I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1 NRS)
"Did you enjoy the worship service today?"
Seems like a harmless question, doesn't it? However, there are at least two great dangers that lurk beneath this apparently innocent question.
First, there is the consumerist assumption that seems to have invaded every facet of western culture, even our pervasive church culture. "Did you enjoy ...?" Hmm, seems like that is kinda backwards to the way we ought to ask that question. "Did God enjoy our ...?" We've made ourselves — our wants, our needs, and our preferences — the focus of everything, even our worship of God. So we ask questions about church like the following:
- Do I like what they are doing?
- Does this church meet my needs?
- Am I comfortable with the people here?
- What benefits do I get from going there?
We often forget the more essential questions about the church's mission, the Bible teaching's faithfulness, the people's spiritual authenticity, and the passion of the members for following the will of God. Shouldn't we be asking a more important question: is our church seeking to live as the presence of Jesus in our community?
Second, how did we ever come up with the phrase "worship service" to mean an hour to two hour slot on Sunday morning? Surely our service of worship dedicated to God is much bigger than a sit down session where we stare at the cowlicks in front of us, sing a few religious songs, hear a bunch of religious words, and read from old religious texts. Isn't the whole concept of worship being limited to a place and time counter to Jesus' teaching? (John 4:23-24) Have we largely relegated worship to an hour or two on Sunday and divorced it from our daily lives? Isn't genuine worship a life lived for God in response to his grace? (Romans 12:1)
So how do we get beyond the stuck point we find ourselves in much of modern Christendom?
I'm not sure any of us has the definitive answer. Trying to do church out of a sense of mission based on the example of Jesus' ministry is clearly an essential start. Emphasizing worship as an everyday lifestyle is also a vital necessity as well. However, we've also got to change our corporate structures and values or all of this is just mere talk.
I know we are trying to do all three of these in our church family at Southern Hills in Abilene. One of the driving forces that has convicted us and pushed us in this direction is what we now affectionately refer to as WATS Day — We Are The Sermon Day. Our second WATS Day is this coming Sunday. We come together as a congregation for a special time focused on the Lord's Supper, and then go spend the rest of Sunday serving people in our community in work teams. At the end of the day, we gather for a combined time of praise at a local high school — the smell isn't too sweet with all of us in our dirty and stinky work clothes, but the praise and the fellowship is sure sweet.
Last year we had over 1100 from our congregation and several dozen other folks from a few nearby churches join us as we sought to be the sermon that day. This year, more congregations will join us and we have found that over the course of the last year God has opened all sorts of doors to help us have WATS Day in less formal ways quite often. This growing conviction has changed the way we spend our money and the way we view our role in the community.
We're still working on our sense vision built around our mission to be Jesus to our community. We are emphasizing more and more that worship is an everyday lifestyle. But, we've found that people don't really believe it's a priority until they see it working itself out in real life, face to face, ministry in the same world we live in every day.
For more information on WATS Day, feel free to check out our information page.