Renewing Our Worship: Authenticity

If you read the literature on reaching Postmodern people and young people, you’ll find a huge emphasis on “authenticity” in our worship. If you read older material on worship, you’ll find that “authenticity” is not a new concept. It’s just begun to receive a much greater emphasis because those outside the church have come to value authenticity so very much.

The first few times I ran into the word, I was perplexed as to its meaning in this context. I mean, an “authentic” Rembrandt is a painting by Rembrandt that is not a forgery. And so I took “authentic” to mean “not fake.” But no one has ever argued for fake worship or fake Christianity. I knew that those bandying the word about had something deeper in mind, but I struggled to understand what was being said.

Finally, I figured it out, not from church growth literature but from two stories I’ve been told. Continue reading


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Renewing Our Worship: Uniformity

I’m an elder at a 700-member congregation. I fully realize that many of my suggestions are impractical for a small church. A congregation of 50 isn’t likely to need or want an 8-person praise team or to worry about its sound board operations. But I’m not trying to conjure a new, uniform pattern for our congregations to follow.

In fact, my aim is quite the opposite. I think our churches need to be filled with a rich variety of worship styles and experiences. And I think we need to share ideas, successes, and failures. We need to learn from one another and build on one another.

But not to one day achieve uniformity — which is simply not the goal. What works in Seattle isn’t likely to work in Lubbock. For matter, what works in west Tuscaloosa just might not work in north Tuscaloosa. What works in a predominantly urban professional church may not work in a rural, blue collar church. What works in a largely black congregation may not work in a predominantly white congregation. Continue reading

If Jay Wrote on Jay’s Facebook Wall

I have a Facebook account. And sometimes I correspond using Facebook — although it seems much less efficient than old-fashioned email to me. (Did I just type “old-fashioned email”? Oh, wow.)

But I don’t write on my “Wall.”

For those readers who are hopelessly out of touch, the “Wall” is a Facebook feature where you tell all your friends simultaneously what you’re doing right now. It’s always third-person, present participle: “Jay is going to the grocery store to buy bananas.” And the posts are generally about that interesting. And as my life is more boring than most (“Jay is typing yet another blog post.”), I don’t bother.

Nonetheless, there is a multi-million person market for knowing who is going to the grocery store and when. It must be a generational thing. And I have some young-generation readers. So I thought, what would today look like if I had time and energy to write on my Wall? Continue reading

Renewing Our Worship: Contemporary Christian Music and the Apocalypse

We have members of my congregation who are firmly persuaded that contemporary Christian music is a sign of the Apocalypse — rather like sword, famine, plague, and wild beasts. It’s just one more way for people to suffer.

And so, I thought I’d take a look at the actual Apocalypse and see what it actually says about contemporary Christian music. I mean, people think Revelation predicts World War II, Obama’s election, and global warming. Surely it speaks to contemporary Christian music!

Actually, the Revelation says quite a lot about worship. After all, it treats us to several scenes of worship as it takes place in heaven — which surely is worship done right! (I considered the instrumental music argument from Revelation a while back). And so I figure we can learn quite a lot about worship from the Apocalyse. Continue reading

Faith Lessons by Ray Vander Laan: Total Commitment

The lessons takes place at Caesarea, in the Plain of Sharon, on the Mediterranean.

Herod enjoyed building things that defied nature. At Caesarea, he built into the Mediterranean. He built Roman baths, hot, cold, and lukewarm. His palace had a porch that extended into the sea so visitors could visit the palace directly from a ship.

About 40 BC Herod, governor of Galilee, was appointed king of Judea by the Romans. They wanted a buffer against Parthians and Idumeans to the south. They wanted ROman culture. And they wanted the trade routes protected. But Herod lacked a major sea port, which was needed to facilitate the entry of Roman soldiers, as well as trade. And so he built Caesarea. Continue reading