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Saturday, March 07, 2009
ON EARTH as it is in heaven: Practical Tip of the Week
We don't much print bulletins anymore in our worship at the seminary but we do pay close attention to the order or framework of the service.  Good design requires careful stewardship of the movement and flow of the worship and how the various elements work together to focus intention and sharpen attention. 

There is an ancient pattern or order to worship moving us through four large movements.  

Here's how we frame it:

The Spirit gathers us.
The Word addresses us.
The Father welcomes our response. (or welcomes us to his Table)
The Son sends us out with commission.

Note who gets the verbs here. As you plan worship, think about it from this perspective. What kind of things does the Spirit do to gather us? How does God want to address us through the Word? What kind of response might the Father welcome in light of the Word? What would it look like in our service for the Son to commission us and send us out? 

It might lead to a quite different plan than if we ask these questions:  How do we want to begin the worship? What is the theme of the pastor's sermon? What do we want people to do or to walk away with or apply to their lives? How do we end the service and transition to the next thing? 

We'll unpack these questions in more detail in coming posts.  In the meantime, I welcome your thoughts.


posted by John David Walt | at 3/07/2009 03:01:00 AM



Blogger Tom 1st said...

I'm new to this kind of discussion, so this might be a stupid question. But I've been wondering since yesterday if these events might happen in a different order.

That is, might we participate in the mission/sending first, then be gathered by the Spirit?

I'm thinking here of a book I read last year by Brad Kallenberg called "Live to Tell." He talked about inviting people to participate in the churches mission fosters an awareness of the conceptual language of Christianity and the invertedness of its ethic. Then, once the person is aware of these things, she is able to fully understand what is happenening when she is gathered by the Spirit, spoken to the the word, and invited to respond.

So, I guess the two questions I have are: 1. Is the order of these 4 events set in stone? (I ask that realizing that the response can never be first.) And 2. Is there a cyclical nature about these things that allows #4 (sending) to lead to number #1 (gathering.

Hopefully that makes some kind of sense.

1:09 PM EST  
Blogger Kendra said...

JD ~ Will you later get into where the "ancient pattern" comes from? If not, could you give some examples of where you observed the pattern in action?

I'm reading "The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers" by Vogler. The book is one used in the field of screenwriting, but has been built by a lot of research from how people told/tell stories in many cultures. So many things outside of the service (movie) itself can help to incorporate people into the story. Hollywood isn't coming up with anything new - but they sure do influence well. We as leaders should understand even better how to influence and direct people!

The process y'all follow reminded me of that - using process to help focus attention in a particular direction.

4:49 PM EST  
Blogger John David Walt said...

Kendra-- more to come in response to your questions. i like the line you are on with respect to narrative.

Tom-- i would need more context on the kallenberg book to make a helpful comment.

with respect to whether these elements are fixed in stone-- not sure how to respond other than to point to movements like the Exodus. As we will discuss in an upcoming post-- these four movements are not prescriptive but descriptive. they come from observation of how God works and moves in Scripture.

i have a hard time seeing mission/sending as the first part of the pattern. I do agree with you, though, that it is the last movement of worship that ultimately bridges us back into the first movement. As you say-- Sending leads to Gathering. More precisely, we could speak of the rhythm of gathering and scattering and gathering and scattering. Each time the people gather, there should be more experiential understanding of the conceptual language of the faith. consequently, each time the people scatter there should be a deep internal awareness of the inverted ethic of the faith issuing forth in a passionate activism.

10:26 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matt P

Hey J.D.

My only small quibble (which I have a feeling you would agree with) is that what you describe seems to segment the trinity into different parts of worship. Example: From the first part. The spirit cannot gather us without the mediation of the son at the invitation of the Father. So it seems that worship is always a trinitarian movement and not just one person of the trinity. (Though for pragmatic purposes I think what you lay out IS helpful).

Also on your question "What kind of response might the Father welcome in light of the Word?" It seems like it's a very subjective question that would slip back into the overly pragmatic application that you're wanting to avoid.

I saw a pastor on TV today give an invocation before a NASCAR race. Now that's what I call placing people's lives into God's hands. :-)

11:35 PM EDT  
Blogger John David Walt said...

Thanks Matt P-- you are exactly right. I feared this way of splitting the Trinity could lend itself toward a type of the heresy known as modalism. i'm not sure if doing it this way is worth the risk or not. I do think it is helpful at one level though.

on the response issue--- on the one hand i agree with you in the subjective nature of this question about how might the Father welcome response. On the other hand, worship leadership calls for the practice of discernment at many levels. On yet another hand-- we know the range of responses the Father Welcomes to his Word--- confession, repentance, thanksgiving, adoration, intercession, eating and drinking at the table, celebration, and so forth. I guess I am asking the question about how might we discern from among this range of response in a particular setting.

Beyond these kinds of responses which are quite biblically grounded, we run the risk of getting into novelty on the one end and manipulation on the other.

thanks for your comment and for pushing the conversation.

5:14 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the response JD.

Yes, I would totally agree if we allow scripture to guide what appropriate responses there are, then the question is a very good one to ask. Even more so as it involves preparing a sermon.


Matt P

9:51 PM EDT  

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