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I was struck by Dan’s statement that “for the early Church, as we noted earlier, worship was marked by words such as loyalty, allegiance and surrender, and by acts such as singing, reading the scriptures, eating together and taking the path of martyrdom.”

The holistic nature of this kind of worship seems so simple, yet ingrained in real life that it just makes sense. feel like I’ve talked to a lot of Christians who stop by a church service here & there, go to a small group not connected to any church service they attend, give only randomly to organizations that they have no real connection to, etc rather than actually be embedded in a local church where they can truly know people, be known & invest.

The very practical actually being part of a community, instead of subscribing to Christian culture and dropping in at events seems so key to worship as we think about it in this way. It seems like a key to actually experiencing the values Wilt talked later about (I’ve listed them below). Not to be harsh, but it just seems like one can only go so far in actually worshipping God without embedding themselves in community. I just don’t see how we can actually experience these things without the gathered worship & life with friends also on the same journey. Here are the values Dan mentioned:

1. Cultural Relevance
We are welcome to express worship in ways that are true to the culture of our age, while discerning and course-correcting their efficacy in building the spiritual health of the Church.

2. Integrity
We are called to advance the call to worship in the world by living out the words of the songs we sing, the themes of the bread we break, and the overall message that is remembered and reclaimed in every worship setting.

3. Holism
We advance the idea that worship is not an activity only connected with an invisible world with which are attempting to “make contact.” Rather, worship is about doing justice, loving our neighbor and engaging with the vulnerable and broken in society with a view to bring new creation’s balm to its wounds.

4. Immanence
In the form and content of our worship, we call worshipers to reverence, but not simply to a distant God who is somehow disconnected from their daily experience. We say “God is near, immanent, close and His Kingdom is within reach as we worship.” We refuse to distance ourselves from the God who has so powerfully drawn near to His human creation – we respond by drawing near to the God who draws near.

5. Incarnational Spirituality
We embody our spirituality, deciding and perpetuating the call to worship in spirit and in truth by living what we sing and say we believe. We are not people who worship by simply raising our hands and closing our eyes – we are committed to a spiritual formation into the likeness of Christ that evidences that we are actually following Jesus, and not just singing about the notion of doing so.

6. Simplicity
We feel no need to complicate every song and every expression of worship simply for the sake of some elusive language of “adding depth” or “engaging the intellect.” In the Benedictine tradition of lection divina, we often linger over important phrases and ideas, with simple words and melodies, to allow the worshiper to engage with deep theological truths that are intended to change their lives. Neither the intellectual complexity, nor the emotional simplicity, of a song is the issue for us. The issue is found in the asking of a simple question – “Is this moment an opportunity for God to transform our minds and hearts to fulfill His design for us, and to welcome us to a richer, deeper understanding of Himself?” Having asked that question, simplicity and complexity become options for our best creativity in expressing worship in all of its possible ways.

7. Diversity
We recognize that covenant people of all tribes, nations and languages (and therefore music styles, ways of storytelling, symbolizing and engaging the human experience) are all invited to the feast of worship. For this reason, we do not define worship according to only one ethnicities expression. Rather, we embrace that colorful tapestry of worship life that flows from the Body of Christ across time and locale.

8. Unity
We value the unity that can only truly occur when we ultimately defer our lives to the God of all. Unity, because of God’s saving, restoring approach to us, is found among all peoples and denominations that value the part we have to play in God’s story. We are ambassadors of new creation and the coming Kingdom in the now, in the moment, and we rise together to sing, to pray, to act and to impact society from this common mission.

I’m glad that my experience with God & faith started when I was a little older (I wouldn’t say I was “raised” going to church.. but I was about 10 years old when my mom became a Christian, so I was still a kid). I think because she was naive about the whole thing & was only drawn there because of  inner yearnings that they had to be something more; and because we ended up in a church community that expected an experience with God to be the norm within the theological context of the Kingdom of God,. a community-based faith where ecstatic spiritual meets mundane practical to make “faith” is the only thing I’ve really known firsthand. It’s living the last 20 years in that context where I can see God has formed me & molded me into who I am today.

