What will church be like?

3627402797_7c933b4676While this image is not an accurate picture of what our church services will look like it reflects the underlying themes.

The tent is empty.  There is no one in sight.  The cross has fallen over, the sky is darkening, and even the sign promising God’s presence is faded.  Our frailty, weakness, and inability to make something happen are written large across this scene.  Yet, the sun has not set.  The faded sign speaks of a ghost, a holy one, and the arrow signifies of movement.  God is on his way and he revives, bring life out of death.  In our worship services we look to encounter the new life of God that comes along side the cross and meets in our desperation.

If I visit, what should I expect?  (note, we’ don’t have church services yet, but this is what I envision)
Hospitality  There will be someone to greet you at the entrance.  He or she will hand you a printed outline of that Sunday’s service so you know what to except.  The greeter can help you find a seat, direct you to the location of children’s activities, or answer other questions.
Children  You’ll see kids of various ages, some of whom will sit with their parents and participate in the worship service.  Others will go to the nursery (0-3) or childrens church (4-7) which happens during the sermon.  We’re so glad to have a wide range of ages at our church and exercise charity towards the fidgety, noisy, or sleepy regardless of their age.
Dress  You’ll see some in their Sunday best and others with jeans, or shorts, depending on the season.  Dress as you feel most comfortable.
Worship Our service regularly contains readings, prayers, music, singing, a sermon, an offering, and celebration of the Lord’s Supper (eucharist).
Money During our worship we take up an offering as an expression of our gratitude to God and faith that he will care for us.  As Christians we are committed to living generously and pursuing freedom from envy and greed.  If you are visiting please feel no obligation to contribute.
Time Our services run about an hour and fifteen minutes.  While this may sound long it goes quickly.  If you’re running late, still come.

Why do you… 
Our worship services have various parts (singing, prayer, etc) that we’ve thoughtfully chosen.  What we do in this brief but significant time in which we gather for worship both reflects and shapes who we are and what we believe.  Below are some of the big picture principles, a few examples, and some of theology underneath.

Principles & Examples
  The best way to lay out the principles is by unpacking the phrase “We worship God.”

-Christians believe that there is a God who has spoken.  When we worship we center our practices around what God has said about himself and the way he wants to be worshiped.  In our worship we give particular attention to what God has revealed about himself and this world by drawing deeply from the bible.
-Christians believe that God has been and continues to be active in this world.  Thus worship is not merely an intellectual or emotional exercise but an occasion when God is uniquely present among his people.  We look to the past to inform our worship because we belong to a rich history in which God has been present.  We also strive to reflect aspects of our specific time and culture since God is at work even now.
-Christians believe that there is a mediator.  The high and holy God who is pure and utterly beyond us has made a way for humans to know him and enter his presence  through Jesus the Christ.  Christian worship is centrally focused on Jesus as the hope of humanity and means through which we find life in God.  Our worship will reflect the reality that God is both transcendent and has come near.

-Christians believe that worship arises from both the individual and the community as a whole.  Our worship will encourage both sides of this continue with plural langue and personal responses.  As a community our worship will not only rise to God’s throne but speak to each other of truth and grace found in Jesus Christ.
-Christians believe that God wants people to worship him with their whole lives.  Our times of gathered worship are a culmination of the week and touch on every part of our lives.  The mind, body, will, and emotions are all engaged in worship because God cares about it all and wants the whole person engaged by his presence.
-Christians believe that the physical world matters, so we care about aesthetics.  While elements of the space, sound, scent, and feel of worship are beyond our control we strive to reflect the beauty of God’s presence in all we do.
-Christians believe that we worship not only in God’s presence but in the presence of a watching world.  We strive to make our worship understandable to those with little or no experience in the Christian faith.

Worship (practical examples)
-Our music will sound both contemporary and from another time.  We will use words and tunes written centuries ago alongside music written in the past few years.  This is not an effort to appease various preferences but a reflection of God working in the ancient times and today.
-Our language will reflect some of the majesty of old English found in older translations of the bile and the writings of Christians from other eras.  There will also be simplicity of wording and regular repetition so that children and those less familiar with English are able to engage.
-In our services there will be a working balance between singing, listening, reading, movement, and sacrament.  We will stand to sing, sit or kneel to confess, lift our hands to receive God’s blessing, and joyfully respond to the the word of God.
-We will plan out our services, pursuing excellence given our resources, but strive to remain flexible as we worship so that we can sing an extra song or linger in an extended time of prayer as God may lead us.

  This section is quite long so if you’re up for it read more below.

1.God centered and directed

God is the true and only recipient of our worship. This rises from the fact that he is the creator of the heavens and earth, the Holy One who we must acknowledge.(Is 6) In all this he alone is alone is worthy of praise as is seen in Revelation 4-5 where we have a glimpse of the heavenly throne room where God is the focal of the worship of all creation. Our tendency is to follow our darkened minds and worship created things rather than the creator (cf. Rom1). Even as Christians it is so easy to focus on ourselves, but God centered worship is what God demands and what we were made for.

