ever, but Christ demonstrated love during his earthly ministry in other ways: forgiving time and again the sinful, caring for the lost and disenfranchised, and restoring Peter and the disciples after they all turned from him during his hardest trials, to name a few. The Bible is chalk full – saturated – with the love of God for humanity. It’s the very theme.

Time and again when God demonstrated this love, humanity’s response was to worship. Noah and his sons built an altar after the flood. So did Abraham and Isaac after God gave Isaac’s life back. The Psalms are full of writings praising God after something that he did (i.e. after David was forgiven for his sexual and murderous sin). After Jesus, who is God, healed individuals, several of them made declaration of his divinity. Paul rejoiced in the fact that God blessed him in his weakness. All these are examples of man’s thankful, declaratory, honoring, humble response to God’s love.

Worship is scriptural.

The Bible has much to say about how we worship God. The Torah is full of instructions and laws meant to keep holy the area of the presence of the Lord, the people of the Lord, and the ways of the Lord. The Psalms give good literary evidence and background for worshipful attitudes and forms. Paul time and again admonishes churches to worship in certain ways. The Revelation of John depicts great images of the whole of the Kingdom of God together, praising his holiness around the throne of God. But perhaps the greatest call to worship in the whole of the Bible, in my eyes, comes in the fourth chapter of John’s Gospel.

John is full of Christ’s response to improper, self-gratifying, and ignorant human expectation. The woman at Jacob’s well was steeped in her own presuppositions about how to worship God. She even knew what people other than her own culture presumed God wanted as worship.

I pray that we are not today as ignorant as the people in the book of John (I hold not the Samaritan woman as an exclusive example). The Bible is a great source and standard by which to measure our worship. But methods, ways, means, and specifics are not prescriptive. The necessity comes not in specifics, but the intent. The intent is where God looks for true worship.

Jesus’ reply to her and to us: “People, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither this way or that…the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”[1]

Everything in our lives as Christians is judged by such. God does not measure with lists of sins and lists of good deeds. God considers the heart to be the heart of the matter. Lamar Boschman said it well: “When I worship, I would rather my heart be without words than my words be without heart.” I would expound on this by saying that God rathers the heart over the words and not just words, but over methods, styles, traditions, and relics.

I am fed up with the Church measuring success in terms of numbers. If I ever find out that numbers are the best judgment of success, I will skip church to the nearest mosque. It is not going to happen though. God does not measure in numbers. He measures in spirit and truth, in sincerity of heart. Certainly, the Bible is full of great numbers (the Nation of Israel’s conquests, the feeding of the thousands, conversions on Pentecost). These are all testimonies to God’s greatness. They are almost analogies for us to understand the power and reaches of God. They are parables that point to God. When Jesus talked about the one lost sheep, he demonstrated the importance of the individual and not the crowd. He was making an analogy of the love of a shepherd for his flock. He was talking about people as individuals. Just the same, numbers are a testimony to the greatness of measurement, not the canon itself.

Always Consider Intent: Why we do what we do
Sometimes, as I am in a Sunday church service, I wonder how many are truly thinking about what we are doing. Perhaps my own thoughts are not indicative of the true intent of others – I really should not judge. But I cannot help but wonder if other have the same struggle that I do: finding sincerity in the red taped mess that we call worship.

Surrender
A Greek word translated to ‘worship’ is proskunew. I am told that the literal meaning is to surrender and has even been used in military situations. It might be compared to “giving out”, “giving over”, “giving up”, “admitting”, “self-sacrifice”, “losing oneself to”, etc. It is basically removing the human and putting in the God. It is removal of self-gratifying human desire and arrival of a self-sacrificing, cruciform, God-satiating desire. It is admitting that I am human and that God is God. It is confession that I am nothing and that God is everything. It is coming clean with God. It is owning up to the fact that I am lost on my own – a soul destined for nothing without God’s grace.

Romans 12:1 says it pretty well – “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”[2] Sacrifice is a key word. It involves the death of something, in this case, my self-will and human life.

