Who Is Worship For? – Prt3

I have a confession.

I grew up thinking that worship was only for believers.  Now, I think you can make a case that only a believer can worship God in spirit and in truth, but how should we arrange our services with the third audience, the outside world, in mind?

A number of years ago, I took a class called “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement”.  It’s not a very exciting title, I know, but the class changed my whole perspective on worship.  Every week we had a different speaker who helped us understand what God has been doing in the world to build his Kingdom starting in the OLD TESTAMENT!  Did you know that God’s heart has ALWAYS been to have the nations hear the good news?  I hadn’t realized that this was God’s message to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, to David and on and on…to Jesus and then the early church.  God has always wanted his people to be a light and welcome anyone who comes.  As God says in the Psalms (46:10, 47:1, 18:49, 22:27)

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.

Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name.

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him…

And as author and pastor, Tim Keller, writes,

It is a false dichotomy to insist that if we are seeking to please God we must not ask what the unchurched feel or think about our worship…God wants the world to overhear us worshipping him.  God directs his people not to simply worship, but to sing his praises “before the nations.”  We are not to simply communicate the gospel to them, but celebrate the gospel before them.*

Did you know that this happens at ECC?  We have people to walk up to our pastors after service and say, “I’m not a believer, but I’m thinking about what you said…”  We have people who are sitting in the seats who come to church, but aren’t following Jesus Monday through Saturday.

This is why I think Keller’s emphasis on the gospel is so important.  Not just because unbelievers need to hear it (and they do!), but that the gospel is what all three groups need to hear!  God wants us to tell him about what he has done for us in Jesus.  Believers need to be reminded and shaped by the gospel.  Un-believers need to be saved by the gospel.

We can focus only on seekers instead of encouraging believers and get lost in making Jesus “relevant”.

We can focus only on building up believers and make things incomprehensible and outdated for seekers.

We need to make sure that our services are fresh, conversational and understandable while always focusing on the gospel.

By focusing on the gospel, we bring all three audiences together in worship.

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*Tim Keller quote from “Evangelistic Worship” as used in Rhythms of Grace.  Thanks to Mike Cosper for the concept of the three audiences in worship.  His book is an excellent read.  I highly recommend it!

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Because of Easter we are in union with Christ and are called to live in our baptismal identity in his resurrection.  This essential theme of Easter cannot be communicated in a day.

-Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004), 148.

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Yes, yes, yes to this quote.  My experience in the evangelical church is that we miss this critical understanding of baptism.  Many times, we reduce baptism to simply a person’s testimony to follow Jesus.  This isn’t a misunderstanding of baptism, but it is a reduction.  And it can make us the hero of the story.  “I want to do this…”

Instead, the church has understood baptism to be a symbol of our death to Satan, sin and self because of the work of Jesus.  The church has also understood it to be a sign of identifying with Christ and his church, the resurrection people.  And, the church has understood baptism to be something that frames the rest of our lives.  We are called to live today in that “baptismal identify”.

Worship Gathered: God Comes to Church?

Who comes to church?

Does that sound like a stupid question?

I mean when you stand outside of our church on the weekend and watch the cars enter the parking lot, it’s obvious, right?  People are coming to church!  They might be different in age, background, race or status, but they are all people!

But is that it?

The less obvious answer is that God comes to church too…in us.

Paul asks us in 1 Corinthians 3:16,

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s spirit dwells in you?”

So when we come together as a church, God comes with us.  God is everywhere, I know.  But God’s spirit lives inside us as scattered temples that gather together as a larger temple to worship as a community.  Paul expands this thought in Ephesians…

…you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.  And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. -1 Corinthians 3:16

So we are scattered temples of God through out the world.  But that’s not the whole picture.  While it might seem strange to us as American Christians, this isn’t written to you as an individual!  This is written to all of us as the church community!  We are all being built up into a big temple together with Jesus as the cornerstone.

Another crazy thought is that the goal of us coming together isn’t just to meet with God in worship.  Think about it.  God’s spirit lives inside of you.  Because of the work of Jesus, you can meet with the spirit of God anytime and anyplace.  So why would we come together?  We come together to meet with other people who are also filled with God’s spirit.  Gathered worship is the meeting of God’s people, filled with God’s spirit.

And this brings us back to “worship scattered”.  We gather together to be built up into a holy temple of the Lord which is then scattered throughout the world during the week where we continue to worship God with our lives.  As author Mike Cosper writes,

“Gathered worship then feeds scattered worship, building up and equipping worshipers to live in the power and wonder of the gospel…Likewise, scattered worship feeds gathered, as each worshiper brings his or her growth, suffering and maturing faith to the gathering.”**

Colossians 3:16-17 has this same idea…it starts with gathered worship…

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.  

And moves to scattered worship…

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

This is the rhythm of worship that God has designed for us.  All of life is worship.  We come together to encourage, learn and grow and then be sent out again to worship in the world.  And we do it all, “in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  That is worship…scattered and gathered.

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* This is a continuation of the blog post, “Worship Scattered”.

** Thanks to Mike Cosper for the content on “worship gathered” and “worship scattered” from Chapter 5 of his book, Rhythms of Grace.  It’s an excellent read.  I highly recommend it!

