Some of us know people who are highly enthusiastic, complimentary, and positive. These are not bad traits! But sometimes such people are so lavish with their praise about every sermon they hear, every restaurant meal they eat, every movie they see that eventually we come to wonder about their judgment and just how valuable getting a compliment from such a person really is. If you are on the receiving end of a “That was a great sermon, pastor!” comment at the church door, you want to believe it.
During three of my four years as a student at Calvin College I served on the Knollcrest Worship Service Committee. This was a group of about a dozen students who were advised by the two college chaplains. It was our job to plan and help lead the two worship services held every Sunday during the school year. We were also supervised by a consortium of local church councils that sent elder representatives to every service.
Growing up in the countryside five miles outside Ada, Michigan, Roman Catholics were largely unknown to me. When I was about ten, my parents sold off a small chunk of the farmland they had bought some years before, and the Smith family built a house half a mile up the road from us. They went to St. Robert Catholic Church.
As Reformed Worship enters its 30th year, it is natural to look back and wonder what has changed since this publication began. My colleague John Witvliet can testify to the explosion of work in the area of liturgics and worship. The serious study of worship has gone from a relatively rare enterprise a few decades ago to a growing academic phenomenon. In addition to Reformed Worship, worship planners and pastors now have access to a mind-boggling wealth of resources.
The weekend of September 14-16, 2001, I was slated to be in Chicago for a seminar. However, like most previously planned events that weekend, the seminar never happened. With the horror of 9/11 that week, the airlines were still grounded and most people’s schedules were in tatters.
If you peruse the most popular Christian book titles, or if you check out what pastors and church consultants are blogging about, or if you read the titles of plenary speeches and workshops at Christian conferences, then you will quickly discern one of the hottest current topics in Christian circles: leadership. Everyone wants to be a leader. Everyone wants to be an effective leader.
Recently I served as the chairperson for a search committee that was seeking to hire a new professor of missions and missiology at Calvin Seminary. That task meant that I had the chance to bring myself up to speed a bit on the current state of conversations about missions and where some of the primary foci are in the field of missiology.
Drills and Scales as Building Blocks
Every good soccer or basketball team does drills to practice basic skills. Every good pianist or saxophonist practices scales. Drills and scales are the building blocks of success any time our bodies and minds are involved in an activity we love.
Scales and drills shape how human nerves and muscles work together seamlessly in real time. They get us ready to respond to whatever a game or musical performance brings our way. They make doing the right thing instinctive, like second nature.
The climactic scene of Matthew’s gospel describes the risen Christ standing with his disciples in Galilee as he gives them final instructions. He tells them to go and “make disciples of all nations.” As Jesus invited each of them to follow him and to form a community with each other, Jesus now asks them to invite others to come into communities of discipleship. He institutionalizes his own method of community organizing: inviting people into relationship with a leader and then with each other.