February 13, 2008
I’m taking a look at the 4th affirmation of our Philosophy of Ministry at Trinity Church. This has been an incredibly valuable process for me as I lead my church family in the area of worship ministries. Every one of these statements has huge implications for my leadership teams and me as we nurture the formation of the worship culture of our church. It is breathing a renewed vision and passion to be the church that God would have us be and do the things he would have us do. Here is the 4th affirmation:
4. Our concern is the development of authentic biblical community, experienced on the congregational and small group level.
a) We are committed to be a counter-cultural community that embodies the values and relationships of the kingdom
b) We are committed to smaller communities in which we can experience significant relationships that provide encouragement, accountability and care, and promote significant growth.
An obvious question comes to mind. What does “authentic biblical community” look like on the congregational level, and what is the role of worship toward this end? Thankfully, the sub-points serve to give some context to what authentic biblical community should look like.
First, we should be counter-cultural. Wow, are we really a counter-cultural community at Trinity? Yes, we are, but to what extent? Do our values and relationships really stand in stark contrast to those promoted by the world? This highlights a huge problem in the American church in general and surely we struggle there as well. Over and over, I am being confronted by the whole ‘cost’ of discipleship issue. God is hammering me with this lately, so much so, that I tend to see it everywhere. Perhaps he is asking me to speak out and be his voice in this area. The cost of discipleship is glaring throughout the pages of the New Testament and we as leaders in the evangelical American church are forsaking this calling. Our tamed down version of Jesus does not demand much of us. Our worship services including our messages, music and other programming are fairly tame and ordinary, and aimed at being comfortable, entertaining, convenient and pleasing to those who gather to worship. We are more concerned with being attractive to people than being attractive to God. Holiness is what is attractive to God. One of the ways that God moves us toward holiness is as we worship him in a congregational setting. How can I address and nurture this process? We tend to shy away from times of silence, times of prayer and times for repentance during our worship services. We aren’t very good at leading an adequate and thoughtful time of response to the teaching of God’s Word. These are areas where I am committed to growth. I want to come to the end of every worship service having spent everything I have to declare the worth of my God, and I want to leave more aware of the cost of being his disciple and committed to do something about it. I want to encourage those who are gathered in worship to do the same. Isaac Watts captured the cost of discipleship and proclaimed it in a worship song, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” We must be a worshiping community that is counter-cultural as demonstrated by the fact that we give all that Jesus demands.
Notice that the other sub-point to authentic biblical community is that we are committed to smaller communities where we experience significant relationships and grow together. I shall promote this end in two ways. First of all, I want to highlight the importance of worshiping together in small groups. I place the same value on leading a small group with a guitar or accompaniment track, as I do a large group with a full band. I would like an army of worship leaders who will be deployed from time to time to lead smaller groups. Each ministry should be a worshiping community at its core and I am committed to resourcing and nurturing worship leaders to that end. Second is that my worship ministry teams need to reflect authentic biblical community as well. While our primary function is to serve the church with our artistic or technical talent, we also exist for the purpose of serving one another. While we devote the majority of our time to prepare and polish our craft, we must also reflect a smaller community where we experience significant relationships that provide encouragement, accountability and care, and promote significant growth. I do want to clearly distinguish our purpose as different than and not a substitute for other significant involvement in small group fellowship with the body of Christ at Trinity. However, we should certainly be an authentic biblical community as well. One of my favorite descriptions or even calls to community is captured by Peter. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. ” (1Pet. 4:8-11, NIV)