Renewing Our Worship: Introduction

At the suggestion of Mark, I’m going to put down some ideas about upgrading the worship service of a typical Church of Christ. Of course, there’s no such thing as a typical Church of Christ. Some would find many of my ideas doctrinally objectionable. Some won’t be large enough to try some of the ideas. Some will find my ideas too conservative, even a bit stodgy.

Some of these will be borrowed from previous posts, but most (not all) of those posts were written a long time ago, before most of my current readers were reading. And it’ll help to have all these ideas in one place.

Now, a few doctrinal and procedural thoughts before we get down to the worship itself.

* Yes, I said “worship.” I could just as well have said “the assembly.” But “worship” is quite permissible, too, you know.

You see, I’m very familiar with the arguments made by many that “worship” in the New Testament includes everything we do to honor God. I agree. That’s exactly right. But we honor God in the assembly, so it’s okay to refer to that as worship.

The main point of the argument has been to contradict the premise of many arguments that somehow worship is so special that God extends less grace to errors in worship than to other errors we might make. It’s not true, you know. But, in any event, when I speak of “worship” as happening on Sunday morning, I do not imply that worship doesn’t happen at other times. And I certainly don’t imply that God is less forgiving on Sunday morning. (I’ve heard our preaching and singing. Not many of us will earn our way into heaven this way.)

* This whole thing about there being five and only five acts of worship is an entirely bogus argument. I mean, you can’t find it in the Bible. The proof texts largely even aren’t talking about the assembly, and it’s just wrong. I actually count 16 acts of worship.

* I’m going to talk about women participating in worship. We already do that, you know. We let them sing, speak in unison, and confess their faith in Jesus. They are allowed to speak. It’s just that every church has different tolerances for female speech. For those not familiar with the Biblical basis for women to worship God with their voices, see Buried Talents. Moreover, most of what we deny to women the Bible doesn’t — even under the most conservative interpretation of the scriptures. Passing communion trays, for example, is the role of a servant. Why on earth do we deny this to women? To call this “leadership” only makes sense if you see the men as theatrical performers. If you remember that church is a family gathering, a lot of issues will just go away.

* One of the most peculiar doctrines we sometimes teach is that we can only do one act of worship at a time. This was invented because someone didn’t like singing during the Lord’s Supper. But our songs are often prayers, which means we’re singing and praying all at once. And it’s really okay. Many of our songs have an “amen” at the end, and they’re prayers even if we don’t sing the “amen.” (I’ve never known why we don’t. I guess it’s because there’s no “in Jesus’ name” before the “amen.” Ray Walker used to lead songs at the Madison Church of Christ with “in Jesus’ name amen” at the end, so I guess that’s it. But does skipping the “amen” somehow cure the absence of the “in Jesus name”? Why on earth do we worry about such things? I mean, really?!)

* All churches have in them Godly people who hate change. And most have a few people who live for change. The trick is to not cater to either group. Rather, when you make changes in worship, you must always —

— Teach the reason it’s okay first, if you have members who will have scruples over the change. Romans 14 is clear. But the solution to scruples isn’t to never change. The solution is to teach before you change.

— Change at a pace that 90% of the church can tolerate. You’ll never get everyone happy, even you’re just repainting the walls. Don’t let one or two curmudgeons deny everyone else the joy of better worship.

— Once you make a change, keep it. What really drives me nuts is when the staff begs the elders to let them do something new, the elders relent and allow it, the church complains and the elders defend the staff, and then the staff doesn’t want to do it again. It’s not worth the pain to make a change for just one service. If it’s not going to be a long-term change, don’t bother. Of course, if it proves to have been a dumb idea, don’t let pride keep you from killing the practice. But don’t put your members and leaders through the pain of change unless it’s long-term change that matters.

* I’m just so tired of the old rejoinder — it’s not about making us happy; it’s about making God happy! Right. Of course. I’m no idiot. But God loves me and wants me to experience joy in my walk with him. Obviously, we don’t ever violate a command of God just to make us happy — but, quite frankly, I can’t imagine being happy knowing that I’m displeasing God. But God, the God who is love and who passionately loves me — doesn’t want me miserable in my worship. It’s quite okay with God if we can find a way to actually enjoy worshiping him. In fact, he wouldn’t want it any other way.

(Psa 68:3-4)  But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful. 4 Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds — his name is the LORD — and rejoice before him.

Last and most important point —

Elders are not the enemy. Satan is. Preachers — if at all possible — don’t try to incrementally change the minds of your elders. You’ll make them miserable. Rather, bring the elders into the planning. Get them to go to other churches and lectureships and experience what you’ve experienced. Get them on the same page doctrinally. And then work together to lead the church to where it needs to go. It’ll be much more pleasant. And the elders won’t have to come to meetings wondering what the next painful demand will be.

Collateral to this advice is — don’t get together as a group of ministers and spend a weekend making plans, and then expect the elders to magically agree to everything as though they were somehow mystically present at your meetings. If you want to talk about the future of the church, changing the worship service, or such, bring them with you. Let them hear the arguments and concerns. Don’t try to steer from the back seat.

