Worship: Dressing for the Assembly, by Alexander Campbell

The following is from an 1839 article by Alexander Campbell, “Worshipping Assembles — No. I / The Appearance of Things”:

Our meetings of all sorts are greatly defective in many respects, and in none more visibly than in the dress and manners of the professed worshippers. The present costumes and general displays are in extremely bad taste. They are so in the judgment of all well informed men of sense, out of the church; and certainly of all persons in the church of unquestionable piety. Continue reading

Real Worship: Part 13: Coping with Selfishness

Churches are always going to be filled with selfish people. If we managed to preach all our members into selflessness, we’d be so attractive that we’d soon have hundreds of converts — who’d be immature Christians and therefore selfish. Unhealthy churches have longtime members who are selfish. Healthy churches have new members who are selfish. And so all have selfish members.

To understand how to deal with selfishness, we have to start with root causes. I copied this bit of wisdom from Yahoo Answers

Narcissism is a manifestation of low self-esteem and arrested development. People who suffer from pathological narcissism were not given the message as children that they were lovable, valuable human beings and special to their parents, just because they are who they are, not because of what they do. These children instead are given the message, either directly or implicitly, that they are somehow defective or unlovable or that love wasn’t deserved and had to be earned, and they grow to adulthood with this belief of being unlovable and the unfulfilled need to be special, along with some other traits normally associated with infants like not being able to see separation between themselves and others and the outside world. They spend their adult lives trying to find ways to be special and valuable. They create a false self image to cover these deep painful feelings. This false self image requires constant maintenance (narcissistic supply) so as to keep them from feeling seeing their real self image. They’re always searching for recognition and special status, trying to be right where others are wrong, always comparing themselves to others, trying to be smarter, stronger, nicer, more deserving, more beautiful than others, which can appear to be more selfish than others. In reality, they’re just trying to get that which others were given in their childhoods, but they were denied.

This feeling, of being special, valuable and lovable is difficult to get filled in adulthood. The adult world is typically results oriented and can reinforce the narcissists belief that it’s what he/she does that makes him/her worthy. Friends just don’t hang around no matter what you do, the way your parents should have. Lovers leave if you become too demanding. It’s hard to find the unconditional love you needed when you were young. Continue reading

Real Worship: Part 12: The Assembly Done Right

The goal of the assembly

Christian theology is centered on Christ. In particular, God sent Jesus so that God’s children could be formed in the image of Christ.

(Gal 4:18-19 ESV) 18 It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, 19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!

Countless New Testament passages set up Jesus as the standard for how we are to act and the kind of people we are to be. We run into this concept whether we are talking about how the Old Testament concept of worship is transformed in the new covenant or whether we are talking about the assembly. Continue reading

Real Worship: Part 11: Contextualization; Surrender

Thanks to the Sacred Sandwich

(1Co 9:19-23 ESV) 19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

Paul explains his missionary strategy: He meets the lost where he finds them. He speaks to them in terms they can understand. He couches the gospel in the cultural context. For example, Continue reading

Real Worship: Part 10.1: On the Attractional Strategy

As so often happens, a comment by Guy got me to thinking. Guy wrote,

The issue is which sub-purpose(s) ought to dictate the content of the assembly.  That is, what does this general question imply about the particular design and function of an assembly?  (You post more or less just assumes that the assembly is for the attraction and retention of visitors, but i don’t see any evidence for that given in this post or in the NT frankly.)

There is a major controversy among evangelical churches that might be characterized as Attractional vs. Missional. Continue reading