For some time we as a congregation have been grappling with the issue of worship. Some of you may feel that we have spent way too much time doing this, yet the importance and complexity of the matter called for a patient and careful approach. Along the way, the great diversity of opinion in our congregation about worship has become increasingly clear. Equally clear is the fact that conversations about worship stir up great passion in some of our people.
Diversity about worship is a good thing. It opens our hearts to experience God’s presence in ways that are both familiar and new to us. Passion is also a good thing. The presence of passion suggests a strong valuing of something that is important to us in the deepest recesses of our soul.
But diversity and passion can also be quite challenging. Diversity stretches us in ways that we sometimes would just as soon avoid. We like what we like, and we don’t a;ways see the need for anything different.
Likewise, passion while helpful, can also be messy. If we’re not careful, our passion comes out with an intensity that overstates our viewpoint beyond what is objectively defensible. Passion can also blind us to the possibility that there may be other valid ways of looking at something other than our own way which can result in being dismissive toward others who see things differently than we do.
Therefore, if diversity is not respected and passion is not brought under control, the outcome can be an “I’m right: you’re wrong” attitude that leads to a contentious atmosphere which threatens unity and robs worship of any real meaning.
It is because of these things that trying to bring a recommendation about worship is challenging. Nevertheless, we on the pastoral staff believe that there is a way forward that can work for us as a congregation if we allow it. Identifying that way forward has come after many hours of prayerful thought and reflection by the pastoral staff on the discernment surveys from the congregation along with wise guidance from the Church Council and the deaconate. We are profoundly grateful for both groups’ support and encouragement for us to provide leadership in this issue.
In trying to discern God’s leading. the following foundational beliefs grounded our thoughts. First, we believe that every member of Shades Crest Baptist Church matters regardless of age, length of membership, family affiliation, or other distinctions. WE further believe that members who hold a minority viewpoint need to be heard and respected along with the majority in an effort to uphold the unity of the body of Christ. We finally believe that there are many ways to properly worship including the diverse ways memebers of Shades Crest worship.
With these beliefs in mind and having reviewed the data taken from the worship discernment questionnaire and having spent time in private reflection, team dialogue, and further reflection, we unanimously recommend the following:
First , we recommend that we continue on our present journey in worship that focuses less on the style and mechanics of the service and more on the heart of the worshiper coming before God in authentic and life-changing ways. Such worship provides the opportunity for everyone to experience joyful yet reverent encounters with God. Each service will draw from the best practices found in many approaches to worship that honor our diversity in respectful and creative ways. We believe this is the right step for us at this time in the history of our church.
We further recommend that we begin exploring the creation of alternative experiences for spiritual enrichment. These experiences would incorporate times of worship. teaching and fellowship in a relaxed atmosphere. Some of these experiences could take place on our campus while others might be held offsite. Scheduling would vary depending on the type of experience that is desired. Our goal is to offer more opportunities to encounter God in addition to what we are doing on Sunday mornings.
In closing we recognize that our recommendations are not groundbreaking or bold in terms of outward form. But in the heart where true worship takes place, we believe our recommendations have the potential of profoundly impacting who we are as a congregation in a positive way. As we unite around a common desire to offer ourselves as living sacrifices before God, we will not only be worshiping in the truest sense of the word, but we will also be transformed into the kind of people through whom God can change the world. To that end may we pray and labor.
Your Pastoral Staff
Below is the link to the results of the Worship Discernment Survey