Mike Cope's blog

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

From Marva Dawn: Audiences are being told that we "should have two points of entry into our congregations"--at least two kinds of worship styles to attract (especially the boomer generation) to our churches. Wrong! Worship is not the "point of entry." You are! Nowhere in the bible does it say, "Worship the Lord to attract the unbeliever." Nowhere! We worship the Lord because God is worthy of our praise. Instead, the Scriptures frequently tell us that we are witnesses. Evangelism happens in our daily lives, our regular encounters, our simple conversations and carings (or at evangelistic events which have a focus different from that of worship)--in order that we can bring others with us to worship God. . . . Worship is the language of adoration addressed to God and the language of God's instruction to equip us for life and witness. Good worship will be evangelistic, but that is not its purpose, for worship is directed to God as its subject and object. Good worship will both nurture the character of believers and the community and also form us to be the kind of people who will reach out evangelistically and in service to the world around us.


  • I love the idea that WE are the point of entry.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/29/2004 06:18:00 AM  

  • In the same way as we rely on elected officials to enact change so that we don't have to, we have come to rely on the church (and preacher) to evangelize ... so that we don't have to.

    I think that's what bothers me about books like The Purpose Driven Church. We're not selling the church; Jesus doesn't need an ad campaign or a makeover. The only way to "promote" Jesus is to live a life in the shadow of his example.

    Slight segue: instruction. I understand the idea of making things accessible to the unbeliever and the visitor, but I also tend to think that the believers are responsible for conveying the milk and planting the seed -- but there needs to be some place for them to go for the meat, somewhere for them to grow. And I don't think it ought to have to be an academic setting for things to get "deep."

    But if I get going on that topic, I won't stop anytime in the foreseeable future. So instead: Good quote. I like that she says she works "transdenominationally." I think there's a lot to be learned from her.

    By Blogger Q, at 6/29/2004 06:29:00 AM  

  • I love Q's point about not selling church. The church in Acts 5 does this so well; their outreach is to do church so well everyone wants to be a part of it. Not in terms of trendy worship, but in terms of being Christ's hands and feet in the world. I would go a step further and say that we are the point of entry only in that we are a part of the body of Christ. As often as we try and make worship the selling point, we work to make our individual members selling points ("The mayor goes to my church" kind of sell). We try to attract on the basis of status or familiarity, both times emphasizing the individual. We use phrases like "Come be a part of a church that is just like you." Instead, we should be inviting people to be a part of a church that is just like Christ.

    By Blogger chrismith, at 6/29/2004 06:56:00 AM  

  • I wish we could all be convicted that WE are the entry point. Worship truly is about God--not us. I like much of Marva Dawn's writing, but I think there are two ways to look at this. Just as it would be funny to lift an American worship service with songs in English and sayings only relevant to us and take it to Japan, so should we stop and examine our own services during these changing times.

    She writes, "worship is the language of adoration addressed to God and the language of God's instruction to equip us for life and witness."

    What a great statement! But--which language? Our grandparents'? The language of the 16th Century? The 1950s? The emergent culture? Or, can we somehow find a way to mesh all these together?

    I completely agree--the point of worship isn't to attract people to our church...it's to WORSHIP GOD! However, the discussion regarding the ways in which we express that to God seems relevant. If it's not, why haven't we all kept the same songs and worship styles our grandparents used? Haven't we adjusted our assemblies over time to incorporate lyrics, sermons, videos, special music, drama, etc. to help better express the cries of our own hearts to God in our current day?

    I think the difference lies with motive and intention. I just applaud those churches out there who might get it. They are willing to change and try new things and offer new types of services--not to attract people to their church, but to awaken the hearts of some of their youth or young adults by allowing them to worship the Lord in ways that connect with them as well as tying them to the ancient. I really think there's power there.

    By Blogger Brandon Scott, at 6/29/2004 08:02:00 AM  

  • Good comment. This is another one of those things my dad said to me. He was a smart man after all.

    Mike, Q and Chris, I enjoyed sharing your insights over my cup of tea this morning.

    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 6/29/2004 08:06:00 AM  

  • Oh and Brandon, too!

    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 6/29/2004 08:07:00 AM  

  • Great closing thought Chris. I think you are exactly right...I am just not sure we are ready to take that leap yet. By that I mean, I am not sure we are ready to chase after the biblical Jesus and the biblical church we see in scripture...we have become pretty comfortable with our version of both.

    Maybe that is why we have tended to sell worship styles, decorations, and prominant figures who attend our church (by the way, the mayor really does go to our church), instead of selling Christ and the church he built...

    Is it that we aren't convinced or convicted enough to believe in his drawing power and our power to draw as he works in us? Or is it the fact that the Jesus we have created doens't have the ability to draw or inspire a group of believers to evangelize their community?