Praise
Praise is the response to the ability to surrender. God has given us the chance and we can barely believe it. It is so incredible a thing (his gracious acceptance of our surrender) that we can only but declare his greatness. The offering from God to us demands our adoring response. How incredible!

Individual Motive to Worship
It is more common today to think of worship as a corporate act. It certainly is one (see below). But worship begins with the individual. We already quoted Romans 12:1 which calls for something that only an individual can do. No one can decide to worship for someone else. It is a decision made by the individual. Each day we are called to worship God with our very lives (again, see Romans 12:1 and any other admonition to worship God). This inevitably leads to corporate worship.

Corporate Call to Worship
The Church is the Body of Christ here on earth. If we do not get together and commune in worshipping God the Creator, we are told that the very rocks will cry out. It is not simply what we ought to do, however, it is what we naturally will do when we allow God to work through us. When we experience the work of God in our lives as individuals and as a corporate community, it will subsequently follow that we want to worship God together. Once we truly and unhinderedly experience God’s holy and ‘perfectest’ love (the final consummation), we will see what the truest form of worship is. We will indeed be the truest worshippers there are. And I am pretty sure that there will be no individual worship at that moment – we will all be together – God’s very plan from the beginning. (Praise him that he gave us another shot. And another one. And another.)

The Worship Service
One might say that I am pretty strict about the corporate worship service. I almost feel critical talking about it as I seem to have a lot more “don’ts” than “dos”. I will try to sound positive though and give reasoning for my convictions. Also, as I am an American and feel led to pastoral ministry in the United States, these convictions are more so for my American brothers and sisters. I would not necessarily prescribe all of them to the whole of the Body of Christ (though it may be possible with some of them). Further, I do not even hold them as prescriptions for all Americans.

The corporate worship service is a worship service. I realize that I am stating the obvious but feel that it needs to be stated. Church “worship” services are inundated with aspects other than worship these days: honoring people, musical performances, financial pleas, political agendas, secular commercials, the agendas of personal convictions, basically all things other than worship of God. Not all of the preceding list are negative occurances, or should not necessarily be performed within the influence of a church. But none of them belongs in a worship service.

My congregation can fill the whole week with evangelism activities, musical recitals and concerts, social action events, business meetings, rallies for financial support of worthy causes, and announcements regarding all of it. The church should do many of these things, but not in a worship service. (Please, do not give the excuse/explanation/reasoning that I often hear, "But it's when everyone is together and will hear what we have to say.")

A worship service is meant to worship God. If events do indeed happen such as individuals claiming forgiveness in Christ, or one is led to give financially to the Lord or to a cause by the Lord, PRAISE GOD! These are acts of worship and can eventuate out from a worship service. But they come via worship.

Jesus talked about the fact that when he was raised up, he would draw all the earth unto himself. I realize that this is mostly considered an explanation of events on the cross, but I see parallels today. I truly believe that ‘good things’ are an eventual bi-product of good worship. People will be convicted, “get saved”, “get sanctified”, or basically seek whatever way they know they should in response to God.

Practicalities
Truthfully, there is nothing practical about worship. But as we are human, we are finite and must work in the temporal world. This takes discipline, and as a leader in the Church, I realize the need for specifics and intentionality. I realize that my own convictions may not transfer well to every individual in my congregation. However, there are some specifics perhaps on which I will not back down. There is not an easy way to organize these, so I will simply rattle them off. Some are very specific (i.e. re: the American flag). I am intentional in listing them here for now though – they may be quite indicative of the contemporary situation and need particular emphasis. Hopefully they will not be needed in the future.

For my congregation:
- Always remember that a worship service is a worship service.
- The American flag (or any other secular symbolic element) has no place in worship any more than an Asherah poles did in the holy of holies.
- The one leading in corporate prayer need not face the congregation.
- Speaking of prayer, as I pray, pray with me.
- Our offering is given to the Lord every day of the week by everyone.
- Our finances are given to the Lord via the Church on a regular basis as one is able. (By the way, if you make any money...you're probably able.)
- Whenever feasible, worship is done by the whole community together. If we are “Timbuctoo First Church”, we worship together as a whole, not “Timbuctoo First Church: 8:30 AM” and “Timbuctoo First Church: 10:30 AM”. If the sanctuary is too small for all our people…PRAISE GOD!!! Let’s build a bigger sanctuary.

