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My Dream for Sunday Mornings

Park Plaza 2012-01 5 - Version 2 It has been my experience that many churches enjoy outstanding preaching while their singing and worship leaves much to be desired. Even though we prioritize, expect and reward quality preaching, our Sunday morning assemblies do not have to be an “either-or” proposition. After all, assemblies should be transforming encounters, as described in the book, “A Gathered People.”

Park Plaza is extremely blessed to have outstanding and convicting preaching, as Mitch Wilburn consistently and boldly delivers the truth in love. Since it is my responsibility to plan our worship assemblies, I have chosen to seek at least two priorities for the Park Plaza family. As I dream of the potential of our assemblies, I’m drawn to these two priorities: We need to host gatherings of vibrant celebration. We should also become a welcome haven, known to be a genuine, family reunion.

When I place celebration at the top of the list, I am in no way discounting the highly diverse modes of worship which encompass tears, laments, silence, meditation and other aspects of human emotion. We can (and should) embrace God through such diversity. Yet, regular assemblies tend to gravitate toward one primary description or emphasis. This is only normal. The question is, as you engage in honest evaluation, what is the primary characteristic of your gathering?

The resurrection compels us to celebrate. Those of us who are followers of The Way have an unswerving faith in the resurrection of our Lord, as well as the promise of our own resurrection. Minus this belief, our faith is vain. This truth delivers profound hope, along with an unparalleled reason to celebrate! A spirit of celebration within our gatherings begins with the worship leader, who plans and sets the tone for the entire assembly.

People are drawn to celebrations. A few days ago, thousands upon thousands gathered at Times Square in New York City to celebrate the coming of a new year. We inhibit evangelism when we squelch emotion and stifle joy, choosing instead to “go through the motions” of a fixed check-list, primarily out of duty alone. Celebration, on the other hand, will draw people to our Lord, as well as refresh our hearts like nothing else.

In addition to envisioning the assembly as a celebration, it is my desire to restore the “family atmosphere” of our gatherings. In my opinion, our rigid formalities and strict protocols hamper efforts to create a loving, family-atmosphere. Orchestrated procedures, though helpful, can easily become the dominant focus. People seek a place to belong. Everyone needs relationships. Transparency, testimony and sharing is essential to our development. We are not a cold organization, but rather a living organism. Our assemblies should be marvelous family reunions, overflowing with the love of brothers and sisters.

It breaks my heart to see countless churches regularly host what could be described as anything but a celebration. And when it comes to family atmosphere, most churches become entangled in procedures and process, de-emphasizing the precious body of Christ (knowing that “we” are the body of Christ).

As I dream about Park Plaza’s future (this year we celebrate our 50th anniversary), the two priorities I have chosen (celebration and family reunion) do not constitute an exhaustive list by any means. This is simply my vision of raising the bar for a worship experience that compares with the quality of the preaching. Mitch Wilburn’s passionate sermons are second to none, challenging us through his life and messages toward love and good works. How grateful we should be for our pulpit ministers who serve with commitment and excellence. It is my prayer that worship leaders, beginning with myself, will aspire to lead the assemblies of God’s people with the same preparation and passion of countless preachers of the word.

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Question for Discussion:

Congregations are all different, exhibiting different strengths and weaknesses. If you had to narrow your own “wish list” to only two priorities (for your assemblies), what two would you choose?

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15 Comments for “My Dream for Sunday Mornings”

  1. Keith, I love the priorities you have chosen, and I will revel our celebrations together at Park this year. My two priorities, if I had to narrow it down would be:
    1) Celebration (I know you already chose it), because as you’ve mentioned, the resurrection and the empty tomb gives us hope, but also because of the incredible gift of adoption we receive through His resurrection.
    2) Singing His Word. I know we already sing “scripture” songs. There are so many more that we can sing, “And This Is Life”, “You Are the Christ”, and many others that congregations may not have been able to handle once, but certainly can now.

    • Monte, you have touched on another subject that is dear to my heart. I cannot tell you how many times people have told me that they have learned, recalled and memorized Scripture via Scripture songs. We are recording our sixth Praise & Harmony CD for congregations this year, and it will also include many Scripture songs. Thanks for your reminder of how important this is.

  2. How do you convince churches they aren’t as “vibrant” as they think they are, especially the older generations?

  3. Tim, I have found that most churches recognize the fact that they lack enthusiasm. The problem arises from the fact that they have adjusted to, and are happy with maintaining the status quo; they possess no desire for change.

