Normal is Different for Everyone

Normal is different for everyone. In the context of intergenerational worship, our normative worship practices look quite different from church to church, denomination to denomination, and even cultural contexts. But, if you think about it, everyone has a preconceived (or experienced) notion of corporate worship. In the last twenty years, the churches I’ve served have had different forms of normal worship practices…and that’s okay. I’ve also been overseas to several Baptist churches that are theologically similar to me, yet their worship expression vary!****Disclaimer- I am firmly theologically Southern Baptist and I am not espousing that anything goes in worship. I am merely suggesting that some of the elements of our worship experiences will differ globally, yet still retain the word-centric, theologically conservative foundation essentially of the evangelic church.

Within the last year, I’ve been reading a book by author Sandra Maria Van Opstal entitled, The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World. The emphasis of the book is on worship practices in multi-cultural settings, which has become a hot topic of discussion due to the ever-changing landscape of ethic diversity in our communities and churches. Because my mind is always seemingly “geared” towards intergenerational worship and how best to involve all ages in worship leadership, I couldn’t help but read this text and find similarities between the struggles of multi-cultural and intergenerational worship. Here are some points of salient points related to diversity in worship and how they might intersect with the conversation related to intergenerational worship:

  1. We are all ethnic. There is no “normal! Good doesn’t mean the same thing in all cultures. Outside of biblical mandates of worship and our denominational theology based on biblical truth, our normative practices of worship are no better than anyone else’s.
  2. Worship involving people from many nations and cultural contexts is as important/biblical as interrelating all generations. Both multi-cultural and IG worship are biblical in that God calls ALL to the table of grace from every tribe, tongue, and nation. It’s not our personal preferences or normative practices that make worship authentic, but our response to the One who has initiated the relationship.
  3. Worship must be intentional to be spiritual formative. In 2 Corinthians 3:18, Paul instructs the church (the community of faith of all ages and races) to be shaped by worship as he writes, “but we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Yes, it is important that we worship authentically and with discipline. We must practice intentionality so our worship is organic and flows naturally. Without intentionality, we simply go through the motions. As I talk with other leaders, I find those that are disciplined in their approach to spiritual formation (especially in corporate worship) there is a FOCUS on biblical truth that cannot be swayed. I believe those churches (and leaders) who are pulled into the gimmicky trends of church movements and fads are often unintentional. This was especially true when I talked with leaders of intergenerational worship ministries. The more intentional they were, the greater the focus on the biblical merits of worshiping together. This includes cross/multi-cultural contexts for the same reasons…intentional inclusion of music from various global sources (and inclusion of folks in your ministry from various races) will help your congregation see that we are all part of larger body of connected believers.
  4. Worship has a communal focus. The aim for corporate worship is NOT individual expression, but communal formation of faith. I’ve already written about the need more community- based lyrics in the intergenerational church here:Building Community in the Intergenerational Church through Music- Selecting We-Centric Songs, but the same thing could be said for music from other cultural contexts and expressions. When we ONLY use expressions of worship that reflect our church’s “normal” or personal preference, then we alienate ourselves from being culturally and generationally diverse.

There is more that could be mentioned, but in closing, remember that worshiping outside your own “normal” and personal preference causes personal transformation and spiritual formation. When we experience worship expressions from other cultures or “generations,” we begin to see how our own worship experiences are part of the larger, global church. It’s in this process that we become more unified as the community of faith.

The Intergenerationality of VBS

VBS at our church is an “us” event. From the youngest kids to our senior saints, there are representatives from all generations on our campus each day to serve, worship, play, and learn about the saving power of Jesus Christ. It really is a family atmosphere. Older and younger working together to share the gospel with our youngest generations!

This year, and like most, I’m involved in worship and music with our students. Some of players from our orchestra and I make sure that our worship rally each day has live music so our students have a worship experience similar-ish to our Sunday mornings. We use the music from the curriculum in music time and our students learn it too. It’s a nice balance so the curriculum music is not all they sing all week.

My favorite part of VBS, however, is getting to intermingle with so many that I rarely get to know well outside of seeing them on Sundays. The way our Sunday mornings are with back to back services, I don’t get to visit with many people. I also get to know students and parents of folks not connected to our church during this week and it’s a joy to make connections and have the opportunity to invite families to be a part of our church. If history repeats itself, we will have the opportunity to touch new families with the gospel. It’s a great way to build community in our community!