For those helping to "lead" worship:
- There is something to be said about the intent of a service. “Jesus, Lover of My Soul” is not a good hymn to sing the week I am preaching about sexual purity. Let’s get together and plan regularly and often, okay?
- I don’t care if you wear a tie. I don’t care if you wear a scarf. I do care that everything about you says, “Don’t look at me. Look at God.”
- Your presence is not to be noticed more than your ability to lead.
- Your ability comes not in presentation of you, but presentation of God. Take this into consideration with the things that you wear, the things that you say (if anything at all), the motions that you make, the expressions that you bear. If you need to wear a robe to accomplish this, so be it – I’ll even wear one with you.
- If you absolutely have to use a choir, it is to lead worship, not present (except for special occasions such as cantatas, dramas, etc.).
- If someone stands up in worship, it’s okay.
- If someone sits down during worship, it’s okay.
- If someone goes to the altar without being invited (by you or me), it’s okay.
- I’m not sure how the offertory came into existence, but consider it out of existence.
- Scripture is way better than anything you or I have to say. Use often and use well.
- I commit to praying for you as you prepare for and as you lead worship. We will pray together in preparation for worship.
- I will preach as often as possible with the exception of sabbatical leaves (I stress the importance of consistency).

Worship services should include:
- Worship through music (as long as music is the greatest expression of human emotion, which I envision it will be for years to come)
- Corporate prayer
- Scripture (all of it)
- Regular communion
- The Word of God (also known as “the message”)
- Congregational response to all of the above

Worship services should not include:
- The American flag
- The Star-Spangled Banner
- “Friendship Time”
- Performance-oriented solos, duets, trios, or any other performance
- Baptism
- I will not go as far as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and disallow harmony, but see his point in that that the ability of one can impede the worship of another. May we be harmonious to the ears of God.

In regards to the hot debate over infant baptism, dedication, etc., I do not have strong convictions. I admonish parents to dedicate their children to God the very second they know he or she has been conceived. If they want to do this as an testimony before the local Body of Christ with some water as a symbol of the purity of God, great.

For myself, I need to remember that it’s not about me (or you). I don’t have all the correct answers. There isn’t always one correct answer to any given question. Other people worship God in different ways than I do.

I will do my best to bring people to God, to bring them to Heaven. I am not sure that I can bring Heaven to them on this earth (although I am willing to learn from someone more about this and am contemplating the subject, "Heaven on earth"). No, I would not say that worship on earth is “practice” as many do, but it sure ain’t the real thing, in the fullness that it will be later on.

I strive onward.

[1] John 4:22-24, NRSV with a little bit of paraphrasing
[2] NRSV

12 comments:

  1. Jeremy,

    Thanks for such a thoughtful post! I hope it will generate a lot of discussion. I agree with a lot of what you wrote (especially about patriotism and "special" music). There's really too much for me to digest and respond to at once, so I'll just throw one question out for you:

    Why have you excluded baptism from the corporate worship experience?

    I'll be back with some more thoughts when I have more time.

    Grace and Peace,

    Jon

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  2. Hey there-

    Someone else asked me this question on Naznet. I'm trying to think back a few months ago when I wrote this...

    Baptism is an incredible thing for the Church community. It is a time of celebration, as worship services most often should be. I would not exclude it from the worship service.

    However, I would (will?) be wary of how it is carried out in a worship service. In an effort to make everything about a worship service directed to and for God, I think that my thinking was probably that baptism is more for the individual than for the corporate community. That isn't quite right though. Baptism isn't baptism without the community (especially with baptism being, in part, a public declaration). And it is certainly a declaration to God.

    So, to answer the question, baptism can be a beautiful aspect of a worship service.

    Perhaps the way in which we do baptism seems to make it misplaced in what I see as a worship service.