    In some cases, it’s not until they witness an exodus of members until they seriously consider upgrading the quality and relevancy of their approach.

    People are drawn to enthusiasm. It’s not limited by age. You can sing hymns that were written centuries ago with unbridled joy. The challenge lies in developing leaders to lead with such passion; and secondly, the elders need to educate the church to expect and participate in the such a manner for God’s glory.

    So to answer your question, churches need to experience what their worship “can” be, in order to be convinced of their potential. Perhaps that is one of the most important byproducts of our Praise & Harmony Workshops. Churches catch a glimpse of their very own (often dormant) potential and say to themselves, “We can do this!”

  4. Keith – I very much can appreciate your dreams and goals and I must say we been able to glimpse the “we can do this!” attitude from some but there is still an attitude of ‘not too much’. We seem to be so ingrained in and attached to our models of worship that pushing the boundaries is accepted but certainly don’t break them down! It seems to be a delicate balance.

    The growth we have experienced in worship has been wonderful, but routine still abounds and it’s now become an irritation to me. I too want to have a vibrant, uplifting, “celebratory” worship. I’m just not sure how best to move there and get out of the current structured environment.

  5. Celebration is a good thing to focus on. Many times we focus more on lamenting to God than rejoicing in what He has already done.
    I also consider singing songs that address God directly in worshipping Him, on top of scripture songs. Songs like Lord I lift your name on high, Jesus lamb of God etc.

    • It is very appropriate for us to take our burdens to the Lord and cry out in our distress; even through worship. However, we have a major problem if our worship is void of celebration.

  6. Keith, Human nature in us says doing things three times in a row the same way deems it the way it must be. Of course constant change leaves us feeling like we are in a rocking boat. The beauty we have at Park Plaza is that you accommodate the family. Some prefer the old songs; some the new. Even some of the old songs are celebratory. There is healthy tension in a worship service that touches multiple likes. I like that you take into consideration the desires of our diverse group. It is what makes us unique. All one style is not good regardless of the direction you are going. Love you, brother.

    • Thank you for those kind words, Donna. We celebrate our diversity at Park Plaza, realizing there are so many different preferences represented. We strive to honor everyone in the body and respect them. As we become more like Christ, we will “defer” our preferences to that of others as we mimic our Lord’s attitude (which was in the interest of others.) As we mature with that attitude, the family atmosphere becomes even more mutually edifying! Our music should reflect the diversity of the church.

  7. Keith, we have that vibrant, celebatory, loving family oriented congregation! We are one big happy family. Vibrant and active youth group who conducts evening worship once a month and sing songs of their age group and also in worship. Singing is a blessing we learned when God sent us a remarkable songleader, Joe Bedwell, You may know him, he now resides in Columbia, Tn. He and his family lived in Macon, Ga. several years before moving to Tn. I refer to him as my Ray Walker! We celebrate a lot of occasions, not in worship, as senior citizens birthday, ice cream suppers, most any occasion to gather together and eat, which we do a LOT of! We were not always like this, it took lots of work and love over the years. We also have lots of prayer services, sometimes lasting 24 hrs!! We have a minister sounds much like yours! He is so loved and has been here 20 years!! If you are ever in Macon, come visit Thomaston Rd. CoC! Love your ideas, hope you see fruition!!

    • You are so blessed, Bobby. Others should be inspired by your comment, “We were not always like this, it took lots of work and love over the years.” I see this potential in every church we visit – – but am saddened when they have no desire to aspire to that goal. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Keith – I admire your drive to bring congregations into new ways and levels of worship. When you visited ours I was inspired more than I thought possible. I wasn’t raised Church of Christ, I was raised Baptist, which tends to be a completely different worship experience and I’ve always felt lacking in congregational worship. I think I let the differences taint the enthusiasm I’d always had to sing! I took your lessons and have applied them to the children’s chorus I work with and I think they are paying off already. Mostly, I simply strive, to not let anyone or anything steal my enthusiasm. I think that is one thing that would bring a congregation into celebration is to have even just a few congregants who are not afraid or shy about being joyful with their voice. I know since I’ve started simply being more “me” with the children, they have are more comfortable trying out new things and having fun learning some very challenging music for them.

    • That’s encouraging to hear, Anna. If we can’t get excited about the Good News, we are in trouble. Glad you are inspiring the next generation!

  9. Keith, thanks for sharing. These same two priorities have been emerging with our leaders and worship team and it has me very excited about the future. Looking forward to having you with us in Springdale in April.

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