Thursday, August 22, 2013
First of all, we must must must remember that the focus of the service is Jesus, not me. Not my “felt needs” (which is purely manipulative from a marketing standpoint). Not my purpose or destiny. Jesus.He has some specifics:
And the announcements lead us straight in the collection of the offerings. In the Baptist church in which I was raised as a believer (I was born into a Presbyterian church where my father was an elder. Woody Harrelson and I were in the toddler class together. He was not nearly as funny then as he is now…), the pastor did not want to interrupt the service by passing plates to collect the offering. So he had two chests—called Joash Chests—constructed and one placed by each door. Tithes and offerings were dropped in there. He claimed that giving increased greatly after the church went from passing plates to the chests. A note was always in the bulletin explaining how the church received offerings, and what they were used for. Sometimes the pastor would make a brief mention of this just before his message. Very little time was spent on money.
I’m not sure this is the best way to receive offerings. In one way it’s a good alternative to the mini-sermons on how God will prosper you if you give to the church. But in another way, I would like to see giving as a true act of worship. Make this a fun time. God loves cheerful giving. But—once again, here is my refrain—keep the focus on Jesus. This is not about me and how my needs will be met and how God will open the windows of heaven and pour out on me. This is about making a joyful sacrifice of what I have earned and giving it gladly to the Lord. If there is going to be any entertainment in the service, this would be the place for it. A song by the band. A video about a recent missions trip. Only … keep the focus …
For a people who put so much emphasis on the Bible, don’t you think it odd that very few evangelical services incorporate Scripture reading? I don’t mean the verses peppered throughout the message (if even then). I mean a reading from the Old Testament and a reading from the New. It doesn’t even have to follow the lectionary. But a formal reading—even a responsive reading, if you like—from the Book of Books surely should not be out of place. So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ. Yet many churches resist because, well, it is not spontaneous.
Which brings us to the main event. Ladies and gentlemen, if you will direct your attention to the center ring, it’s time for …
The sermon. In other expressions of the faith—Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Orthodox—this is no more important than any other part of the service. It is certainly shorter than any card-carrying evangelical preacher would deliver. In most evangelical services, everything else is simply leading up to the sermon.I don't agree with all of this in detail, but I do agree withteh general idea. Th idea is we are to focus on Jesus not ourselves. That means there must be SOME air of formality and discomfort involved. Ask yourself this - do not not think it would be a bit foreign to actually approach God's throne?
What Dunn is railing against here is a service of evangelism, which is a fine thing for a church to do, but it is NOT worship. In evangelism we attempt to meet people where they are and move them into the church, this means meeting "felt needs," etc. But We also want to move people beyond that into genuine depth of faith. Where the focus is beyond themselves. That's where we are failing.