    (As you know, "A Philosophy/Theology of Baptism" could be a whole other post...one which I'm not prepared to write. I need to learn a lot more about baptism.)

    Thanks for the input,
    F&TC,
    - J

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  3. I guess it would go back to our understanding of what Baptism is. If Baptism is about the individual and their choice...then perhaps a worship service is not the place for it.

    BUT, if baptism is (as I believe) about God's grace at work in the life of the candidate and their response to that grace, then it fits very nicely in your definition of worship: "our affirming response to God’s love."

    Those are my thoughts...worth exactly what you paid! :)

    Grace and Peace,

    Jon

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  4. Where things get blurry:

    I have not thought this all the way through, but I suspect that we load up our worship service (as the main event...the face of the church) with alot of extra stuff: marketing to potential customers, making sure we're taking care of the existing customers, appeasing those volatile artists and their hyperfragile egos...etc.

    As a result, worship services can be more concerned with what people think, while leaving 'what God thinks' as an uncomfortable afterthought.

    ReplyDelete
  5. W hen
    O ur
    R eality
    S hows
    H is
    I ntended
    P urpose

    There is little doubt about where a muslim extremist stands as his words and life shows the purpose of his life. When someone chooses the Goth lifestyle they conform to the non-conformist culture. They are hard to miss.

    A christian who lives a reality that shows His intended purpose will be noticed. Perhaps not by most (like the wildflowers) but always by GOD. Occasionally their beauty will touch the heart of a wandering child.

    Worship is a way of life not an act.

    Surrendering to GOD should be like surrendering to a spouse. A completely joyful surrender of "other options".

    I have heard it said that good marriages are not 50-50 but 100-100. So too is worship.

    There is too much passion and not enough intimacy in what many call worship. Intimacy continues to worship long after passion has walked away.

    The more I know the less I know.
    The less I know the more I know.

    .....peace.....

    ReplyDelete
  6. On intimacy...

    Wow. An entire series of posts could be written about intimacy.

    At our Global Youth Convention this summer, there was a special worship experience on the first night. A group called "One Time Blind" did a series of great skits.

    I remember one skit in with just Jesus and another character. Jesus asked her to be intimate with Him, and she responded with a degree of disgust--for she thought that intimacy was "dirty."

    At the conclusion of that skit, she ended up having an extended intimate moment with the Savior, each looking deeply into each other's eyes.

    What was most telling was the reaction of the audience/congregation. They were clearly uncomfortable with the length of this intimate moment, several times applauding to signal to the actors that they could end the skit.

    Are we failing to teach and model intimacy? Do our teens understand that intimacy is more than sexuality? Are we so uncomfortable with silence that we miss out on our own intimate moment with the Savior?

    Sorry...rambling over!

    Grace and Peace,

    PastorJon

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  7. Okay, I should respond in pieces.

    First off, on intimacy: Yes, our lives should be intimate with God. But the connotations with the word imply things that they shouldn't. If the "intimate" in being intimate with God refers to making him the very primacy of what we want, the all-in-all of our desires, the greatest pleasure in our life, then it's a good description. But when we use the word almost in a shock-and-awe manner (perhaps such as the skit performed before a group of teens - the performers have to know what the word means to teens or in other ways I've seen), we're headed down the wrong track. Intimacy with God is good if it implies a very deep connection between he and us, but I have to think that there are much better words and descriptions to use for the relationship in our present day, especially with younger followers.

    As to IDS's response above (I'm sorry, I'm not sure who you are). Thanks for commenting! You gave some great points.

    As for the anagram, I usually do not like them. Usually, I find that we stretch our meanings into an anagram that aren't really there or are weak. But yours is an exception. I like it a lot.

    Most of your comments I relate to the whole life of the follower, rather than just to worship. For instance, A christian who lives a reality that shows His intended purpose will be noticed. Perhaps not by most (like the wildflowers) but always by GOD. Occasionally their beauty will touch the heart of a wandering child. I think this is a great statement for the life of a follower - the person (s)he is. But I'm one of those who think that worship is primarily directed to God and not an act done to show God to others. Worship is not intentionally evangelistic (in the evangelical definition of the word). It can be evangelistic and often good worship will be. (That's why I mentioned Jesus drawing all the earth to himself.) But that's not why we worship.

