Mike Cope's blog

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

I love a cappella and instrumental. I love old hymns and new praise music. But you know what my favorite worship service is? It's one where: I can see that Clois was feeling better and was able to come; I can hear Roye Sue's beautiful soprano voice and see Bob lost in wonder, love, and praise; I can watch Bob and Janice raise their hands with smiles on their faces; I can catch a glimpse at the praise-filled faces of Emily Quile, Andrew and Nicholas Boone, and Haley Lucas (as well as lots of other children); I can see the children from the Colonial Apartments look to Gary and Maria for love and instruction; I can observe Lorin looking around to see if anything is needed by anyone; I can watch Wendell and Betty nodding and smiling, (as I try to imagine all their years of church-planting around the world). I can feel the warmth of Bob and Jimmie, spiritual leaders in every way. Great worship can take many forms--as long as it seeks to "ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name" (1 Chron. 16:29). But more and more I experience the deepest meaning of worship as part of this faith community. I've just mentioned some of the ones who sit around me. I love praising God around these people who typically are right near my front pew, er, theater seat. How about you? What do you see in your family of faith as you worship that inspires you and draws you closer to God?

24 Comments:

  • Sounds great! I need to take more time to notice the people around me during our time of praise and worship. I'm sure it would make the experience so much better.

    By Blogger Gilbert, at 6/22/2004 11:14:00 AM  

  • I love being part of my church family.

    In our worship service? It's okay to raise your hands -- and okay to leave them down, as long as you raise your heart. Everyone sings, even the ones who "can't." We've got songs, sermon notes and Bible verses projected overhead, and printed on paper, too -- and neither way is more "right."

    There are way more deacons, Christian servants, than you'd find on the "official" list. There are new faces mixed in every Sunday, many of whom will be back the next. And the next.

    Our preacher, Curt Sparks, prays hard prayers: that God will test our faith, that God will open our eyes to the people around us, that God will expose any sin, wickedness or inconsistency in us so that we can heal, hear and better be his people -- and that we'll want him to. And I think we do.

    Our elders are praying, godly men. Our ministers serve and manifest God's love. And we are all as members, brothers and sisters called to serve and to love one another.

    Not that long ago, I would still have called the Bono church in Bono, Arkansas my church home, because regardless of size, flaws or doctrinal drift, the people there have been family. And in some ways, it is still home -- like my mother's house is always a place I come "home" to, regardless of where I live. Like most families, it isn't perfect, but it was home. After drifting from congregation to congregation during my years at Searcy, I began to believe that no place not Bono could ever feel like home.

    I've been in Memphis for a little over a year now and at Sycamore View only about 7 months, but for the first time a church other than Bono has been my home.

    It's not perfect, either. But it's home.

    By Blogger Q, at 6/22/2004 11:21:00 AM  

  • Maybe I'm just in the mood to brag on my wife, but she is who I see most regularly in worship. She is inspiring. Here is a woman who prefers a worship that welcomes hand raising, hand clapping, a guitar, a piano, and a worship team. A woman who has known the joys of a gender inclusive worship and longs to experience it again. And, because I work for the church we attend, she participates in a worship where the songs are a capella and slow. Where hand raising is acceptable, but by no means embraced. Where she can clap, if she wants the conspicuous honor of clapping alone. Where she still has to sit in the pew while boys half her age and one quarter her wisdom give communion thoughts. Every Sunday we leave and I wonder how she does it. And every Sunday she turns to me (often with tears) and says "it was good for us to be here." Leaving a worship that has catered to almost none of her preferences, she rejoices in the opportunity to worship her God and be with His people. It is a powerful thing.

    By Blogger chrismith, at 6/22/2004 11:22:00 AM  

  • Your post really made me miss watching the Boone kids worship! I remember watching their oldest one worship when they lived here in Atlanta. It also made me miss having Amy on our worship team. And as for Grant, well -- we love Grant...