2.Christ (redemption focused)

Worship must be focused upon Christ and his redemptive work because Christ is the one who makes our worship acceptable to God (Heb 9:22). It is Jesus who is our mediator (Heb 2:17) who brings us into the presence of God and only through him may we offer our worship (Heb 4:14-5:10). Moreover, as we acknowledge God’s holiness the powerful blight of our sin is revealed and we are driven to Christ. This principle is especially important today when pluralism is such a prominent worldview. Worship is only through Christ and we must counteract the voices saying that you can approach God however you would like.

3.Spirit led and filled

Worship must be led by the spirit and filled by the Spirit. This is the kind of worship God desires (Jn 4:24) and the worship that is inherent to God’s people since they are the temple of the Spirit (1 Cor 3:16). As we worship by the Spirit we will worship him with holy fear, powerful confidence, and freedom for heartfelt expression. This is what God deserves and what humans long for. Spirit filled worship will also look like commitment to the body of Christ and seeking unity within her (Matt 5:23- 24). This is important in an individualistic, consumer driven culture where the tendency is to stick around so long as it is good for me.

4. Word based and filled

Worship must be based on the word because God seeks worship in truth (Jn 4:24. It is our tendency to worship as we desire (Rom 1). Such worship is unacceptable to God, dishonoring him and defiling us. True worship will be filled with the word because that is what will edify God’s people and build them up (Heb 4:12-13). This principle is important because truth is held in low esteem in our society. This is reflected to varying degrees as Christians focus primarily on feelings or experiences as the ground for their worship instead of the solid rock of God’s enduring word.

5. Engaging the whole worshiper

Biblical worship should engage the whole worshiper because we are commanded to love God with all our being. (Matt 22:37) The mind must be engaged through theological content. (Rom 12:1-2), as well as our imagination via creativity (poetry in scripture). Our emotions are involved as we respond to the love of God (Ps 136) and bring to him sadness, anger, loss and doubt (Ps 73). Worship should also engage the will as people are called to repentance and commitment. (Ps 51). In addition this will involve the body (1 Tim 2:8) and our possessions (2 Cor 9). This principle is so important because God wants every bit of us, not just parts or pieces.

6. Every aspect of life

Worship should touch on every aspect of life as Christians offer all they do to the Lord. Scripture connects joy in creation (Ps 19), praise for God’s sustaining (Ps 104), delight in the moral law (119), and enjoyment of human nature (Ps 8, 139) to worship. We also bring our fallenness to him as we confess our frailty and sin (Ps. 90 that touches every part of life). Lamenting evil and pleading for justice is also a part of worship as well as praise for forgiveness and the deliverance of God’s people according to their prayers. (Ps 10, 3) In addition we pray for authorities, call all the nations to worship, and encourage the church in her mission of mercy and love. (1 Tim 2, Ps 117). Finally, we rejoice in the coming of the messiah. Such worship is important because we live fragmented lives and need a place that puts the pieces together.

7. Rising from the community of God’s people

Worship rises from the community of God’s people as they share their lives and their gifts. (1 Cor 12-14) United to Christ we are also united to his body thus, worship always has a horizontal and vertical element (Revelation 4- 5). This truth is important because it confronts the radical individualism of our culture. Worship is seen primarily as something I do with God which has little bearing on the people around me. At home watching church on TV or in a darkened room worshiping with my eyes closed forgetting about the other people, I am living out a misunderstanding of worship.

8. Out and up

Worship should be directed out to the world and up to God because his people are to be priests for the world. (Gen 20:17, Job 42:8). As we begin we call all the world to worship (Ps 117) and as we worship together our worship is to be intelligible to the unbeliever so they may know God (1 Cor 14). In our worship we are to pray for the salvation of all peoples. This principle is important because it reflects the missional nature of our God and because Christians so often have unintelligible language and practices which put up unnecessary barriers between them and the world.

9. Contemporary, Culture Specific, and Transcendence

God’s timeless message enters specific times and places. The poetry of the psalms contains Canaanite literary conventions even while undermining Canaanite beliefs. Our worship must reflect our call to be all things to all people and sadly Christians are often resistant to this idea. We hold onto our preferences without consideration of God’s broader design of worship which reflects both our roots and our future. The tendency is to get “stuck” in certain rituals of worship, whether this is the past or present. Some believers are overly impressed with their specific cultural moment and abandon anything that speaks of age and tradition. As our faith is inseparable from those who have gone before us our worship must in someway reflect our roots. As our faith is alive today, it must also speak to our current situation. This not only ties into music but other aspects of worship.

10. Beauty

Christianity is not merely true, or just good, but lovely. As we read of the tabernacle, temple, and associated vestments we see in various details that they are not simply utilitarian but are meant to evoke the grandeur and glory of God (Ex 26-28). All aspects of our worship should attempt to reflect God’s beauty and thereby help worshipers believe in the God of the bible.

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