March 5, 2008
This week, I will look at the 6th Affirmation in our Philosophy of Ministry statement. This one is a bit lengthy, with these four points: we are an attractional community, a missional community, a kingdom community, and a global community. I will just look in depth at the first today. It is stated as follows:
6. Our mission is to extend the kingdom of God by engaging our community, our culture and the world with the words and works of Jesus.
a) We are committed to be an attractional community, as salt and light manifesting the reality of the living God to a watching world.
i)We will seek to be the kind of people who live by the values of the gospel.
ii) We will seek to meet the needs of all kinds of people in our community with ministries of excellence that appropriately address the needs of various groups.
iii) We will emphasize the gospel in all our ministries and hold creative “magnet” events that move people towards a commitment to Christ as Savior and Lord.
iv) Our goal will be to make the gospel “understandable” to the people we meet, but not necessarily comfortable.
I love the fact that this statement captures the “both and” nature of the gospel. It is not just proclamation, but it is proclamation demonstrated through service that truly extends the kingdom of God – it is a words and works gospel. We demonstrate our faith with works. As James said, “Faith without works is dead.” So the question for Worship Ministries, is where does our responsibility lie in regards to this affirmation? First we must identify what the words and works of Jesus are, and then ask what this should look like in the worship service. Clearly, we will rally around the words of Jesus as we celebrate and rally around the gospel (this is the focus of our first affirmation). However, I would like to spend some time thinking about the works of Jesus. How do we engage our community, our culture and world with the works of Jesus? What are the works of Jesus? I am immediately drawn to Isaiah’s prophecy of what the Messiah would accomplish.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” (Is. 61:1-3, NIV)
These are the works that Jesus did when he came. He even said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21, NIV) We not only need to tell of all the works Christ did, we also must extend these same works to our community, culture and world. Jesus continues this work, but he has sent us as an extension of himself, and he has also empowered us to accomplish this work.
“Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. ” (John 20:21-23, NIV)
So what does this look like in Worship Ministries at Trinity? Let’s look at the sub-points. First, we are to be an attractional community. What looks most attractive to the watching world? I would say that it is a combination of what they see on the outside and what they discover if and when they look deeper. On the outside, what we do should be beautiful – what we look like, what our worship space looks like, the art that we produce, what we sound like, these things should communicate quality and beauty. But there’s so much more than that. In fact there’s a huge disconnect that quickly becomes unattractive if this second part is missing. Do we convey an overflow of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in the way we work together? Is our joy contagious? Is there an obvious love expressed and demonstrated toward one another? Are we gentle and kind as we collaborate together as a team? Is our expression of worship to God authentic? While it may take time to see these things, there is a first impression that is made by the visible interactions between us as we serve our church family and each other during the worship service. People are watching us. The presence of the Holy Spirit overflowing through us will direct people’s attention upward to God, and this is where it should be in worship. Of course there is a second observation here, and that is the first sub-point: we will seek to be the kind of people who live by the values of the gospel. Most of this is realized and practiced outside of the worship service. We must be worshipers there above all else. When we are not, we personally become a distraction to those who have witnessed our hypocrisy – perhaps our own children and loved ones most of all. Let’s keep in mind, that if our greatest concern is being attractive to God, we will no doubt be attractive to others. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Rom. 12:1, NIV)
Second, we will seek to meet the needs of all kinds of people in our community with ministries of excellence that appropriately address the needs of various groups. There are two parts of this that we must consider. Is our worship programming and leadership meeting the needs of “all kinds of people” in our community? In our context this simply means that we want to make sure that we are helping as many people connect with God in worship as possible. Are we speaking their language with art that is accessible, relevant and engaging? Style is certainly of utmost importance here. So are the tools of delivery, namely our technology. Then of course, we want it to be done with excellence. Are we committed to excellence that is always increasing? Do we push one another and ourselves toward that? There is joy is shared excellence, but it does not come without hard work, and an openness to critical evaluation, and an investment of time and money.
Third, we will emphasize the gospel in all our ministries and hold creative “magnet” events that move people towards a commitment to Christ as Savior and Lord. I am increasingly convinced that our job as worship leaders and planners is to lead our church in rallying around the gospel. Sparing no expense, we ought to declare and celebrate the gospel of Jesus Christ, and what it is accomplishing among us. I think that our worship service should be a weekly “magnet” event. However, we should also use our artistic talents to do events outside the church worship service, and even off-campus that attract people and move them towards a commitment to Christ as Savior and Lord. Since my area of expertise is not in big production, I have leaned more toward events like the Benefit Concert, the SonLight Dance concert, and Groovin’ in the Grove. I would like to see our orchestra team and drama team partner with TLC (Trinity Learning Center) for a Children’s Musical. I also want to encourage and empower creative people and teams to plan their own outreach events with our blessing and support.
Fourth, our goal will be to make the gospel “understandable” to the people we meet, but not necessarily comfortable. While our programming is first of all meant to draw people to worship God, we also realize that we need to be edgy at times, delivering challenges to Christ-followers and unbelievers alike. Worship leaders and those who preach the gospel must be bold in calling people to not only understand the gospel, but to appropriately respond in faith and obedience to it.