They Should Have Called It, “Divine Service for Dummies”

They Should Have Called It, “Divine Service for Dummies”

The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod has seen enough of the worship wars. One side believes there is only one way to “do church,” and that is orderly and formal. The other side believes that there is a freedom to do worship. There will never be a uniting of these two camps.

In my pastorate, I’ve become one that sits somewhere in the middle of both sides, where orderliness is necessary while allowing freedom to sing and “do church” a little less formally. In fact, most pastors and churches fall into this camp.

Below is an excellent video from Gottesdient Online explaining a more orderly and formal Divine Service. My favorite line is how they describe the celebrant as he turns to face the congregation before the corporate confession and absolution:

“His words are measured and clear. He does not rush.”

I’m just saying that we here on the coast don’t rush. It just seems like we’re rushing because we usually just talk very fast.

Church Meetings

Church Meetings

I believe if you ask a pastor what is the most important part of their ministry, the word “meetings” will not make the list.

Meetings are those things pastors and laity put up with because church constitutions mandate them to be held. Whether they are strictly or loosely formal, meetings can get bogged down in minutia. It is the minutia that gives meetings a bad name.

Today, my congregation held their monthly Voters’ Meeting – think church council meeting. It went well as no major divisions came up. But as I’ve written before, sometimes we worry and focus on issues that have very little to do with the ministry of the church. And it is not just St. Matthew’s, but every church has these moments.

But I am coming to believe that is what these Voters’ meetings are supposed to be about. They are purposefully the arena in which everything slows down. They focus on the money and the budget. They ponder the actions of the committees. They plan future capital spending.

In effect, they are like the US Senate, a body that slows every point of legislation down to make sure things are done properly.

While Voters’ Meetings slow things down, our Vision Team is spending time working on the ministry of the church. Their attitude is simple: “It’s Jesus first.”

  • We wanted to upgrade our worship experience, adding visual and audio – they did it.
  • We want to raise money for our Veteran’s ministry – they’re in the middle of planning our first beefsteak dinner.
  • We want to make a splash at our borough’s National Night Out to tell the story of the Gospel – they’ve outlined a good plan for that night.
  • We want to make our Prayer Team more effective – they’re doing it.
  • We wanted to make the back of the church more inviting by installing better lighting – they made sure it got done.
  • We wanted to make our doors nicer by painting them – they got it done.
  • We wanted to upgrade our website and mobile experience – they got it done.

In the fall, our Voters’ meetings are going to go through a little bit of a reformation. We’re going to focus on specific church issues each month. This will minimize the time we spend talking about some issues but will maximize the effectiveness of our time together and focus our work on building St. Matthew’s for the future. Combining with the work of the Vision Team, St. Matthew’s is set on a good foundation for the future.

The Happy Church vs. The Broken Church

The Happy Church vs. The Broken Church

What do you say to someone who hasn’t come to church in a while?

“Nice to see you,” is one of the more traditional responses that is usually followed up with remarks about the person’s lack of church attendance, unless the phrase is spoken snarkily, which is almost all of the time.

I think the story of the Prodigal Son is important when assessing one’s in-church ‘hellos’ to those who haven’t been in church for a while. Ask yourself: Who would you rather be? The father who is excited that his son has returned home or the brother who isn’t thrilled that his brother is home?

If you choose the brother, then you’re the snarky one. You are the one who speaks with acid and anger on your tongue. “Oh, it’s great to see you! Your kids have grown since the last time you were here!”

If you choose the father, then you are what Your Lord wants – one who is happy that someone has come home. You’re the one who makes things comfortable for the returning friend. Smiles abound rather than snark. You will be the one who sends a card to the family saying how it was wonderful to be with them in worship. And you’ll tell them that you are praying for them.

The happy church follows the path laid out by the father. The broken church follows the path of the brother.

