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Worship Decisions We’ll Regret

Wisdom from Chaplain Mike at InternetMonk:

[David] Manner is the Associate Executive Director for the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists with responsibilities in the areas of Worship, Leadership and Administration. Before that he served in many congregations in worship and music ministry.

I like his list. A lot. I don’t agree with every point, and I don’t feel as strongly about some points as I do others. However, I think he’s captured a great deal of content in a nice, well-stated form that lends itself to discussion.

Here it is:

15 Worship Decisions We’ll Regret

1.     Dividing congregations along age and affinity lines.
2.     Eliminating choral expressions in worship.
3.     Worship leader ageism.
4.     Elevating music above Scripture, Prayer and the Lord’s Supper.
5.     Making worship and music exclusively synonymous.
6.     Trying to recreate worship with each new generation.
7.     Ignoring the Christian Calendar and adopting the Hallmark Calendar.
8.     Worshiping like inspiration stopped with the hymnal.
9.     Worshiping like inspiration started with modern worship songs.
10.   Not providing a venue for creatives to express their art as worship.
11.   Allowing songs about God to supersede the Word of God.
12.   Elevating gathered worship above dispersed worship.
13.   Setting aside traditionalism around the world but not across the aisle.
14.   Worshiping out of Nostalgia or Novelty.
15.   Worship services at the expense of worship service.

Chaplain Mike’s commentary that follows is well worth the read. It’s short, and it’s good.


Witherington: Anti-Ecclesial Rhetoric

Ben Witherington has some food for thought regarding a particular trend in the so-called Emerging movement. He begins:

One of the things I have grown weary of in the last decade or so, is anti-ecclesial rhetoric. What I mean by this is the pitting of the ‘church’ over against Jesus, or ‘the established church’ over against more ‘organic’ models of Christianity (e.g. house churches, and the like). I suppose we all from time to time look for something or someone to blame our problems on, and the Christian church has become something of a punching bag, even for a goodly number of devout Christians. Sometimes this is because they have joined the ‘I’m spiritual, not religious’ movement, or the ‘I love Jesus, but the church…. not so much’ band wagon. Some of this frankly is caused by a profound misunderstanding of the word church/ ekklesia.

He concludes:

It is my hope that when the Emerging Church stops Emerging from wherever it has been previously hidden and starts merging with other groups of Christians who are willing to partner with them, that it will be realized that it was after all unprofitable and unhelpful to sass your Mother, to repudiate the womb from which you emerged, by which I mean the ekklesia, the body of Christ, the people of God, which will always need structures and organizations. Think on these things.

The stuff in between is well worth the read.

On Strange Liturgical Bedfellows

David Koysis note a phenomenon that has also stumped me for some time:

The tendency for North American evangelicals to defend the fundamentals of the faith while largely abandoning the older liturgical traditions is something that not enough observers have managed to find puzzling. On the other hand, it is also true that the major part of evangelicalism in this continent, though affirming a vague orthodoxy, lacks both a robust ecclesiology and a strong confessional identity, with only a very few exceptions. Perhaps then it is not surprising that distinctive traditions of worship should long ago have been set aside as well.

Indeed, rather than leading them towards Rome, along with their mainline brethren, or towards the Reformation traditions, as one might expect, many evangelicals have instead subordinated worship, in utilitarian fashion, to the felt imperatives of church growth and reaching the so-called nonreligious. The result is worship that is not only deracinated but amounts merely to “one damn thing after another,” as one of my favourite liturgical scholars once put it.

So why is it that mainline protestants, who are scarcely less deracinated than their evangelical brethren, are increasingly reciting the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed during worship?

Why, indeed?

Early Christian Worship

Larry Hurtado has made available PDFs of two new articles he has written for the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, one on “Worship, NT Christian” and one on “Christology.”  Given his lament about the lack of enthusiasm for the topic of early Christian worship in the realm of NT Studies, perhaps he will be pleased to know that I’ve devoted a class day to the topic in my NT Intro classes for quite some time—and would do more if time permitted!

A Christian Pastor in Iran Is Facing a Death Sentence

Now that Amanda Knox is on her way to Seattle (and I wish her well), can the media share a little love with Youcef Nadarkhani? From Associated Baptist Press:

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (ABP) – An international Baptist leader called on Baptists around the world to call on their government leaders to advocate on behalf of an Iranian pastor sentenced to death after refusing to recant his faith.

Last week the White House condemned the reported impending execution of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, 34, for leaving Islam as a teenager. Over the weekend Iran claimed his conviction was not for apostasy but violent crimes including rape.

