Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Worship Service? Part 2



Here's Part 2 of a 2-month series of articles I wrote for Peninsula Covenant Church's The Bridge newsletter back in 2005. I posted Part 1 yesterday.

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Hello, Church! I hope you’ve had a great month worshipping God in every area of your lives. Remember: Worship is NOT only what we do when we gather on Sundays!

If you haven’t read my Bridge article from last month, let me recap: I think our language needs to change, because sometimes the way we speak influences the way we think and live. In calling our Sunday meetings “services,” there is the possibility of treating them somehow as “services” or entertainment for you, the people in the pews.

I quoted from Dan Kimball, pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz. In his Emerging Worship: Creating Worship Gatherings for New Generations, he writes:

I admit that I’m being somewhat sarcastic with the service station analogy. But I’m not joking when I say we need to recognize that going to a worship service is not about us, the worshipers. It is not about God’s service to us. It is purely an offering of service and worship to God – offering our lives, offering our prayers, offering our praise, offering our confessions, offering our finances, offering our service to others in the church body.

The description of a church gathering in 1 Corinthians 14: 26-27 says: “What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.”

This was not “come together to sit and receive” like at a gas station. This was everyone gathering to offer service to God and others in worship. The gathering was not primarily about meeting the needs of the individual, but centered on the worship of God and the strengthening of the whole church.

Kimball goes on to explain how in the New Testament, the English word “service” (as translated in the New International Version) is used to speak of an act of giving, not receiving. However, the “worship service,” has slowly and subtly come to focus more on our getting served than on our serving.

Because of the subtle misuse of the phrase “worship service,” I don’t use it anymore. I try to always say “worship gathering” instead. Theologically, this communicates what we are doing much better. Once again we can be the church gathering to worship God and bring our service to him and others, not individuals who come to a service to receive something.

Blessings to you, PCC. Let’s continue to press on in understanding what it means to be a worshipping church! See you in the worship gathering Sunday…

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So what do you think? Does this language really matter? What other things do we say in the Church that are misleading?

5 comments:

victoria said...

I'm a mix. I agree that the words we use don't adequately describe things, like worship for singing.... doesn't worship permeate the entire time at church?

As for service. I don't love that term either, but I don't view church in the consumer oriented way of meeting MY needs in a selfish way.

I've had discussions with friends about what is church, since it's really the people and not a building, and oftentimes we go to church, sit passively in our seat and think that is loving God. Perhaps it'd be better to not gather in a building but go out in the community actually DOING acts of service?

I'm not sure I agree here either. In a way, I suppose I disagree with Mr. Kimball. I think that perhaps the church's role is not only TO go out in the community but to equip, encourage, and resource us, it's people, to go out and reach our community. In that way, perhaps it can be looked at as a filling station. I need to be encouraged and exhorted by fellow believers, and to likewise encourage and exhort them. This can be deemed as "filling up". I need good solid, Biblical preaching. I need to be with a gathering of believer and praising God together and focusing on His goodness and the great things he's done. I need to be "filled" so I can in turn go out and reach my community and be "missional". So perhaps in that way I see that the church's role can be to "fill me up" because during the rest of the week I don't always get that fellowship, encouragement.

Of course, that is where community comes in. Relationships...... so our only time of encouragement, praising and praying with others is not JUST on Sundays but wherever and whenever we need it.

I don't know. I do know that for me, I often feel a bit isolated from others, a bit reluctant to ask for prayer or open up, and I do this on Sundays and the rest of the week as well.

I guess I have no point to this except that I believe in an ideal, a community, that doesn't quite exist for me yet and I'm trying to figure out if my church just doesn't provide it or if it's there and I'm the one that is choosing not to engage in it.

Regardless, I do think that community is what is needed, not just going to church, singing a few songs and listening to a sermon that will be forgotten 3 hours later..... yet I don't think abandoning that model is needed, just more.... more authenticiy, more openness, more community relationships.

I'm rambling and babbling. Sorry

Matt Nightingale said...

Hi Victoria... Thanks for commenting! I think you're right about Dan Kimball's analogy falling apart there. We DO need to be "filled up," so to speak.

I think he's concerned with the consumer Christianity that is so rampant in our churches. It's so discouraging to me that so much church growth happens not because of new people coming to faith but because of people leaving their churches and coming to ours over things like music, youth ministry, etc.

victoria said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
victoria said...

Matt, I completely agree with you about the consumer aspect of Christianity and how church growth is mostly just people leaving one church to attend another.

When I first started attending the church I do now, my pastor wrote a blog post that seemed to discount and not value as much the "christians" that were coming or visiting our church. The real "valued" people were those that weren't "churched" and those were the people he was after.

It's a great perspective, but in a way, since I myself was new to the church and was a "church" person it bothered me. I wasn't as "valued" as someone else.

I addressed my concerns and he explained a bit more fully to me what and why he said what he did, and I understood.

The truth was/is that though I was "church", I wasn't really following God. I was just going through the motions and in fact, spend 5 years at a prior church just pretending, and when I left that church my family spent a good 2 years simply not going to church. My husband finally said we had to go to a church and we chose one and attended. It was too "fluffy" for us. Huge, new building. A kids program and room that rivaled chuck e. cheese on the entertainment scale. (seriously: they had 3 bounce houses INSIDE the building... my apologies if your church is like that) The music was quite professional and the message was nice. We gave it a good 5 months and then left. (we'd not gotten connected but we never felt like we had any desire to get connected)
So, when I got to my current church I may have grown up in church, attended a couple years at Bible college, but I felt spiritually dead and I was tired of just pretending and going through the motions.

I'm trying to say that even those that come from other churches still have value. The people that are "church hopping" or shopping for the church with the most programs, etc to offer them may very well not have a real grasp on what true Christianity is. I know I'm just beginning to figure it all out. It's actually a very humbling and exciting place to be. Sorry so long. This is my 2nd attempt trying to shorten it. Still too long.

Matt Nightingale said...

Hey Victoria (again), I appreciate your insights... No apologies!

I totally get what you're saying about not devaluing transfers. There *are* excellent reasons people switch churches.

By the way, I'd love to connect about possibly reviewing books again...

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