Friday, July 27, 2007

Church Musical

Just in case anyone hasn't seen it yet... Presenting "Church Musical," a documentary in four parts. Enjoy.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Excellence in Worship

A few of us were at a Promise Keepers event last weekend. The worship there, among 9000 other men, was fantastic. I don't know how everyone else felt about it, but it felt like an incredible worship experience where I was able to connect with God in a deep way.

Of course, when I try to explain it in writing, it seems... Trite.

My worship is supposed to be for God, yet I'll admit that I was benefiting from it. It isn't supposed to be just an overwhelming feeling of *emotion*, but let's be honest -- At times like these, it is. It's an emotion-based experience.

I also was thinking about how we often talk about wanting to avoid a worship service that focuses too much on "excellence" and "production." Striving to do well is a good thing, but when having things look and sound perfect becomes more of a goal than worshipping God, then we have a problem. We know this, and it's been discussed many times over, because it is nearly always an issue in large churches.

Yet Promise Keepers is a huge event, and I'll admit that the PK band, the worship leader, and the "production values" were excellent. So how much did this factor into my sense of feeling good about the worship time? How much did it impact my "emotional-connectedness" with God?

I don't know. I'll admit that for all my talk of wanting things to be less production-oriented, I'm a big fan of a high-energy worship event. So it's hard to know where the line is.

One thing that struck me was that at the event, the worship leader mentioned that they had prayed and decided just the previous day to incorporate more worship (singing) and cut some of the speaking time. He said they were calling a few "audibles" during the event as a result of this.

How often do we allow the Holy Spirit to call "audibles" during our worship?

Is it even an option? Is it a bad idea in a large church?

I know that structure isn't a bad thing, but can too much of it become a barrier?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

More on Christian Community

When you stay up talking outside of Starbucks until 2:30 AM on a Monday night, it really sucks away your ability to be awake enough to write anything compelling on a blog the rest of the week.

I'll give it a go anyway.

Many of us are aware that "church" is not just a building or a worship service, but it's a group of people. Christians. Followers of Jesus.

At least that's what we *SAY*. However, a lifetime of preconceived notions about "church" are quite difficult to transform. Regardless of how much I talk about the "community of believers," it is still amazingly hard to back out of my "church" paradigm.

For instance, I think of my small group as just that -- a "small group." It's a subset of my "church." The group of guys that stay up talking late into the night at Starbucks is still, often in my mind, a subset of my "church."

We identify our churches by name. Even if we avoid the term "church" and ask someone, "Where do you go to worship?", we are still wanting to know which specific church they attend -- it's nothing more than semantics.

By putting a name with a church, we generally know a denomination, or at least something about that church's belief structure. I could look up an address, a phone number, a web page. Maybe even find a mission statement or a vision.

The problem with this paradigm is that, while it's handy and efficient when I want to classify and categorize things, it often does very little to foster and create a real Christian community.

You know what? My small group is a church. We're a group of people that care about one another, and we often get together at predetermined times to meet, to eat, to pray, to laugh, to talk, or to study scriptures. At least in our case, there's no real bureaucracy in which we must report our activities up to "the church."

House churches are a fascinating topic. I think it's easy for many of us (me included) to write off some house churches as fringe groups, meeting in somebody's living room, led by some crazy guy who has little to no understanding of the Bible. We look at many of the big churches -- the Church Growth Model megachurches, the House of Hybels and Warren -- and we think, Well, they must be doing something right. Look how many people go there each week!

Many of the megachurches are preaching the gospel, I'm sure. But we cannot look at Sunday morning attendance as a metric of "church success." If 3000 people show up for a Sunday morning service, how many of them are truly experiencing Christian community the rest of the week?

For that matter, how many of them are even experiencing Christian community on Sunday morning?

The idea of some form of communal living continues to intrigue me. Not just for economical and efficiency reasons, but because I believe that in the right context it would be something more. Many of us are looking for something more. Something deeper. Something above and beyond Sunday-morning-centric Christianity.

A way to grow and commune with friends.

A way to grow and know God more deeply.

A way to befriend and reach other people that don't know Jesus.

I look at so many modern churches, and I think, Is this really what God had in mind? I see good things, yes, but I also see so much... fluff. So much stuff. Random ministries that are sucking the life out of volunteers that got pulled into something they had no heart for in the first place. Worship services that require a cast of literally hundreds to produce the show. And then hundreds that attend to watch the show, before leaving with a heart that hasn't been changed in the least.

In the meantime, the Christians that are looking to be fed, the Christians looking for a sense of community, wander about like a boat with no anchor.

They feel at times purposeless and powerless.

Perhaps only within smaller groups, smaller "churches," can we feel that community. That sense of purpose.

Maybe it's just something that you can't foist upon people. Maybe people just have to find it themselves.

Can large churches have true "community"? If so, how do they do it?

Church Relevancy

Sorry for the double post today, but I found another great article on church relevancy. Its another long one, but again, well worth it.

Read it here.

"A" Worship In A "B" Body

Found this on the net today. I was amazed (yet again) at how well someone else has captured my thoughts. Parts IV and V are especially golden.

I know its a long read, but I think its worth it. In regards to the church's current view of worship - from the leader's perspective - its a great article.

Monday, July 2, 2007

WHAT is a worship service?

Joe wrote some very interesting things in his comment on the last post. It deserves some discussion if only because it said some things much more clearly than I did.

He pointed out that a list such as this one comes across as being nit-picky. True. But he also pointed out that it is clear that there is a single problem at the root of it all. The central question, then, is this:

    "WHAT is a worship service? Why do we have these things at all -- just what is it we are DOING?
If he doesn't mind, I'm going to copy most of his comment here, as it makes for an excellent post.

    Historically the heart of corporate worship a la King is COMMUNION, the eucharist. This is what Jesus instituted as his family Feast of Remembrance, a celebration of The People of God, this nation of kings and priests. "They will be mine" says YHWH "in the day when I assemble my treasure." [Mal 3:17, JoeBV]

    Everything about "formal" assembly of The People should emanate from that central fact. It seems to me that "the gathering" should last about the whole day, and include cooking, cleaning up, distributing goods, planning, deciding, singing and praying and constantly reconciling differences thru cooperation in all these processes. Most of all, it's not a mere abstraction, it's real life. Not something on a stage.

    So I say those 15 scathing theses are about 80 short of a reformation. I say one must start over from scratch and reconceive corporate worship entirely. The Jesus feast these days is reduced to a vestige from which most meaning is stripped. We forget that everything from Jn 13-17 happens AT the Lord's table: footwashing, prophesying, kingdom scheming, and theologizing. And it is all on a personal scale, not a mass production. The way we do it nowadays--a presentation that 90% of the people just come and watch--is a pretty bizarre notion of how to celebrate God's Gathering of the Select People (the ekklesia, the Church.)

    Dare I say it? We need to quit going to worship and start going to CHURCH!
The central theme here is community. Actually, that's been a central theme within our little "circle of friends" for years now. How can the church get back to being a community? Is it even possible in our 21st century, suburbian lifestyles?

Many of the things within a normal "worship service" are good things. Singing to God, the reading of scripture, preaching and teaching, the rememberance of Christ through communion. So, on the surface, things don't look half bad. But where is the community? How do we do all of this on a personal scale, and not as a mass production?

I love to listen to Darin and Joe talk about these things, but too often we talk in vague and abstract terms. Sure, we are idealists. We may know what we WANT.

But my main question, each time, is HOW. How do we accomplish this? How do we get there?