Worship Ministry in the Urban Context

Worship Ministry in the Urban Context

Urban areas are attracting creatives, risk-takers, and entrepreneurs, along with secular and post-Christian young adults. The city is a place where conflicting worldviews converge and where people are looking for the hope, community, and peace that only the gospel of Jesus Christ can provide. What is the task and calling of worship leaders in urban contexts? We propose three key characteristics of worship ministry in the urban environment that nurtures discipleship. 

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Worship Ministry in a Multichurch District: A Conversation with Zachary Payne

Nicholas Zork: I’ve often wondered how pastors of multichurch districts support multiple concurrent worship services. As a pastor of four churches, I imagine that you don’t worship with all of them every Sabbath?

Zachary Payne: [laughs] I do not.

NZ: How are the worship services planned?

ZP: I’ve been solely in charge of the preaching. I schedule myself and elders; and I’ve done a pretty good job of bringing in guest speakers. Being new to the district, I haven’t really rocked the boat with the regard to the rest of the service. But I would like to be more involved in the future.

NZ: What are some things you have in mind?

ZP: Personally, I would like to see each church have a worship committee that I sit on but don’t chair. Right now there’s not a lot of conversation about what we could do differently with the liturgy or the liturgical order.

NZ: There’s usually a tendency for things to simply continue being done the way they’ve been done in the past.

ZP: The worship services are very predictable. If a young person stopped attending and then decided to come back, they’d likely hear the same opening song, see the same people leading, and realize that not much has changed. For some people, that might be a positive thing, but not for everyone.

NZ: I think it would be helpful to have a dialogue with other multichurch district pastors about ways to improve worship ministry in churches when a pastor is not involved in planning every service. I wonder if there might be some way to invest more time training those who plan worship? 

ZP: I think so. We’ve been doing a Friday night vespers every week. It’s been theologically focused, and moving forward I’d like that emphasis to be more explicitly practical—to talk about best practices for putting together a sermon or how to give a Bible study. We could talk out about liturgy and what it means, why we do it the same way throughout the eons, and whether that’s necessary.

NZ: We often think of theology as doctrine. But our ministry practices are embodied theology. Worship is a paradigmatic example. But other practices are also theologically consequential, and we don’t always reflect theologically on them.

ZP: We do get bent out of shape when people do things differently from the way we usually do them, but we often don’t know why we were doing them that way to begin with.

NZ: Change is hard for all of us. But the more we become accustomed to thinking critically about what we do, the less threatening change will be, especially if we believe those making changes are being theologically intentional, too. 

ZP: Another issue in a multichurch district is that I’m not around most of the time and don’t know what’s going on. So, for example, I’ve never heard one of my elders preach. We’re just beginning to discuss the possibility of live-streaming the service where I’m preaching to the other churches in the district. I know there’s some openness to that idea. Then we could focus on one quality worship service per week.

NZ: Would you only stream the preaching?

ZP: We might even stream the whole service.

NZ: I wonder how much of this will become commonplace in the future. Worshippers will have certain experiences mediated through a screen and other interactions in person.

ZP: Those are things we’ve talked about that could become a reality in coming years.

NZ: Thank you for talking. We’d like to take this conversation to a larger group. I look forward to hearing more of your insights in that discussion.

See the Best Practices for Adventist Worship Facebook page for discussion.

In Defense of Celebration

In Defense of Celebration

It says a lot about the ethos of my religious tradition that I often find myself needing to defend the efficacy of fun. It’s not that my upbringing was devoid of laughter, feasts, or simple enjoyment of many things—quite the contrary! But I found that outside my home, carefree celebration was frequently met with the kind of mild suspicion one might have if offered a decadent cake while being assured it was “healthy”—you want to believe it’s good for you, but you can’t quite get there. If you’re like most people, you eat the cake anyway with a side of subtle guilt.

I’d like allay your fear of fun, not only to assuage your guilt but also to commend the tremendous value of celebration—both in general and in the practices of Christian worship.

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By Beholding We Become Changed: Privilege, Diversity, and Inclusion in Worship

By Beholding We Become Changed: Privilege, Diversity, and Inclusion in Worship

In this day and age, we may think of issues concerning racial and/or ethnic distinction as political, thereby meriting no place in church or in discussions of worship. But tonight, I propose that as we craft ourselves as a body of believers, an attention to diversity and inclusion proves crucial to us as Christians.  

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Collective Contribution: Building Up the Church Together in Worship

Collective Contribution: Building Up the Church Together in Worship

In 1 Corinthians 14, the Apostle Paul describes a normative practice of allowing everyone to contribute to collective worship. And despite the challenges that attend such an effort, the rewards are not otherwise achievable. Collective wisdom not only enriches corporate worship, the process of contributing is itself integral to worship practice that builds up the church. So how can we can, with integrity, create space for inclusive contributions by a diversity of worshippers?

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Listening to Millennials and the Implications for Adventist Worship

Listening to Millennials and the Implications for Adventist Worship

I was recently invited to speak at the Center for Secular and Postmodern Studies’ conference, Reaching Millennial Generations, held at Andrews University. In preparation I had the opportunity to interview thirty millennials on their views of the Adventist Church. During the interview, several relevant issues arose relating to worship. 

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Bigger Dreams for 2018

Bigger Dreams for 2018

What if the real reason we don’t follow through on our goals each year isn’t what we often assume? What if it’s not that our objectives are too unrealistic (they probably are)? What if it’s not that we’re imperfect and undisciplined (we definitely are)? What if, instead, it’s because we keep fixing our eyes on aspirations that are, quite frankly, not truly aspirational, aims unworthy of our best efforts and ability to truly hope and dream, goals that are unworthy of us? What if even our worthiest pursuits are simply not grand enough? 

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Beyond Frontier Worship

Beyond Frontier Worship

Despite the many changes and developments in Adventist worship practices over the past century and a half, a basic structure — though often unacknowledged — has persisted. Styles of preaching, prayer and congregational song have evolved. But even the most committed innovators have rarely questioned the tradition’s basic pattern.

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Leave Your Politics at the Church Door?

Leave Your Politics at the Church Door?

Planning worship week to week, something I've long known has recently become very evident: silence in the face of the world's problems is not spiritual or sublime; It’s consent. It’s consent without even the courage of conviction. 

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