When I started this new website I decided to craft my thoughts around three related ideas; worship, culture and A God who has come, is coming and will come. That last phrase seals it all for me. God lives currently in time. He is across time and in control of time. God come to our world. Yes, he has the whole world in His hands…but he also has your life, home and neighborhood in His hands.
Ok Chad. This is a given (for most people who call themselves Christians). It’s the basic theology of incarnation.
Are we living as though God is truly across and in control of time?
The idea of God and time circles back to the focus area of worship. I define worship broader than songs sung together. I like the idea of devotion being part of our idea of worship. The way we think about God and how he relates to us tells others about the kind of God we worship.
So if we live and act like God isn’t really living inside time how can we tell people that is one of his qualities?
Do you see the importance of all this now?
I think one idea really captures much of what current Christianity actually lives like.
We have bound God out of time in places where he is timeless and placed infinity in other areas where we should have a finite view of God’s activity.
When issues in life come up, many of us struggle with hopelessness. We might give God lip service, because we know we are supposed too, but we don’t truly think he has power of those circumstances. We have taken the reality of God in the here and now out of the equation. We remove God from sovereignty over us.
Slowly we will start to construct a God who is in existence with no power.
It is also easy for us to live as though what we know now will be endless. We forget the final part of the equation. Christ is coming back. What we have currently will go away. We shouldn’t turn into crazy doomsday people, but we should be lifting up Jesus as a God of justice and holiness who has promised to return.
Can we call Jesus the Christ if he isn’t coming back? Would he be all that we say he is if there was no final part of all this? We have no Christ if we don’t have any eschatological (end times) activity (ok..there is my $100 word of the week).
I don’t want to imagine calling all this out without offering what I think to be an option in fixing this? In the industrial world people have to occasionally retool, adapting the current situation to now make a more current product. This approach doesn’t mean throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It means looking at what YOU specifically can do in your situation to remedy this.
How do we retool ourselves toward God and Time?
1. Become a person and community of prayer.
Nothing will lead people into the true understanding of the presence of God more than prayer. I don’t think anymore needs to be said about that.
2. Begin identifying where you unknowingly are holding God back?
I know you aren’t actually holding God back. As if!!! But how are you using language that keeps him out of time in your own hearts and conversation? Do you speak of God as if he is right next to you and involved or as if God is your deaf and bed-bound great aunt? Remember this is primarily a matter of the heart. Our own life decisions give the biggest to witness we are actually allowing Jesus to be Lord.
3. Give God the public authority to move among you and your community of faith.
Speak of God and what he can do when you are talking out loud and gathered together.
4. Begin a vocabulary of past and future.
Identify the times God has moved among you and others in the past. Tell revival stories. Learn when your own church/family/denomination has experienced large moves of God and talk about them. Start projecting of what God will do in the future. This can happen in terms of missional vision as well as the fulfillment language of the end.* Talk about how Jesus is going to fix things.
All of this happens best when leaders are able to accurately diagnose how their communities needs to speak about God. You can’t paint by numbers this. The local church is the essence of the eschatological culture of the community. How is Jesus redeeming your particular place? It is your job to begin telling this story, rehearsing it in worship and leading people to this bigger view of Jesus.
He has come to our world. The whole earth as well as your neighborhood. Let’s talk about it.
*a great resource for this is Robert Jenson’s article “How the World Lost it’s Story“
There are two reason people repeat themselves. The first is they have no idea where they are going. The second is they know exactly where they are going. The first is a great example of ignorance. The second is all about clarity. Ignorance doesn’t mean stupidity, but highlights there is something you haven’t discovered yet. Vision is the difference between the two.
We have all heard the old joke about Dad not wanting to pull over for directions and instead he circles the same area multiple times. In that scenario there is an ultimate goal in mind. What’s lacking is the knowledge how to get to the destination. Old practices are continually repeated with the hopes new outcomes will happen.
They have no vision.
The good news is the problem can be overcome. The solution to ignorance is seeking out the knowledge to lead you to your intended outcome. Vision needs clarity. Clarity needs vision. It is a mutual relationship.
Clarity happens when a group of people or an individual has a definitive idea of where they are going and they are pursuing it with the utmost passion. It doesn’t mean side steps might not be taken. They are sometimes excursions in finding the best possible way to the final destination. These are the people repeating the dream over and over and over and over. Their repetition of the vision is done repeatedly to keep it fresh and alive. It keeps things in focus and prepares boundaries to keep the mission on task.
Does your vision articulate a clear path or a blind hope?
