February 13, 2012

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What Does the Visual Layout of Our Worship Service Say? Children have a way of making you see things differently. We were flipping through the channels on a snowy Saturday when we came across a Coldplay concert. We were mesmerized. It was an open-air show, with tens of thousands of people lifting their hands and singing at the top of their lungs. My five year old daughter, Norah, turned to me and asked, "Dad, are they worshipping?" It's a good question, isn't it? Had my children grown up attending rock concerts instead of church, they may have one day seen a large arena worship event and asked about the worship band, "Dad, are they entertaining?" The merits and concerns of the many parallels between rock shows and modern worship services have been discussed at length in many other places, so I won't attempt to tackle the subject as a whole here. For now, I just want to raise a question about the impact of our how our worship services appear. To put it simply: What does the visual layout of our worship service say-- about God and about us? In both a rock concert and a modern worship service, the band takes center stage. While many churches have done away with fancy pulpits (which once were away of demonstrating the centrality of the Scriptures) and ornate altar tables (which once were a way of making Christ's body and blood the centerpiece), most of our modern worship environments feature a drumset or a stack of amplifiers quite prominently. Nothing "wrong" with this. But let's think for a moment about what it says: - It says the musical presentation or performance dictates the layout of the stage. - It says the worship leader must be seen by the people in order to lead them. - It says that the people need a...
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What is Ash Wednesday? Why Observe Lent? Why Should I Care About the Church Calendar? I'm not in love with all things old. I don't think then is better than now. I'm not trying to get back to how things were. My journey in learning about the liturgy and the liturgical year is not about nostalgia; it's about spiritual formation. The people who wrote some of the best liturgical prayers-- from John Chrysostom (The Eastern Orthodox's "Divine Liturgy") in the 4th century to Thomas Cranmer in the 17th century (Anglican Book of Common Prayer)-- were passionate followers of Christ and diligent scholars of the Scriptures and of theology. When the seasons of the church calendar-- or the "Christian Year" or the "liturgical year"-- developed, it developed as way to aid in the spiritual formation of those who sought to follow Christ. Easter was the first church-wide event to commerate. (One could say the first Christians began celebrating the resurrection the very next Sunday after Christ's ascension as a "mini-Easter.") Lent was the earliest actual season to develop and be adopted by the church world-wide. It became a common Christian practice in AD 330, shortly after Christianity had been legalized in AD 313 at the Edict of Milan. The other seasons of the Church year (like Pentecost, Advent and Christmas) took shape later. By the High Middle Ages, the Church Year was fully developed, complete with special feast days for certain saints. But why? Why was this developed? Why would anyone today practice these things? To say it simply, the liturgical year was developed as a way to help the spiritual formation of Christians. How does it do that? Two main ways: 1. It Centers Us On Christ As Christianity spread, many of the Church's members (and for a time in the early Middle Ages, many of its clergy!) were illiterate and ignorant of the Scriptures...

Glenn Packiam

Lead Pastor, new life DOWNTOWN, New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Author and songwriter.

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