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March 29, 2005


Luke Renner

It's an age old reason not to try.

Consider for one moment what it is that I'm up against. How in God's pretty name can I even dream of making a noteable dent in a place like Haiti. On this Earth, it is one of the grand, hopeless causes. But I had to determinine that it isn't about results or evidence. It has to be about obedience.

Don't let weariness or perception cloud the issue. Be excellent and be dedicated. Do something that is worth doing. In the end, I think that for you, you will find that the TRUE worship of it all is in the hard work, long hours, and preparation. The setup and the teardown... that's where God is pleased most with you. That's when you are a worshipper.

The rest is extra!
Love you man.

Mark Rouse

Man, I wish I could have been at the "Jesus Experience". Unfortunately, I arrived back in the USA with a case of pneumonia on Thursday, and I'm still not doing much of anything.

"Strange Fire"! Eli, you are making an old man laugh. Back in the '70's, the long-haired-hippy-freak-radical-Jesuspeople were told that we would be punished for playing with 'strange fire'. The Hebrew word that we interpret as 'strange' has the meaning of 'adultrous'. In other words, 'strange fire' was fire that came from an idolatrous source. Some people even went so far as to expose rock-and-roll as having come from the blues and the blues was the rhythm of the animistic religions of west-central Africa.... You get the picture.

I guess we didn't learn very much.


It helps me to hear that these same arguments are being rehashed over and over. The "strange fire" argument has been leveled towards the alternative worship (a.w.) camp now for the last few years, and it just hasn't felt right to me. I have read the story of Abihu's sons, and I can't make the leap. There are also some pretty strong anti-contemplative camps speking out against meditative/contemplative worship. To me it all smacks of fear - people who have been brought up to fear the devil, fear demons, fear the new age, fear mysticism, fear evil spirits - it's as though 1 John 4:4 means nothing.

Mark Rouse

Eli said:
"One doubt that comes to mind is whether or not we are really doing anything different than our modern worshi-tainment contemporaries."

Baby steps. It tooks us a couple thousand years to get really screwed up. It may take a while to get back. You raise the question of whether we can find any Biblical precident for our forms of worship. Rather than try to justify what we do, why don't we try and see what forms we do have a Biblical model for. I basically find two. The Old Covenant model and the New Covenant model. Neither one is based on observation, and neither one invites persons that are outside the household of faith to participate. Both require that the participants bring something with them to present to God. In the Old Covenant, it was the best of the best. A flawless lamb. The first fruits from your crops - the very things that would provide life. In the New Covenant, it was a word, a song, a sharing and returning of the gifts and talents that God had given. To be a part of the Body was to be prepared each time you gathered to make an offering to God from the very things that bring you life. So present.sense is a step away from the 'modern' concept of inviting others to watch our carefully constructed shows, to a model that invites worshippers to participate in the vision and content presented in a carefully constructed manner. Better, but still not quite the the Biblical mode.

Mark Rouse

So how about BYOC worship. I remember when I was in high school (and I doubt that things have changed all that much) we had BYOB parties. Bring your own bottle. The price of admission was a bottle of drink that was illegal for you to have. Some guys would bring Boones Farm. Others would raid there fathers liquer cabinet and bring something really expensive. A six-pack of Bud. It didn't matter much what you brought, as long as it had alchohol and you were willing to share.

1 Corinthians 14:26

"What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church."

So I'm picturing a guy at the entrance to the meeting place.

"What'd you bring?"

"I wrote a poem this morning while I was talking with God".

"OK. Come on in."

"What'd you bring?"

"I got into Daddy's book of Psalms". I've got some really good stuff....."


Maybe a Christ-honoring "Burning Man" type celebration in a few years.......


Being a worship leader now for years, part of me really likes the BYOC idea. I have always felt (as have you I think) that too often "leading the congregation" in worship has really become "dragging the congregation" through worship, whether they wanna go or not. The day we start to implement such a model, however - let's be honest - we MUST be prepared to be the only ones there.

And then there's the issue of whether we are truly prepared for what this model will open us up to. Even today, there are people who come to my church who the leadership would rather not hear from, for good reasons. There are a lot of flakes out there. I wonder how the early church dealt with non-spirit-led input. It had to happen. It's got to be the reason why Paul spent so much time dealing with problems of doctrine in his letters.

Mark Rouse

The whole worship leading thing used to really bother me too. I saw the same things you see. We try to lead, but sometimes it seems more like me are manipulating the congregation. I felt that a lot of the success or failure of a time of praiseandworship depended on what we did, and how well we did it. I had heard much of the teaching about how excellance was required because God deserved our best.

Then we went to Brazil. I experienced a place where people worshipped and were on thier faces before God without music. Where the best instruments were only toys, but praise was fervant and worship was heartfelt. A place where a monitor did not exist and the sound system was a bunch of car speakers in a plywood box.

