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Congregation Renewal Conference:

Worship as Key Ingredient

The Rev. Thomas L. Weitzel, Presenter
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Lecture Notes

 

 

Intro: Title - Worship as Key Ingredient -- Why key ingredient?

     A. It is what Christians do -- they gather, they worship

     B. Often the first contact for the unchurched

 

 

I. Inherent problem here

     A. Two different groups/needs/purposes

          1. One is for the Body of Christ

          2. One is for those who are seeking

 

     B. Differences: The Churched

          1. Know their God

          2. Know who they are in relation to God

          3. Understand God to be source of all blessings/support

          4. Therefore are moved to:

               a. Obey (i.e. Ten Commandments)

               b. Confess

               c. Worship

               d. Offer selves

          5. Their focus is outward - Their focus is God

 

     C. Differences: The Unchurched

          1. May or may not have a sense of God

          2. May or may not know who they are in relation to God -- more likely not

          3. Do not see God as source of all blessings/support -- rather see selves there

.

        4. Therefore:

               a. Not driven by obedience (i.e. Ten Commandments)

                    1’ Though perhaps an altruistic sense -- humanitarianism

                    2’ Maybe even a sense that this is good for inculcating values to children

                b. Not moved to confess -- for what? what’s the need?

                    1’ May not likely understand the nature of sin

                c. Church is not worship as much as it is personal exercise of piety

                    1’ (whatever that is)

                    2’ Clearly seen as something for self

                    3’ May even be lumped w/ likes of exercise, yoga, tm, personal discipline

                d. Not prone to self offering, but rather self seeking

 

           5. Their focus is not outward, but inward

           6. Their reason for being there is personal need

 

     D. Can you see the problem then in trying to plan for Sunday morning?

          1. Especially if you are wanting to be outreach minded

          2. Especially if you are wanting to turn a congregation around

 

     E. Has given rise to a major myth:

          Myth #1 “If we just get the right kind of worship service, they will all come flocking in the door”

 

          1. Why is this a myth?

          2. The unchurched are not looking for “worship” per se

               a. Worship is an outward act

               b. Worship presumes a relationship with God already

 

           3. Makes a presumption that worship is automatically understood by everyone

               a. It is not

               b. Worship is learned, just as Christian values are learned

 

          4. Presumes that being Christian generally speaking is also automatic

               a. Never been the case -- never will

               b. Christians are not born -- they are converted = reborn in waters of baptism

               c. Christians are made = taught (Mt.28.20)

               d. That goes for all aspects of Christianity -- including worship

 

     F. Important notion with major implications for worship:

          1. Christians are made, not born

               a. Must be taught from first steps to maturity

               b. = Journey of faith

 

          2. Once taught, Christians worship -- why?

               a. Because they do know who they are and whose they are

               b. Because they know that is what God wants of them

                         Third commandment

                         Numerous similar commandments throughout scripture

Psalm 100:1-2: “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come into his presence with singing.”

Psalm 95:6: “O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!”

Luke 22:19: “Do this in remembrance of me.”

 

               c. Christians worship

                         Because they want to be close to their God and this is the place

                              The place of presence - communion

                              The place of joining - baptism

                              The place of nourishment - word and sacrament

                              The place of sending with blessing

 

 

II. Given this, what can you expect to find in Christian worship?

     A. Luther D. Reed, in Worship suggests 7 main ingredients (Muhlenberg Press, 1959)

           1. Spirit of obedience - we follow the command of God

               a. = Way to life and salvation

               b. = Effective administration of means of grace

 

          2. Spirit of reverence

               a. = Being humble in presence of our creator and redeemer

               b. = Approach to God that includes awe

               c. Ascribes to God majesty, might, supreme worth

 

          3. Spirit of communion

               a. = Reaching out beyond aspiration/simple mystical contemplation

               b. = Achieving spiritual contact

               c. = Establishing a personal exchange with the divine

               d. = Major component in the whole fabric of worship

               e. Includes sacramental elements of liturgy - imparting of grace

               f. Includes absolution and blessing

 

           4. Spirit of fellowship

               a. = Playing out of vertical & horizontal: Love God, Love one another

               b. These meet in our communing actions

               c. Corporate worship draws us not only to God, but to each other

               d. Binds us together in Christ

               e. Faith, strength, inspiration all shared w/each other, w/“all the co. of heaven”

 

          5. Spirit of sacrifice

               a. Knowing God, knowing God’s gifts, we are moved to respond

               b. Moved to give and to do -- not just accept

 

          6. Spirit of celebration

               a. Every service should lift our eyes to God -- out of the ordinary

               b. Every service should be a glimpse of heaven = “foretaste of feast...”