    :-)

    By Blogger Matt Elliott, at 6/22/2004 11:33:00 AM  

  • I've grown to love the prayer time during Oasis (Highland's Wednesday night worship assembly) for this very reason. Suddenly, when our eyes would normally be glued to the lyrics on the projection screen or focused on the person who is speaking, people are looking around at each other - laughing, praying, crying, embracing; whispering encouragement under the soft acapella tones that are being played through our (ancient, but functional) PA system.

    It carries the weight of a very sacred moment to me. Moreso often than when we sing some of my favorite songs and/or when public prayers are offered by some of my favoite shepherds.

    Even when I spend the entire time in silent prayer, I am energized. Looking around to see many of the people who are important to me reminds me not only of who I want to pray for, but of how important those prayers are, of what they mean to me.

    By Blogger Matt, at 6/22/2004 11:57:00 AM  

  • Chris, I just know that your wife will get to do all the things she loves(clapping,singing with instruments,serving the supper,raising her hands,DANCING,etc.)in our eternal home with God and Christ. Remember! Neither male or female--all are free in Christ! While we're here, we will be submissive and loving because HE asked us to--not because of some "long ago made up rule".

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/22/2004 11:59:00 AM  

  • If it's right for her in heaven, why should it be "wrong" here?

    That confuses me -- and not only on the worship-style question. I've heard others say that or something like that and I don't particularly get it. Mostly, I think, because Jesus prayed that God's will would be done "on earth as it is in heaven." Too often we're told to wait for heaven, when sometimes I wonder if we're not supposed to do our best to emulate heaven as much as we can here, just as we're to try to be as much like Christ, to be his body and the expression of his kingdom. We can't do it completely, but it's no excuse for not trying. And just because something will be righted in heaven doesn't excuse its having been wrong here.

    By Blogger Q, at 6/22/2004 12:12:00 PM  

  • Let me be clear. I was saying that I was proud of my wife for being able to worship in any context where God and God's people are present. I was not saying that the church should keep taking advatage of the fact that she (and people like her) don't kick and scream and threaten to split the church. The church should be doing a better job to opening up for her and those like her. That's another sermon. I was just sharing my love for her and her patience. It doesn't remove my impatience for the way her patience has been abused.

    By Blogger chrismith, at 6/22/2004 12:34:00 PM  

  • Churches splitting have always kind of confused me, too. Dr. Eddins pointed out that there's not a biblical precedent for leaving a congregation. (I guess the exception would be moving to a new area -- else it'd make for a heck of a commute...)

    Everything we've got biblically tells us to work together in unity and if there is evil or ungodliness among us, to root it (the evil, not necessarily the person or even people) out. Just leaving because we either no longer like what's happening or because things aren't going our way reminds me of marriages that dissolve because one or both spouses no longer want to invest the time and effort it takes to build a marriage.

    Basically, I think God hates it when congregations "divorce," as well.

    Chris, I think the world of your wife for staying and for being peaceable and godly about it. I hope one day I'll be more like her.

    By Blogger Q, at 6/22/2004 02:04:00 PM  

  • Sometimes church splits are unavoidable. Often times they aren't. I think a key thing would be to set a vision for what the church is about. That vision can shift and change, but should be clear. That way, those who can't get on board can feel free (truly free) to attend somewhere else. I don't think it's wrong to leave a church over some of these worship issues. I think it can be wrong to split a church over it. If 90% of the church is stuck in a place you don't want to be, move on. I don't see this as a divorce. That would be leaving the church (not locally, but universally) completely. I don't ever recommend that. It's difficult to know when to stick with a church that isn't growing in an important direction, when to move on, and when to stay with the church, but push it (maybe even to the point of a split). I guess it depends on how wrong you think the issue of gender injustice in worship is. I'm getting to the point of push or leave, because I don't think it's right, and I don't think that's just a preference. It's complicated, to be sure.