And it didn't matter. It didn't matter that I didn't speak the language. It didn't matter that musicians had not hope of ever pursuing music as a career. It made no difference that many of the people were sick or depressed. God was God, and He was going to be worshipped simply because He is who He is. So we decided that we were no longer going to worry about the results of our times of worship. That's not our responsibility. Our responsibility is only to be "two or more gathered in His Name".

You see, the Brazilians taught us not to walk by sight or feelings. That's what we were doing when we tried to 'drag' the congregation to the throne. Worship in Brazil made it a reality to us that God promised to inhabit our praise, and that He always keeps His promises, no matter what things look like.

And that's why I have hope in alternative worship forms. Because I believe that God is with us when we gather in His Name, and that people are much more likely to be gathering in His Name when they are expected to put forth an effort to focus on who He is. I imagine that we are still a long way from a BYOC experience being common, but, maybe, someday.....

Bill Roberts

I think that sometimes we have wonderful worship experiences outside of the country because we are open to something different and because we are not dealing with the contempt that comes with familiarity. Let's face it...we come to our own gatherings with very little faith and with very little expectation that it's going to be any different than last week or the week before. Besides, we know way too much about one another.
I think that if we would open our eyes, we would all see that there are more people coming to our assemblies that truly want to worship God than what we give them credit for.

Mark Rouse

Bill wrote:
"I think that if we would open our eyes, we would all see that there are more people coming to our assemblies that truly want to worship God than what we give them credit for."

I agree. It is the nature of man to desire fellowship with God. And some of us are lucky because we have musical abilities and can worship in that manner. The problem is that in USAmerica, we have this equation:

Worship = Music

And we guage the quality of worship by the quality of the music and ability of the worship leader to engage the congregation. I don't need to elaborate on the dangers of this paradigm. It leaves little room for those who communicate thier love of God in different manners. What opportunity do we provide for a dancer? In the American churchs that I'm familiar with, dance takes one of two forms, either the 'Holy Ghost disco', or a choreographed , carefully rehearsed presentation, usually by a 'dance team' that consists of pre-teen girls. In Brazil, every song, in every service is an oppertunity for God to worshipped through dance. And there are people that God has created to worship Him in dance.

What about visual communication?
Or an alabaster box of prayer and intercession? We use paintings for decoration (visual Muzak) and confine our intercessor to a 'prayer room'.

I agree, Bill, there are many who are hungry to enter into whole-hearted worship. We need to provide a way - an opportunity for them to feel free to express thier adoration with the gifts and methods that God has poured into them. That is the challange that we face. Who will be there to open the doors when 50 people show up at 8:00 am to pray? How do we coordinate the dancing of fifteen adults? What does the church do with a Luke Renner? We've given him words to translate into images. But what do we do when he gives us images that defy translation into words? Is visual glossolalia acceptable to the church? If God gives a person a gift of helps, might not thier highest worship involve cleaning and painting the place of worship? What did Paul write about the less comely parts of the Body?


Mark Rouse

When I think about worship, I usually come back to the story of Mary and Martha. It's often been used to explain that Jesus desires our worship more than our service. There are a couple things in the story that I think often get overlooked. First, it was Martha's house. In the culture of the time, she was expected to care for the guest in a certain manner. Jesus did not rebuke her for taking care of those things that were culturally expected. Jesus doesn't say anything until Martha tries to get Him to put Mary into the "Martha mold". As leaders, we must recognize that we have certain cultural responsibilities, but that not everyone can or will fit into our 'mold'. The other thing that I think is often missed in this story is when Mary is introduced. It says that Mary "also sat at Jesus feet". We often view this story as an 'either/or' story. You're either a Martha or you're a Mary. The story indicates that Martha also knew the pleasure of sitting at Jesus' feet. She was a worshipper and a servent, and she received no condemnation from Jesus about that. Jesus didn't tell her to stop her service and sit at His feet. He only said that Mary should be allowed to serve Him through worship, while Martha worshipped Jesus through service. It was Martha's trying to change Mary that was the problem.

I love music. I had the privelege to sit at Jesus' feet. And let's face it, it's our house culturally. There are cultural expectation and we strive to do what is expected. No problem with that. The only problem is when I begin to evaluate anothers behavior based on my cultural responsibilities.

Jan Reason

I am finding this dialogue very refreshing and challenging, and exciting. I have a musical soul, so worship in music means very much to me, however, I am so ready for alternative ways to express my worship to the Lord, because sometimes I feel so frustrated that I can't express myself more. Everytime I think of the recent Jesus Experience encounter, tears well up. I don't even understand what the Lord did in me that evening. I think part of it was the priviledge of preparing the physical atmosphere, but it was more...sitting quietly in front of the fire, reading Jesus' words, seeing images and icons representing him, participating in rituals that truly had spiritual meaning to me..falling asleep for a brief time bathed in all of the above..it was amazing! I felt so light and clean afterwards! I say..MORE!

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