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Emerging Worship: Creating Worship Gatherings for New Generations Paperback – February 15, 2004
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'How does the church change in a world that is rapidly changing? In a very helpful way. 'Emerging Worship' challenges us to address the changes we are facing by embracing the restlessness of emerging generations and culture and rethinking what we do in worship.' -- Rich Muchow, Pastor of Creative Arts
From the Back Cover
Churches are aging. Even among megachurches with their modern technology and huge number of members, whole generations are now missing. In order to reach the 18-35 year olds, churches need to incorporate alternative worship services into their ministries that meet the unique needs of the emerging generations. In a conversational, narrative style, author Dan Kimball guides church leaders on how to create alternative services from start to finish. Using anecdotes from his own experience at Graceland, Kimball presents six creative models, providing real-life examples of each type. Emerging Worship covers key topics including â¢ Developing a prayer team â¢ Evaluating the local mission field and context â¢ Determining leaders and a vision-based team â¢ Understanding why youth pastors are usually the ideal staff to start a new service â¢ Recognizing the difference in values between emerging worship and the rest of the church â¢ Asking critical questions beforehand
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He wrote in the Introduction of this 2004 book, “Emerging leaders sense not only change coming to our churches, but the critical need for change. In many churches it has already arrived. The emerging leaders of those churches are beginning to reshape and rethink church and the Spirit of God is doing wonderful things. But there is still a growing restlessness in many hearts and minds. People are emotionally pacing back and forth waiting and longing for change in the church to finally arrive. This restless emotional pacing is due to the way most of our churches do not connect and engage with our emerging post-Christian culture. The church engages with a modern culture… But most people (especially emerging generations) are living in post-Judeo-Christian times now.” (Pg. x-xi)
He continues, “My personal hope and prayer is that you won’t ignore the restlessness going on, but instead that: *You will be concerned enough about the pacing the restlessness going on among emerging generations in your church to ‘open the door’ and pray through the changes your church needs. *You will be concerned enough about the lack of emerging generations in your church to pray, think, and rethink what your church can do to address it. *Above all, that you will be open-minded. That you will not be too proud to recognize that our methodologies and forms of how we go about ‘doing church’ do change throughout biblical and church history. That you will be open-minded to consider that what you may be doing now may not be what is needed to connect with the values and worldview of emerging generations.” (Pg. xv)
He explains, “This book focuses on the worship gatherings themselves. It tells the story of churches who are creating, or have created, gatherings that connect with the emerging culture.” (Pg. xvi) Later, he adds, “This book is specifically about emerging worship gatherings. Our focus will be on exploring different ways that emerging generations are now coming together to adore, praise, and ascribe worth to God. A refreshing thing is that---virtually across the board---we are moving away from a flat, two-dimensional form of worship in our gatherings. There is a definite move away from worship services simply composed of preaching and a few songs. We are now moving toward a much more multisensory approach comprised of many dimensions and expression of worship.” (Pg. 5)
He outlines, “This book follows the same format as my earlier book, The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations. The first part of this book is a look at the architecture and framework behind the new worship gatherings and ministries… We will talk through specific steps you can take when starting new worship gatherings in your church. We will walk through critical questions to ask before you start… We will discuss how to build a team of volunteers who design and create the worship gatherings even with little or no budget… we will walk through different approaches churches have taken in birthing new forms of ministry for emerging generations… We’ll get a glimpse of what their worship gatherings and ministries look like throughout the week. We will hear about the mistakes and lessons learned from leaders in these emerging churches as they explored new worship expressions and made changes.” (Pg. 18)
He observes, “Most [traditional] churches start by building a team to launch a weekend worship service… what drives the church, is building on the large weekend service. Everything else is secondary to that… Whatever our church’s vision or mission statement, the fact is we hire most of our staff to support the weekend event. We spend most of our budget on the weekend event. A successful church is to us a growing weekend event. I question this whole traditional line of thinking. This ultimately can produce a consumer form of Christianity and teaches people in our churches to focus their Christian experience around the weekend worship service. Have we taught people to think they haven’t experienced ‘church’ this week if they didn’t go to the worship service?” (Pg. 32)
He defines the term “Post-Christian”: “Someone who was born and raised outside of any church influence and is not heavily influenced by our pluralistic postmodern culture and values. Generally few of their values are based on a Judeo-Christian worldview. ‘Church’ either means nothing to them or they dislike it. Spirituality is subjective and individualistic, often an eclectic potpourri of the world’s religious beliefs. They usually oppose the idea of joining any organized established religion. They often have strong anti-evangelical sentiments and a lot of stereotypes against Christians in general. Yet they are usually very spiritually-minded people.” (Pg. 44)
Perhaps surprisingly, he says, “In any church, you should have an idea of how you measure success… For us, we wanted to know: How many people are being baptized? What percentage of the worship gathering is serving in ministry somewhat?... What percentage of those in the gathering are in midweek home churches or other small groups? Such measurements need to be monitored and evaluated. Watching these types of statistics will let you know if you are hitting the goals you hope to achieve… We need to train ourselves to be asking the right questions about what we are looking for in terms of results, not just counting people or evaluating our program.” (Pg. 61)
He acknowledges, “In many emerging worship gatherings there is an attempt to dialogue as much as possible with the people in the gathering, but the larger the gathering the harder it is for a preacher to truly interact and dialogue with others while preaching. Still, there can be planned or spontaneous occasions for open mic or open sharing despite the size of the group, even if it numbers in the hundreds.” (Pg. 88)
