PRACTICING IN PUBLIC
Prelude (trumpet with band)
"Great Is Thy Faithfulness," arr. David T. Clydesdale, solo arr. Fletch Wiley; Almighty God—12 Great Songs for Solo Instrument (Word Music; orchestration available).
Welcome, Announcements, and Prayer
Call to Worship
"Lord, I Lift Your Name on High," words and music by Rick Founds; Maranatha! Music Praise Chorus Book, 3rd ed. (194), Renew (4).
I also like to use an anonymous second verse:
Lord, we give our lives to you,
Lord, we humbly offer service.
As we labor now in love,
let us do the work you gave us.
You give us power to pray
Through your death we can share
Out of darkness into light,
through your power and your might,
Lord, we lift your name on high.
"Oh, For Thousand Tongues to Sing"
"There Is a Redeemer," words and music by Melody Green; Maranatha! Music Praise Chorus Book, 3rd ed. (244), Renew (323).
Our Gifts of Tithes and Offerings
Offertory (tenor sax with band)
"Glorify Thy Name," words and music by Donna Adkins, arr. by Keith Christopher, solo arr. Fletch Wiley; Lift High the Lord: Instrumental Solos for Praise and Worship (Word Music).
Ministry in Song (solo)
"Basin and Towel," words and music by Michael Card (Sparrow).
Message: "Practicing in Public"
Scripture: Philippians 2:12-18
Most of us think of practice—for a hobby, skill, or sport we are learning—as something that takes place in private. Not so with followers of Jesus Christ.
Song Title Here
Reflecting him in our relationships with others is something that we must no doubt practice, but we must practice in public. Similarly, most of us would distinguish between practice and performance. Again, not so with Christ's followers. The practice is the performance, and the performance is the practice.
In the first eleven verses of chapter 2, Paul has been exhorting us to learn to "whistle" in the darkness of a fallen world by reflecting Jesus in our relationships with one another. In verses 12-18, we learn that we must practice in at least four areas of priority in order for healthy, joy-filled relationships within the church to become a reality.
1. We must practice the priority of humble overflow (w. 12-13). This passage has needlessly troubled many who have perceived verse 12 as, at worst, a veiled reference to someone working for their salvation; at best, a suggestion that "God has done his part; now it's time for you to do yours." Our Reformed framework helps us avoid either pitfall: Our salvation is totally God-authored, and our sanctifica-tion is equally dependent on God's enablement.
Then what is Paul saying? He is exhorting us to let the salvation God has worked into our life "overflow" in Spirit-enabled obedience, especially in the way we relate with one another. We humbly cooperate with the Holy Spirit and "work out" the salvation God has already "worked in." Obedience is the behavioral overflow of the rich and undeserved salvation God has given us. That's why Paul tells the Colossians, "to this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me" (1:29).
2. We must practice the priority of authentic contrast (vv.14-15a). The environment in which we relate with Christ and with one another is a crooked and depraved generation. We live in a society of people whose primary (and often only) interest is self. As each of us can attest from personal expertise, fallen men and women are very adept at the worship of their own personal interest. In the midst of such a culture, we are to live and relate in distinct contrast with those around us.
A very practical outcome of such a call to contrast is Paul's exhortation to do everything without complaining or arguing. We cannot be chronicgrumblers and simultaneously live in contrast with a watching world! But tragically we see just the opposite in the reputation many churches have with unbelievers.
3. We must practice the priority of unified reflection (w. 15b-16a). Too many Christians believe it is up to pastors, missionaries, and other professional Christians to do the "shining." Paul is saying that the responsibility to shine is a corporate activity: we all play a role as we hold out or hold on to the Word of life. As we are barraged with the values of our surrounding secular culture, we hold on to the Word as our anchor, and we hold out the Word as a light for people lost in darkness.
We reflect Christ's light together, unified. That is why Jesus prayed, "May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them" Qohn 17:23). He was referring to the intimate relationship between our unity and our evangelism.
So how do we achieve such unity? By taking this passage to heart: we must work out or demonstrate our salvation. By avoiding the mistakes of the children of Israel, who rebelled, complained, disputed, and grumbled their way into total ineffectiveness as a unified light to the Gentiles (see 1 Cor. 10:1-10 and Deut. 32).