    By Blogger chrismith, at 6/22/2004 02:28:00 PM  

  • Chris, I was trying to say that I am proud of your wife. Where I attend services, it WILL be Heaven before I get to dance, play a tambourine or harp, serve the communion, raise my hands,etc.etc,! I would LOVE for all that to happen here on Earth, but where I go it ain't gonna happen anytime soon SO I try to worship joyfully in my heart! You are a loving husband and I have also been blessed to have a husband like you and that is my greatest treasure on Earth! All the best to you

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/22/2004 02:48:00 PM  

  • I know that church splits happen and that they are sometimes unavoidable. I know, too, though that more than a few are not.

    As far as leaving a congregation, I have to agree that if the church is dying all around you and you are an extreme minority of one, then your only hope really may be to leave. The hope is that things can be stopped before it gets to that point, but it's not always possible. In that case, yes, leave. But some church-hop for less substantial reasons. I know I have.

    I mentioned earlier that in Searcy, I never really became a part of any one congregation. Could I have stayed and worshipped at one particular congregation for the duration of my time there rather than trying somewhere else every 5 or 6 months? Yes. Did I? No. I kept looking for something intangible that I didn't find at any of the others. Looking back, settling in at any one of them would have been the wiser, more mature approach. But at 17, what did I know? ^_~ (I'm 24 now and can't make a case for knowing substantially more now than before, either.)

    It was Dr. Eddins' point that helped me clear my goggles a little bit. There wasn't anything really "wrong" with any of the churches I'd frequented -- there were people worshipping God, serving one another and doing their best to live Christian lives and be examples where they are. The worship styles differed from one to another, but there was nothing "wrong" with any of them. Instead, none of them matched my preference. It was to my detriment that I didn't see that at the time.

    By Blogger Q, at 6/22/2004 03:08:00 PM  

  • This all reminds me of a quote by C.S. Lewis. He said, "Newness is no virture, and oldness is no vice..."

    I have been to many churches where the lights dim, where everyone has their eyes closed, and worship seems so isolated. I love the lit atomosphere at Highland, where we can all see each other and come to Throne together.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/22/2004 07:42:00 PM  

  • Like the C S Lewis post.

    --Blog Anon

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/22/2004 08:50:00 PM  

  • I'm lost, how did "What do you see in your family of faith as you worship that inspires you and draws you closer to God?" end up on church splits?

    I love the effort our worship minister puts forth to be balanced but evolving. I like having a screen...it makes holding a baby and singing much easier! I love the voices of our teens, and the Amens from my friend Ricco that can be heard all over the auditorium.
    I love the nursery workers who let us worship cry free and the praise team who come to church an hour early every Sunday to practice guiding us all.
    I love the bright new faces we are seeing more and more of these days. I love how my favorite elder always has a smile and a hug ready to greet me.
    I love our preacher Jim for giving it his all, and after ten years, not giving up or in.
    I love the way my husband really does study the sermon notes later in the week. I love watching him worship knowing that eight years ago he didn't have a church family or much of a faith. Seeing him grow into the spiritual head of our house has inspired and humbled me more than I can explain here.
    I love looking around and seeing those marred by the pain of failure, depression, illness, adultery, abandonment, and fear rise above to praise their God in all things.
    I love being part of a body of imperfect believers who seek to emulate and honor a perfect Savior.
    SG
    PS I love these "I like/love listing" bloggs!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/22/2004 10:40:00 PM  

  • Anon - Ataway, girl! Great list. I can almost see the faces around you. What a great image to share -- of a husband who's gone from little faith to searching/seeking faith in the past eight years. Surely in worship you're able to remember that our God is a living, present God!

    By Blogger Mike, at 6/23/2004 06:52:00 AM  

  • Wow, SG! Those last few lines gave me goosebumps!

    blog anon

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/23/2004 08:03:00 AM  

  • sorry if i got us off course. thanks for the post SG. great stuff.

    By Blogger chrismith, at 6/23/2004 09:00:00 AM  

  • How do we go from praising God to splitting churches?

