Last week we talked about worship as a lifestyle (basically, our individual worship). Today, we want to talk about our worship as a community.
Let’s start with Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples in Acts 1.4 …
"Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you what he promised. Remember, I have told you about this before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
Acts 2 tells the rest of that story where people from all parts of the world heard the Gospel proclaimed in their own native languages. You see, the worship of the Christ-followers had a missional purpose. It wasn’t about goosebumps or simply having an ecstatic experience. It was about encountering God in such a way that impacts others! (Read Acts 2.1-4; 2.42-47)
So, who are the people God is calling us to reach?
Specifically, I want us to think about the generations of people in our local community. Here is one way of looking at recent and current generations …
- G.I. Generation (1901-1924)
- Silent Generation (1925-1942)
- Baby Boomers (1943-1960)
- Generation X (1961-1981)
- Millennial Generation (Generation Y) (1982-1991)
- Generation Z (2000s-?)
I like the way Leonard Sweet talks about the culture we find ourselves in. He talks about people falling into one of two categories: Immigrants or Natives. The dividing line, according to Leonard Sweet, is the onset of the personal computer. Natives in today’s culture are computer and Web savvy. Those who who are not computer literate are immigrants in today’s culture.
Interestingly, in my own lifetime (as a Gen-Xer), I’ve watched the progression of computers in the classroom. When I was a junior in high school (in the mid-80s) I remember a computer being placed in the chemistry classroom for the first time. No one (including the teacher) knew what to do with it!
Later when I was in seminary in the early 1990s, it was fairly uncommon to see a laptop in the classroom. Jump ahead now to January 2006 and compare that to the last class I had. There were 25 students and I think all but four were using laptops in the classroom! The world is changing before my very eyes!
So who’s responsibility is it to change?
In the past, (English) "immigrant missionaries" would often go to
"native cultures" with one of their goals being the "civilize" the
people — IOW, make them like us!
I believe we must be careful about this way of thinking. But whose
responsibility is it to adapt and adjust? Do we expect the "natives"
(in our community) to change and adapt to our worship/ministry? Well, I
believe we do. And I believe that’s wrong! That’s not being good
missionaries! Isn’t it the responsibility of the immigrant missionaries
(that’s us, for the most part) to make adjustments to our
worship/ministry/communication to effectively reach the native cultures
(the younger generations, for the most part), to communicate the Gospel
in language/images they can understand.
Is this difficult? Absolutely! It takes a great deal of love and spiritual maturity; it takes a missionary heart! It takes giving up and letting go of "our way" of doing things and the way we like things to be. Missionaries know that it’s not about them; it’s about the natives hearing and understanding the Gospel; it’s about missionaries embracing the natives so that they can become part of this amazing, ever-growing incredibly diverse community of Christ-followers called the Church!
I hope you will join me in growing a bigger missional heart!
I think Paul gives some great guidance and insight into the way we need to interact and relate to the people in our community. Read 1 Co 9.20-27, especially, "When I am with the Jews, I become one of them so that I can bring them to Christ. … When I am with the Gentiles who do not have the Jewish law, I fit in with them as much as I can. In this way, I gain their confidence and bring them to Christ. … Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ …"
Bishop Middleton talks about "the seven characteristics of vital churches." She includes in that list the category of "media," saying, "Worship which excites, inspires, and speaks the saving message of Jesus Christ using a variety of media and music." If we are going to reach the "natives" in the missionary setting God has placed us in today, we are going to have to learn a new language!
As we create a new church (among the Alexandria and Barree folks) here in the Juniata Valley, let’s create one whose worship gathering has a missional purpose, the purpose of reaching the people in our Valley who have no commitment to Jesus Christ! Let us create a worship experience that connects with youth and children, one that shares the Good News of Jesus Christ in language, images, and expressions that these emerging generations can relate to!
I want to leave with you some verses from the Psalms where the psalmist challenges the people to sing a "new song." Is it time for us to sing a new song, to find fresh expressions of worshiping God, expressions that will impact the people in our Valley much like it did on the day of Pentecost? When our worship has a missional focus, I believe it will have that same kind of impact, because I believe the same Holy Spirit who was active that day is still active in this day and in this time!
- He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be astounded. They will put their trust in the LORD. (Ps 40.3)
- Sing a new song to the LORD! Let the whole earth sing to the LORD! (Ps 96.1)
- Sing a new song to the LORD, for he has done wonderful deeds. He has won a mighty victory by his power and holiness. (Ps 98.1)
- I will sing a new song to you, O God! I will sing your praises with a ten-stringed harp. (Ps 144.9)
- Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song. Sing his praises in the assembly of the faithful. (Ps 149.1)