4. We must practice the priority of having an eternal perspective (w. 16b-18). In verse 18, Paul tells the Philippians that they "should be glad and rejoice with me." His imperative is based on an indicative: the day of Christ will reveal the absolute importance, beauty, and worthwhile nature of living a life of obedience. What an amazing truth—our relationships, our fellowship, and our cooperation with one another in the body of Christ will produce music that will not only be heard by a listening world but will also produce echoes for all eternity.
Musical Response (solo)
"With All My Heart," words and music by Babbie Mason; Songs for Praise and Worship (Word Music), The Celebration Hymnal (Word and Integrity Music).
Closing Response (congregation)
"Let Your Heart Be Broken," words by Bryan Jeffery Leech, WYE VALLEY (abridged) tune by James Mountain; The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration (Word Music).
"Joy," arr. Diane Bish, Breckenhorst Press, Inc.
TRUE FELLOWSHIP ON DISPLAY
"Leaning on the Everlasting Arms," arr. Gilbert M. Martin based on the melody by A. J. Showalter.
Welcome, Announcements, and Prayer
Call to Worship
"We Bow Down," words and music by Twila Paris; "He Is Exalted," words and music by Twila Paris; "I Exalt Thee," words and music by Pete Sanchez, Jr. All three selections may be found in Songs for Praise and Worship, (Word Music).
Unison Prayer (congregation)
You are our eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth and everything in them. You still uphold and rule them by your eternal counsel and providence.
You are my God and Father because of Christ your Son.
You are eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, unchangeable, infinite, almighty; completely wise, just, and good, and the overflowing source of all good.
I trust you so much that I do not doubt you will provide whatever I need for body and soul, and you will turn to my good whatever adversity you send me in this sad world.
You are able to do this because you are almighty God.
You desire to do this because you are a faithful Father.
—From Heidelberg Catechism Answer 26 and Belgic Confession Article I
Piano continues to segue during prayer to introduce next selection.
Sung Prayer (congregation)
"Be Thou My Vision," Favorite Hymns of Promise Keepers (Marantha! Music).
Use of an electronic keyboard that offers a good orchestral string section is effective on this selection; you may want to bring in the organ on the last verse.
Our Gifts of Tithes and Offerings
Ministry in Music (solo)
"I Will Choose Christ," words and music by Tom Booth and Kathy Troccoli (Word Music).
Message: "True Fellowship on Display"
Scripture: Philippians 2:19-30
Churches can end up being very strange places if men and women are not vibrantly relating with Christ and if they are not involved in authentic fellowship with their brothers and sisters in Christ. Throughout chapter 2 we have been learning the importance—if we are to glorify God and if we are to learn to whistle in the darkness of a fallen world—of reflecting Christ in our relationships. As he concludes the chapter, Paul addresses some matters involving Timothy and Epaphroditus. As he talks about them, he provides a very effective illustration of what he has been teaching in the first half of the chapter. In essence, he is saying, "Here are Exhibits A and B."
These two men represent two general kinds of relationships we experience in the church: close friends and others with whom we enjoy fellowship. Timothy was a very close friend of Paul's—a kindred spirit. Epaphroditus was someone with whom Paul enjoyed a relationship even though he and Paul did not share the same intimacy as, say, two people who had worked together for many years.
As I read this passage, I can see how authentic friendships and fellowship within the church can refine some very important habits. True biblical friendship and fellowship will both require and enable me to reveal four important and related habits in my lifestyle:
1. The habit of placing God's will ahead of my agenda (w. 19, 23-24). Paul made his plans "in the Lord." His plans did not rest ultimately on any human plan or the outcome of his trial. His plans rested in God and in God's agenda for him as well as for other believers. Paul knew that in the give and take of relationships within the body of Christ, and in light of God's agenda in the lives of his Christian brothers and sisters, he would not always be able to do what he wanted when he wanted. It is one thing to make our plans without consideration of anyone else or even of God's plan. It is an entirely different matter to live our lives in the context of deferring to others' needs and timetables as well as God's agenda for them.
