- Vineyard Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, has grown in fifteen years from six couples meeting in a living room to a congregation of three thousand that holds seven weekly worship services in its six-hundred-seat auditorium. Despite the fact that it has planted twelve daughter churches, it continues to grow. Twenty percent of its new members are recent converts. “I’m seriously praying about going to an eighth service,” says founding pastor Steve Sjogren, “because it would make room for more seekers.
At the end of a typical week a church musician may have served in any number of complicated and varied roles: counselor, teacher, guide, disciplinarian, stage director, consultant, financial planner, worship leader, accompanist, program director, rock musician, classical musician, researcher, biblical interpreter, babysitter, set-up crew, cleanup crew, and more. Was it worth it? If the congregation was led to a more inspired worship of God, then yes, it was worth it. Can it be done again next week? Next month? Next year? That depends.
This article is adapted from an address Witvliet gave at the inauguration of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.
Most of us probably read Reformed Worship for practical ideas. We want to find resources, songs, texts, scripts, and images that we can use in our congregations—preferably by next week.
Once again the Advent season approaches, and with it comes a challenge for many congregations: How do we light the Advent wreath with integrity, so that its lighting encourages and enables a faithful passing on of the Christian faith?
Faced with this challenge, our congregation developed certain standards or guidelines for the rite of lighting the candles of the Advent wreath. Specifically, we want this rite to
God used angels to announce the news of the coming of Christ. As I thought about the first coming of Christ and the promise of his second coming, the following Scripture verses came to me—and out of those verses came the concept and design for the angel banner. The Scripture verses were placed in the bulletin for each Sunday of Advent and Christmas Day. Along with the banner, those verses served as an invitation for the people to prepare their hearts for worship.
Shortly after I made public profession of faith in the Christian Reformed Church I grew up in, several members of our church (including our youth group and my parents) attended a Roman Catholic folk mass in our town. A group of priests had been attending a lecture series in our church, and they, in response to our hospitable welcome, invited us to worship with them. Towards the end of the service, everyone was invited to come forward to receive the Eucharist.
A visitor to our seminary chapel once asked me to show him the "sign language" I used when presiding at the Lord's Supper. He thought that it made the service "dramatic," but was confused that I gestured throughout the course of the eucharistic prayer, since during prayer eyes were to be closed and heads bowed.
There is a telling soliloquy in Walker Percy's Love in the Ruins that neatly sums up my concern in this article. Dr. Thomas More, Percy's Catholic protagonist, is having some conflict with his Protestant wife, Ellen, on matters of religious practice.
On occasion I have attended churches where much of the liturgy was sung, allowing the congregation to become more active participants in their worship. I thought that we had been missing out on a rich worship experience by not having this kind of service at Plymouth Heights. After discussions with our preaching pastor and liturgy committee, I was encouraged to develop such a service.
The setting was a campfire on a summer night at church camp. A young lady who had not spoken a single word all week stood up and haltingly proclaimed, "I love Jesus." That was twenty years ago, but I still remember it as the moment I realized that this child (and many others like her), so loved by God, would never be able to join us at the table to celebrate our Lord's Supper. Because of her mental impairments, she would not be able to meet our expectations for those who could make profession of faith and be welcomed to the table.