27 June 2010

Contemplating Church

During my time in Australia I've attended four worship services at three different churches (all Baptist). The split in my "home" church has caused me to do some thinking about "church", and why we have churches and why we have "services". Today I'm going to attempt to express some of those thoughts. I know that not everyone will agree with my thoughts, and that's fine. Feel free to comment.

For me, one of the important reasons for having churches & meeting together is expressed well in Hebrews 10:24-25 which says this:

24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,
but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (NIV)

Meeting together has a key purpose in encouraging one another to serve our Lord effectively. So to me, church is not really about evangelism and reaching out to unbelievers, but about strengthening and encouraging believers so we can go out and reach unbelievers that we come into contact in the rest of our lives. Part of that encouraging involves helping me to focus on the One reason for our coming together, the One who called us to be His children and His witnesses, and worshipping Him. I guess from this comment you could assume that I see church as being for those who believe, and that we should be using places other than church to reach out to non-believers. I don't say that non-believers shouldn't come to church, but rather that, when they come, it should be with an understanding that church is about God, not them, and so they may not feel comfortable at first. Sometimes churches will have special services which are designed to reach out to non-believers, but I don't believe this should be the primary focus of regular Sunday services. As I've worked in a Christian school, where not all the students are Christians, it has been valuable to realise that it's not Bible classes or devotions or chapel service that make these students want to know Jesus, but it's the people who show them God's love in real and practical ways as they live their daily lives. Sure, Bible class & devotions and chapel are important, but they have to be in the context of love.

At times I am responsible for leading others in worship services. This is a task that I usually enjoy, but not one I undertake lightly. As I plan worship experiences, I am conscious that it is not me that matters, it is God, and that my responsibility is to help others worship Him, and to encourage them in their walk with Him. At all times, God should be at the centre of our worship, so He can receive what He alone is worthy of, and so that He can minister to the people participating in the service.

One of the joys of leading worship is that I get to choose songs, and in choosing songs I'm conscious that there are many different types of music used in churches, and that different types of songs are helpful for different people. I thank God that I grew up knowing and loving many of the hymns that have been used in worship over the centuries, and so I don't find it hard to include these in services. I've also seen a wide variety of new music come into churches, and at times I think it's funny that the "Scripture In Song" music books that were "new" when I was growing up are now considered old fashioned! It's also interesting to hear some of the "old" hymns being put to new tunes, which tells me that the words of those hymns are just as relevant for today's worshippers as they were when they were written. God has given us a wealth of music with which to worship Him, and it saddens me when people say we shouldn't sing songs just because they were written before such and such a date. As a worship leader, I pray that God will help me to choose songs which are relevant to God's message for those participating in worship on that occasion.

Well, I've contemplated some "touchy" subjects here, and I know that not everyone who reads this will agree with what I've said, but I hope that God will use my thoughts to help others clarify their own thoughts, and to remember that, after all, it's not about "me", it's about our great and wonderful God who is worthy of all our worship, and whose love is so great that we just can't keep it to ourselves!

To God be the glory, great things he hath done!
So loved he the world that he gave us his Son,
who yielded his life an atonement for sin,
and opened the lifegate that all may go in.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father through Jesus the Son,
and give him the glory, great things he hath done!

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