Raimundu Barretto, director of freedom and justice for the Baptist World Alliance, said Oct. 3 he had lobbied Iran’s representatives in Washington, the United Nations and the United States ambassador-at-large for religious freedom to do all they can to “reverse this terrible verdict.”

“It is distressing and outrageous for someone to be sentenced to death for a crime of conscience,” Barreto said. “We firmly stand in solidarity with Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, are praying for his release, and are making all efforts possible to influence the outcome of this situation.”

Barreto, who is Brazilian, said he also contacted Brazil’s U.N. office because Brazil and Iran have a “somewhat good relationship.”

Barreto called on the world’s Baptists to make representation to their own governments on Nadarkhani’s behalf.

“We encourage Baptists in different countries to call on their government representatives to increase communication with the Iranian government on this situation,” he said.

Lord, watch over your servant Youcef and strengthen him in his time of need. Confessing that all things are possible with you, we pray for his quick release. But if this cup may not pass from him, may his bold and faithful witness serve to accomplish your will more perfectly in this world and fit him for a crown in the world that is to come. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thought for the Day (if not the Millennium)

I want a church that includes fussy kids, old liturgy, bad sound, weird congregants  and—brace yourself—painfully amateur “special music” now and then.


Well, for one thing, when the Gospel story is accompanied by a fog machine and light show, I always get this creeped-out feeling like someone’s trying to sell me something. It’s as though we’re all compensating for the fact that Christianity’s not good enough to stand on its own so we’re adding snacks.

But more importantly, I want to be part of an uncool church because I want to be part of a community that shares the reputation of Jesus. Like it or not, Jesus’ favorite people in the world were not cool. They were mostly sinners, misfits, outcasts, weirdos, poor people, sick people and crazy people.

Think on these things.

The Order of Christian Worship

Thanks to Chaplain Mike for laying it out so simply. Even a seminarian could understand it!

As “liturgical” as my current church thinks it is, it still doesn’t often move past the threefold revivalistic pattern Chaplain Mike describes. I would like to think that, as the “Invitation” continues to become abbreviated in our worship, people might start to decide that there really ought to be a good, holistic, Christian way to express our commitment to and participation in the Word of God we have heard read and proclaimed.

I’ll be there when they do. 😉

Worship: Nine Proposals (or Theses?)

Chaplain Mike reviews Robert Webber’s nine proposals about worship renewal some thirty years on.

Miners Trapped Near Middlesboro, Kentucky

Yahoo! News is reporting:

LOUISVILLE, Ky (Reuters) – A state official said that three miners were trapped by high water in an underground coal mine in southeastern Kentucky on Monday.

“They’re fine, they’re safe,” said Dick Brown, spokesman for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet. “We have rescue teams there putting pumps into place to remove the water.”

Brown said he expects the miners to be rescued later this afternoon.

The flooding in the mine near Middlesboro, Ky., which is owned by the Bell County Coal Corporation, was caused by an overnight rainstorm that dumped 4-6 inches of rain in the area, Brown said.

The miners are in an elevated area above the water, about 600 feet from the entrance. They are in phone contact with the mine’s command center, Brown said. Brown said his office was contacted about the incident at about 8:30 a.m. on Monday.

This is in Bell County, where all my family is from. I’m sure all those involved would appreciate your prayers.

(Thanks to Jim West for sending out the alert.)

The Archeology of Synagogues

Eric Meyers has a nice article about the earliest synagogues in The Jewish Week. He is especially interested in the immediate post-70 situation and what it might tell us about the development of Judaism:

One of the more important and sensitive historical issues that has emerged in the course of this debate, based to a large degree on the paucity of synagogue remains post-70, is the degree to which classical Judaism arose in response to Christianity or the degree to which the tragedy of the two wars with Rome (66-70, 132-135 CE) led the Jewish people to re-evaluate their tradition and successfully reinterpret it within the changed circumstances of two crushing defeats.

In my view this period in the history of Judaism was as definitive as the period after the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE when the exiled Judeans not only survived but managed to pray without the Temple and began the task of editing the books of Scripture that would help them maintain their identity and keep the traditions of former times. The first centuries after 70 CE also led to publication of the Mishnah by 200 CE and many of the early biblical commentaries. It is unimaginable that all of this literary creativity, along with the development of the synagogue liturgy, could have happened without a physical setting in which it could take shape. The most logical setting is the synagogue as a structure where the Torah was read, translated and interpreted; where homilies were given; and where the liturgy was sung and recited.

(H/T: PaleoJudaica)