Philosophy of Worship, part 3


Philosophy of Worship3. Worship should seek diversity and encourage it.

God is diverse in taste. God loves spicy Latin worship. God loves chicken fried Southern worship. God loves fancy-shmancy upper class worship. And the diversity represented in the world also represents the diversity of worship styles and forms. Biblical case for God’s love of a diversity of styles of worship:

Acts 2:1-12

The majority of participants in the Pentecost experience could have communicated in and understood Greek. But, God wanted them to hear the words in their own language. God wants to speak and communicate with us in our most native and heart-felt tongues. God wants us not only to hear and understand, but to feel and know. And I think just as God spoke through them in a variety of languages, God desires to be spoken to and worshiped through a variety of languages both verbally and musically/stylisticly.

Don’t forget though that worship is not dependent on style. We should be able to reach a place of authentic worship despite the style of music/form being used. If you say that you can’t worship without a certain style/form, then you’re really confessing to the weakest type of spirituality…one that is completely limited to our own desires.

A diversity of styles should be encouraged in worship in order to teach people to adapt in worship. What if we were all forced to worship in a culture other than our own? Would you be lost spiritually, not able to find a way to connect with God? Or would you be able to adapt?

Philosophy of Worship, part 2


Philosophy of Worship2. Worship should seek to glorify God – not us.

Worship that glorifies us sounds like this:

  • The worship was ok today, but I wasn’t really into that one song.
  • What was up with that guitar today, it was way too much.
  • The message was good, but the pastor’s shirt wasn’t really workin for him.
  • The style of the music just wasn’t what I like, I wish they did more _______ [your prefered style].

Worship that seeks to glorify God gets past all the trappings of our human nature. Instead of centering on what the worship does for us, we think about what we offer to God. When the main concern of services/gatherings of worship is “what did I get out of it?” or “what did I like about it?” we become the focus of our worship. The point of the service is to please ME.

Worship that seeks to glorify God, seeks to please God. God’s pleasure is the primary focus of the worshiper. God’s story is the primary place of attention. The point of the worship experience isn’t for me to get fed/hyped/filled/pleased. The point of the worship experience is for God to receive a sacrifice that is pleasing. What pleases God?

Some practical steps toward seeking to glorify God in your worship:

  • spend time in prayer before entering any worship experience…pray for the eyes of your heart only to be set upon God
  • don’t sing the words to every song in corporate worship…read/reflect/pray through what you’re actually saying to/about God
  • frequently worship God in styles of music/liturgy that you’re not familiar with…the less one-dimensional we are, the better

Philosophy of Worship, part 1

Philosophy of WorshipWhen I was in seminary, I took a course called “Philosophy of Worship.” The course project was to compose a document that described my personal philosophy of what worship is and what it’s for. It’s one thing to write such a thing for class – it’s a totally different thing to make decisions, pick music, plan services, teach volunteers, and serve a church while following that philosophy. However, I think I stick to what I believe about worship in the majority of my actions.

I wanted to share some of my core convictions about worship in order to stimulate thought and discussion. These convictions in no way sum up my philosophy of worship, but are just learnings and thoughts I’ve collected along the way. And I in no way have it all figured out…

1. Worship is for God – not for us.

Worship is essentially an offering/sacrifice. And for something to be offered/sacrificed, it has to be given to someone else wholly [without holding any back]. So when I worship, everything becomes God’s – my heart, my life, my song, my thoughts, my will…etc. It is all for God, not for me.

The problem is when we get too wrapped up in what worship does for us. I don’t deny that we get stuff out of worship – encouragement, fellowship, peace, joy, Spirit-filled…etc. It’s even clear in the first Testament that God rewards the faithfulness of worshipers. Genesis 22…Abraham got something out of his worship…a ram to take the place of Isaac. Even a portion of some sacrificed animals was kept and prepared as a celebration for the family. But our tendency is to get more wound up over the blessings of worship than the One we worship. We get more overjoyed by grace, rather than the God that provides it.

So worship takes the spotlight off us. God is the central character in the drama of worship. And the sacrifice of worship is for God, not for us. Any blessings we receive from worshiping God are purely a bi-product of the goodness of God. We shouldn’t worship God to get something out of it. We should worship God because God is worthy to receive glory, honor, riches, wisdom, power, strength…etc.