Are you circling and being hardheaded…not asking for directions?
Or are you repeating the intended future for the sake of clarity, making sure the mission is clear?
Vacation Bible School was on of my favorite parts of the summer. My Dad was actually thrown out of Vacation Bible School when he was a kid, and I am sure I was close a few times. VBS meant the beginning of summer so I tended to get a little rowdy.
Some people over the last 10 years or so have begun being critical of 20th century evangelical practices. They see certain traditions as having no value, worth and a waste of resources in the 21st century. Many people in ministry today have lists of ministries they think simply aren’t worth it anymore (I admit to having my own at times).
But I would get in the thunderdome with whoever would place VBS on this list. People have different arguments about it. I don’t think any of them are valid. I can’t think of a reason NOT to do VBS.
I love VBS.
When it comes to Vacation Bible School I live by three words: Whatever it takes.
For several years I held the responsibility of being the song leader. The sight of a 300lb man leading kids in singing and motions is a sight to take in. I have gone back in my head and tried to think how many years back I can go and still know the songs and motions.
At St. Paul’s my role has shifted. I help create the environments for the big group meetings, run media and do video. I love it. Kids really dig when they see themselves on a screen, and I am a fan of making these kids happy. This year we built a castle in the sanctuary. I always tell people VBS should be the event in your church were all stops are pulled out. It is the time for your church to shine. It is the best event for your church to show itself off at it’s best.
Here are a few reasons your church should be doing Vacation Bible School:
1. What better way can you introduce kids to Jesus and the story of salvation by a concentrated but approachable week of games, goldfish crackers, songs, stories and fun?
2. It will instantly put your church in communication with families in your area. Some of these won’t be in church and won’t have a relationship with Jesus.
3. Your church will be making itself known in the community as a place of care and a marker of the Kingdom of God. People might walk into a church for the first time to drop their children off and register them. Those 10 minutes might be the icebreaker they need to consider faith in Jesus.
4. VBS is a great way to allow your creative team to flex their muscles and have fun for the week. Your church might not have a 15 ft screen in it’s sanctuary normally (mine doesn’t) and it is a great way to introduce folks into elements of worship and production they would never see.
5. Your congregation will mobilize behind one goal for the week. It is a great opportunity to find new volunteers for children’s ministry, media, greeting and hospitality.
6. VBS is fun. Plain and simple
These are just a few reasons. If you can’t tell, I see VBS as a HUGE opportunity for evangelism in the life of a local church. You never know what seed is being planted in the lives of the people who come into contact with Christians during the week.
Why do you like VBS?
If I had to have any topic of conversation to live in for the rest of my life it would be the idea of culture. We live in a wonderful world steeped in rich diversity, in both environment and people. Culture matters because it makes us who we are. Culture is also an ever changing influence existing across time. This is the reason I see it as a core focus in my writing here at revchadbrooks.com.
I am also really tongue in cheek regarding culture, especially pop culture. The way it tells stories about our life always interests me and can be a great cause of laughter. The connectivity of our world now only heightens this.
Each of us are influenced in the present by both our past experiences and traditions while dreaming and living in our future hope.
So culture matters.
Culture matters in worship
My working definition of contemporary worship* is this: The expression of devotion to Jesus Christ by a particular people in a particular place.
The better our understanding of our culture, the better we will be able to build worship experiences up that reach to the bottom of our heart and soul and cause us to fall deeper in love with Jesus Christ. We will know the needs, concerns, thoughts and questions of the place where God has called us to.
This means we have to know where we are. We have to feel a burden and a call to give witness to Jesus in the space we have been given.
Culture matters in mission
No place better describes the potential role of culture in mission than S. Steve Kang in Many Colored Kingdom, A: Multicultural Dynamics for Spiritual Formation. His writing really helps me understand the power of a faith community in a local culture.
Kang tells us the church has the best power, when in community, to realize the preferred future for the place it has been called to and begin to take steps towards the preferred future. He highlights the writing of Paulo Friere and the idea of groups of people understanding their current present and beginning processes of rewriting and imagining a truly transformative situation. People being intentional culture-shapers are an important commodity.
We are called by God to influence the places we live in the the biggest way. When the people of God are following the Holy Spirit and aware of the culture they are called to great things happen. They are able to shape their ministry in better ways, they are able to identify the people groups they are called to in better ways, they are able to anticipate future ministry in better ways.
The local church is at it’s best when it is guided by the Holy Spirit and understands the culture and context of their local ministry.
*more and more the description “contemporary worship” isn’t adequate enough. But this is for another blog post.