    Worship is a way of life not an act. I hear this statement a lot (Matt Redman, I think popularly says, "Worship is a lifestyle" - see The Unquenchable Worshipper), but again, this is a statement for the whole of the life of a follower. You can plug many words into the statement:
    EVANGELISM is a way of life.
    PREACHING is a way of life.
    WITNESSING is a way of life.
    TEACHING is a way of life.
    DISCIPLESHIP is a way of life.
    etc.

    Surrendering to GOD should be like surrendering to a spouse. A completely joyful surrender of "other options".
    Definitely. BUT, the spousal relationship is cheapened in our American society. Paul's use of the analogy is great if our understanding of the purest marital relationship is our model. And I'm not talking about the prevalence of divorce, abuse, etc. I'm talking about marriage overall having been cheapened by our society. Even a "happy marriage" is not exactly a biblical marriage (yet another post for another time).

    There is too much passion and not enough intimacy in what many call worship. Intimacy continues to worship long after passion has walked away.
    I'm not completely sure what you're saying here. Tell me if I'm wrong, but I think you see passion as "fervent, but empty." But I don't think it is empty. I yearn for passion in our worship. Passion speaks about the intent (indeed, intesity) of the heart. That's what I think God wants.

    Perhaps you see passion as short-lived and intimacy as enduring. I only briefly touched on this in the paper, but there is a tendency today to try and compare heavenly worship with worship on earth. Certainly we should strive for heavenly worship, but we cannot expect to be 100% happy-go-lucky worshippers while on earth. David demonstrates this well in the Psalms. Our devotion, passion, intimacy, desire, surrender, or whatever other word we want to use should be 100%, but the "happiness factor" will not be there yet.

    The more I know the less I know.
    The less I know the more I know.

    Amen, brother!!! (sister?)

    F&TC,
    - J

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  8. This is Jeremy writing...somebody (whose name I know, but will leave anonymous for now since I didn't ask his/her permission to copy this here) e-mailed me and I have pasted the e-mail:

    Hmmm…I think I disagree with your philosophy of worship a little. I don’t write to simply disagree or to even sound like I have it figured out (I’m confident I don’t). I write because I think it’s smart to sharpen our ideas of worship as iron sharpens iron. I know you are forming your Idea and I am forming mine. So, thank you so much for the discussion.

    It sounds to me that, while you concede that worship is a corporate event, you place a great deal of importance on the individual. You even said that “friendship time” shouldn’t be in a worship service. I want to contend that we CAN NOT worship God alone. He made us for community and, I think, community is what the American church is lacking. We would worship better if we better understood the biblical idea of community.

    Learning about God, originally, was made for community. We put so much emphasis on our personal time with God (and I’m not saying that this is a bad thing) however, the printing press wasn’t invented until the 1400’s…that’s 1400 years of people meeting together to read God’s word and bond and grow together because they didn’t have a bible. There was, maybe, one bible in the whole village…so people HAD to get together as and work things out. Let’s go even before Jesus. That’s why the Jews memorized the Bible. Their whole education system was build around learning the Torah. They would have the Torah memorized by around age 10. After that, the torah just brought all kinds of questions. Let’s take doing no work on the Sabbath. What is work what isn’t work? There’s also a law that says you should preserve all life. What if your donkey fell into a hole on the Sabbath? No matter what you do, you are breaking some law. That’s why they couldn’t just get together and read the Bible, they needed Rabbis who would interpret the law. The Rabbis set of “dos” and don’ts” was called his yoke. One rabbi even said, “my yoke is easy”. Hmmm… Anyway, they needed to get together and hear the word of God together and figure it out together through relationships…or they were lost. The Rabbis would not allow some things and those things were “bound”. Other things, the rabbi would allow and those things were “loosed”. Now, Jesus comes along. Jesus said to the disciples, “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, whatever you loose on earth with be loosed in heaven”. He’s giving us the authority to figure it out together….in community.