    Probably the same way we did hear: loosing focus. Sorry.

    What SG said about her husband reminds me of my brother. He went from being a troubled, shy adolescent to becoming a man of God and is now a godly husband. In a lot of ways, my little brother is my biggest role model. God has grown in him a desire to serve others, to be who he's meant to be and, probably most amazingly, to love freely. He genuinely loves everyone and wears his heart on his sleeve.

    It's the way God's love grows among his people that continually amazes me. And I think it's that same love that most glorifies God.

    By Blogger Q, at 6/23/2004 09:57:00 AM  

  • I love worship at Highland because:

    I can count on Gene Aaron greeting us at the back door and asking husband or son to serve communion;
    I know that Val will sing "Arise, My Love" on Easter;
    (My heart always soars as Val sings "Arise, My Love" or anything else);
    I see people like Matt, or Jack, and/or Jill Maxwell use their God given talents to bring the kingdom of God a little closer;
    I can look across the auditorium and see Squeaky and Jayma smiling back (or snickering if I've nodded off...not that I would do that!);
    I see Latimer Bowen sitting on the front row beaming and praising God even though life has handed her unbelievable losses;
    I can still have a loving conversation with the Exums and the Goldsmiths even thought we beat them to the "second section from the left, row 7 seats" we all favor or vice versa;
    I know Charles Mattis will lead our class close to the throne of God through prayer and that if I or anyone else has needs we will lay hands on them as we pray;
    My grown children sit with me even though they've long been free to do otherwise;
    Sweet new babies and their parents are blessed;
    I know "Buster" Etter is in the children's area loving on little kids;
    My Huddle kids act excited to see me and give me a big hug that renews my sprit and fills my heart with hope;
    I can sing or just listen; clap or not, raise hands or not and its all OK;
    the gifted preacher still asks God to "pour through him the gift of preaching" and He does once again;

    Most of all, I love worship at Highland because I am always drawn to be more like Jesus and can honestly say on the way home..."it was good to be here" regardless of the order of worship, songs led, or anything else.

    Cheryl

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/23/2004 06:17:00 PM  

  • After days of worshipping, praying, and studying alone, arriving at Highland for "corporate" worship of and for our LORD is such a source of joy! As I read all the comments here, comments and praises of spouses I'm again reminded how different it is for those of us that live alone.

    However, the LORD has blessed me with a highly developed snoop sense - so I've been able to snoop around on the internet until three message boards were discovered where prayers are exchanged, daily devotionals are posted for encouragement and medittion; where a Bible scripture that one loves or needs to study more are presented and we discuss and discuss, sometimes for hours, off and on throughout the day.

    Strong friendships and ties have been formed within these groups of Believers from all across the country, and in some instances, the world. It is with my online friends that I share the beautiful experience of Sunday's music worship, or a special insight that my gifted preacher has presented, or the special Spirit-filled experience of Wed. night's Oasis service.

    Also, the LORD has brought a group of some of Highland's younger women into my life - women of great courage in the face of difficulties raising kids as single moms. What a blessing these women are!!!!!!

    The LORD has made Himself and His presence known so clearly every day of my life, that I truly pray my life is one of continual worship of Him - a worship that becomes especially sweet and awesome when we come together at Highland to worship Him in concert. I praise Him and thank Him for such a flood of blessings!!

    By Blogger Kathy, at 6/24/2004 12:08:00 PM  

  • Kathy,

    Wow! What an inspiration you are! Would love to have lunch with you sometime.

    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 6/24/2004 12:58:00 PM  

  • Serena - are we neighbors - residents of Abilene? I'd love to have lunch with you sometime. email me at angelcat_92116@yahoo.com - (nearly everything I do on the internet holds a reference to my kitkat, including my user name on this blog. :) )

    By Blogger Kathy, at 6/25/2004 06:49:00 AM  

  • Kathy,

    I sent you an email. : )

    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 6/25/2004 10:19:00 AM  

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