This past January, our congregation gathered for our “State of the Church Address.”
It was a great night.
Having reached the 2 year mark together at that point, I took the opportunity to give reflections and projections in each of our four new strategic ministry areas: Connections, Formations, Mobilization, and Worship.
In my comments on Worship, I addressed what had become a recurring question from JCBC members during my first two years: “Do you envision JCBC ever offering alternative expressions of worship in addition to what we already do each Sunday?”
It’s a fair question; one that has a history, and even precedes my time at JCBC.
In order to be good stewards of the question, however, we have to understand the context. Or, in other words, we have to ask, “why?”
I invite you to watch this 12-minute clip from that portion of the message. It sets the context, for the “why?”
Here is an excerpt from that part of my remarks, which addresses the “why?” behind the conversation we are having:
When it comes to how we worship on Sunday mornings at 11:00, I don’t want to change a thing! I believe what we offer here on Sunday mornings, you cannot find anywhere in our neck of the woods: A truly blended worship service with full orchestra and choir and a theologically moderate Baptist voice of the Gospel. I believe there are families in our community who are seeking that very thing. And I want JCBC to strengthen that which we are already doing.
But the question that many of you continue to ask me is about the possibility of adding an additional service that is different in style.
It’s a fair question.
As I reflect on that question, though, I have a few questions of my own.
Is it possible to envision two kinds of worship experiences here?
Is it possible to maintain two styles and both be intergenerational?
Can a church have two distinct services and remain one church?
Does the church (this church) have the financial resources and giving trends to sustain a level of excellence for multiple kinds of worship services?
And maybe the most pressing questions I have are:
What are our real attitudes about worship at JCBC?
Is this hunger for an additional style a wide hunger among many?
Or is it, rather, a deep hunger among a few?
My promise to you, in 2014 was that in time, we would open this conversation and ask the tough questions, but only AFTER we have the higher and more important conversation about what worship really is.
At the conclusion of our current sermon series about worship, I would like for us to continue the conversation, by naming a study group made up of a wide range of members, tasked specifically with the responsibility of engaging an intelligent congregational dialogue about worship at JCBC.
But let me be clear.
The formation of this kind of study group does not insinuate that some change is necessarily coming. It neither insinuates a change is not coming.
It is for the expressed purpose of listening to one another, because I believe to my core that when a congregation listens to each other, and hears each other, we are stronger.
Shortly after the State of the Church Address, we concluded a 6-week in-depth sermon series entitled “Heart of Worship.” You can view each of those sermons here.
Heart of Worship: Prone to Enthrone
Heart of Worship: Consumed
Heart of Worship: Never the Same
Heart of Worship: Shaped By Remembering
Heart of Worship: Church Clothes
Heart of Worship: Sacred Imagination
Soon after the series ended, we moved as a congregation to approve the formation of a Worship Study Group. That group, which is comprised of a wide range of JCBC members, has been meeting faithfully and consistently since May of this year.
These meetings have proven extremely fruitful, as we have been able to look deeply into the wide array of issues surrounding worship, and its central purpose in the life of a congregation.
We have now come to the time in our study when we seek to know the hearts and minds of JCBC members, as we (together) discern what God desires for us in our shared life of authentic worship.
In January of 2016, we will host “The Worship Dialogues.”
The first session will be a presentation made by the Worship Study Group on Wednesday night, January 6 at 6:30 p.m. This program will be streamed live on our website for those who cannot attend. The video link to the presentation will also be emailed to the entire church the very next morning, so that all who plan to attend the upcoming listening sessions will have the opportunity to first view this very important presentation.
Then, members will choose to attend one (1) of the five (5) Worship Dialogues.
We are offering five opportunities, on different days and times, in order to encourage and enable the greatest participation. Sessions will be offered on these dates:
- Sunday, January 10th at 3:00 p.m.
- Monday, January 11th at 6:30 p.m.
- Tuesday, January 12th at 6:30 p.m.
- Wednesday, January 13th at 6:30 p.m.
- Sunday, January 17th at 3:00 p.m.
The design of our Worship Dialogues will follow what is known as “Appreciative Inquiry (A.I.).” The A.I. model is designed to ensure every single participant is heard.
It begins with acknowledging and affirming all that is good and right and strong.
It calls for testimony and story telling, and discussion over a series of pointed questions about our experiences as worshippers at JCBC.
Then it moves to a time of dreaming about our shared future and what we discern God may desiring for us and from us as a congregation.
Sessions will be two hours in length, allowing an opportunity to share, listen and hear from one another.
We have recruited the help of a familiar friend to lead us through these dialogues. Reverend Susan Beaumont was the consultant from the Alban Institute who led JCBC through its self-study and long range vision a few years ago.
I have retained an ongoing collegial relationship with Susan, who is very familiar with our congregation and have invited her to facilitate our discussions.
As a consultant and specialist in congregational studies like this one, Susan is uniquely skilled with leading the Appreciative Inquiry process. Her analysis and report will provide valuable insights, as we seek to listen and discern.
Beginning on Sunday, November 29th, you will have the opportunity to sign up and reserve your spot at one of these sessions. You will receive information in the mail as well as email, through Sunday School and Worship, regarding how to sign up.
I encourage you to sign up for your session of choice as soon as registration is open.
The Worship Dialogues promise to enrich our fellowship and strengthen our identity as a congregation, as we share with one another and listen to one another in Christian love.
Johns Creek Baptist Church