Narrative Worship Script

Some Assembly RequiredDuring the month of August at Faith Lutheran Church, we are in a message series called “Some Assembly Required” (borrowed from the Synod Assembly title that I jokingly came up with). It is a four week series on worship, with each week taking up a different fold of the service:

  • August 5 – “Gathering: Worship and the Stranger”
  • August 12 – “Word: The Narrative of Worship”
  • August 19 – “Meal: The Down to Earth God”
  • August 26 – “Sending: Worship on the Way”

As part of the series, we decided to include a “narrative” script during each service that describes the significance of each action of worship. It works as a running commentary of the “whys” of the worship service. We printed the narration into the worship bulletins, and had a person read the narration aloud during the service.

Sources for the script include Evangelical Lutheran Worship (pg. 91-93), Musicians Guide to Evangelical Lutheran Worship (pg. 8-13), and original material.

Download Narrative Worship Script PDF

(before the Welcome/Announcements)
The basic pattern of this service – gathering, word, meal, sending – is a structure that originates from the earliest documented Christian liturgies. It is also a pattern we can observe in how God interacts with people throughout the Bible. As the people of God, we are joined together by the gifts of God’s grace, for the sake of the gospel, into the life of the one triune God.

(before the Confession and Forgiveness)
As we gather together as the body of Christ, we are reminded that Sunday is the day of Christ’s resurrection. We are assembled, brought together from different places, as a witness to the risen of body of Christ, active and moving in the world today. We begin in humility, confessing our sin and hearing God’s word of forgiveness.

(before the Gathering Hymn)
Singing during our gathering includes both hymns old and new. The songs that gather us together surround and support a people who come to worship with different frames of reference and different emotions. The gathering song moves each individual into the communal experience and purpose of worship.

(before the Greeting and Prayer of the Day)
During the gathering, the presiding minister and the assembly greet each other in the name of the triune God. The presiding minister gathers the assembly into prayer. All of worship is based on the foundation of prayer and can be understood as dialogue with God.

(before the First Reading)
The word of God is proclaimed within and by the gathered assembly. The first Bible reading, usually from the Old Testament, is followed by a psalm sung in response. This pattern of proclaiming the word is as ancient as the synagogue worship of the Jewish people.

(before the Psalm)
From their origin, the psalms were intended to be sung. Certainly the meaning of the text can be communicated when spoken, but the quality of this ancient poetry is inherently musical.

(before the Second Reading)
The second reading, usually from the New Testament letters, bears the witness of the early church. After the second reading, we stand to greet the gospel and sing an acclamation.

(before the Gospel Acclamation and Reading)
Christians have inherited the practice of publicly reciting the appointed biblical texts and responding to the recitation with singing. The read-sing-read-sing sequence continues. The gospel acclamation consists of two parts, alleluia and a verse of scripture, which acclaim the living Word, Jesus Christ, present in the gospel reading.

(before the Message)
Preaching brings God’s word of law and gospel into our time and place to awaken and nourish faith.

(before the Hymn of the Day)
God’s word is further proclaimed as we sing our faith aloud. The hymn of the day is the principal hymn of the service and is a distinctively Lutheran element in the liturgy. The assembly participates in proclaiming and responding to the word of God with a common voice.  The hymn of the day typically relates directly to the season or day, the lectionary readings, or the preaching.

(before the Prayers of Intercession)
As the assembly prays for the whole world, we remember we have a high priest who continually intercedes for us. The prayers follow a pattern that encourages us to turn our hearts and eyes outward to the world. We pray for the needs of the church, for all of creation and the people of the world, for those in need, and for the local community. We also give thanks for the lives of the saints who inspire us in our pilgrimage.

(before Sharing Christ’s Peace)
Passing the peace of Christ is an ancient component of Christian worship and liturgy. Our modern day version of peace passing is descended from an earlier act of worship known as “the kiss of peace.” The practice of verbally and physically sharing Christ’s peace trains ours hearts, hands, and tongues in the ways of peace.

(before the Offering, Choral Offering, Offertory Response, and Offering Prayer)
A collection of material goods for the church’s mission, including the care of those in need, is a sign of the giving of our whole selves in grateful response for all God’s gifts. The table is set with bread and wine, also part of the gifts we offer to God. The choir provides an offering of music, a sacrifice of praise.

(before the Dialogue, Preface, and Holy, Holy, Holy)
Before the Lord’s supper is shared, the presiding minister leads us into thanksgiving. The words of the opening dialogue are known as the “Sursum Corda,” which is Latin for “hearts lifted.” This dialogue is found in the most ancient of Christian liturgies, dating all the way to the third century. The presiding minister and assembly exchange a formal greeting. Then the assembly is invited to lift their hearts to God. The final exchange indicates the assembly’s agreement to the presiding minister continuing to offer the remainder of the Eucharistic Prayer on their behalf. The proper preface follows, which relates to the liturgical season or day. The assembly then joins with the whole creation in singing the angels’ song: “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might.”