    Also, Friendship time is what it’s all about. You can’t just have “love the Lord Your God” as your only commandment. You need “Love your neighbor as yourself”. People will know we are His by our love. Not by our worship…by our love. Not by our scripture reading or liturgy…but our love. Not by the songs we sing or the sacraments we take…by our love.

    Furthermore, I don’t really believe in a worship service. Our lives are our worship to God. He doesn’t need an hour out of the week for us to be “seriously worshipping Him”. He needs our lives to be worshipping Him. That hour on Sunday, or whenever it is, is a time for the community or tribe to come together and figure things out. To love each other and hold each other up. To confess and heal and nurture. To bind and loose. To…LOVE. I would contend that our worship services should be more focused on love and less on worship. I think it should be a love service. This makes worship far more than a service.

    Worship isn’t even a lifestyle, it’s THE lifestyle. It’s how we were made, our lives offered up as living sacrifices is our spiritual act of worship. Not our hour on Sunday with songs, preaching and prayer.

    I’m sure I don’t have it figured out…but that’s my take on it right now. I’m wrong more than I’m right, though. So, let me know what you think.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for your response.

    You said:
    It sounds to me that, while you concede that worship is a corporate event, you place a great deal of importance on the individual.
    I wish it didn't come out that way. One of my biggest intentions was to demonstrate that worship is about God. But I was quite specific about how the individual should present him/herself in worship. Since I believe in the individual act of choosing to believe in God, there has to be an initial decision by the individual to be a part of the worshipping community.

    You even said that “friendship time” shouldn’t be in a worship service. I want to contend that we CAN NOT worship God alone. He made us for community and, I think, community is what the American church is lacking. We would worship better if we better understood the biblical idea of community.
    I mostly agree. No one preaches community in the Church more than me. But what I was writing about was the worship of the community. Friendship Time does not belong in a worship gathering ("service") because it focuses on one another, which isn't in and of itself a bad thing - in fact, it's an essence of what the Church should be. But it easily detracts from our worship gathering. (see below about "the rest of the week")

    I think part of the distinction between what you and I are thinking is that what you've written is an ecclesiology (theology of church). I agreed with 95% of what you said in regards to what the Church should be. But I was writing about the gathering of worship.

    Part of the problem is that today, we have an idea of what "church" should be and we try to cram those ideas into the one time that we gather - on Sunday mornings. We have "fellowship" (friendship) time because we know that the Church should be a community of love. My contention is that this most certainly belongs in the Church, but not in the time in which we gather to intentionally worship God.

    If people only want to give 1-1.5 hours each week for all aspects of church, that's their problem, and a huge one at that.

    Learning about God, originally, was made for community. We put so much emphasis on our personal time with God (and I’m not saying that this is a bad thing) however, the printing press wasn’t invented until the 1400’s…that’s 1400 years of people meeting together to read God’s word and bond and grow together because they didn’t have a bible. There was, maybe, one bible in the whole village…so people HAD to get together as and work things out. Let’s go even before Jesus. That’s why the Jews memorized the Bible. Their whole education system was build around learning the Torah. They would have the Torah memorized by around age 10. After that, the torah just brought all kinds of questions. Let’s take doing no work on the Sabbath. What is work what isn’t work? There’s also a law that says you should preserve all life. What if your donkey fell into a hole on the Sabbath? No matter what you do, you are breaking some law. That’s why they couldn’t just get together and read the Bible, they needed Rabbis who would interpret the law. The Rabbis set of “dos” and don’ts” was called his yoke. One rabbi even said, “my yoke is easy”. Hmmm… Anyway, they needed to get together and hear the word of God together and figure it out together through relationships…or they were lost. The Rabbis would not allow some things and those things were “bound”. Other things, the rabbi would allow and those things were “loosed”. Now, Jesus comes along. Jesus said to the disciples, “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, whatever you loose on earth with be loosed in heaven”. He’s giving us the authority to figure it out together….in community.
    Absolutely. I can't agree with you more. In fact, when and if I do in fact start a church, I will place a huge emphasis on gathering to discuss, depict, question, etc. scripture. It's how we grow. Fellowship will also be huge, but not in the way it's usually defined and "lived out" today. BUT "to gather for worship" is another part of who we are. This gathering is what I was writing about - not the activities of the Church as a whole.

