Henry Nouwen once argued that the three greatest temptations for Christian leaders are to be a) relevant, b) spectacular, and c) powerful (In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, Crossroads, 1987).
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I have learned a lot from Mark Charles. Mark is a veteran blogger and a long-time CRC member, who writes very thoughtful pieces on cross-cultural exchanges, especially for members of the church, from his home in Window Rock, Arizona. This piece is the fruit of Mark’s trip to Siberia for a gathering about culturally relevant worship practices. I especially like Mark’s honesty about the unsettling quality of encountering worship practices that are new to us.
What if you could find five people in your congregation, perhaps each representing a different decade (one child, one teen, one thirty-something, one fifty-something, one-eighty something)to tell you what single Psalm verse best expresses the praise and thanks that they personally long to offer God. The results are likely to be inspiring. Someone might choose a verse from Psalm 150, another a verse from Psalm 30, another a verse from Psalm 63.
In a recent seminary class, we were reviewing key moments in the history of the church. My colleague Scott Hoezee asked students to think about what church life would have been like in six different centuries. As students reflected on each of these different moments in history, it struck me that in each of them public worship would have been led almost entirely by a single pastor, with the help of a single musician...
Jamie Smith recently gave a lecture in which he said that repentance and assurance in worship are remarkable formative practices that are indispensable to the Christian life. He noted that on Oprah, we can find a form of assurance ("you're o.k.," "just be yourself"), while our shopping mall elicits shame or anxiety in all of us ("none of us measure up to the standards of the good life projected there.")
As worship leaders we serve as guides. We can take the safe, pleasant, straight and flat path or we can chose something more challenging. The flat path is known and even relaxing; you can enjoy your environment without exerting much energy. The challenging path requires all our senses; it makes us feel alive, and gets the adrenaline pumping. It offers great vistas, many rewards, but yet demands work; it isn’t easy. I think in general churches need a mix of the two sometimes in the same service. There are times for stability and there are times for challenges.
What we consider as normal has everything to do with our context. In conversations about worship I am increasingly trying to excise any statement that suggests a norm such as, “this song is familiar” or “everyone is doing x, y or z.” For every normative statement we try to make there will be examples where it is false...
The following email was sent out on Behalf of Bruce Adema the Director of Canadian Ministries. For other agency related worship material check out the One-Stop Resource Index which can be found under the Must Reads on the Worship Networks main page.
I am all for spiritual practices and discipline. I’m just not sure that the act of giving up chocolate or TV for Lent can draw us closer to God in and of itself. Laurence Hull Stookey puts it best when he writes: “Lenten disciplines are not temporary deletions or additions, but spiritual exercises that permanently alter us” ...
Singing of a Christ who challenges us to love our enemies including those of different faiths or ethnic backgrounds, to forgive the worst of sinners and then enfold them into our community, to take care of the orphan even those with HIV/AIDs, to be willing to give up some of the comforts in life in order to bring comfort to those who need it most; to sing of such a Christ puts us outside our comfort zone.
Our task as worship leaders and planners is to be used by the Holy Spirit to help our congregants live as Easter people in a world of wars, disease, flooding, abuse, sickness, depression, and yes, hope. It’s been said “we are an Easter people living in a Good Friday world.”
Is Reformation Day a thing of the past that doesn’t relate to those who haven’t grown up in the “Dutch church”? Is it something that we should re-energize or let fade away? If we stop celebrating this defining moment of the Reformation do we risk losing our historical roots which help ground us theologically? What do you think?
I am not a fan of awkward silences. Sometimes silence is good and appropriate – during prayer or following a particularly moving anthem. However, the silence between a pastor’s words of “And now the choir is going to sing for us” and the choir members standing in their seats and walking to the front is unnecessary and it disrupts the worship flow.
Whatever your committee’s or team’s name or function it is easy to get in a rut, to do things a particular way because that’s the way it has always been done (even if it’s only the second year you have been doing it). So how do you get out of a liturgical rut? How do you discern when a once helpful practice has become unhelpful or when a 100 year old practice needs to be retained? How do you lead your congregation to grow in the area of worship?