Syd Hielema serves as the Team Leader for Discipleship and Faith Formation Ministries of the Christian Reformed denomination. 42 years ago he began serving as a church organist, and since then has continued to serve as a preacher, worship team leader, author of short liturgical dramas, writer, worship mentor for teen musicians, and professor of university level worship courses. His passion lies at the intersection of worship, discipleship and faith formation.
Blogs by this author:
Undoubtedly the most profound miracle and mystery about worship is that when Christians gather to worship our Lord, God shows up! He is present within the praises, prayers, and reflections of his people. Paul provides my favorite description of this presence: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” (Colossians 3: 16).
A True Story
The youth group had just returned from a week-long mission trip to a large, urban center. While there, they learned a rap-style worship song that beautifully embodied the soul of their week together. Still buzzing with the energy of their trip the Sunday morning after they returned home, they sang that rap-song for the congregation with lively, pre-recorded accompaniment, and then shared a couple epitomizing stories from their week.
One of the themes I loved to stress back in the days when I taught a university course on “Foundations of Worship,” is that worship provides a reality check. I can still hear myself saying to a class, “All week long our understandings of who God is and who we are gets hammered, and gradually becomes more and more out of focus. On Sundays we gather with God’s people to have our communal vision corrected again.”
But what if our worship actually contributes to the loss of focus?
Do you long to see teens and young adults more solidly connected to your church?
Are you a preacher or do you belong to a church that has a preacher?
If you answered “yes” to both of these questions, I invite you to take on the “Preaching Tag-team Challenge.”
The best way to explain the challenge is to tell you this story.
The 30-something pastor sat across from me in our local Thai restaurant, and was clearly too excited to eat.
“When we worshiped yesterday,” he began, “I told the congregation that our ninety minutes together was just the trailer for the movie, a tiny glimpse of the kingdom to whet our appetite, and after our worship was over, the real deal would begin: the full length feature movie that develops the plotline and characters and reveals all the gritty details.”
My wife Evelyn and I worship at a congregation which very intentionally invites children, teens, and young adults to engage in worship together. Meadowlands Fellowship Christian Reformed Church (Ancaster, Ontario) does this quietly, almost organically, so that if you’re not looking for it you may not notice it.
Because it’s almost invisible, I’ve conducted a “Worship-MRI scan” so that I can understand it better. Here’s what I saw:
I live just outside Hamilton, ON (Canada), a city of half a million that boasts one professional sports franchise: the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the Canadian Football League. This year the Cats were favored to win it all, under the leadership of their star quarterback, Zach Collaros, until a season-ending injury took him out.
Suddenly I realized that the Cats’ chances of winning it all had deteriorated profoundl. It struck me that perhaps the quarterback is more important to a football team’s success than any other position in any other team sport.
“You treated us like we were in kindergarten!” blurted Betty, the crusty older woman who had been a soprano in the choir I directed for many years.
After recovering from her barb, I realized she was right.
It was so predictable that it became comical. The third Monday of the term students walked into the “Foundations of Worship” class that Karen deMol and I taught together at Dordt College with their heads hanging, eyeing us suspiciously, holding their worship reflection assignments in their hands.