    Russell (http:russellheil.blogdrive.com)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/29/2004 08:15:00 AM  

  • Maybe it is the whole concept of "selling" that is coloring our peception. When you sell something, you are hoping to profit from it, instead of passing on freely what God has freely given to us. So maybe we don't think others will value what is free because at some level someone "sold" us a bill of goods that had nothing to do with Christ that we thought we had to "buy", and maybe we have never truly experienced God. Hebrews talks about those who have tasted the Heavenly gift and then turn their back on it as having no hope. As sad as that is, I think it is equally sad that most of us don't know what the Heavenly Gift even tastes like. If we did, we wouldn't have to question the power of Christ to draw all men and women.

    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 6/29/2004 08:48:00 AM  

  • Living in Christian community is rarely practical and almost never efficient, which is, incidentally, exactly how it was designed. So choosing the option that simply works in our churches with no transcendent vision for our communities can be a steep and slippery slope. Why are we competing with the world in a race we can’t win and one we haven’t been called to? I saw an ad in a movie theatre once that said "If going to the church was like going to the movies, you'd be at Such and So Church". At first this seems appealing. And why? Because its more comfortable to just sit and watch the show. What is it that makes the movies great? The lights go down and you can simply sit back and escape, letting trained professionals handle the work. Imagine if church could be like that?
    The problem is, too often, church is just like that. The Church has traded in its identity as the true counterculture for the lesser role of a subculture, playing by all the rules of and taking all its cues from surrounding culture. In preaching and practice, the church today works hard to be ‘relevant.’ At first glance, it’s a noble cause. But with some reflection, we find that the compromises that appear to make us ‘relevant’ can also strip us of our distinctive characteristics. Our hope of being truly relevant to our ever-changing culture here in America, is to be who we are as the Body and of Christ. Because of Jesus, we are freed to do the hard work of engaging all kinds of people rather than simply catering to the felt needs of target audiences. Because of Jesus, we can explore what it looks like for God’s people to reclaim culture for His glory. And because of Jesus, we can be truly relevant in an ever-changing culture. Not because we are focused on being relevant, but because we are focused on the gospel. This is our job, and this is who we are.

    By Blogger chrismith, at 6/29/2004 09:11:00 AM  

  • Excellent one and all, however, I do have a question. How does Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 9 fit in?

    1 Corinthians 9
    19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

    I agree that this applies to Paul's personal evangelism - however, is there not some insight to be applied to our corporate worship time? Paul in the 14th chapter chides the Corinthians about everyone speaking out in tongues at the same time and without benefit of translation, about the chaos in their corporate worship time and does give us some examples of orderly worship with the end of NOT confusing a visitor or that a visitor not think they'd stumbled into a looney bin. (Kathy's very loose and personal translation lol)

    My point being, that our corporate worship service, imho, is not exclusive either to believers' worshipping in adoration of our God, nor is to be exclusively an outreach to the non-believer or visitor. It is to be a blend of both. The first example of corporate worship of believers is one of unchanging, always total expression of awe, love, and thanksgiving to God in our worship, be it singing, reading scripture, preaching - the heart of the matter is as unchanging as is our God.
    The second element for our visitors can be, in my opinion, changing in its flavor or presentation, even as their culture changes, but the heart of the matter remains unchanging.
    I'm not sure I'm being clear here. Anyone care to give me a hand? :)

    By Blogger Kathy, at 6/29/2004 09:47:00 AM  

  • You don't need help, Kathy, you nailed it. Worship is first and foremost about the God we worship, but must me sensitive to the unbeliever who may not know about that God. Notice who it isn't about in point one or two: me, you, the "churched" person. I don't think that means we don't get some consideration, but we don't demand to get our way. In other words, if the function of worship is to worship, then the form can change in order to make worship a more uplifting experience. We shouldn't shape worship to every whim of every person with a complaint, but we should allow for the form that leads to better worship. That may mean that we bring in a guitar or leave one out. Not because the worship is about the individual, but because it does involve the individual. If the only way I can express my love to my wife is through haiku, its not going to be very compelling for either of us. For her benefit, I should chose the form that suits me best.

    By Blogger chrismith, at 6/29/2004 09:58:00 AM  

  • I really think it's getting ridiculous that we are leaving comments our own Blog addresses. C'mon people. Do we have to use these comments to plug our own Blogs. In fact, I'm so frustrated, that I've just posted about it on my own Blog. You can read about it at www.jonowen.blogspot.com

    HUMBLY(?) Yours,

    jon owen

    By Blogger Jon, at 6/29/2004 10:37:00 AM  

  • Haiku:

    worship in the church
    hands lifted in praise to God
    take the collection

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/29/2004 10:47:00 AM  

  • It occurs to me that these lyrics say it all.... When we make it All About Jesus, we will have nothing to sell, people will be drawn to Him.

