Worship in the Wesleyan Movement
What is worship?
προσκυνεω (worship) = προσ (toward) + κυνεω (to kiss)
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”
“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever”
Westminster Catechism of 1647
“We believe divine worship is the duty and privilege of man who, in the presence of God, bows in adoration, humility and dedication.”
The Confession of Faith of the
Evangelical United Brethren Church
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A Snapshot from our Wesleyan Heritage: Worship in the United Societies (mid 1700s)
United Societies were described as a “company of [people] having the form and seeking the power of godliness, united in order to pray together, to receive the word of exhortation, and to watch over one another in love, that they may help each other to work out their salvation” (The Book of Discipline of the UMC)
Sound like a typical youth group?
The General Rules for these United Societies required members to use the means of grace, which included:
*public worship of God
*ministry of the Word, either read or expounded
*Supper of the Lord
Worship clearly was important to John Wesley. He encouraged the early Methodists to worship in the following ways:
1) Preaching Service
*focused on preaching, prayer and hymn-singing
*typically at 5 a.m.
2) Love Feast
*a fellowship meal patterned after early Christian practices
*consisted in sharing non-consecrated bread and water and then spontaneous
3) Watch Night/Covenant Services
*a preaching service held on New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day
*focused on confession, affirmation of God’s faithfulness and forgiveness, and
renewal of one’s commitment by the power of God’s grace
AND a steady diet of…
4) Anglican Services
*highly liturgical service
*celebrated Holy Communion
*offered formal prayers of repentance, petition, intercession, and thanksgiving
*provided systematic exposure to whole Scripture
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Looking at the Roots of Wesleyan Worship Helps Us See:
1) an emphasis on proclamation of the Word and Holy Communion
2) the main goals of worship for Wesley were Christian fellowship and growth in grace (sanctification) as opposed to reaching “seekers”
3) Wesley advocated a balanced diet of the “emotional” and the “formal”
4) Wesley values a connection to the historic universal Church
Does Our Worship Reflect a Wesleyan Spirit? Questions to Ponder
*Is our worship more about “being content” than “having content?”
*Is our worship with youth disconnected from “Big Church” (ie. historic worship rooted in Sacraments)?
*Is our worship focused on evangelism or discipleship?
*Does our worship reflect a balance between heart and mind?
*Does our worship build community?
Primer for Postmodernism
The Postmodern Mindset is…
1) skeptical of absolute Truth and promotes spiritual relativism
“I think it’s a mistake to equate postmodernity with relativism in general … I find that few people really believe that all religions or viewpoints are equally valid, even though many people assert this, using these very words, and do so with vehemence. Scratch the paint and what they really mean underneath is this: ‘I am desperately afraid of what happens when people become militant and arrogant about their beliefs and values, because there is only a very fine line between militant and arrogant … and violent.’ Living in a world of terrorism, ethnic cleansing, and racial-ethnic-religious hatred, they feel strong beliefs and values are dangerous. Rather than arguing about the absurdity of their statement (because saying that all religions are equally valid is, no doubt, absurd), we would be wiser to affirm their desire for peace and to encourage them to hold this belief or value in peace … strongly! We may gently be able to show them how Jesus takes this very course in the religious world of his day, and how the cross is a message to the world, saying, ‘It is better to suffer violence for your beliefs than to inflict violence. This is the way of God’s kingdom.’” Brian McLaren
2) hungry for personal encounters with a living God that makes a real difference
“Experiential worship, as opposed to spectator-oriented worship, does not require a large budget or staff. It only requires a good deal of planning and a team which understands the goal, the heart, and vision behind what you do in your worship gatherings. The point is to help people stay focused on Jesus, not on the experience; to offer scripturally based worship and learning, not just trendy tricks and gimmicks.” Dan Kimball
“In my travels, I’ve met a lot of folks from high-intensity worshipping churches who (though they are often embarrassed to admit it) are getting bored and tired. More is not always better … we’re actually out of step with the Holy Spirit if we’re trying to keep everyone at least as excited as they were last week … there is a time and season for everything—rejoicing, repenting, relaxing, celebrating, grieving, questioning, asserting, and more.” Brain McLaren
3) comfortable with means of instantaneous communication but yearns for belonging
“And now let me tell you something. If your groups, if your ministries to teens want to have an impact on the individual beliefs of the students in your group, then make sure your group is an open, reaching, welcoming sort of group, the kind of place where meaningful and lasting friendships can be made. The spiritual hunger we’ve been talking about is often satisfied just by buying into the beliefs of the group they feel they belong to.” Jon Middendorf
Synthesis of Wesley, Postmodernism and Worship with Youth
Worship should not simply reflect what youth want! Worship should share the biblical, historic Story of what God has done, is doing, and promises to do so that youth can identify with it and say, “this is our story.”
Worship should not focus on evangelism! Worship should form and sustain youth as disciples so that faith makes a real difference (btw, visitors who eavesdrop on authentic Christian community come back because they are fascinated and intrigued…not because they are entertained or pandered to).
Worship should not be a passive or “cheesy” experience! Worship should be experiential, participatory and image-rich (ie. ritual, mystical, and especially Sacramental).
Worship should not encourage comfortable anonymity! Worship should build accountable community for discipleship.
Does Our Worship Reflect a Wesleyan and Postmodern Spirit? Ask Yourself
*Is our worship image-rich and ritual-rich?
*Are the youth and adult leaders in worship sensitive to the postmodern mindset?
*Does our worship rely on gimmicks or on finding oneself in God’s Story?
*Does our worship incorporate the voices and the gifts of youth?
*Is our worship all hype or grounded in the historic Christian faith?
*Does our worship focus on evangelism or discipleship?
*Does our worship have a sense of mystery?
*Do people develop relationships in and through worship?