2. The habit of placing others' interests ahead of my own (w. 20, 26). All four parties in this scenario— Timothy, Epaphroditus, Paul, and the Philippians—are demonstrating a willingness to put one another's interests ahead of their own. A tremendous difference can appear in a fellowship of believers when everyone is focusing on giving instead of getting. Cries of, "What's in it for me?" "What am I going to get out of this?" "What about my needs?" all begin to fade into the background. Instead, a yearning to put one another's interests first becomes the dominant concern, creating a refreshing, winsome, and Christ-honoring atmosphere.
3. The habit of placing God's calling ahead of convenience (vv. 21-22, 30). Timothy, Epaphroditus, and Paul knew what it means to be faithful in spite of hardship. Such faithfulness is so contrary to our culture, which worships comfort. That me-first attitude seeps into the church, and our obedience and involvement in kingdom causes become a matter of our schedules and moods rather than of heeding the call of our King. Getting involved at church tragically becomes an issue of convenience. If we would only learn that half-hearted commitment to the gospel actually results in no commitment at all!
Epaphroditus risked his life to obey God in demonstrating care for Paul. Paul said that Timothy proved himself in his devotion to service for the sake of Paul and the gospel. The word he uses for proved is the same Greek word he uses in Romans 5:4, only there it is translated as "character"—character that is honed in the midst of suffering. In our willingness to place God's call ahead of convenience, in our willingness to walk through hardship in order to serve one another and obey God, our character is both revealed and refined.
4. The habit of placing love ahead of mere sentimentality (vv. 25-30). Epaphroditus is an unusual name. It was derived from the name "Aphrodite," the Greek goddess of love. Perhaps Epaphroditus was named in honor of her, but he now has become a follower of Jesus Christ, the true lover of his soul. He has learned the difference between trite love that is limited to the fickle realm of emotion and often focuses on what someone does for him and true love that gives sacrificially. The result is his journey of immense hardship in order to truly love his brother, Paul.
In Romans 12:9, Paul reminds us that love must be sincere. The root of the word he uses for sincere is the same root from which we get the word hypocrisy. In Paul's day it was a word used to describe a stage actor who wore various masks, depending on which character he was playing. In Romans 12, Paul is exhorting us with a word that means the opposite of simply putting on a show for applause. In Philippians 2, he is illustrating what he taught.
In the last paragraph of Philippians 2, we read of a group of people who have all been gripped by the love of Christ and are giving that love to one another: a church wanting to help a brother in jail; another brother traveling hundreds of miles in terrible conditions to demonstrate that love; a prisoner who cares more for those outside of prison than for himself. No wonder these Christians were able to whistle in the dark!
Closing Response (congregations)
"Here I Am," words and music by Chris A. Bowater; Songs of Praise and Worship (Word Music), Maranatha! Music Praise Chorus Book, 2nd ed.
Postlude (band and organ)
"There Is Joy in Serving Jesus," words by Oswald J. Smith, music by Bentley D. Ackley.
WORSHIP PLANNING AT SUNSHINE COMMUNITY
At Sunshine Community Church the Director of Fine Arts is responsible for programming the worship services. Generally I receive the message title, text, and theme from the speaker and then begin to work with the various elements of worship centered around a theme. Normally I try to include both hymns and Praise & Worship music in each service. Congregational singing usually begins with an upbeat hymn or chorus and then tapers off to a more meditative mood. I also try to include one of the various performing groups each Sunday, representing other arts such as drama and media.
The instrumentation used for accompaniment varies each week from a small orchestra to perhaps just piano and organ or maybe piano and a rhythm section, or sometimes a combination of these. I also look for various creeds, catechism, unison prayers and/or litanies to include in the services each Sunday. Rarely do we include elements specifically for children in the morning worship services because they have their own worship gatherings. After I have completely worked out the programs for the morning services, I normally discuss them with the senior pastor and gain his approval or make changes accordingly. The services are programmed to be seventy-five minutes long. My main goal is to make sure that the congregation has the opportunity to meet God in a special and celebrative way and to enhance the teaching of God's Word.