Six Attitudes That Kill Evangelism in the Church: Thom Rainer

Six Attitudes That Kill Evangelism in the Church: Thom Rainer

The decline in evangelism in our churches comes down to just a few key issues. Too many believers see evangelism as the responsibility of someone else. Closely related to that issue is the matter of blame. It’s the pastor’s fault. It’s the church members’ fault. It’s the denomination’s fault.

I have seen churches make dramatic turnarounds when just one person decided to be radically obedient to the Great Commission.

Thom Rainer, June 5th – thomrainer.com

Read the entire article on Thom Rainer’s website here.

 

 

Writing.

Writing.

My inability to write regularly has been a personal issue I’ve struggled with over the past couple of years. Whether it is just working too much or worrying about issues impacting me or others, my writing has taken a backseat. While the writing nudge nags me every now and then, I’ve just ignored it and worked on other things.

The one important take away from high school English class was the encouragement by Mrs. Stein to write. She always said that like anything else in life, if you don’t write regularly, you lose how to do it well. Sad to say, but I’ve become the one who has lost the ability to write well.

OK. I do write sermons each week that require me to put together sentences on a computer screen. However, my type of sermon writing has evolved over the years where I am not crafting paragraphs of tightly-knit ideas that flow one after another. Today, I write in thematic blocks.

This type of writing can be described as putting together two or three points and writing an outline for each position, eliminating sentence structure and grammar, and hoping that in the end, it all makes sense during worship.

Other than that, my writing has been hit and miss.

One day I have the motivation to write all day long. The next day, I hate the keyboard and wonder why in the world I ever purchased a Windows computer.

I can blame my lack of motivation on working too hard, worrying too much, and being sick for a while. All of those excuses mask the actual reality of why I haven’t written as much: I am not writing for myself.

See, when I was writing regularly, no matter where I wrote – in a paper journal, online, or in church publications – I wasn’t doing it for anyone but me. It was the craft of writing that motivated me, driving me every day to a tell a story. Writing this way was fun. It made me want to write more and more. As I wrote, I learned ways of putting sentences together that were more impactful. My tendency to write passively was overcome. I focused more on the how I wrote to make it mean something to people who would read it.

Somewhere along the way, the need to write about the church began draining me of my motivation to write. I wanted to make my blog posts about the needs of the Christian Church or of St. Matthew’s. And when that happened, I started worrying about the state of my church, the LCMS, and the entirety of Christendom. When all the news about the Church is sad, why in the world would I want to write about that all the time? Even when good things happened, the writing became a chore.

And when writing becomes a ‘chore,’ it is not fun anymore.

So I stopped writing regularly. I had starts and stops during the past couple of years, even once being super-motivated to start writing over the course of a week. But the chore-ness became evident. I was writing not for me and the craft, but so others could read it.

When I am writing for me, what I type is more hopeful and joyous. I have a better outlook on just about everything. When I force myself to write for others, it pains my fingers as I type.

And thus, I prayed.

I prayed over and over to the Lord above, asking with tears in my heart for the love of writing to come back with a direction to help the people of St. Matthew’s see that hope in life through the words I type. For a while, I thought that God’s answer was “No” since I haven’t wanted to write. And then last Monday, Memorial Day, came and I sat down and described my day – from serving with the New Milford Fire Department at their Memorial Services in town to the Veggie Bullet a friend gave me because she hates vegetables. While my writing that day was kind of terrible, I smiled because I wrote and felt good.

I wrote for myself again.

As the week went by, I found myself writing more, cleaning up my lack-of-sentence structure to where sentences were crafted that would make Mrs. Stein happy. OK, maybe they wouldn’t make my late-English teacher ‘happy, but she wouldn’t laugh at me. They would probably make my first-year college professor happy, but he was a terrible professor who mailed it in that year because he was going on sabbatical the coming summer.

Can I guarantee I’ll write every day on the blog? No. But I can say that I have a kind of wanting to write again in my mind. And maybe in my heart.

It’s Monday. It’s cloudy and damp outside. But the light of Christ always shines through the darkness!