(before the Words of Institution and Lord’s Prayer)
The grace of God’s gift is always proclaimed in Jesus’ own words of command and promise at the table. The term “Eucharist” comes from the Greek word meaning “thanksgiving.” The service of Holy Communion is connected to every meal in which Jesus gave thanks before breaking bread. The thanksgiving concludes with the prayer our Lord Jesus taught us.

(before Sharing the Meal and Prayer after Communion)
In Christ’s body and blood given to us, God forgives us and nourishes us for mission. We sing as the bread is broken and as the meal is shared. After sharing the meal, we pray, asking God to send us in witness to the world.

(before the Benediction, Sending Hymn, and Dismissal)
God’s mission sends us out. God’s mission includes the gifts of grace that we share in worship. Now, we are sent to continue our participation in God’s mission by sharing these gifts of grace with the world. With the blessing of God, we go out to live as Christ’s body in the world.

Why I Chose the Institute for Worship Studies (Doctor of Worship Studies Program)

Dr. Clayton GraduationWe recently got back from a trip to Florida. We traveled to my graduation/commencement ceremony at the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies in Orange Park, FL (www.IWS.edu). We also managed to do 5 days at Disney World for family vacation, but that’s another story.

I started the Doctor of Worship Studies program in 2007, after a year off from completing my MA in Worship. Interestingly, I began my studies the first session after the passing of Bob Webber, the founder of the school and worship guru. It was a heavy atmosphere, but profoundly formative for me regardless. I got turned on to Webber’s writings in the late 90s in Worship Leader magazine. His monthly column always drew my attention as I began to wade into the waters of leading worship. There was a depth to his writing on worship that attracted me and made me want more. Before finishing seminary, I knew I wanted to continue my studies at IWS.

Here are the big factors that impressed me about IWS and made it one of the best experiences of my life:

  • The focus on worship (not just music). It is unusual and unique for a school to focus that greatly on one area of study.
  • The professors. I received instruction from Andy Hill, Lester Ruth, Connie Cherry, Jeff Barker, and Reggie Kidd. They’ve said stuff that has stuck with me to this day and shaped how I do ministry. Not only were the profs great individually, but the courses were all team taught by 2 faculty – usually from diverse denominational heritages. It was so helpful to see unity and respect modeled in everything.
  • The communal feel. Sharing meals, singing in chapel, and working on practicum projects in a group. You get connected to people in a very intimate way – far beyond just lecture in class.
  • The diversity. The cohort I did my learning with was a great mixed-bag: Wesleyan, United Methodist, Mennonite, Anglican, Southern Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Charismatic, Foursquare, Evangelical Free, etc. The variety of experiences and backgrounds creates a layer of richness that you can’t really get any other way.
  • The curriculum. Every course in the doctoral program was fascinating to me: history of worship, renewal of the arts in worship, the liturgical calendar, and sacred actions (sacraments). Every course was very self-directed, especially in the final projects. You could take a direction that works for you and run with it. The practicum experiences were also invaluable. Planning worship services with a diverse group in a short time frame was challenging and inspiring.

IWS Graduates 2012

Worship @ Synod Assembly 2012

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This year I had the honor and privilege of being part of the team that designed and led worship for Synod Assembly. Every year the Gulf Coast Synod of the ELCA (gulfcoastsynod.org) gathers for business, worship, andfellowship. The Assembly was May 11-12, 2012 and it was hosted at Lakewood United Methodist Church in northwest Houston. The team that planned worship met for several months working on all the details that go into planning an event for the whole synod. We had to design the services (including selecting the Bible readings, songs, prayers, and other elements), create and edit the worship folders (which we can proudly say were all printed onsite in the Faith office), and recruit and instruct all the worship leaders and assistants for the services.

The Synod Assembly this year was a huge success! The worship services were joyful celebrations of who God is and what God has done. It can be a challenge and stretch to create worship services for people coming from such a broad geographic context. How do you create a worship service for rural farmers in Brenham, suburban Houstonians, and urban folks from New Orleans, all assembled together at the same time? As the team discussed designing worship for such a diverse crowd, we found the Assembly to be the perfect place to celebrate what makes us each unique. As we sang each other’s songs, we realized we have much more in common than different.

