Two things will converge starting in June. First, many years ago, it was decided that the worship gatherings of the First Baptist Church of Fort Dodge, IA would start at 9AM during the summer months instead of the 10:30AM start time during the school year. So, one of the things that will converge is that start time. An expected shift in worship.
The second thing that will converge is a conviction I received back in January as I taught on worship. This conviction centered around the reality that worship is to be 100% fully and totally focused on God – rendering to Him our praise and adoration, glorifying Him, and focusing on what He is, and has been, doing. I came to the conclusion, which I take as totally from the Holy Spirit, that there is a part of the “typical” worship gathering that is not 100% fully and totally focused on God. It might be 50% or so. What part is that? The sermon.
Now, I’m not saying the teaching time isn’t important, and I’m not saying it isn’t connected to God, since it is from Scripture, but the recipient of the teaching has to be able to lay claim to some of that focus in order for it to truly be teaching. So, since I’m not teaching God but those gathered, who are listening to the sermon and hopefully being impacted by what is said, some of the focus must be on them and what they are learning. That means the focus is no longer 100% on God. Therefore, it could be said that those moments taken up by the sermon cease to be fully worship as those moments are not 100% focused on God.
So, since the people known as First Baptist Fort Dodge already expect a change for worship gatherings during the summer, I am going to really change some things up. And here’s how: the hour dedicated for worship (9AM – 10AM) will be fully focused on God – His character, His nature, what He has done during the previous week, and what He is doing. To do this, we will combine praise through singing with praise through hearing people share what they have seen God do. (Though they may not be aware of it, I have already been working to prepare the people for this through encouraging them to share with me what I, among others, have called “God sightings.”) The goal of knowing that they will have opportunity to share is that they will be really looking for His activity in, through, and around them.
Now, the teaching time is still very important. So, after about a 10-15 minute “intermission” at the conclusion of worship (so that anyone who wants to depart can do so inconspicuously), there will be one of two types of teaching. One will be a discussion oriented time, not a lecture-based sermon. There will be a topic with selected Scripture passages and questions to facilitate the discussion. This time would end by 11AM. The second type of “teaching” would be action-based, meaning outreach and ministry and service. For instance, we would have it announced beforehand that after worship, we would be heading over to a local nursing home to spend time with the residents. Another possibility would be putting on a picnic in a local park and inviting those in the neighborhood to join us. It could be a lot of things. The goal is to be learning through doing and serving, being a “go-to” church instead of a “come-to-us” church, because our God is a “go-to” God, not a “come-to-me” God and, since those who have believed in Christ have been crucified with Him and what is now lived in the flesh is Christ (Galatians 2:19b-20), we, in a way, continue to carry out Christ’s Incarnation in this world.
All of this is wrapped up in this: asking the best question (which was the topic of my sermon on April 26th, click here to listen) which is not “How can we be the best church IN our community,” but, rather, “How can we be the best church FOR our community.”
This will take advanced coordination, planning, and communication. If it will be an “outreach” project out in the community that involves some level of labor (like raking), people will need to know to bring a rake, if they have one, and a change of clothes. Additionally, there is a possibility of having a communal meal after returning to the building.
I’m excited by the possibilities.