THEY WILL KNOW US BY OUR LOVE
Worship Leader: The body is a unit. And though it is made up of many parts, they form one body. So it is with the body of Christ—if one suffers we all suffer. If one is honored, everyone shares in the honor. In fact, God has arranged the members of the body just as he wanted them to be. And along with the unity of the body, he has given us faith, hope, and love. But of course, the greatest of these is love.
Twelve-year-old Boy: Since my dad moved away, things have been really strange around here. Mom has to work all the time; she's always tired. At school they are having this father-son camping trip. I really wanted to go ... but Dad said he would be out of town with his "new wife" then. I guess he loves her more than me.
Twenty-five-year-old Man: I can't believe we've been married two years already. And this will be our first long separation. You see, this summer she's going to Argentina on a missions project. I'm so proud of her, but... it will be a long, lonely two weeks without her. We were having coffee at work today, and my assistant mentioned how frustrated her son was about this school camping trip. I guess it's about time for me to figure out if I'm any good with kids, huh? So where did I put that old sleeping bag?
Middle-aged Man: Money is 50 tight these days. Just when I get back on my feet and get a decent job again, my car breaks down. Five hundred dollars! I don't have five hundred dollars—I don't even have credit for five hundred dollars! Lord, what am I going to do?
Middle-aged Woman: We got the bonus—I can't believe it! A fifteen-thousand-dollar bonus. But that's not the fun part. All of a sudden Jim says, "Let's do something crazy." I thought an adventure to the Bahamas, a new kitchen. But no, Jim tells me about this guy in his men's group who shared a prayer request about his car breaking down. Then Jim says, "So here's the plan: a brown paper bag, five hundred dollars in unmarked bills, and a secret midnight drop into this guy's mailbox." [laughs]'Well, I wanted an adventure. But . . . I've never seen Jim so excited about giving before. Oh, I almost forgot—I need to synchronize my watch; we make the drop tonight!
[Repeat chorus to "They Will Know Us By Our Love."]
Sixteen-year-old Girl: This isn't supposed to happen to people like me. In the movies, sixteen-year-olds don't get pregnant. Oh, but if they do, they have a wonderful boyfriend who doesn't abandon them ... like Josh abandoned me. And even if he did, her parents wouldn't throw her out like mine did. I've only been a Christian three years... and Jesus really did change my life. But ... I guess I kind of messed things up a little bit.
Older Woman: Things are pretty quiet around here these days . . . just Jake and me, an empty house, and a lot of wonderful memories. Three wonderful grown-up children and five perfect little grandchildren. They don't visit real often. I guess life is busy for young, upwardly mobile parents these days, but it sure is quiet.
Sixteen-year-old Girl: I don't want to make things worse. I am going to have this baby. And somehow, somewhere, I know there are people who will love my baby, who are just waiting for a child. Waiting... that's my problem now. No place to go and no one to wait with.
Older Woman: I got a call this morning from an agency that helps church folk adopt new babies. I started to laugh. Me ... [laughing] adopt a little baby? "Oh no," the lady said, "No, no, they just needed a loving home for a scared young mother-to-be." You see, she would live with us for a few months. I would even be her labor coach!
Sixteen-year-old Girl: Just someone to hold my hand . . . someone to care for... us.
Older Woman: My girlfriend Edna from church, she just looked at me real funny when I told her today. Then I saw it comin'—she put both of her big hands on her big hips, got her real spiritual face on and said, "But what will people think?" I just looked her right back at her. "Edna, Edna, never forget—they will know us by our love!"
[Repeat chorus to "They Will Know Us By Our Love."]
Twelve-year-old Boy: Mom, I'm going camping!
Middle-aged Man: Five hundred bucks! I can't believe it!
Older Woman: It's a girl!
[Repeat chorus to "They Will Know Us By Our Love"]
—Drama reprinted from the cantata Make Us One: The Body of Christ United in Praise by Babbie Mason, Kenny Mann, and David T. Clydesdale, pp. 81-82. © Word Musk, 3319 West End Ave., Suite 200, Nashville, TN 37203; (615) 385-9673. Used by permission. For permission to use this text, use your CCU or Licensing license or contact the publisher.