Month: November 2017

Mission Our Worship, Part 4: Proclamation of the Word

Welcome to Part 4 of our blog series “Mission Our Worship.”  We are spending time looking at each part of a worship service, and then considering how we can do mission activities related to that part of worship.  Here’s a quick re-cap:

Call To Worship:  God not not only calls us to worship, but is calling us throughout the week to serve our neighbors.  Be intentional and mindful of what God is calling you to do, and with whom God is calling you to be in relationship.

Adoration:  In worship we spend time in adoration of God, for who God is and what God has done.  Chief among these is praising God as Creator.  In adoration of the Creator, we can protect and care for God’s creation!

Confession:  This element of worship is all about recognizing how and where we have fallen short of the call and responsibilities that God has given to us.  Likewise, engaging in Christian mission is also about knowing and understanding the social injustices present in the world, and how we have participated in that brokenness.  We do this with a sense of humility and repentance, knowing that God forgives a repentant heart and empowers us to make the world a more just and compassionate place.

Today we will discuss the section of worship that is all about Proclaiming the Word.  For many of us, in our weekly worship services this begins with someone offering a prayer asking God to help us hear and understand the the Bible text(s) for the day.  Then, someone reads one or more passages from the Bible, followed by someone giving a sermon explaining what the passage is really about, and what difference it makes in our lives.

At first glance, the way to “mission our worship” here seems pretty obvious:  we should go out and “preach the gospel” to people in the community!  Certainly this has been a form of mission in the Church for a LONG time.  We even read stories in the Bible where Jesus is seen doing this, as well as the Apostles.  We also have seen (or heard of) evangelists and preachers of more modern times who stand on a street corner, or on a college campus, or at a festival, and “proclaim the gospel” to the passers by.  Typically (or perhaps, stereotypically) it is a message of judgement and shame more than one of hope and compassion.  I would even venture to guess that most of us don’t feel equipped, or interested, in taking part in that kind of mission of proclamation.

Instead, allow me to give you another model of how we can “mission our worship” when it comes to the proclamation of the Word.  Jesus once said, “When two or three are gathered in my name, I am there with them.”  (Matthew 18:20) We count on that being the case when it comes to reading and understanding the Bible.  When a group is gathered and is studying a passage together, we get the benefit of everyone’s different perspectives and different experiences that shape who they are and how they see the world.  Therefore, if we study the Bible with people who are different from us, the experience and understanding of the text becomes even richer!

At Asheville Youth Mission, many of our summer groups participate in Bible study sessions with our neighbors who are living on the streets.  At Church of the Advocate, for instance, youth groups bring a reading and artistic interpretation of a Bible passage to their Monday morning Bible study.  Then they engage in conversation with neighbors who are experiencing homelessness and poverty to discuss what everyone sees in the text and what it means in their lives.  At Haywood Street Congregation, groups participate in a worship service with a mix of community members- some poor and some not, some experiencing homelessness and some not.  Through a discussion style sermon, everyone gets to share what they see in the text and what it has to do with the world today.

What are the opportunities in your community to discuss the Bible with people who are different from you?  Do agencies and ministries in your area have Bible studies or open style worship services in which everyone, no matter their socio-economic status, is allowed to participate?  When we are able to both speak and listen, reflect and learn from each other, the Spirit speaks quite loudly.  And when the Spirit is at work, lives are transformed.

Next up, Response To The Word– Saying what we believe.  Stay tuned!!

Bill Buchanan is a pastor, husband, father, and avid college basketball fan.  He’s the Executive Director of Youth Mission Co.

Mission Our Worship, Part 3: Confession of Sin

For the last two weeks we’ve been discussing how we can “mission our worship,” meaning how we can take the elements of our worship service and translate them to mission related activities.  We started out talking about mission as a way to live out the command to “love our neighbor.”  We discussed the first element of our worship services, the Call to Worship, as a call coming from God to us as God’s people  We respond to that call through the rest of our worship service.  Likewise, God keeps calling us in other times throughout the week to engage in things that can help our neighbors; be that prayer, sharing resources with those in need, or sharing our time and talents to help others.

The next week we discussed the Adoration part of worship.  Typically this is a song or prayer highlighting the glory of who God is and what God has done.  We discussed how we can give adoration to God the Creator by honoring and caring for God’s creation.  This could look like participating in a river clean up or doing other ecology related projects.  For other ideas, visit your denomination’s resources for caring for creation!

