Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Growing in Worship

This week I was asked to oversee our worship ministry at church. What's interesting to me about that is that for 2 years I have thought about and talked about what I would do differently if I were able to lead that group... and now that I have been given the responsibility I can't remember most of those ideas. ;-)

Its exciting, humbling and scary... I realize how much needs to happen and how gently it must happen and the challenge is to bring us all forward without leaving anybody behind. I have gone through some changes in the past few months in my attitude towards worship (I am using the word worship here to mean that part of a church service where we use music to worship God).

When I first experienced Vineyard worship it moved me deeply. I loved the music, its style and passion. It was so personal and really drew me into experiencing the presence of God like nothing I had ever heard. I had heard and loved some of the contemporary worship songs from Maranatha and Integrity but there was something that drew me in the intimacy of the Vineyard songs. I spent the next 7 or 8 years leading people in that style.

When I moved to California in 1998 it was primarily to learn a new way of doing church. I spent 4 years with a church that was 'seeker modeled' and the worship service focus was more on quality and an atmosphere of excitement than in intimacy. I loved it... I embraced it... and it changed the way I viewed everything.

When I came back to Mississippi... back to a church that was, in effect, trying to split the difference between those 2 positions, I found that I leaned toward the California model. I wanted to see more joy, excitement and quality in our worship. Over the past 2 years I believe we have raised the quality bar significantly (but not as far as I would like). And we have raised the 'energy level' of the worship with more passionate music.

But lately I have lamented the loss of some of the intimacy. As I recently began to write on Vineyard 'DNA' it caused me to consider where it was we came from as a movement. As I look around these days most Vineyard churches don't look a lot like Vineyard churches anymore... most are barely distinguishable from their independent, charismatic or contemporary Baptist counterparts. The worship in most is excellent... is exciting... even passionate... but rarely moving. God is stirring me to bring us back to a place of intimate interaction with his spirit through the act of worship. To teach and draw his people into loving relationship with him by the Holy Spirit via corporate service.

The beauty of this is that it won't look like it did 10 years ago... it will have a new contemporary style... it will have a new focus on quality and excellence... it will have a new focus on atmosphere and excitement... because nothing God has taught us is irrelevant... its all part of where we are going... every lesson is to be considered as we move forward. But the primary objective of our worship is to introduce people into the presence of a powerful, personal, loving God... the God that created the universe and sculpted the butterfly desires to intersect our lives.

The destination is the journey... the Bible says that he has given us "life-- and that more abundantly". I think that describes this process of learning... evaluating... and moving on to the next place with God.

Monday, December 6, 2004


We have made the most important unit in the world, and in the church, the individual. We have made it 'all about me'. We have failed to disciple converts because we no longer relate in genuine 'koinonia' and because we have made the salvation of individual souls the conclusion of our mission. We have in many senses made the beginning the end.

Our standard definition of Christianity has become about an individual decision. We love to tell people that God has a wonderful plan for their lives - and this is true - but before that, God has a wonderful plan for His world and He is building His Kingdom not simply 'working' for our salvation,. For God so loved the World!!

The opposite of My plan for my life is not God's plan for my life but God's plan for the World - a plan that I am invited to be a part of. Our over individualization of the gospel has bred passivity. "It's like a line in the sand, and we say," The most important thing in life is to be on the other side of this line." OK. People cross the line. What then? They try to get other people to cross the line. OK. What then? I see a huge contrast between crossing a line in this way, and following Jesus on a journey. It's as if we have taken what is for Jesus the starting line and turned it into a finishing line. Sounds like another case of modern reductionism - going for the greatest efficiency, the most measurable results, the least common denominator."

Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christian (San Francisco CA: Jossey-Bass Inc.2001) p. 130

This individualism has also resulted in a shallow Christianity. Our churches are full of people who know so much and do so little.