In yesterday’s post, we looked at two aspects of the kind of worship that flows from a life of discipleship, mission, and authentic community. Looking at I Corinthians 11-14, I offered up two observations: 1) Mainly, these passages deal with problems the Christian community was having. and 2) While their worship experiences made allowance for passive observers, most worshipers came expecting to contribute.
Yesterday, I wrote about 1 worship that flows from authentic, non-pretending community. Today, I want to take on #2. Worshipers came expecting to contribute.
The first question to address is why. Why did they come in like that? And conversely, why is it that so many of followers of Jesus show up at worship just to observe? What was going on in the approach to faith in the typical first century Jesus-follower that is often missing today.
In the first century, followers of Jesus were intentional about learning to imitate Jesus Christ in their lives while being guided by the hope of the resurrection. For them, faith was far more about living life while seeking to imitate Christ. They were learning what it meant to be one of God’s people and they expected to see God’s Kingdom advance.
In our church, we try to recapture that. There’s something about being engaged in mission with a community that develops a healthy expectancy of seeing God at work. When we see God at work, we are motivated to worship. There’s something about approaching discipleship with the mind-blowing recognition that its purpose is learn from Jesus how to live like Jesus. It allows us to worship from what God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is doing in us.
There’s are two triangles I use to teach this: the Covenant Triangle and the Kingdom Triangle. Together, Covenant and Kingdom capture much of what the Bible is about. Make Breen calls Covenant and Kingdom the DNA of the Bible -and I agree with him. The Covenant piece emphasizes our relationship with God that gives us a new identity in Christ. We come to know God as Father through faith in Jesus Christ. We are a part of God’s family, loved and cherished not for what we can offer, but simply because we are God’s precious child! Worship flows from that realization. But wait, there’s more! The realities of God’s Kingdom, which we teach using the Kingdom triangle helps us to understand the authority we have been given. It’s unbelievable sometimes, but God calls us to represent His Kingdom and to work in partnership with God to advance that Kingdom. From Covenant, we celebrate what God has done for us! From Kingdom, we look expectantly to see God moving around us and through us!
When people come to understand these two realities, they have something to bring to a worship service.
In every service, we have a place where we ask “What is God Doing on the First Coast?” Most of the time, we bring in a guest who will share about a ministry. It is inspiring! But sometimes I ask: “Where have you seen God at work on the First Coast?” And people tell stories. “I prayed with a co-worker.” “I talked with a friend who’s heart is breaking.” “I gave a devotional to guy who’s really upset.” “I’ve begun walking with a neighbor who’s marriage is on the rocks.” “I was invited to pray at a family funeral.”
After we share those stories we’re ready to worship. Because when people share their story of what God is doing, faith and expectancy rises. And that is a great tone to set for worship
Practically, we divide up the responsibilities for worship. We do like an organized worship service. We work on the service a week before hand – writing the common prayers and selectingMy role in the service is pretty much limited to preaching, announcements, and creating a one sheet bulletin. We share set up, preparation, and leading the liturgy. I prepare differently for my messages these days – more prayer, less focus on research. My sermons flow from what we’re doing as a missional community. Dan and Carrie help us worship in song – we are so blessed to have their help! I usually send them a theme for the evening a few days ahead of time. We pray and trust the Spirit to do good things through the music. And we ask people to volunteer to take up the offering. We cover the bases.
I have good news for you if you lead a worship-service centered church and want your worship services to flow more from mission and discipleship. If you disciple people in such a way that they begin living in light of the truth of God’s Covenant promises and in the expectant reality of the Kingdom of Heaven, and if you begin to celebrate what God is doing in their lives, I believe your worship services will grow in joy and expectancy.
The challenge is the paradigm. In most churches, I think, discipleship and mission flow from worship services. We make an announcement about a group that is forming, a class that is offered, an opportunity to serve, etc. and hope people plug in. We may even coordinate a series of messages designed to get people involved and strategically coordinate ways for them to sign up. Those techniques do work, you know, but I’m only trying to illustrate the point that if that is the case, discipleship and mission are flowing from worship. In the New Testament, it seems to me, things usually flowed from discipleship and mission, from Covenant and Kingdom, to worship and glorifying God.
May you find much grace for the journey.