    When the music fades
    All is stripped away
    And I simply come
    Longing just to bring
    Something that's of worth
    That will bless your heart

    I'll bring You more than a song
    For a song in itself
    Is not what You have required
    You search much deeper within
    Through the way things appear
    You're looking into my heart

    I'm coming back to the heart of worhip
    And it's all about You
    It's all about You, Jesus
    I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it
    When it's all about You
    It's all about You, Jesus

    Verse 2
    King of endless worth
    No one could express
    How much you deserve
    Though I'm weak and poor
    All I have is yours
    Every single breath

    By Blogger DJG, at 6/29/2004 12:04:00 PM  

  • Ouch! The collection is a slightly sore spot with me for other reasons. As an every-three-month worship planner at church, I'm in a constant quandry to move collection away from communion because they have nothing to do with each other ... and yet, it's a little clearer and more convenient for those who serve. Plus we've just gotten into the decades-long habit of reaching for the wallet after the second tray passes.

    We should feel especially grateful and generous after our feast together, but ... should it come right after?

    I agree that giving gifts of praise and currency are both acts of worship, but I'm sure it can be a little off-putting to newcomers. I once opened a service with a mini-description of things that would happen, in an attempt to prepare visitors ... even said that none of us wants to discourage anyone else about giving, but visitors shouldn't feel pressured or compelled to do so.

    These comments always wander from the main topic! Still, Mike's point is well-taken. We should gather to worship. But - like Paul pointed out to Corinthians trying to out-do each other with spiritual gifts - we shouldn't confuse and alienate guests among us either.

    Yeah, I've got a blog. Find it!

    By Blogger Keith Brenton, at 6/29/2004 12:38:00 PM  

  • I don't think we can use that song, DJG...unless you have an a capella arrangement. Kidding. Good stuff.

    I have always liked the collection with the Lord's Supper. I don't like the "separate and apart". I think we'd like to think it's that way, but I think God's grace and our response are intimately connected.

    I do agree that visitors should feel 0 pressure to contribute, but I think we can acknowledge that by simply explaining what it is we're doing. This is why we take this bread. This is why we take this cup. This is why we give this money. If you don't feel compelled to do any of those things, please don't.

    By Blogger chrismith, at 6/29/2004 01:36:00 PM  

  • Ha. Chris, if you want an a cappella arrangement, you should talk to our worship minister (Kip Long). He's got one for everything, I think... Since the bulk of the songs he knows are from his years in youth ministry, we tend to have an interesting mix on Sundays...

    Too, Sycamore View doesn't do the collection right after communion. It confused the heck out of me when I first started attending... I have to ferret out one of the worship bulletins to figure out exactly when it's done -- but it's one of the last things we do before we leave. It is coupled with communion for those who "were unable to share in the Lord's supper; it's been prepared for you in [the appropriate room]." Some things would be complicated to swap. Unless of course we started simply offering communion during evening services... But that'd go over like a pregnant pole vaulter.

    By Blogger Q, at 6/29/2004 02:42:00 PM  

  • I think all you guys (that's men and women) would make a great worship committee team. You have brought scripture, consideration and good ole common sense to the mix.

    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 6/29/2004 03:16:00 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger DJG, at 6/29/2004 03:26:00 PM  

  • Chris,
    I am sure Brandon Scott Thomas would like you to know the accappella version is on the Zoe Live Worship CD.

    I just found out about that little garbage can.. I just wondered what it did.

    By Blogger DJG, at 6/29/2004 03:31:00 PM  

  • Chris, the minister/preacher at my former church home before moving to Abilene has a very special way of putting visitors at ease about offerings and tithes. (He also has finely tuned, comedic timing) - He would mention that everyone is invited to worship with us, but there is no charge for doing so - but seriously, those that are responsible for seeing that the ministries of the church be funded are its members - that if anyone felt they wanted to partake in that part of our worship, welcome, but under no circumstances is there an obligation nor encouragement to do so. He usually mentioned lightheartedly, something like "we don't need your money - seriously, this is a worship offering to God from the members of this congregation in thanksgiving for His bounty. We're so happy you could be with us today, and we invite you to be an observer of this part of our worship.

    Also, the first Sunday of each month, after communion, a second offering was always taken in thanksgiving for Jesus' benevolence - a benevolent fund offering. Tim always explained why we take this second offering - that it is to aid those in the church family and the community that run into acute difficulties and again, this is a part of the congregation's worship - that visitors again are welcomed to observe that part of the congregation's worship.