He points out, “It is fascinating and encouraging to know that Axis and Willow Creek, the premier seeker-church of America, is so successful, but still doesn’t feel they have it all figured out. I admire their experimentation and willingness to allow new forms of emerging worship to develop within Axis. It takes humility from the Willow Creed staff to admit that what they do in their main weekend services does not necessarily resonate with emerging generations.” (Pg. 134) He adds, “It is thrilling to know that a church like Willow Creek is open to experimenting. They are adapting and changing along with the culture. Emerging worship happens at Axis. I look forward to seeing what God does next with their ‘experiment’!” (Pg. 137)
He observes, “The more we thought about this, the more unsettled we became. How did we come up with so many age-dividers in our churches? Isn’t the church supposed to be a BODY? Then why do we often dissect the church body into little parts, rather than seeing it function holistically together? Isn’t the church supposed to be a FAMILY? Then why do we constantly separate families when they come to church meetings? It is interesting to think about… The two primary metaphors for the church as a body and a family break down when we gather as a church. It doesn’t make sense!” (Pg. 170)
He muses, “Regarding alternative worship gatherings, we should ask why post-Christian generations are resonating with this type of worship…. worship is not something one puts together like an activity to participate in; but what can we learn from these alternative worship gatherings in England? We see their desire to slow down and be contemplative in addition to the typical upbeat rhythms and upbeat songs… there is ambient, meditative music playing and the understanding that people can take their time and pray, read Scripture, etc. Some singing may occur, but singing is not the focus of worship. In our emerging worship gatherings, perhaps we need to designate times for silence, for slowing down, for prayer at length. To experience joy and praise, but also to allow people to quiet their hearts and be contemplative.” (Pg. 217-218)
This is a creative, helpful resources to stimulate ideas in anyone involved in such a church/community, or just for anyone studying the Emerging Church or similar contemporary Christian movements.
This book also sounded a wakeup call for me. My family attends a church with close to 600 each week...but now I specifically look for the 18 - 35 year olds. They just are not there. We work with our college worship group and we have at best 10 - 15 students in attendance. Where are their friends who grew up in the church, went through primary Sunday school, Jr High and High School programs and then...leave.
I share with the college students what I have learned from this book. I ask them, where are your friends? Where are others your age? If you were a leader at this church what would you do to draw in this generation? What would you have the church look like? What style of worship do you like?
Having only just begun my journey into the emergent church, this book was extremely useful. I appreciated the solid theology at the beginning and the real life examples in the second half. The resource listing has also helped me as I continue to grow and learn. I am grateful for Dan and his heart to seek this generation as well as to help share his knowledge with others to this sad new reality.
Kimball helped me understand that Emerging Worship is about a lifestyle of seeking to honor God. While it is not hostile towards the traditional church model, it does seek to differentiate itself. The differentiation is not just a marketing ploy as some might initially suspect. Rather, Kimball explains the consistency of Emerging Worship as God centered, Christ honoring and biblically based. My initial concerns about theological compromise have been put to rest. I am now persuaded that a proper Emergent church is actually more concerned about majoring on the majors of biblical living than most churches.
Practices and music handed down through centuries of church tradition are not casually discarded, but are prayerfully reviewed for relevance in today's culture. Music can be rearranged without losing its initial meaning. The order of a meeting can be adjusted, perhaps radically. We don't need to have a superstar entertain us like clockwork each week to worship God. New songs can be written, it's okay; this is all biblical as long as it worships Him in Spirit and in Truth. Most of our long held modernistic traditions are not as sacred as we think. Many do not appear in the Bible in any form. The world is leaving modernism behind; so must we.
Our generation is called to be missionaries to postmodern people. Much like missionaries in foreign lands, we too must have some understanding of the philosophies and passions of those around us, especially post baby-boomers who think significantly different than previous generations. Understanding what's important to them is not an endorsement of all of it nor is it any compromise of the Gospel. Just as with church traditions, every element of post-modernity should be subjected to the light of God's Word and discernment from His Spirit so we can be salt and light for all people.
What all this means in practice is that Emerging Worship meetings may take various forms and include non-traditional elements such as improvised art, individual prayer and meditation stations, and especially moving the focus away from specific individuals (i.e. the church as a performance mindset). The church is not a drive-through meant to serve the customers who come by on Sunday. The church is the people comprising the servant body of Christ and the worship gathering is however they corporately meet to express their love toward God. Innovative ideas are encouraged as long as they do not violate any precept of Scripture. In fact, this approach is more in keeping with ancient church practices than most church services today. Read all of Acts 15, how does verse 28 apply today?
The book is structured so the first half explains the need for Emerging Worship in lay terms while still doing a respectable job of handling some theological or at least ministerial questions. This first half is not just theoretical. I really like how Kimball's heart (humility and love) for others comes through again and again. In fact most of it deals with very practical questions like knowing how and what effect an Emerging Worship gathering might have in your community of believers (local church). Steps to start the gathering, the importance of prayer, and critical questions are explored.
The second half of the book is unique because it describes the structure of several thriving Emergent churches down to the order of a typical (and some not-so-typical) meeting for worship. The types of groups covered vary widely from house churches, to Emergent gatherings integrated into larger traditional churches and stand alone Emergent gatherings. This section is interesting to read for a while, but is probably better suited as a reference for an actual implementation. The first half of the book is really the meat I was looking for, though I found some good ideas in the second section (having musicians seated to the side or back of a room so they don't compete for the focus on Jesus, for example).
I like the book and recommend it if you have any interest (positive or negative) in the Emerging Church movement. Emerging Worship, as Kimball explains it, is Christ honoring and I am thrilled to be in an early stage of what will probably become the dominant church gathering model in the decades to come.
May God bless you in whatever form of worship you have to truly honor Him who is worthy of all praise.
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