Of course, elders, this means you have to let the ministers in. You have to be willing to meet with them, pray with them, experience other churches and lectureships with them, and wrestle with what God’s will for the church with them. Be a team. Talk. Share. Argue. And work it out together.

Who knows? You might actually come to enjoy your meetings together.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
This entry was posted in Renewing Our Worship, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Renewing Our Worship: Introduction

  1. mark says:

    This caught eye in the beginning.
    ""there’s no such thing as a typical Church of Christ. "

    I think this is a subject worth exploring…. especially in light of worship variance professionalism verses volunteers, highly structured verse simple church.

    Another was the idea of "tolerance " for the concept can now hold ambiguity. Is the tolerance in the direction of discrimination or of empathy? Some of our members left because they thought some women were dancing to the singing of the songs. Others left because of some of our newer members were very poor and eccentric.

    We now are church of 20 part of the decline group left with a 1.2 million dollar building. No church of Christ is interested in us. Some in our church have suggested instrumental music. It all makes me wonder….

  2. paulsceptic says:

    Does Paul use the OT honorably? Deuteronomy 30:11-14 versus Romans 10:6-9 I want a real answer! Please!

  3. David Himes says:

    paulsceptic — with such serious and pointed questions, how does anonymity add credibility to your inquiry?

  4. Nick Gill says:

    paulsceptic,

    Pick up a copy of Peter Enns' book, "Inspiration and Incarnation"

    in one of the later chapters, he wrestles with questions like these and also explains some creative and wholly accepted ancient rabbinic styles of hermeneutics.

  5. paulsceptic says:

    "paulsceptic — with such serious and pointed questions, how does anonymity add credibility to your inquiry?"

    My credibility doesn't rest on my name, whatever it is, but on the Scriptures I bring forward. What would a name add to the discussion? Speaking of which, remove Paul's name, and then read his letters honestly–isn't that what I the nobody am goading you to do? If these letters of Paul were published under the name of George, would you believe them? After seeing how George constantly contradicts himself, how his biography doesn't match the inspired biography of George in the book of Acts, how he misuses the OT–you would reject George. But because his name is Paul rather than George, you accept all his bogus claims. This is a strange thing.

  6. paulsceptic says:

    "Pick up a copy of Peter Enns’ book, 'Inspiration and Incarnation'"

    I think I've read it before. The idea is that the Bible is supposed to be full of errors because its written from an "incarnational" model, that its flawed just like human beings are, and God intends it to be that way. OK, but how does that negate my point? Perhaps one these intended errors is that Paul is an apostle and that his writings are to be followed—no? If there are any errors, that's definitely them. Jesus didn't spend three and a half years training the 12 apostles (Matthias included) just to have a Pharisee persecutor say "I had a dream" and come condemn them all for teaching a different gospel from him (Gal 1) and call them a bunch of nobodies who only "Seemed to be something" and lie on them and call them hypocrites (Galatians 2). God may very well have allowed Paul a place in the canon for no other reason than to test your love for Christ Himself and see if you will follow Paul or Christ.

  7. paulsceptic says:

    Being a bunch of liberals, how is that you disagree with me? IS not Paul the thorn in your side? The whole conservative notion of a worship pattern comes from Paul. The conservatives pride themselves on "I tell it like it is—like Paul did." They attack those who slip on correct praxis—like Paul did. They are constantly looking for you to do something unscriptural in worship—like Paul was constantly on the lookout. How is it that you reject my rejection of Paul so readily? If we just went by the gospels, wouldn't we be more united? It is Paul that divides us. Paul is the cause of denominational barriers. His rules on church government, on worship, on women's roles, his false dichotomy between works and faith, his egomaniacleness. Christ is lovely, but Paul is the rancor of all that divides, the Benjamite wolf, as Gen 49:27 says
    "Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil." He killed Christians in early life, but now he divides the spoils of dead lamb carcases with the false teachers, and keeps the church divided into a billion splinters all holding on to their own peculiar version of Paulianity. But we could reject Paul, and go by the gospels, and truly be Christians only, and finally united!!! But then we'd have to obey Jesus' moral teachings, which is why Paulianity will always enslave men, because they hate doing right–they'd rather believe in Paul's lies.

  8. Jay Guin says:

    paulsceptic and readers,

    Paulsceptic's newly created blog is at http://egopaulus.blogspot.com/. He makes the same arguments there that he makes in the comments here. If anyone wishes to take up his arguments, I'd recommend that the arguments be pursued at his blog, as I do not intend to pursue the arguments here. That's not to say that the arguments are unworthy of my attention; rather, they're just not how I intend to spend my limited time in the next several weeks. It's a matter of priorities. I don't have the time with other commitments I've made.

  9. John says:

    We used to sing the "amen" regularly at Freed-Hardeman back in the early 70's.

Leave a Reply