In worship God is speaking and acting, bringing to me the benefits of redemption. Through worship, God works on my behalf. He repairs and renews my relationship with him. Just as he has always sought people out to bring them to himself, so he now seeks me out in worship to bring healing into my life. . . . Worship is an experience I long to have, a necessary part of my spiritual diet, a central source of my spiritual formation.
The primary work of the church is worship. . . . Evangelism and other functions of ministry flow from the worship of the church. . . . I have discovered in my own life that corporate worship is the taproot of my life. It is the source of my spiritual life and growth.
There is no narrative that begins to compare with the Christian narrative—in which God enters our suffering to deliver us from sin and death, and to deliver the world from the domain of darkness. It doesn’t get any better than that!
We don’t create worship; we respond to what we’ve received in Jesus Christ – eternal life. And that gift continues to be the basis upon which we come to worship God.
-Bob Kauflin, True Worshipers: Seeking What Matters to God. (39)
Praise God who through the Holy Spirit gives us unity of mind in the gospel of Jesus. Praise Him that he doesn’t leave us separated in sin, but builds us up to serve each other in love.
We are starting a new ministry year.
We are a regional church with over 1,800 people attending each week…that means over 3,000 people call ECC home. We also have 6 services in two locations with 12 music teams, rotating tech teams, a drama team, a set design team, photographers, writers and staff…It’s easy to feel disconnected.
BUT WE ARE ONE FAMILY! As Bob Kauflin writes,
“If we’re Christians, we’re already part of the family. The question then becomes where and how we work out the details of family life.”
So our theme for this next year is #unity.
One of the main ways we express our unity is by meeting together on a weekly basis to learn and to grow in the God’s Word. I think it’s easy to think we’ve got the Jesus thing covered. You can read your Bible by yourself. You can watch a service online by yourself. But the truth is that God didn’t design you to worship by yourself. The reason is that worship is an extension of the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. True worship has always been designed to be done together.
The problem is that when we get together as artists, it’s easy to get on each other’s nerves. Before I worked in the church, one of my co-workers liked to say, “The more I work with people, the more I like my dog.” And it’s true! Church ministry would be so much easier without the people. But that is another way we show God’s unity. We get to experience God’s patience and grace in those moments of frustration with other Christians. Jesus himself told us that…
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” -Jesus (Matt 18:20)
So when we get frustrated and yet show God’s grace, we know that Jesus is there with us. That is #unity.
It can also be hard when people are different than you. It’s challenging for students to work with adults who think they know everything and have no fashion sense (like me). It’s challenging for people of color to work with pasty, white people who assume they do things the right way (like me). But again, “God is glorified when people who have no visible connection or similarity joyfully meet together week after week,” writes Kauflin. “They do it not because they’re all the same but because the gospel has brought them together.” So we come together NOT because we’re all the same age, wear the same clothes or come from the same culture. We come together because of Jesus. That is #unity.
So this year, we are going to focus on #unity as we look for chances to see the glory of God in our differences.
This year, we are going to focus on #unity as we are changed to look more like Jesus with every increasing glory.
“Jesus is our worship leader…Jesus is the one who brought us here. Jesus is the one who makes this possible. We are united through our common leader, not our common musical preferences.
We want to make sure that our people understand that…because it’s easy to get locked into a certain musical style and think, “we are really are one in the spirit, one in the Lord.” No, you all just like the same 4/4 drum-beat and the same guitar riffs and that is not the unity Jesus came to bring us.
[On the other hand,] What churches do sometimes is that they have different meetings for different musical preferences…which in the short term might produce some fruit, but in the long term undermines the gospel.”
We are still waiting for the phone call telling us that our baby is being born. When that happens, I’m going to load my wife in the car and drive like crazy.
Because of that, I’ve been thinking about adoption again and find my mind turning to James 1:26-27 which says,
“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
As an adoptive dad, I am discovering every day what that means. I am living out the gospel as I raise a little girl who doesn’t share my blood or skin color, but is my daughter in every way. This is exactly what God did for everyone who believe in Jesus for salvation. We are all adopted by no merit of our own. And that reality is reshaping my life…
However, as I looked back at the verse I realize that I have been skipping vs 26. “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” Ouch. It’s easy for me to preach about adoption, but how often do I let my tongue get the better of me? More than I’d like to admit, but James is very pointed about this. And he’s not the only one. Many other scripture writers point out that the tongue is an issue for all of us. It is the smallest part of the body, but can cause the most problems.
As I reflect on it, I think it’s almost easier to be an adoptive dad day to day than it is to keep my tongue in check. It is HARD to do. But I don’t get to choose. That’s the HARD part about the gospel. That’s the HARD part about true religion. It’s keeping my tongue in check AND caring for orphans and widows AND keeping myself unstained. And that is going to give me plenty to think about…until our baby comes…
In almost every religion the quest is to find a way to transcend the pain and suffering of life, and get connected with the powers of the other world that will help us endure this world…But in these religions we never hear that God himself has entered our history and our suffering to redeem us for life in the world.