Why We Worship

I’ve been hearing some of my fellow parishioners say lately that they just aren’t having their worship needs met.  Others are refusing to say anything, but I can tell from their hangdog expressions in the narthex following worship that something is amiss.  Could it be that they aren’t happy with recent changes that have taken place?  I’ll try to explain…

The United Methodist Church employs a concept called itineracy in making pastoral appointments.  This means that, to serve as an ordained minister in the church, one must agree to serve where one’s bishop decides.  In theory, appointments are made according to the greater need of one’s jurisdiction.  And needs change as demographics change.

Recently, our little church in a suburban city of the greater Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex, lost our pastor of four years to a “greater” need elsewhere in the jurisdiction.  For weeks after the move was announced but before his last sermon, there was great sadness, even anger among us.  We had grown to love him, his wife, and their two adopted, mixed-race children.  He was a gifted preacher, an excellent administrator, and an inspired, tireless, leader.  He did all he knew how to do… all that God gave him to do.  However, our new pastor, I judge, owing to demographic changes in our community over recent years, is more “ethnically appropriate” for our church.  She’s black.

Our little church had long prided itself for being, in the Methodist tradition, an open and accepting congregation, but even more so than most; we intentionally promoted diversity and celebrated a multi-ethnic identity.  Unfortunately, it isn’t everyone that can comfortably wear this identity.  Founding members were leaving as the church became more diverse.  People were not pledging or honoring pledges once made. The same tired ten percent were doing eighty percent of the work.  In short, the church was slowly dying.  The pastor and lay leadership tried everything.  We even hired an expensive, well-known church consultant to come evaluate things and to advise us on what we needed to do to turn things around.  He had some good ideas.  But the bishop, it seems, had a better one.  And, after just two Sundays with our new pastor, it’s already apparent to many of us that the majority is quickly becoming the minority.  Things have indeed turned around, but in a way and so rapidly that few of us anticipated.

Despite our new pastor’s pledge to honor who we are as a multi-ethnic church and to not make changes too rapidly, change is of what what we are all most aware.  Things now are less contemporary, more traditional in a way, but also more charismatic.  Some, I fear, are already beginning to look elsewhere to have their needs met.  It’s called “white flight,” folks.  But, I ask you, is having our needs met what worship is all about?  I think not.

Although I have surely enjoyed worship on many occasions, the purpose of worship is not for our entertainment, or even for our enjoyment.  Its purpose is to glorify, honor, praise, exalt, and please God in return for His having given us His Son, our salvation.

The following has been liberally borrowed from the On-line Interactive Church (http://www.bible.ca/interactive/worship-1-purpose.htm).

“The nature of the worship God demands is the prostration of our souls before Him in humble and contrite submission. James 4:6, 10 tells us, ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up’ (Interactive Church).”

Our worship of God should, therefore, be a very humble and reverent action.  “Jesus says in John 4:23-24, ‘But the hour is coming, and now is, when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.’  God is a spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. It doesn’t say that we can worship God anyway we want, but we must worship Him in spirit and in truth (Interactive Church).”

In her sermon today, our new pastor told us that God did not call her out of her comfort zone, a place where she had few administrative responsibilities, to fail in this new charge where she feels the weight of many great responsibilities.  Previously, she called upon us, all of us, to pull together to make manifest God’s Will for our church to to be a true place of reconciliation in a diversified community.  But we can’t do this, folks, not if we can’t get over our own comfort level issues.  We can’t do this if we’re more worried about having our needs met than we are worried about seeing others’ needs met.  So, if a more ethnically-rich worship service is what is needed to pull our African American brothers and sisters out of their homes Sunday mornings, I say, “Bring it on.”  If a more ethnically-rich worship service will help to transform seekers into committed, involved disciples who are willing to share in leadership and contribute to the many missions and ministries of the church, then I say, “Bring it on.”  Making disciples for Jesus Christ IS our mission.  Let’s get on with it.

I will be humble and reverent.  I will worship Him in spirit and in truth, and I will honor my pledge to continue supporting our Freedom to Follow capital campaign, at least until others are in place to take up the slack.  If you’re part of my congregation and you’re not exactly comfortable with the changes taking place, I humbly challenge you, in the spirit of Christian brotherhood, to do likewise.

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Published in: on June 25, 2006 at 8:32 pm  Comments (6)  

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  1. Kent,
    Thank you for your comments, I have felt extremely sad after leaving services these last two Sundays, I am not bothered by the change in the congregation, it’s the service itself. Where has our “family” gone? No public prayer time? We used to know what each other needed, not like our bulletin right now that just lists names — what ARE the concerns, joys, etc? That’s “family” to me. I’m just teribly sad and I don’t quite know how to deal with this sadness, any suggestions? Anyone?

  2. Dear Georgene,
    I hear you. Perhaps Rev. Ouida will hear you as well. Thankfully, our welcoming time and the children’s sermon was restored this last Sunday… but no Lord’s Prayer??? Obviously, we’re still working out the details of what’s in and what’s out. Personally, I like the inclusion of the Apostel’s Creed and the singing of the Doxology. These are formal worship aspects that I had long missed from our former, more contemporary order of worship. So, pluses and minuses… for everyone I’m sure.
    You know, Tom Bandy’s report suggested two distinctly different worship services, one for those of us who are seriously-committed, regular attenders and one for the seekers. Perhaps, if we approach it right, we can have prayers and concerns included in our new Wednesday evening worship service scheduled for the rest of the summer. Then too, since most seekers will come to the second service on Sunday, perhaps the 8:30 service could be taylored more for folks like you and me.
    Let’s bring this up during the next Worship Committee meeting.

