Although this song may not deal directly with this blog, it is one of my favorite Needtobreathe tunes.
I have found myself saying the words “The church needs to breathe” lately, and I thought I would share what I mean by that.
Last year I read And: The Gathered AND Scattered Church written by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay. Their previous book was entitled The Tangible Kingdom, a book that describes how Christians and the church ought to make God’s Kingdom tangible. It’s a great book and I highly recommend it. After Matt and Hugh wrote this first book, they travelled and spoke to different churches across the United States and Canada. Those hearing their story were surprised to find out that Matt and Hugh were pastors… of churches! Of churches that had worship services! See the book is a call for Christians to go. The Tangible Kingdom calls on Christians to go out into this world and to bring the church and the presence of Christ into this world in real, practical and applicable ways. This led some to interpret them saying that the large group gathering- historically known as ‘going to church’- is unimportant. Matt and Hugh’s call for the church reminded Christians that the church is made up of people. The church is a ‘building of people’, not a building of bricks or a particular time of the week. But Matt and Hugh had no intentions to neglect the call and place of the local church and the large group gathering. So as a follow-up to The Tangible Kingdom Matt and Hugh wrote And in order to emphasize that in order to go, your need to gather! In order to go out together, you need to come to gather.
As a church planter, the goal for me is to hold the gathering and scattering in constant and healthy tension. The gathering and scattering of the church is just like breathing. If you breathe in and hold it, your body will be filled with carbon dioxide which can’t give us ongoing life. If you breath out and hold it, every ounce of oxygen in your body will disappear and life will burn out. The same applies to a congregation: If a local congregation constantly breathes in, then koinonitis (Rick Warren’s diagnosis for churches that suffer from the inflammation of fellowship) sets in. Growth stops and navel gazing becomes the default activity. Members of the church hold fast to programs, not people. Preservation becomes the priority as opposed to reform. Many churches suffer from koinonitis, and it is killing local church institutions. On the flip side, if a local church constantly breathes out and just does, then burn out ensues and halts the good work altogether.
Needtobreathe is my favorite band, so it’s just fitting that I keep reminding myself that the church needs to breathe. It’s a simple principle, really. It’s not rocket science. Are you breathing in or breathing out? Are you breathing at all? Remember, the Bible talks about the Spirit of God as the Ruach- the Wind! He’s the one that needs to be doing the breathing through the local church and in Christians sent out on God’s mission.
It may be the smallest communion tray I’ve ever served, but I can assure you it’s a meaningful one.
So this Sunday is our first worship gathering. That’s tomorrow. 11 hours and counting. It goes without saying that a worship gathering requires a lot of details! I’m blessed to have wonderfully detailed minded people, one of whom is my lovely wife. This Sunday is a milestone for us. We have lived in North Carolina for a year now, and I am eager to get into a routine of worship planning, discipleship, and mission. A new adventurous chapter begins on Sunday, and I am thrilled with the types of people God is gathering together.
Throughout the fall we will be going through the book of Acts together as a group. We begin this Sunday with Acts 1:1-11 with the title Kingdom Witnesses. For this week, I simply wanted to share with you what our liturgy will look like. We have fleshed it out a little bit, however, we may have to tweak things around here and there over the next few weeks.
The outline of the Order of Worship is based on the vision statement: A family of God drawn to Jesus, challenge by his message, and released as missionaries. The intention here is that the DNA of this new church gets formed throughout each of our times together. It reinforces everything we do and gives shape to why we do it. Drawn to Jesus connects to one of our three pillars: Worship. We are drawn in Jesus name to come together to worship. Challenged by his message connects to the second pillar: Discipleship. While we worship, we are confronted with the call to repent and believe. In other words, we are called to have a Time of Confession (repent) as well as hear God’s word read and proclaimed (believe!). Released as missionaries connects to our third pillar: mission.
Now to the liturgy:
Drawn to Jesus
Challenged by His Message
- God Calls and Welcomes: Colossians 1:15-20
- Gathering Songs: Come People of the Risen King; Be Thou my Vision
- Colossians 1:21-23 Prayer
- Gospel Songs: Blessed Assurance; Amazing Grace
Released As Missionaries
- Children’s Time
◦ Scripture Reading: Acts 1:1-11
◦ Testimony Time
◦ Sermon: Kingdom Witnesses
- Lord’s Supper
◦ Prayer for the Body of Christ
◦ Giving of our Time, Talents and Treasures: You Said
◦ Closing Song: Bless be the Tie that Binds
- Blessed to be a blessing...
For those of you who worship regularly in a Reformed or Presbyterian church, you will see a similar formula on a regular basis in your own bulletin. Some will use Latin words, while others use other descriptive words. However, the skeletal structure of a reformed order of worship is still very much there. This is, of course, intentional. Reforming and recasting reformed worship is, by definition, reformed worship. We don’t invent the wheel, but we do try to create refreshing experiences of worship. The goal will be to keep making the worship experience a refreshing one. Even church plants can quickly loose that cutting edge of freshness. I am already concerned about how our vision statement will stop loosing its edginess if the words stare at us in the face every Sunday. I’ll leave that concern for now though. First things first, let’s just have a worship gathering! Thanks to all those who are praying and supporting us. More details to attend to, so I have to sign off.
One quick thought to ponder: If you are someone who finds worship stagnant, in what ways are you making the experience feel more refreshing. The etymology of liturgy is ‘work of the people.’ In other words, worship is work, not entertainment. It takes investment. What does that look like for you?