               c. Every service should celebrate & give thanks for all God has done for us

 

          7. Spirit of edification

“The church is on lofty levels. The faithful have left the plains of earthly ambition and the daily struggle for bread, honor, power, and wealth. They have abandoned the battlefields of politics, science, and even theology. They have climbed out of the valleys of doubt and discouragement. While they worship, they dwell on the heights. Here, and here alone, they hear the command from heaven, ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ Here, line upon line and precept upon precept, they receive godly admonitions, and are edified and built up in their holy faith by the power of the living Word. For there is not only peace, but power in this transaction. From our communion with God and with our fellow-believers there come new resources for righteousness and service.” (Reed, p.5)

 

     B. Sets major goals for worship here

          1. The expectation? That worship will be the best that it can be

          2. Worship IS a key ingredient to the Christian life

 

     C. Although the list is not necessarily intended to be given in order of importance

          1. Can assume that the unchurched may well be entering at #7 exclusively

          2. So also may many new Christians

 

     D. Does that mean you can forget #1-6?    No. Never

          1. Any abandoning of other principles = something other than Christian worship

          2. Call it a club then -- call it a fellowship -- call it anything but a church

 

     E. Again, such a list presumes teaching, nurturing in the faith

     F. Such a list presumes that good worship can include one’s liturgical heritage

 

     G. Debunks another myth

          Myth #2 - “If you want to grow, you need to throw out the Lutheran Liturgy”

 

     Why is this a myth?

          1. Presumes that the liturgy is a stumbling block, not a facilitator to worship

               a. Lutheran Liturgy = Roman Rite

               b. Been around from virtually the beginning = 2,000 years

               c. Basic outlines of liturgy already taking shape in 1st century

               d. Already understood as having a universal appeal = similarity from ch. to ch.

               e. Constantly being reformed, renewed with each generation

               f. Has a flexibility that can speak to any period/group and enrich it

                         (more on this later)

 

           2. Myth presumes that no one really understands/wants a liturgy or ceremony

               a. People want to be lifted out of their ordinary lives

               b. People want those things that are made “special”

               c. We have gobs of little rituals in our lives to enrich them

                         Wedding rituals, birthday rituals, graduation rituals, special event rit.

                         People love to put our personal stamp on these rituals through variation

 

               d. What happens every time there is a major event in England?

                         = major appeal of pomp, ceremony

                         ---> The draw of the Princess Diana funeral

 

               e. We have natural desires to mark, remember, honor

                         We do this through ritual and ceremony

                         Don’t throw out those liturgy books

 

          3. The problem is not necessarily the Liturgy, but how you use it

               a. If you are using liturgy the same way, week in/out, then there is no richness

               b. ---> Leads to stale worship

               c. Liturgical tradition includes many things that vary liturgy and enriches it

                d. HANDOUT & review Options for the Communion Liturgy -- as time allows

 

     H. Options help you to find ways to keep worship rich, alive

          1. Allows for “personal stamp” mentioned above

          2. i.e., Liturgy does not have to be done the same at every church

          3. Good liturgy can be high/low, spoken/sung, everything in between

          4. Should indeed reflect the gifts/context of each congregation

 

          5. Good liturgy can be done with any kind of music that a cong. wants

               a. But remember, it is CORPORATE worship

               b. Includes a variety of people with a variety of likes

 

          6. What about materials beyond our present hymnal?

               a. Augsburg-Fortress catalog: 12 settings of the Liturgy, p.72-3

                    1' Six more for African American Lutherans, p.74

                    2' Three diff. vols. of liturgies from John Ylvisaker alone ['Borning Cry'].

                    3' Also avail. from GIA, Burnsville MN, Community Church of Joy in AZ, etc.

 

               b. What motivates the publication of such materials? Money, profit

                    1' None have been reviewed or approved by ELCA for use in our churches

                    2' ELW, LBW and WOV only liturgies so approved

                    3'' Therefore burden of review is upon potential purchasers of such services

                    4' You cannot count on these services reflecting trad'l. Luth. practice or theo.

 

               c. I am not saying "Don't do it."  I am saying, "Be careful."

 

          7. Whatever liturgy is done, it should be done well in all its parts

                    = music, leadership, service content

 

 

III. If Worship is Key ingredient to Christian Life, then

     A. Good worship takes PLANNING

          1. Good worship does not just happen by itself

          2. Options list alone should tell you that it takes planning

               a. Much to choose from

               b. Much to decide

 

          3. This means that planners need to work at least 3 mos. ahead, maybe more

               a. Musicians need advance notice for their own planning, practice scheds.

               b. Lining up personnel doesn’t just happen overnight either

 

          4. Planners should include many, not just one

               a. Reflects the way we do all ministries in a cong.

               b. Allows for richer outcome from planning = shared experience

               c. Allows for greater representation from cong.

