Tag Archives: worship

The Drifters

two in pewIn his letter in the Summer 2017 Concordia Seminary magazine, Seminary president Dale A. Meyer makes an interesting observation. He says, “Some people come to worship rain or shine; almost nothing keeps them away. Others, sadly, have walked away from worship and don’t readily return. In the middle, between the always-come and never-come, are those who come but could drift away” (“From the President,” Concordia Seminary magazine, Summer 2017, p. 5).

Let’s call this group the drifters. What causes someone to become a worship drifter? I know for me, the rub comes on Sunday morning when you are cozy in bed and just want to sleep some more. So you drift off to sleep and skip church. For others it is other commitments and activities on Sunday morning that have taken precedence over worship. Sports practices, Sunday brunches, or shopping that needs to get done all can conspire to draw people away from worship. It does not take much for the drift to happen. Even a change in worship time can cause people to bolt.

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The Art of Accompaniment

accompaniment in prayerOur sister company Twenty-Third Publications has published a booklet called The Art of Accompaniment, which talks about how parishes are called to journey with their parishioners through their lives of faith.

Creative Communications offers products that help with this endeavor. Shepherd Guides cards are for use by the parish to send at milestones and church year holidays to those who were married in the church, who had a child baptized and who buried a loved one within the last year. (See links below.)

http://www.creativecommunications.com/Products/GU1/shepherd-guides-resources-for-baptisms.aspx

http://www.creativecommunications.com/Products/GU2/shepherd-guides-resource-for-weddings.aspx

http://www.creativecommunications.com/Products/GH6/complete-set-of-five-cards.aspx

Creative also offers a journal for godparents to give to their godchildren to encourage them in their faith at their confirmation:

http://www.creativecommunications.com/Products/CA4/called-and-confirmed-confirmation-journal.aspx

There are many ways beyond these publications, of course, to accompany fellow members of God’s family on their faith journey. I know that I personally have been on the receiving end of some uplifting faith-filled texts or emails from church friends who knew I was having a hard week. Those little gestures go a long way to help people stay strong and keep growing in their faith.

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Manger Scene

manger sceneWhen I was a kid, during the season of Advent we would always have a little manger scene out with the figures of Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, a shepherd and three wise men. It was a child-friendly set, with almost like a Lincoln Log stable and Fisher Price style figures (I know I am dating myself with these references).

I just recently learned that this manger scene was a wedding gift for my parents, who were married 50 years ago on December 27, 1967. What a wonderful wedding gift to give: the story of the birth of Jesus in tangible form to share with future children as part of a family tradition.

My parents still have those figures and they still put them out. And I am again reminded when I see them of the marvelous story of how Christ came to earth to save us.

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Backchannels

backchannelsAnother new reality of communication that Pastor Matt Peeples reveals is: Backchannels are always open. What are backchannels, you ask? They are the conversations behind the conversations that are always going on in our digital age.

I have seen this in play at conferences and other meetings where they even encourage backchannel engagement in real time by announcing a hashtag with the conference name or meeting locale for people to use to converse on Twitter about what is happening at various sessions.

I also see this at play within the comments sections below a post or a video link. People’s reactions, good or bad, are exchanged and discussed, and we as the viewer become privy to these interchanges, if we like it or not.

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Immediacy

immediacyAnother aspect of the new reality of communications, according the Pastor Matt Peeples, is that we now expect immediacy.

In general, these are the new rules: We assume people are always plugged in and available. We want an answer to our communication right now. We must answer our phone or text at the moment we receive it, no matter where we may be.

It is now acceptable to stop a personal conversation to take a call. It is OK to step out of a meeting to answer the phone. It is considered multitasking to text while listening to someone else talk. These were not the rules less than a decade ago. Then these types of behaviors were seen as rude, but they are now par for the course.

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House Churches

house churchAs we gather in our homes this Thanksgiving, I am reminded of the concept of “house churches,” which has had somewhat of a resurgence in our world as of late, mostly in China and in other places where Christians are being persecuted. House churches are defined groups of Christians who regularly gather for worship in private homes. The group may be part of a larger Christian body, such as a parish, but some have been independent groups that see the house church as the primary form of Christian community.

I recently talked with Jim Buckman, a missionary-at-large and a church planter in the New Jersey area, who explained that his approach to building churches was to start in the home. People feel more comfortable in their homes, they are surrounded by loved ones, and they are not caught up the structure of the organized church.

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Cultural Liturgies

walking

Walking to work is one of our cultural liturgies.

In his book, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation, Christian philosopher James K. A. Smith talks about what he calls “cultural liturgies,” those daily habits we engage in as a Christian society that reveal what our beliefs are.

Smith in his thesis reframes the word liturgy to mean “Love-shaped habits—whether sacred or secular—that shape and constitute our identities” (Desiring the Kingdom. p. 25).

He goes on to say, “Malls, stadiums, and universities are actually liturgical structures that influence and shape our thoughts and affections. Humans—as Augustine noted—are “desiring agents,” full of longings and passions; in brief, we are what we love” (Desiring the Kingdom, Baker Academic, 2009).

The quote from St. Augustine that Smith is referring to here is is the well-known prayer: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

The deepest desire of our heart is to rest in our God.

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Exodus or Exile?

Mark Labberton, in The Dangerous Act of Worship, outlines two paradigms that the Christian church lives under: The paradigm of exodus and the paradigm of exile.

shipThe exodus paradigm has had an enormous impact on the American Christian church in that “the United States was established by those who were leaving various kinds of bondage to pursue religious and spiritual freedom” (The Dangerous Act of Worship, p. 135).

And Scripture does indeed support the exodus paradigm. As Paul states,

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).

The concept of the exodus paradigm is that we are passing through this earth on the way to our real home in heaven.

The exile paradigm, on the other hand, is about settling as strangers in a strange land and doing all we can to live out our calling in the midst of a culture that is not in line with our belief system. In this paradigm, we realize that we are “to be signposts, to be salt, to be light in the world. Exile allows us to hold on the the slow and steady path toward God’s re-creation” (The Dangerous Act of Worship, p. 146).

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Is Worship Too Safe?

padded pewIn The Dangerous Act of Worship, Mark Labberton contends that most churches like worship services that are safe. He argues that  we have created false dangers about worship that have limited what worship can be, causing us not to worship as fully as we could. Here are the false dangers he sees at work:

False Danger #1: Worship That Is Not Under Control

Worship services are very orderly these days, lasting almost exactly one hour and usually following a very regular routine. I for one like the order and routine of worship, but when that is what becomes more important than the the Gospel message that is said or sung in worship, then there is a problem.

False Danger #2: Worship That Doesn’t Seem Relevant

The desire to be relevant to today’s culture has led to the use of screens, IPads and contemporary music in worship, which in and of themselves are not bad. But when our goal is to be relevant rather than true to the Gospel, then the essential role of worship has been lost. Continue reading →