When we arrived in our current pastoral call, one of the pleasant surprises my wife and I discovered was a Manse where we could host large groups of people, with a living room that could accommodate our two grand pianos without breaking a sweat. We suspected this might lead to some joyful experiences, and last Thursday night we had our suspicions confirmed!
It’s been a good year to reflect on Reformed identity in the context of corporate worship. The 500th anniversary of the Reformation has provided ample opportunity to revisit the roots of our joint worship distinctives and practices. There is nothing more “reformed” than going back to the sources to reorient ourselves toward faithfulness in the present.
One evening 15 or so years ago, as I stepped out onto our front porch, I encountered a surprise guest, or I should say, several surprise guests. An adult opossum with a few much younger ones sat quite comfortably in a row on the 3-feet high concrete ledge that wrapped around our porch. They were down on the right side, at the opposite end of where I had come out. They stared at me and I stared at them — all of us frozen in the uncertainty of what to do next.
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.
A Practical Guide for All Ages
A Successful Experiment
A friend of mine came to my office a few weeks ago. His congregation is beginning to think about a sanctuary renovation, and he wanted to talk through some of the dynamics at play when considering liturgical furniture. He had found himself, in an initial meeting, agreeing with those who argued, for example, that a pulpit was both beautiful and indispensable. Five minutes later he found himself agreeing with those who said a pulpit was anachronistic at best and at worst an impediment to hearing the gospel.
You can’t. Just accept it. It isn’t the role of the worship leader, worship coordinator, worship pastor or solo pastor to craft worship in such a way that makes everyone happy. This is impossible. When you try to make everyone happy, you end up making nobody happy. Yet, crafting inclusive worship is the most important thing that we can do for our churches.
Three times within the last week I have heard of churches that are letting people go hired professionals as well as seasoned volunteers, because they do not fit the image the church is trying to portray. The three churches are in three different states, three different types of communities, and two of them are of the “reformed” persuasion. In each case, the church was honest. And unbiblical. Idolatrous, if I can be frank.
Two weeks ago, I played the hymns for my grandmother’s memorial service. My uncles, father, and aunt had quickly gathered to plan the service, which was held only five days after her death. I wanted to serve my family and Grandma, and thought this was a good way to honor and remember her.
But I am thankful I pushed the microphone away from the piano and asked my brother-in-law to lead the hymns. Because during the final hymn, I choked up.
I started walking last June because of a FaceBook challenge put out by a former student. My job is primarily sedentary, and the goal of 10,000 steps a day seemed like a mountain to me. But I started. It was easier in the summer, and more difficult once school and classes and meetings filled my days. I’m on my fourth “tool” to track my steps. As important as meeting my goal was, the trackers have not been the most helpful aid to meeting my goal. Most helpful has been the music of the Psalms.