  3. Wow Kent…if you wrote this article on why we worship…well, I think it is exceptional!! I think it should be published in the newsletter. It said alot of what I think is on alot of people’s minds and how they should approach this change. I personally was very worried about my worship time with this change but like it was said it is about worshipping God and if this change still helps your spiritual growth, which I feel like it will continue to help mine, then go with the change. I think Ouida’s sermons are very powerful and I find myself feeling the Holy Spirit’s presence. Don’t get me wrong, I miss Daniel terribly and I grieve his absence still but I find that I am able to devote my time in worship to thanking and praising God for letting me be His and for all my blessings.

  4. Thank you for your well written comments about the changes taking place at COD. For over a year I have been privately predicting that within 5 years COD would be an African-American majority church. I now revise my prediction. I believe it will occur within 2 years. I do not object to this change, and in fact welcome it. My great concern is that it may not come about solely by the addition of more blacks, but rather by “white flight” which you mentioned.

    In that regard my concern is whether the whities will leave because of the change in worship style, or the influx of blacks, or because we are offended by occasional insensitive remarks which some may
    interpret as being racially biased. I hope and pray our new pastor will step very carefully into a pulpit which has been ably filled by white pastors for 12 years. It is going to be a very fine line she
    must walk.

  5. Kent,
    In your article you mentioned it was not the way we worship, but the purpose of our wordhip that was the important thing. I compare the importance of the way we worship to the way we feed our bodies.If we don’t nourish our bodies correctly, we lose the ability to do our best in being able to use them to the best of theier abilities. Likewise, if we are not able to hear the sermon, because of verbal outbreaks, or we no longer feel comfortable or accepted with the company we are in, we are not able to use our siiritual gifts to the best of their abilities. Outbreaks during the sermon are particularly disturbing to me because they are first rude to the preacher who is trying to deliver a message, and secondly, disruptive to those trying to listen to the message because they miss part of what is being said every time there is an outbreak. I want to serve God just as much as anyone, but I have to feel accepted and comfortable with the company I am in and right now at COD I DO NOT.

  6. As a disciple from the Holiday Inn days and as a person that at one time led worship, I do not recognize this church as the church I helped build. Let me explain:

    Church of the Disciple was intended to be a church that reflected the community of Desoto-black, white, churched and most of all- unchurched; we did not need to draw from other churches when there are so many people out there without a church home. We considered ourselves a “Community of Faith” and with that in mind, built a church where everyone, regardless of previous worship expeiences (or lack of a previous worship expeirence)would feel closer to God at COD on thier journey of faith. If you had never been in a church, you found something comtemporary that connected you to Christ’s message in ways that you never thought of before. If you had been in church a long time, you had those comforting elements of traditional worship. We were always prayful, focused on others needs and Spirit led in worship. Worship was not targeted to attract any one spcific group or class of people. My role was music back then and the music was very diverse especially when you factored in Regina’s magnificent contributions. We proudly had 234 members on the rolls and 226 reguraly in weekly worship at a church we borrowed one day a week.
    We were diverse and open to pretty much any style of worship out there and leaders in breaking the rules for the excepted way of doing “church”. The building standing now was only a tool to continue what God wanted us to do in Desoto.

    And we did it as disciples not as a multi-culturists. Race did not come up in conversations very often because it simply did not matter in God’s eyes we felt.

    Take a look at where we are now. COD is as segregated as any church in the 50’s ever was and the service is one dimensional and ethno-centric. Where we originally intended to make EVERYONE welcome has now become indistinguishable from a typical penticostal missionary church, complete with the going through the motions without going to the heart of worship, disregarding the diverse individuals that built this particular house of God. What’s worse yet is the assumption of the worship leadership that every person, new or old, in the congregation knows what the person sitting around them is in specific need of. How do you teach to “silently confess thier sins”…silently? It used to be we taught persons how to pray and converse with God in plain English without the need for “churchspeak”. There was time that the Spirit would come upon you and and the experience did not necessaily lead to an emotional outburst to be real and life altering, but it might.

    Change has been the clarion call now for a few years now at COD. We even hired someone to come in and tell us how to change things better, ignoring that we used to do so many things so well and were envied by other larger churches for the things “our little church” accomplished. Things we now must wholeheartedly embrace as change because change is good… so they say. I submit that change for change sake is severly misguided when you change the things that so clearly brought so many into Christ’s service at COD that never were involved in church before. Change is inevitable, I know, and that is why I must start over with looking for a community of faith that refects more accurately the community I live in and support.
    White Flight? Not hardly. I will never support a segragated church regardless of how that segragation is determined. Don’t want to go but God needs me somewhere else now. I still believe this country made the biggest mistake in desegragating the schools when the churches were the bigger problem in it’s people getting along as one.

    I thought COD might be where we finally made the change.

    For me it was hearing in the first sermon Dr. Lee gave that in order for the “promised land to be occupied… the old leaders needed to die and get out of the way” to accept that the COD I loved, built and cherished was no more.

    Rather than die, I have gotten out of the way.
    Take Care and God Bless you all.

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