I know the Holy Spirit is working in the lives of our students on campus. Many students have made decisions to follow Christ for the first time; others have re-affirmed their decision to walk with the Lord. We rejoice in all these decisions for they represent lives that have been changed by the investment of older generations who desire to give of their own time, talents, and resources to make sure the next generation will lead the church in the future. Soli Deo Gloria!

Saying YES to VBS!will vbs

 

The Importance of Quiet

Psalm 46: 10 (NASB) Cease striving and know that I am God…

Contrary to what some may think, I’m really an introvert. I discovered this shocking fact in my 20s when I took not one, but four different personality tests (I’m an overachiever extraordinaire!) to give insight into what makes me tick. In case you’re interested, I’m an ISTJ. I was worried that being labeled an introvert would make people think that I hate being around people, but that is not the case. After doing a little research (I do love to read since I’m an introvert, right?) I realized that the biggest difference between me and an extrovert is that I get my energy from being alone as opposed to the extrovert who is charged by being around people. Make no mistake, I love people…but I’m often exhausted after being around people for long stretches of time. I CRAVE time alone. My extroverted wife spent our first few years of marriage worried that I didn’t like spending time with her when I needed some space.

Thinking back to when I was a new Christian, I remember I would read my Bible in my closet at home; yes, my literal closet. I went to a conference once that talked about developing a prayer closet and I wanted to grow in my relationship with the Lord, so I got in my literal closet (again, an overachiever and a rule-follower-HA!) and studied the Word. Freeing myself of distractions was just what I needed. I’m a distractable person, frankly. I’m also quite task-oriented, but need quiet to keep focus. Sometimes I would study and pray for long periods of time. I WAITED (tarried) for the Lord to speak to me through the Word and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Those times shut away from the noise of life helped shape me into who I am today. It was also in those times that I heard God speaking to me to enter vocational ministry.

Most anyone who knows me well knows that I love to run. Most weeks I log 35-40 miles. Sometimes more, but not usually less. I haven’t been a runner all of my life, though. I didn’t start running until my early twenties when I realized I was addicted to sugar and headed straight for type two diabetes. I got hooked very quickly and haven’t stopped since. It may seem counterintuitive to some that running recharges me. While physically I may be tired when I finish running, I’m mentally and spiritually full. I do not listen to music when I run, which surprises some because I am a musician, but I want to be quiet and hear what God might be saying to me. While running is not a substitute for personal Bible study, it is a great place to pray, think through problems and frustrations, and gain perspective. Sometimes, though, even this time to be quiet is not enough…

Being in ministry, a father, a husband, and a teacher to name a few, it’s incredibly difficult to find time just to sit and be quiet with the intention of hearing a Word from the Lord even though I read my Bible daily and pray. Going through the motions of these holy habits, I wouldn’t miss what God might be trying to say to me if I’d stop overthinking and allowing distractions to confuse me. The enemy would love nothing more than to distract and create NOISE and confusion in my life and yours. I struggle with the NOISE people, and I don’t mean obvious things not of God. I struggle at times discerning what I should spend my time doing. I’m a severe people-pleaser. I want to do ALL I can to build the Kingdom, but I can only give so much time, effort, and energy to a finite number of things. I am reminded of Psalm 46:10 that reminds me that I must CEASE STRIVING or BE STILL or as another interpretation says LET GO, RELAX and know that I am GOD. I must dedicate time (no matter how long) to be quiet and to listen to the Lord for clear direction to the things that the Lord wants me to pour my time and energy into. It seems counterintuitive, but necessary.

The key to cutting through the noise, my friends, is to dedicate time alone with God that is unhindered. Patiently wait for the Lord to speak. This noise is the enemy’s way of confusing the believer by making clarity impossible. Hear me: OUR GOD IS NOT A GOD OF CONFUSION. If you’re confused in decision-making or what to do or how to do it, don’t change anything unless sin is in the way of a reconciled relationship to God. Pray for forgiveness of sin then pray for clarity, listen for the voice of God to break through, and ask for wisdom.