    I'm one that prefers that the weekly offering not be 'tied to' the LORD's Supper, rather that it be made clear it is a totally different, separate, albeit important element of our corporate worship, that it also is an act of worship.

    By Blogger Kathy, at 6/29/2004 03:36:00 PM  

  • Well, Keith, I must have a little too much time on my hands right now, either that or I am avoiding cleaning my office, but I actually went searching for your blog. You win; I didn't find it! : )

    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 6/29/2004 04:25:00 PM  

  • Mike is not only blessing me with his comments, but also by providing ALL of you with a venue to respond with your beautiful Christ-like attitudes and words of wisdom! Thank you for the GREAT comments by each and every one of you.
    Q, I attended the "Men of the Mid-South" conference at Sycamore View a few weeks ago and Kip was our worship leader. He did a fantastic job! You all are blessed to have him there.

    Having grown up in a c of C home, one concept that jumped out at me several years ago was that with all of our attention and energy on our doctrinally correct music, communion service done correctly (in the words of Don McLaughlin "pray, pass, pause....pray, pass" and you better not screw that up), announcements, the "lesson", and etc.....we were actually WORSHIPING the "worship service"!! It was our golden calf!! We were called to worship HIM, and we were worshiping it. What a tremendous blessing it was to realize that others saw that too, and were willing to be bold enough to take the steps to get away from that heresy. We needed to hear the words of the Savior telling us "Man wasn't made for the Worship Service, rather the Worship Service was made for man". FYI, I am using the term "worship service" in these comments, but a few years ago I decided to quit using that term because are we not called to worship 24/7? So, I use the term "the Assembly". If you use "worship service" it does not offend me, and I understand what you mean. I just choose to use the other.
    God is good!

    By Blogger David U, at 6/30/2004 10:47:00 AM  

  • Like "Dave",I'm getting so much out of the comments made on Mike's blog also. This is my first time to comment, and I have nothing to say that tops anything else said on the topic of worship in the assembly. I appreciate so much the worship committe at my congregation. While there are times the service is not how I would've conducted it, I realize it is not about how "perfect" we do it; it's just that we do it joyfully and with overflowing gratitude for an awesome Father. I try to picture the scenes in Revelation quite often to help me as I worship with my fellow members.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/30/2004 11:29:00 AM  

  • Over the last several years, the implementation of the "worship committee" is kind of bothering me. I don't know if it's a fear or an annoyance. We don't have a committee that would put together the sermon for a preaching minister. Why? We feel that God has called, gifted and further equipped individuals to proclaim truths from the word that would inspire, convict, comfort etc... Why then do we not trust that God would not raise up an individual with the same giftings with a different slant, to effectively follow God's heart that would lead a group of believers to worship. I understand that full-time or even part-time worship leaders in a staff position is still in a new thing in churches of Christ. Sometimes the committee is the stepping stone for that to take place. But I also fear that sometimes "worship committees" are the people that spend more time discussing how do we make everybody happy by choosing the right songs, than how do we use our hour to hour and a half to truly reveal the glory of God in our time together. There can be a creative benefit in a committee. There is also wisdom in numbers. But God raises up leaders. I believe it's time we trust and follow the leadership that God gives us.

    By Blogger Jon, at 6/30/2004 07:28:00 PM  

  • The best leaders I know are those that desire input. That's not to say that leaders love committees, but I think that if a "worship committee" works with the worship leader, you can work to have the kind of worship you are talking about, the songs pointing to the sermon, the sermon mixing with the Lord's Supper, the Lord's Supper fitting with the songs, the entire worship pointing to God. I would simply insist that the worship leader (and the preacher, for that matter) be allowed to meet with and (if he desires) lead the group. I don't think we should have a group that tells the worship leader what he's going to sing.

    By Blogger chrismith, at 7/02/2004 07:24:00 AM  

  • The best leaders I know are those that desire input. That's not to say that leaders love committees, but I think that if a "worship committee" works with the worship leader, you can work to have the kind of worship you are talking about, the songs pointing to the sermon, the sermon mixing with the Lord's Supper, the Lord's Supper fitting with the songs, the entire worship pointing to God. I would simply insist that the worship leader (and the preacher, for that matter) be allowed to meet with and (if he desires) lead the group. I don't think we should have a group that tells the worship leader what he's going to sing.

    As far as the offering being with the communion, I could really go either way. I've just always been struck by our insistence that it be "separate and apart". I think, for some of us, we'd like our entire walk to play out this way. Christ's sacrifice has nothing to do with mine. I think the two are directly connected and, I think, that makes the offering anything but separate and apart.

    By Blogger chrismith, at 7/02/2004 07:26:00 AM  

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