Yay for “W”orship that leads us into a life where the spiritual & mundane meet, instead of pull apart like oil & water. After writing that last sentence, I realize that this is the tension of a life like that seems to be tied to the central message of the whole Story (e.g. new creation).

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When is the last time you were asked the question, “What is worship all about?” If you’re like most
worship leaders I know, the question comes up rarely. This is due to the important fact that every
generation redefines the activity of “worship” in a way that 1) connects with the most current media
through which it seems that God is most profoundly interacting with His people, and 2) is the most familiar activity of worship being used in their cultural milieu.

In many cases, the average contemporary Christian attending one of our churches might say, “Worship is something we do to tell God how great He is. In our community, that largely happens when we sing to God.” While this has some degree of truth to it, and may make us feel quite special as the musicians who lead people in contemporary worship music, it is by no means an exhaustive, or maybe even helpful,definition of worship. Without even moving to the scriptures themselves, church history alone humbles us in our quick attachment of the act of worship primarily (or only in some church descriptions) to music.

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I figure late is better than never, so here goes.

I’m really interested in the idea of the community of God’s people ‘narrating the story of God’ to a world  that is seeking the hear His voice at a very core level & particularly how gathered worship & ‘big W’ worship (as Dan talks about) fuels and facilitates that.

Wilt’s telling of the Celtic way of going about this is particularly interesting:

For the Celtic Christians, who held a very strong sense of the Trinitarian basis for human community, they modeled their pattern of welcoming people into the family of faith by first offering them 1) belonging, then welcoming them to 2) behave as years of friendship with the community of saints and the presence of the Holy Spirit opened the way for real change, and then finally welcoming them to 3) believe – if they ever so chose!

Have you read or heard about the prominent atheist blogger / debater who recently became Catholic? When asked the question “what has the transformation been like for you?”,  she cites 1) being part of a community & 2) being able to celebrate mass (e.g. the participatory retelling of the story in gathered worship each week). Then further, in response to how this has changed her is that it’s easier for her to reach out to people because she wants to see them become who they are created to be & meant to be  (my paraphrase).

So for her, becoming a Christian has meant being part of a community, being part of retelling of THE story each week through worship and encouraging other people’s personal development towards the new creation (them at ‘perfection’).

I have to believe that while the moral / ethics argument was a big deal for her (as someone who professionally argued morals / ethics), experiencing community and worship had to have been major pieces to her deciding to come to faith.

This is an awesome story. But how do we deal with people who, after belonging to our community for years because they just like the belonging aspect, don’t behave as though they *should* and only touch on belief (if even that)? As worship leaders being SubCreators, ImageBearers, CommunityBuilders and SalvationStorytellers (all Dan’s words) I think we experience the personal death that Kinnaman talked about last week.

I wonder as worship leaders (loaded with all those above implications) if doing it (e.g. literally leading people over time into The Story through gathered worship & ‘W’orship through our lives) actually leads us towards personally dying to self for the sake of others. That it’s just the nature of the beast.

I wonder what happens when we do try to invert that Celtic description (requiring people to believe, behave and only then belong) because it’s less messy & easy to track? My sneaking suspicion is that some people might nod their head & go along with it on the outside, but that they’re inside thinking something totally different. It seems like that approach to leading people into The Story is inherently flawed, mostly because it doesn’t transform us as leaders into more like the image of our God.

All that now has me thinking about the practical nuts & bolts of leading worship in my small group & how I can better help them ‘get it’ in our gathered worship. I have a couple people who do kind of nod their head like they really would rather skip the music part, but will play along because they’re nice Christians & that’s what we do. I wonder what I could do in the 10-15 mins of gathered worship to create an environment where they are more able to actually connect with this story & the creator at the center of it?

We are the crown of God’s creation.

We are subcreators. We use God’s materials to create.

We’re image bearers.

Analogy of kings having artists create statues to remind people of the king’s provision to those people. Reminding people. Read More