Hallelujah! Praise God in his holy house of worship, praise him under the open skies; Praise him for his acts of power, praise him for his magnificent greatness...Let every living, breathing creature praise God! (Portions of Psalm 150 – The Message Translation)
When I was a child, my father and another man sang a duet of the song "How Great Thou Art." The other gentleman did what nobody had ever done in worship before - He played the guitar! However, I don't ever remember anyone complaining about it after the service, and I can remember them singing this song more than once.
As I grew older in that church, I discovered there were other ways in which "worship wars" broke out. Never, however, did I ever hear of someone complaining about these two men singing in church being accompanied by a...guitar! And while these two active and faithful men in the congregation offered up their praises to God in by singing one of the "standard hymns of the faith," no one said a word of displeasure. Of course, when the young pastor, fresh out of seminary, came to our struggling inner city congregation because we had lost so many members we couldn't afford a full-time pastor, people complained about his playing the guitar during worship! Not only that, but many more "worship wars" took place while he was there. Some did not like his hair length, his style of preaching, his "radical" ways of doing and being church. It was not long before he, my family, and everyone else in that congregation, left what had been my church home for almost all of my fifteen years of life. I can remember spending hour upon hour with my father and others rebuilding the church building after it had burned to the ground. I witnessed first-hand what happens when God's people react as a community of faith. I witnessed what was good about this congregation. I was involved with a group of people who wanted to praise God and proclaim, "How great is our God!"
But I also saw what happens when a church forgets that their main focus in coming together in worship is to praise God. I never could understand why our church did not serve the needs of this quickly changing community. It seemed like an "us vs. them" scenario each week when we came to worship because we would discover another broken window from the week before by kids who felt like outsiders. As well, the kids from the church would go to the store across the street to buy candy after church and run into kids from the neighborhood who seemed "scary" to us. We don't know why, but that is what the adults told us anyway. "Stay away from those scary kids. If only, this small neighborhood church could have remembered why we came to worship in that building, and why we chose to be in that neighborhood supposedly because Jesus reminded us to "love our neighbor." Yeah, we kind of forgot that - So busy thinking about "going" to church instead of being the church.
Today, when I hear or sing the hymn, "How Great Thou Art," I can still see my father and the other man singing and playing the guitar, and I am reminded of Psalm 150 and what we are supposed to be doing in worship. Singing "Hallelujahs" and praising God with every breath of my being because worship is not about us, but about God.
Pastor Steve Welker
Oct. 22 — Jesus and the "Gotcha" Question — Matthew 22:15-22
When our emotions are running high, it's easy to get hooked and drawn into arguments that resolve nothing and help no one. Attempting to model Jesus is a way of maturing spiritually.
Oct. 29 — Should the Sign on Our Door Say "Only?" — 1Thessalonians 2:1-8 (The Message Translation)
The 500th anniversary of Martin Luther tacked his 95 "talking points" on a door of the castle church in Wittenburg is being celebrated by various denominations that call themselves "Protestant." So how does the Apostle Paul help us understand Luther's reason for stating his faith in such a revolutionary way? For both, there is only one way.