Dear GCI Family and Friends,
I was introduced to Marva Dawn as an author early on in my post-graduate work. Her book Unnecessary Pastor, which she co-wrote with Eugene Peterson, resonated as she opened my mind to the power of worship and how singing our faith unites us relationally to the heart and mind of Christ. Her approach is thoughtful, spiritual, and valuable to the church.
In another book, Reaching Out without Dumbing Down, Marva proclaims that our churches aren’t bombarded by hostile outsiders, and the source of our struggles is not wrath and hostility, rather, we custodians of the church (pastors, ministry leaders, and congregants) are confronted by apathy, reticence, and intellectual feebleness. Let’s look at these three.
Apathy means a “don’t care” attitude. Practically speaking, when has anyone critically evaluated how we are doing as a worshipping church? Have we asked anyone to evaluate us, or have we gotten into a routine that is acceptable, and in which we’ve grown comfortable? Can we be more worshipful and better at pointing the worshippers to Jesus? What would happen if this was an ongoing conversation happening with worship leaders and team members who are organizing our weekly worship services? What if the pastor involved herself in these conversations as well? If this isn’t happening, the debilitating state of ritual and routine can easily become the norm.
Over the weeks, months and decades we have been “doing church,” have we allowed worship to become repetitive and hollow? Marva expresses that we often make this worse because of our present-day need for efficiency: How do we do what we do faster and effectively so we can get back to the other activities vying for our time and attention? This is one of the reasons we are focusing on the Hope Avenue (venue) this year in Equipper. It is the responsibility/opportunity of the church to make worship meaningful for any and all who step foot into our sanctuaries. It is easy to slip into apathetic tendencies and give the impression that Jesus is not the center of our worship. May the Spirit always stir us out of complacency.
Reticence means a reluctance to speak up. We don’t give constructive criticism; we hold back from getting involved. I have attended a few of our GCI churches where I have been surveyed with a list of questions about my worship experience, or directly asked by one of the pastoral leaders. I love this openness with a willingness to receive feedback and a desire to expand their expressions of worship. Will we become a church that gets past our hesitancy and seeks to make Jesus more fully known in our worship services? May I suggest you invite a friend or coworker to church and ask for an evaluation. Invite your Regional Director to come evaluate the worship service. His schedule may not allow a visit, but he can certainly recommend someone to help.
Intellectual feebleness is not a huge obstacle for GCI folk. Our journey into the depth of “Who God is” has expanded our understanding and awareness of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The opportunity for us is to place the emphasis and attention on the Triune God as we come together in corporate worship, and not fall back into making it about us (e.g., “This is my favorite song,” “These are the activities going on in my life,” etc.).
Marva isn’t simply a disrupter to the church for the sake of disruption. Her motivation is to help the church plumb and discover the depths of knowing God in his fullness and for the church to be healthy in our representation of the living Jesus. I recommend her book to our pastors and worship leaders — not merely as an educational exercise, but as an opportunity to be inspired for greater creativity and fresh expressions of worship.
As we have just experienced the grandeur of Advent and Christmas, I challenge you to continue in the seasonal cycle of the calendar and make worship in your congregation more meaningful than ever. Let’s put Christ front and center of all our celebrations.
Making Him Known,
P.S. As we begin the new year of 2020, it is my privilege to inform you that not only will we focus on the Hope Avenue, but we will also be focusing on our GCI Worship Calendar. Our vision remains Healthy Church, but doesn’t the number of the year 20/20 just scream for clarity of sight? We will methodically dig deeper and wider into the many aspects of the Hope Avenue, and this will crescendo with our Denominational Celebration in July. We are serious about making Jesus the center of the center and fully known in our quest for Healthy Church.
Correction notice: When first published, we stated that the introductory book by Marva Dawn was entitled Worship Evangelism. However, it was brought to our attention that the book referenced is actually Unnecessary Pastor, which she co-wrote with Eugene Peterson.