Today we are going to cover the section of worship known as Confession.  After highlighting how amazing God is during our time of Adoration, we, in contrast, recognize how far short we have fallen in our responsibilities as God’s people.  Typically in our church worship services this can look like a prayer of confession, sometimes read aloud in unison, sometimes prayed silently, sometimes both.  This time of confession is not just about our own personal sins (i.e, everything I did wrong this week).  This time is also a time to recognize the collective sin of the community, even of the country and the world.  Sometimes our sin is not just in our actively doing something against God’s expectations, but also in our apathy and passivity in regards to the struggles of others.

So how can we “mission” this part of worship?  Well, if confession is about acknowledgement of sin, then we can mission this by educating ourselves in the ways that we have collectively failed to do right by our neighbors.  This can look like getting educated on various social justice issues, in our local community or more broadly.  For example, if you wanted your youth group to be more educated on racial injustice, perhaps this could include reading about these issues in books like Waking Up White by Debby Irving, or White Rage, by Carol Anderson.  Or maybe it is watching a documentary, like 13th, which discusses the pipeline of minorities being sent to prison.  Perhaps this looks like arranging for your youth group to hear from people in our community who are struggling, such as people who are experiencing homelessness and poverty.  Then, after hearing more about their experience, asking ourselves, “How did we as a society fail them?  How are we even now keeping them from getting what they need to succeed?”

Dealing with any problem, whether it is one person or a community, is first about admitting that there is a problem, and understanding what the problem is.  It’s also crucial for us to get some understanding of how we are part of the problem.  Then we can start turning toward solutions and a different way of living.

Speaking of turning, that is really what this whole confession thing is about.  Confession, or the act of repentance, means to turn away from one thing and turn towards another.  In our confession we turn away from the sins of our past and turn toward God and God’s call to live a more righteous life.  Perhaps we can “mission” this by asking ourselves, “What is one change we can make in our daily living that can turn us away from being part of a social injustice and move us towards something more just?”  Maybe it means changing some of the products we purchase, or how we use our natural resources.  Warning:  Confession is a long term endeavor.  Yet, so is God’s promise of forgiveness.  As we strive to live more justly, we remain thankful that our God is a God of second chances!  (And third, and fourth…)

Next up:  Passing of the Peace!

 

Bill is the Executive Director of Youth Mission Co.  He’s a pastor, father, husband, and a avid watcher of Stranger Things.  He lives in Asheville, NC.  

 

Mission Our Worship! Part 2: Adoration

This is the second of a series of posts about how we can take our worship life out into the realm of mission.  In our first post, we talked about YMCo’s definition of mission… which is essentially obeying the commandment to “love our neighbor.”  And, of course, if we want to love our neighbor we need to know something about our neighbor and the life that they are living.

We also discussed that the first part of worship in many of our churches is typically the Call to Worship.  God does the “calling.”  We do the responding to that call throughout the rest of the service.  Likewise, God is also “doing the calling” for us to engage in acts of mission– throughout the week and throughout our lives.  So every time we read a headline, hear a news story, or see a situation where people are in need, we must be attentive to the call that God is making and consider how we will respond to it.

After the Call to Worship, many churches typically have some kind of period that is all about the Adoration of God.  It could be a prayer.  It could be a song.  Whatever form it takes, the content of this time of adoration is centered around who God IS.  For example, we might sing classic hymns like “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” or “I Sing The Mighty Power of God,” which talks about many of the great acts of God.  Chief among these acts being the creation of the whole world!

Now, if you are truly in awe of what someone has made, you don’t turn around and damage or destroy that creation!  Therefore, I’m going to propose that a way we can “mission our worship” when it comes to adoration is to take care of the things that God has made.  This includes the environment and all the creatures in it!

What agencies, ministries, and organizations in your community are taking care of the environment?  What are the local, national, and international movements in which you or your youth group can participate?

Here are some ideas:

Join in on a local river clean up event.

Start a campaign in your church to get all bulbs changed to CFL or LED.

If your church doesn’t already celebrate Earth Sunday, talk to your worship leaders about offering a special focus that day on caring for what God has made.

Participate in a study regarding pollution emissions in your community, including what kind of fuel sources the local power plant uses, and what percentages of local air pollution are due to vehicles, households, businesses, etc.

Explore what resources your particular denomination offers in the realm of Creation Care.

When we have a mission to care for the creation, we are in turn giving adoration to the Creator!

Next up:  Confession of Sin as mission.  Stay tuned!

Bill Buchanan is a pastor, father, and husband.  He’s the Executive Director of Youth Mission Co, which includes the programs of Asheville Youth Mission, Raleigh Youth Mission, and Memphis Youth Mission.  He lives in Asheville, NC.