One of the highlights was the Holy Communion service on Friday evening. All of the worship services were designed in a convergent style: many diverse languages, music, and ritual actions converging together in a prayerful way. Friday’s service used the service music from Setting 7 in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, all sung in Spanish and led by a Mariachi Band! After the Hymn of the Day (using the organ), we participated in a Thomas Mass, which is a form of Lutheran worship originating from Helsinki, Finland. During the Thomas Mass, the people assembled were invited to move freely around the room and interact with several stations. They could serve and be served using a basin and towel for foot and hand washing, write intercessions for the world on a banner, create mosaic artwork for a communion paten, offer prayers of confession and receive forgiveness, receive anointing for healing, and leave an offering for the ELCA Malaria Campaign. We then celebrated the holy meal together around God’s table. This service was a beautiful picture of diversity and unity and I’m sure it will have a profound impact on me for years to come.

Pictures from the Holy Communion service taken by Larry Bose. A complete sketch of the order of worship is below.

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Order of Service

GATHERING

Prelude from Mariachis

Recognition of First Call Theological Education Pastors

Kyrie & Gloria – Setting 7 (Mariachis)

Prayer of the Day

WORD

First Reading – 1 Kings 19:4-8

Psalm 34:1-8 (chanted with shruti box)

Second Reading – Ephesians 4:25-5:2

Gospel Acclamation – Setting 7 (Mariachis)

Gospel Reading – John 6:35, 41-51

Sermon

Hymn of the Day 480 O Bread of Life from Heaven (Organ)

St. Thomas Mass Stations

Sharing Christ’s Peace

MEAL

Dialogue/Preface

Santo, santo, santo – Setting 7 (Mariachis)

Thanksgiving at the Table

Lord’s Prayer

Invitation to the Table

Cordero de Dios – Setting 7 (Mariachis)

Communion Song 485 I Am the Bread of Life (Piano/guitars)

Communion Song 472 Eat This Bread (Guitar/Taize)

Prayer after Communion

SENDING

Blessing

Sending Song 618 Guide Me Ever, Great Redeemer (Organ)

Dismissal

Postlude (Mariachis)

Beyond "Times New Roman" – Ideas on Projection in Worship


Slide1(On Saturday, May 12, 2012 I gave a workshop at the TX-LA Gulf Coast Synod Assembly. These are the notes/images from that workshop!)

Introduction

  • The video screen has become the new stained glass in 21st Century churches.
  • Why projection?
    • We live in a visual culture. The common currency for communication has shifted from text to images.
    • “It’s not either image, or text. It’s both/and, image and text. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus was a man (image) living among us. He was also text (the Word become flesh).” ~ Leonard Sweet, The Gospel According to Starbucks

Basic components

How to make a great looking PowerPoint slide

  • Don’t just throw a Times New Roman font on a white screen! Creating beautiful slides is intensive and time-consuming.
  • Helpful Guidelines:
    • Don’t overload the slides with content (MAX: 6 lines of lyric, 6 words to summarize point).
    • Limit your font choices to 2. Choose fonts that are easy to read and use the styles consistently throughout your presentation.
    • Backgrounds:
      • Not distracting, but not too simple.
      • Choose a background that will attract the viewer’s eye to the words. If your background requires the words to have an outline and a drop shadow to be readable, it is no longer attracting the viewer’s eye to the words.
      • Use the negative space (Dark background/light text; light background/dark text).
      • Use imagery that tells the story of the text.
      • Avoid clipart at all costs. Use stock photography or artwork.
    • Use simple transitions (cross fade).

The move toward presentation software

  • CCLI integration, Bible integration, moving backgrounds, announcements, real-time editing, PowerPoint integration, etc.
  • EASY WORSHIP, ProPresenter4, MediaShout, ProWorship, etc.

Web resources for graphics

Q&A

Resources:

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Experiencing God in Worship

1228670_90111056How do you experience God in worship?

Is it a feeling? Is it an attitude? Is it a thought? Does it bring joy? Does it feel mysterious? Does it make your fingertips tingle?

Which part of Sunday worship is most meaningful to you?

Is it the songs and hymns we sing together with one voice? Is it the water that cleanses us and renews us as new creatures in Christ? Is it the reading of God’s story and the proclamation of the good news in Jesus? Is it the common meal we share in broken bread and poured wine? Is it the blessing and sending that propels us to be God’s people for the good of the world? Where do you experience God the most in worship?

The important thing is not how you experience God in worship – but that you experience God in worship. If you come to church week after week and never experience the person of God, never enter the fellowship of the Trinity, you’ve missed the point and we as a church have failed in our task.

