When the Israelites were still wandering in the wilderness, before they had land, let alone crops and harvests, God instructed them how and when to give thanks for the harvests that were to come:
Three times in the year you shall hold a festival for me. You shall observe the festival of unleavened bread; . . . the festival of harvest, . . . the festival of ingathering . . . (Ex. 23:14-16).
“Let them praise his name with dancing. . . . Praise him with tambourine and dance. . . .” (Ps. 149:3; 150:4).
Have you ever noticed how often Jesus’ teachings startled people? So many of his remarks seem, at first, to come out of the blue. For example, once he stood up in the temple on a high feast day and shouted, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink!” (John 7:37, NIV)
As the church adjusts to changes in the surrounding culture, worship leaders are faced with the challenges of new technology. How is it best used, and who should be the ones using it? Often the person with the keys to the building is put in charge of the new sound system, regardless of his or her musical/technological skills or spiritual gifts.
Gregg DeMey (firstname.lastname@example.org) recently moved to Ludington, Michigan, where he has begun work toward a new church plant. This article originally appeared in modified form as a weblog at www.calvin.edu/worship as one in a series of articles addressing some of the most significant challenges facing leaders in new and emerging churches.
As the time for the worship service approaches, church members gather in the sanctuary, animatedly sharing stories about sick children, new babies, workplace conflicts. Suddenly the sanctuary light flickers on and off. Rather than showing surprise, parishioners take their seats facing the altar. There is no prelude. Pastor Dorothy Sparks smiles broadly as she makes the parish announcements. But the voice I hear is not Pastor Dorothy’s.
When we hear Scripture read in worship, it is usually in carefully chosen chunks or discrete units. The Bible, however, is one large overriding picture/story of God’s action with his people, written down over many generations. It contains hugely complex overlapping images and concepts, like a tapestry of multiple interweaving strands. The overall effect has a rich and vibrant depth, as individual elements placed next to each other bring out a whole range of associations and meanings.
Edited by Tim A. Dearborn and Scott Coil. Baker Books, 2004. 206 pp. $16.99.
Whether you are a worship planner or leader, or simply have a desire to participate more fully in corporate worship, this helpful collection of previously published articles will raise important questions and offer a path for exploring worship today.
Few events in the life of Christ are as underappreciated as the Ascension. We often become so concerned about how to picture it that we do not move on to consider its significance. In fact, trying too hard to imagine or depict the Ascension can result in images that reduce Jesus to a kind of person-shaped rocketship blasting off for points unknown. Nor is this a new problem. Numerous chapels dedicated to the Ascension in European cathedrals have sculpted ceiling designs that feature a pair of stone feet dangling out of a stone cloud.
Quentin Schultze. Baker, 2004. 103 pages. $10.99.
In the past five or so years thousands of churches of nearly every liturgical tradition and style, size, denomination, and setting have begun using electronic media in worship. The rapid rise of presentational technologies has made a big impression and created some confusion as well. Electronic media has our attention, but have we stopped to ask whether such media is appropriate for worship? What are the limits? What are the criteria for theologically responsible use?
After returning from the Calvin Symposium last January (2004), I began to think of ways I could implement some of the ideas I came away with. One of the results was this Pentecost service, inspired by several services at the symposium as well as previous resources in Reformed Worship and The Worship Sourcebook (TWS). Our congregation invited three area churches for this evening service in order to get a larger choir as well as a full church. Unfortunately, there was a tornado watch in our area that night, so Pentecost had to be put on hold for two weeks!
My firstborn got married this summer. The setting was the church she’s attended ever since she was three months old. In these familiar and well-worn surroundings she and her new husband spoke the vows of a lifetime.
Art, in its many forms, touches the soul in powerful ways. It helps people bring their bodies and emotions into worship, as well as their minds. As more and more people find that they are visual learners, the integration of the arts into worship becomes more and more important. This is something I am acutely aware of as an artist and something I struggle to put into practice. I would like to share with you a process that has helped me realize some of my dreams about worship and art.
Bible Studies on Worship Available on the Web
Every month a new Bible study on worship written with worship committees in mind will be available at www.calvin.edu/worship. The studies, which provide thoughts and questions aimed to spark study and discussion, will deal with issues and Scripture passages that are relevant to the tasks of worship leaders and planners.
For more information about this touring company of professional Christian actors, visit www.friendsofthegroom.org. The group in the photographs is the Youth Drama Team sponsored by Friends of the Groom (made possible through a grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship): Julia Albain, Robyn Hubbuch, Becca Long, Becca Maher, Aimee Morton, David Morton, Annie Sluka, and Jacqueline Voss.
The Lord’s Prayer has often been a source for structuring congregational prayers. This service is actually an extended prayer based on the Lord’s Prayer and the commentary on it in the Heidelberg Catechism (Q&A 120-129). It was designed as the conclusion to a preaching series on the Lord’s Prayer; each of those services also included sections of the Heidelberg Catechism.
The temptations Jesus endured and withstood are archetypal of Satan’s diabolical work to trap humanity. Where we fall, Jesus stood, though not without struggle, as Hebrews 5:14 teaches: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.”
Facing Jesus’—and Preachers’—Temptations
Walking into the office of Scott Myers, the pastor of Westport Presbyterian Church, one is surrounded by books. In and of itself this is not unusual. What is distinctive about Myers’s office is that alongside the theological writings stands a significant collection of books on the visual arts. Rodin and Chagall, photography, painting, and sculpture all occupy prominent places both on his bookshelves and in the worship life of the church he serves in the historic district of Westport, Missouri.
Dwight was an elder in my church—a man I deeply respected. I was impressed with the seriousness of his faith and the way he did what he thought was right, even when it was difficult. When I realized that I could use a little wisdom about being a husband, man, and follower of Christ, I thought of Dwight. So with some nervousness I called him. “Hi, Dwight. I . . . uh . . . was thinking that . . . um . . . it would be really beneficial for me to learn about the faith from an older man. And I was wondering if . . . ah . . .
Norma de Waal Malefyt (email@example.com) and Howard Vanderwell (firstname.lastname@example.org) are Resource Development Specialists at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. This article is adapted from their new book (see box) based on many years of fruitful collaboration as senior pastor and music director at Hillcrest Christian Reformed Church, Hudsonville, Michigan.
Q. One of the major stumbling blocks we face is that most members of our congregation know very little about worship. But we don’t want to make worship didactic. Any advice?
This could be the start of something very, very good. Or not. A remarkably enthusiastic first-year student came up to me expressing an interest in being part of LOFT team—nothing unusual there. But Rebecca wants to do liturgical dance. We’ve never done dance before at LOFT. Not sure why not. OK, the chapel’s flat floor means that the sight lines are all wrong; so that’s one reason. Still, it is odd how our focus on music means the other fine arts get neglected.