    Also, Friendship time is what it’s all about. You can’t just have “love the Lord Your God” as your only commandment. You need “Love your neighbor as yourself”. People will know we are His by our love. Not by our worship…by our love. Not by our scripture reading or liturgy…but our love. Not by the songs we sing or the sacraments we take…by our love.
    Yes, that's why I said evangelism does not intentionally belong in the worship gathering (service).

    Furthermore, I don’t really believe in a worship service.
    Yes, I'm much beginning to prefer the word "gathering."

    Okay, here's where I begin to disagree a bit:
    Our lives are our worship to God. He doesn’t need an hour out of the week for us to be “seriously worshipping Him”. He needs our lives to be worshipping Him. That hour on Sunday, or whenever it is, is a time for the community or tribe to come together and figure things out. To love each other and hold each other up. To confess and heal and nurture. To bind and loose. To…LOVE. I would contend that our worship services should be more focused on love and less on worship. I think it should be a love service. This makes worship far more than a service.
    I agree that all of these things should happen...but not in a worship service. Again, if we submit to the American "fast food" concept that we need to fit everything that we do into the ONE time we meet on Sundays, then this is what we must do - fit everything you listed into that time. But I think these things need to happen

    This is the problem I have with how the evangelical Christian seeker sensitive movement has led churches to work. I love the concept of seeker sensitive worship, but we take it too far these days to assume that Sunday morning is the only time we have to bring people into church. What a closed-minded, boxed in way to think that is. The worship gathering is for GOD, not for people. The rest of the week must have all of the other aspects of what the Church should look like. This is why I'm attracted to much of the way the Catholic Church (leadership) works and the Mennonites, etc. The faith community is something that exists 24-7, not once a week on Sunday.

    Worship isn’t even a lifestyle, it’s THE lifestyle. It’s how we were made, our lives offered up as living sacrifices is our spiritual act of worship. Not our hour on Sunday with songs, preaching and prayer.
    Yes, that's why we need to distinguish between the corporate gathering for worship and the rest of the week.

    In summary, I think you saw that my philosophy was missing key aspects of what the faith community is supposed to be. But it is a philosophy of worship, not of Church (the Christian faith community). In fact, I'm with you, the corporate worship gathering is just a small part of what the Church should be. If we have to make a priority order, there are many other things I'd place before it (compassion, evangelism, and others).

    Friend, you know how huge I am on a theology of love - it's what makes me believe in God.

    Thanks for helping me think.

    F&TC,
    - J

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  10. Thanks to Jeremy and the others who have contributed. Great thoughts on worship, the purpose of worship gatherings (by the way, why do we call them services), and the condition of our hearts in the experience of worship. I've learned some things. And while I don't have anything new to add to the discussion, I'll comment on the one part of Jeremy's original BLOG that most resonated with me. "The necessity comes not in specifics, but the intent. The intent is where God looks for true worship." Don't get me wrong, let's work hard at focus, intamacy, community, and lifestyle worship. But after the work is done, regardless of the setting, let's worship authentically. Thanks.

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  11. I'm just reading this and it's interesting that to this day you still follow what you believe about worship. I can see what you say here in our church and in our service and I love that you do very much remain consistent and true to your word. It's a unique trait, one not very often seen in pastors, or people in general. So thank you Jeremy, for one that is a man of his word.

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  12. "I do not hold it as a prescription for everyone, but for myself, and perhaps, for my own church (should I ever have the privileged responsibility some day)."

    =) and now you have been privileged with the responsibility of NSCC. =) I thoroughly smiled at this line! To see what you hoped for come true, is pretty spectacular.

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