Also valuable to remember is that how you experience God is not the same as how other people experience God in worship. God creates us as individuals and wires each of us in unique ways. Just because one person experiences God in a different way than us does not make it better or worse than the way we experience God. What becomes crucial is how we act and respond to those who draw near to God using “worship languages” that are different than our own. The words of Philippians 2:3-4 should guide the hearts of everyone in our assembly on Sunday: “In humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” We worship God as one body, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

Worship is designed to create space for the Holy Spirit to move and show up in fresh and unexpected ways. Worship is not a one way conversation. We are not the only ones speaking during worship. Worship is space for the Spirit to provoke, whisper, and prod us into Christ-likeness. The work of our worship is to be attentive in both heart and mind and then follow in obedience.

Proposing an Ancient-Future Faith

I’m part of a new community that is forming called the “Ancient Future Faith Network” (AncientFutureFaithNetwork.org). I’ve always felt the need for ministry to be rooted in the historical, not just concerned with the novelty of the now. Bob Webber, in “Ancient-Future Faith” writes:

“In biblical and ancient times worship was the primary way of experiencing God’s saving work in history. Early Christian sermons (as in Acts) and liturgies (both Eastern and Western) are oriented around the proclamation and enactment of God’s saving work from creation to the consummation. This historical and symbolic recitation expressed the identity of the church, gave shape to its communal self-understanding, and signified its place in the world. During the first three centuries of the church, worship took place in homes or the catacombs. Its content was primarily the proclamation of God’s salvation and the anticipation of Christ’s return. The culminating praise of worship celebrated the work of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Because believers did not meet in churches, worship was informal and intimate.” (p. 97)

The vision of the Ancient-Future Faith Network (AFFN) is to grow and facilitate a grassroots network of like-minded individuals and churches.

At its core is Bob Webber’s 2006 “Call to an Ancient-Evangelical Future”. But the association is not so much about doctrinal bona fides as it is about mutual encouragement and resourcing. The very heart of the Network is its members. Our desire is that members will find in this virtual community of faith a vibrant place for interaction. The Network:

  • Is purposefully ecumenical and non-denominational.
  • Exists for the purpose of championing and promulgating an Ancient-Future theology and philosophy.
  • Is open to men and women around the world— both ministers and lay persons— inside and outside of established churches who are interested in worship renewal and what it means to be Ancient-Future.
  • Exists for established churches, and people who serve them, who want access to Ancient-Future materials, resources, and ideas, and want to learn from, share, and collaborate with those who are using them.
  • Exists for brand new church starts, and those called to start them, who need a network of encouraging, like-minded communities of faith.
  • Promotes and coordinate conferences, workshops, and offer appropriate resources and materials consistent with the mission of the AFFN.

If interested in learning more you can browse the AFFN website and join the network.

Peace Out

20120130-202455.jpgEvery Sunday during our worship services at Faith, we have this little ritual that takes place. This particular ritual happens after the Prayers of Intercession, and before the offering is collected. It is a momentary time of chaotic interaction during an otherwise orderly assembly. People get up, move around, shake hands, greet one another, and say these words: “Peace be with you.”

But what is the point of doing this? Why is it important to do this action in the context of a worship service? Does it carry any more significance than the high-five that they do at the conclusion of Little League and football games?

Passing the peace of Christ is actually an ancient component of Christian worship and liturgy. Our modern day version of peace passing is descended from an earlier act of worship known as “the kiss of peace.” 1 Peter 5:14 says, “Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.” Through his letters Paul repeatedly reminds the churches to greet one another with “a holy kiss” (Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26). It was the custom in the ancient western Mediterranean for men to greet one another with a kiss on the cheek.

Passing the peace is a tradition rooted in Scripture that embodies our identity as peacemakers. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). The practice of verbally and physically sharing Christ’s peace trains ours hearts, hands, and tongues in the ways of peace. It is also a comforting reminder of the greeting Jesus himself used with his disciples, “Peace be with you” (Luke 24:36).

Similarly, when we regularly pass the peace we practice God’s call to maintain the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3). Grudges and bitterness should fall away when we greet one another in the reality of the peace Jesus brings to us. By regularly performing this gesture our hearts and minds can become shaped in the form of peace.

Finally, when we shake a hand and say, “Peace,” we are actually imparting Christ’s peace to one another. It is as if Jesus himself is physically embracing and speaking to you and through you. Just as the bread and wine are transformed into something more than physical nourishment, our gestures and words are transformed into something more. “Peace” becomes more than a word shared between two parishioners. The words of peace spoken become the words of Christ delivered to us in the human flesh.