In this pair of articles, we looked over the shoulders of a worship coordinator and a worship consultant as they together planned a congregational worship seminar in 1992. After the seminar, Edith Bajema agreed to share with RW the materials she had prepared for it, including this letter. We were impressed with her letter, and asked Dave Beelen to write his response for RW so that other congregations could also "attend" the seminar and perhaps gain insights into similar questions they are asking.
Articles in this issue:
What all human beings long for is the manifest presence of God in worship. Psalm 139 teaches us that God is present everywhere, but we can also experience an intensification of that presence among us in worship. Real worship happens when God's people are sensitive to this intensified presence and enter into it with abandon and reverence—a most holy and glorious combination.
You describe such real worship in your letter when you passionately portray your congregation's hunger:
The Question that Challenges Us
"Who do you say I am?"
Scripture: Luke 9:18-27
Old Testament: Malachi 3:14
Psalter: Psalm 45
Epistle: Revelation 1:9-18
Simply put, this is the single most critical question Jesus Christ ever asked. Our answer to it reveals nothing less than our very destiny itself. In judging him, we are judged.
I have never visited your church, but I know a lot about your ministry and worship. Your congregation has a well-developed vision for ministry, and you make worship a priority. You plan your weekly services carefully and creatively. You place a priority on member participation in worship as well as in ministry, with balanced emphasis on youth and adults, men and women, singles and couples. The Word, music, prayers, and giving are well integrated in your services. Your congregation is also sensitive to visitors.
Do we really want visitors to our "church to come back?
What a silly question. Of course we do. We spend a lot of time talking about how to attract new people and make them feel welcome. Our evangelism committees discuss that challenge every month.
Sunday November 1, was beginning to loom large on the horizon. I was scheduled to occupy a nearby pulpit. Reformation themes were already crossing my mind. I was bracing myself more than usual, for this promised to be a rather unusual weekend. Instead of Saturday leading up to Sunday, Sunday would likely draw heavily upon Saturday. For that Saturday was clearly marked: October 31. Every year on that date, loyal heirs of the reformers faithfully relive the sounds of Luther's hammer blows centuries ago in Wittenberg.
The psalmist encourages us, "O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things!" (Ps. 98:1). In recent years, more and more Christians have been taking this encouragement to heart. Their "new song" often takes the form of the praise choruses that are taking many congregations by storm.