Historically, this final issue of the liturgical year has been dedicated to one topic, such as psalms (RW 96), faith formation (RW 92), or the Lord’s Supper (RW 88). In that vein, this issue is focused on our gifts and how we use them for the glory of God. In a way, that’s the subtext of every issue of RW, but this issue takes a closer look, expressing the theme in four related subthemes.
God has given each of us different gifts, which also means that we excel in and communicate best in different “creative languages” (in education circles these are referred to as “multiple intelligences”).
Think about the different ways we listen and respond to a sermon. Some people take notes; others prefer simply to listen; still others listen best by drawing or doodling. During one sermon I preached, a woman sitting in the front row was knitting. Keeping her hands busy allowed her to focus better on the sermon itself.
Following a sermon, some like nothing better than to respond in song; others prefer a time of silent contemplation; still others like to participate in a discussion.
We are all wired differently, yet for so long worship has been planned with just a few of our “creative languages” in mind. What might worship look like if we tried to communicate in a greater variety of ways? We might not all be able to connect with each creative language every week, but communicating in different ways over a period of time might allow us to connect with a greater portion of our congregants, especially children and youth. The goal, of course, is not to entertain but to open up the truths of Scripture and reflect the glory of God.
Creativity in worship
God has gifted the church with visual artists, musicians, dancers, orators, dramatists, and others who can help communicate the gospel message more clearly to those gathered and help express the praises and laments of congregants in their native creative language.
Who are the “creatives” in your congregation, as Mike Cosper calls them (see his article on p. 10)? Do you know? What creative ways of communicating could you use in your congregation’s context?
My six-year-old daughter usually remains with me for the entire worship service. Even though I realize that most of the words used in the service go over her head, last Sunday in worship she sang along with at least one of the songs, watched Scripture come alive with the use of a tableau (see RW 75), wondered with me about the traffic signs placed around the pulpit area (which were later used and explained in the sermon), and participated in the Lord’s Supper. Because of the creative efforts of our worship planners, she was an active participant in worship, and through the working of the Holy Spirit I believe she was nourished.
Using our gifts
Since all of life is worship, everyone—whether they are carpenters, teachers, mechanics, or nurses—can use their gifts in the worship of God. While some gifts find expression more easily in Sunday morning worship than others, that doesn’t suggest a hierarchy of giftedness.
Each of us is to glorify God in all things and at all times.
That is so important for us to remember. We aren’t let off the hook once we leave the sanctuary. So consider what your gifts are, and help your congregants discover theirs. Often our gifts find expression in our vocation, but not always. Take time in worship to acknowledge the full range of gifts in your congregation. (See p. 34 for an idea on how to celebrate these gifts during the offering.)
All gifts need to be used with great discernment, lest they become idols that distract us from the true worship of God and cloud the message of the gospel. While we want to encourage creativity, we should never do so at the expense of the gospel message.
So take the time to evaluate and discern, as we are asked to do in the article “Reforming or Reverting?” (p. 26). Listen to critiques with an open mind and heart for even the smallest kernel of truth. And remember—it’s not about you; it’s all about God.
If any of these points sound familiar, it may be because they appear in proverbial form in the document Worshiping the Triune God, which we have been featuring since RW 100 (see p. 35). If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to sit down with that entire series and use it with a small group or worship committee. It contains much wisdom.