 

One of the greatest discoveries of my Christian pilgrimage has come with the realization that the primary importance in worship is not what I do but what God is doing. In worship, God is present, speaking to me, and acting upon me. It is in worship that God feeds, nourishes, and cares for me. And it is in worship that he gives me his grace, surrounds me with his love, lifts me up into his arms, affirms me as a member of his community, and sends me forth into the world with a fresh vision of his work and a new concern to live for him.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

Prayer is…

“Prayer is abandoning my reliance on me and running toward the rest that can be found only when I rely on the power of God.” -Paul David Tripp

My son, stands there with his hands in the air and cries, “ah, ah, ah, ah!”  He doesn’t know many words, but he still has needs.  And right now, he needs his Daddy to pick him up.  When I scoop him up into my arms, he points at the light above our heads.

“Good pointer, Z!”  I say, because we’ve been working on being able to point with one finger.  “Do you want to see the light?”

And then I lift him up so he can reach out and touch the ceiling lamp over our heads.  He smiles and laughs as I bring him down.  He can’t do any of these things on his own.  He needs his Daddy to pick him up and then lift him up to the light.  He needs his Daddy and he knows it.

The crazy thing is that we grow up and then somehow think that we don’t need our heavenly Father.  We can do this.  We’ve got everything under control.  But the truth is that we can’t do it and our lives aren’t under control.  If we’re honest, we’re a sinful mess.  We NEED God and the power of his Holy Spirit.  The other crazy thing is that God has already promised to give us what we need.  Jesus knew that we would struggle with this, so he said,

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

I would never give my son a snake or poisonous insect!  And yet, I forget that my perfectly loving heavenly Father wants to give me even more.  All I need to do is run to him, with my arms outstretched, and ask.  That is what prayer is for you.  Or as Paul David Trip said,

“Prayer is abandoning my reliance on me and running toward the rest that can be found only when I rely on the power of God.”

Biblical history is rich with signs pointing to God’s purposes. But today, I believe, it is in worship that God gives us signs of his grace. In worship God speaks and acts.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

I’m a Grace-Amnesiac

Hi.  My name is Sam and I’m a grace-amnesiac.*

Recently, I’ve realized that I forget so much of the time.  I forget how sinful I am.  I forget how holy God is.  I forget how much grace I’m given every day.  I forget how much that grace cost.  And because I forget, I think that I’m better than other people I meet who fail and fall short.  They are just like me, but like I said, I’m a grace-amnesiac.  I forget.

The beautiful thing is that when I am reminded of God’s grace and live inside that same grace, my whole life is changed.  My whole life becomes an act of worship.  Author Mike Cosper writes,

…it all happens in union with Jesus, before the eyes and presence of a loving God, who by a miracle of boundless grace receives each and every act, though offered with mixed motives or frailty of heart, as a pleasant and acceptable offering…The whole mess of our lives is transformed in Christ, from corrupted to glorious, from ashes to beauty.**

So this week, look and see God’s grace in your life.  Don’t forget.

Extend that grace to others all around you.  Don’t forget.

Know that your whole life is now an act of worship because of receiving and giving grace.  Don’t forget.

This week, don’t be like me.  Don’t forget.

My name is Sam and I’m a grace-amnesiac.

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* The phrase “grace-amnesiac” is from Paul David Tripp’s New Morning Mercies.

** Quote from Mike Cosper in Rhythms of Grace, 77.

Worship&Love

The other morning, the Christmas tree was twinkling as the darkness slowly lifted.  I had gotten ready for the day and was making a sandwich in the kitchen.  Sara was reading her Bible in the living room while our son played on the floor.  And then I heard it…

“Zion, don’t mess with the Christmas tree…”

Now we knew that the “little man” would want to mess with the tree.  So this year, we purchased a 4′ tree and put it on a full size table.  We also put the ornaments a little higher up the tree so he couldn’t reach them.  However, this doesn’t stop him from trying to grab the lowest branches and lights to put them in his mouth.  I know.  Why would you put pine tree branches and Christmas lights in your mouth?  I don’t know.  The kid is 11 months so…whatever.

“Zion!  NO!”

I put down the Mayo and started walking towards the living room because I knew this wasn’t going to end well.  I arrived in the living room to discover that the “little man” was in a heap of trouble.  He had managed to distract his mom by messing with the Christmas tree, crawl to the other side of the room, where she had left her Bible, and rip a page out of the gospel of John.

This kind of thing happens all the time on a cosmic scale as we mess up God’s world.  Why doesn’t he just destroy us all and start over?  It’s the same reason that my wife cares for her son more than any book she owns.  Love.

Love makes people do crazy things.  The stories we tell in literature and film are full of examples of the crazy things people will do for love…It’s the motive behind a thousand songs and poems.  It’s woven into the fabric of our universe because it’s reflective of the very heart of God.  Love is what sends Jesus into the humble estate of Mary’s womb.  It leads him through his quiet life, his rambunctious public ministry and his agony at Golgotha.*

This Christmas, let’s enter into the love song of Jesus.  It’s a song of suffering as he hung on the cross, but also one of praise.  He invites us to sing this Christmas carol of praise to the God who saves through his sacrificial love.  As we sing in the carol, “What Child Is This?”

Vs2: Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and lamb are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.**

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*Quote from “Rhythms of Grace” by Mike Cosper.

**Lyrics by Will­iam C. DixThe Man­ger Throne, 1865.

“I make all things new.”  Here is the narrative in its fullness. The world and its history belongs to God, and he has been, is now, and will be making all things new. 

-Robert Webber, Who Gets to Narrate the World? Contending for the Christian Story in an Age of Rivals