 

          5. Changes need to be planned and scheduled

               a. Also paced

               b. Keeps everyone on board

 

          6. All done with the faithful in mind

 

    B. If worship is key ingredient, then creativity to approach is necessary

          1. Implications for service times

               a. Just because 8 & 10:30 have been “tradition” doesn’t mean it will always be

               b. Are there large numbers who consistently can’t come on Sunday a.m.?

               c. Would Sunday aft. be better? or p.m.? or an additional day?

               d. Sunday School might even be better on Saturday afternoon in some places

 

          2. Implications also for communion

               a. If you are not weekly, you may be missing somebody

               b. Any number of people work some Sundays

               c. Are you going to require that they come to just the right service for com?

               d. Outreach minded congregations need to consider weekly communion

 

 

     C. If worship is key ingredient, then there is space for worshipers

          1. Implication here is numbers of people versus numbers of seats available

          2. If you are in a growing cong., then watch this

          3. Basic rule of thumb:

                    if avg attendance = 2/3 or greater of space available

                    then you need to add another service time

 

          4. Why? If visitors come and find no seat, they will not likely be back

                    = critical for growing churches

 

 

 

IV. So what about those unchurched I talked about?

     A. As I said, worship may be first contact with a church

 

     B. All the foregoing says: don’t shape the PURPOSE for worship around them

          1. BUT, that doesn’t mean you ignore those who visit.

 

     C. Find ways in which to incorporate/facilitate

          1. With knowledge that these are inexperienced worshipers

          2. With knowledge that they agendas/needs differ from church members

 

     D. User friendly bulletins

          1. Print out full liturgy

          2. May or may not include music

          3. Use hymnal for hymns only

          4. Keeps worshipers from getting lost

          5. Even members like these -- especially elderly

          6. Don’t forget to check on copyright info

 

          7. Caution: reproduction of hymns vis. copyright laws

               a. Know which hymns are in public domain

               b. Don’t just go indiscriminately copying from any source either

               c. Music publishers WILL sue

 

     E. If teaching is key to becoming a Christian, then:

          1. Find ways in which to teach worship

          2. Service intros in the bulletin

          3. Comments about liturgy for the day during announcements preceding liturgy

          4. Invitation to classes on worship/liturgy

          5. Articles in the newsletter with the rotation of seasons

          6. Find any way possible to communicate “why” of worship/liturgy/seasonal chngs.

 

          7. Major teachings regarding worship likely to happen in classes

                    = after a visitor has been coming a while

 

          8. Still we do learn by watching and doing

               a. It is how we teach our children about worship

               b. = Another indicator that what we do, we must do well

                         in order to be effective teachers

 

     F. If visitors seem lost during liturgy, make sure someone offers to help

          1. = Making cong. aware of their hospitality role

          2. = Encouraging interaction of members with visitors

          3. = Yet another way to INCLUDE, not exclude, those who visit

.

     G. All hospitality responsibilities of a congregation need to be understand

          1. Plays out that “spirit of fellowship” mentioned earlier

          2. Plays out Love God, Love neighbor

          3. Congregation must understand this as major responsibility

          4. May not seem like a worship issue, but it is

 

     H. Implications here for what happens after worship as well

          1. Refreshments become nearly as important a part as communion

          2. = Freer form of the bonding that goes on in communion

          3. Slows folks down long enough to get to know each other

          4. Out of the pew and face to face

 

 

V. Concluding Remarks

     A. Important to remember that all renewal efforts = more than just techniques/org.

     B. True renewal includes at the center spiritual renewal

          1. Its a faith thing perhaps even more than an organizational thing

          2. Faith and the interaction of the Holy Spirit will make for the renewal

          3. Not just techniques and organization

 

     C. That is WHY worship becomes a key ingredient to renewal in congs.

          1. It’s where we meet the God who renews and leads us

          2. It’s where we hear the “marching orders” for our communal lives

          3. It’s where our members are renewed in faith and love

          4. It’s where our hopes and dreams are prayed for

          5. It’s where our efforts are blessed

          6. And it’s from there we are sent to go and do

 

     D. Don’t undercut worship just for the sake of the unchurched

          1. Find ways in which to bring the unchurched into the fold

          2. This is not the place for spiritual minimalism

          3. In worship you are connecting people with nothing less than the pwr of God

          4. Deserves all the attention you can give it -- the best you can offer

 

     E. Make worship a key to your renewal efforts

          1. Make it foundational and pivotal to your whole renewal program

          2. Because that is indeed where God expects worship to be in our lives:

                    front and center