Just recently I have read two biographies of two of the men who played an important role in our country's quest for independence: Paul Revere and John Adams. Those men were passionate for establishing a country that allowed governance by the people which gave freedoms to the people. One of those freedoms is the right to worship freely. I am thankful that this country was established with freedoms. I am thankful that throughout our country's history many men and women have fought and many died to maintain these freedoms. My father fought in one of those wars, and thankfully he is alive today so I get to hear his stories.
Emotions were running high yesterday morning, the Sunday before the 4th. I know of three separate occasions where members of the worship staff were confronted by worshipers over the lack of patriotic items in our service. Have we forgotten the reason we gather to worship? (Please continue reading this post because you will see later how we did talk about our country.)
As I walked into church I saw this tweet: @edstetzer: Today we celebrate America, and worship God; please don't confuse the two.
And then last night I saw this one: @mxmarsh: Few things are harder than keeping a church in the South Gospel centered. So many traditions have crept in.
As a worship planning team we know the historical significance of the July 4th holiday, and how we should include this recognition in our services was a great topic of discussion. But when it came down to the final plan we knew our job was not to create a service dripping in patriotism, but one that pointed to and glorified God.
In the past I have planned those services where the focus was totally on the USA and I have watched as people who do not participate in our regular worship services sing with enthusiasm songs about country. Oh to see that passion displayed about the God who gives the ultimate freedom.
On the Sunday before July the 4th we do need to remember the freedom we experience in this country. This is something we should be thankful for, never forget and offer praise to God that we can live here. But here are some other things we need to remember:
- It is no longer a God centered country and we should pray
- It is no longer a place where the majority of people know Christ, therefore we should go
- We should feel embarrassed that we have so much and others do not, therefore we should give
- We should remember the places where the freedom to worship is not in existence, falling on our knees to pray for them
- We should be thankful for the blessings, but never hold on to them as though they are ours, they are not.
As a worship leader it is my job
- to point people to God and encourage passionate worship for who He is and what He has done.
- and calling to care for this country I live in because it is filled with people who are lost.
- to be a radical disciple and develop disciples for Christ who fill this country.
It is not my job, my call or my ministry to plan worship services that include moving us to worship our country.
Time is too short in our worship to make people feel good for the 'red, white and blue.' Every Sunday we need to focus on the cross and the complete story of the gospel.
Here is how we put the service together yesterday that included comments, praise and prayer for our country but more importantly told the story of God and what He did for us through His Son and giving us a chance to respond to that revelation.
Pre-service 3 minute countdown. It was just a flag waving with the countdown clock. Our lighting designer had created a light pattern that displayed red, white, blue and stars across the stage.
Opening Prayer Recognizing God, giving thanks for our country and the freedoms we enjoy and then asking God to help us as Christ followers to be His instruments in a country that is turning its back on Him.
Scripture and Songs *as part of our service we celebrated communion so careful attention was given to hear about God's plan for our redemption *links to the scriptures and songs listed below can be found at this blog post: Preparing for Worship: Communion
Psalm 8: 1,3-6,9 (we have used this often but today it was used because it is quoted in the scriptures that will be read from Hebrews) Immortal Invisible by Laura Story Hebrews 1: 1-4, 8-12 I Exalt Thee by Pete Sanchez
Welcome *intentional mention was made of the 4th of July holiday and what it represents. *instructions were also given for how communion would be observed in the service
Songs, Scripture and Communion All the Earth Will Sing Your Praises by Paul Baloche Hebrews 2: 5-9 The Power of the Cross by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend *communion elements are passed during this song Hebrews 2:10, 14-17 I Corinthians 11:23-26 *these were used as instructions for taking the communion Jesus Messiah by Daniel Carson, Chris Tomilin, Ed Cash and Jesse Reeves
Prayer *prayer was centered on these thoughts: 1) thanking God for the freedoms in our country 2) praying for the countries and believers who do not have these freedoms 3) thanks offered for those who served in our military and 4) that the hearts of the listeners would be opened to hear from God through the sermon.
Sermon Luke 9: 18-27
Song For Your Glory by T. W. Hale and Michael H Smith