When my mother visited me last January and attended New Life’s Sunday worship service, she noticed that the worship was rather long (I think I preached a typical 45 minute message!) but was very surprised and impressed at how all of you were very focused and attentive throughout the worship to the end. My mother, however, isn’t the only one who thinks this way. I feel the same way about you and our worship. Every great once in a while I see one or two of you dozing off during my message time because you probably worked very hard all throughout the week and are physically tired. But it truly is amazing to see all of you making your best effort to fully engage yourself in the worship for about an hour and forty-five minutes and at times nearly two hours. This says a lot about you as worshipers, and I want to thank you for having such an open and fertile heart towards God.
Until just recently, the vast majority of the churches in America believed that Sunday worship shouldn’t last more than an hour, and many of them actually practiced this belief. But did you know that there were times in American church history where two to three hour Sunday worship was the norm rather than the exception? We have also seen and heard about those Christian brothers and sisters in Mexico, Africa and China where two hour Sunday worship service for them is actually too short! Therefore, there is nothing wrong with having a long Sunday worship service if God is honored and people are blessed and equipped by it.
Nonetheless, I think we have come to a point where we need to evaluate our worship and the amount of time that we spend for it. As we begin our Joshua Cross Stars children’s ministry, there is a need for us to coordinate our worship time with our children’s. Moreover, long drawn-out worship services aren’t necessarily better than shorter ones that are well planned and prepared, which could be more effective in touching and ministering people’s lives. During this month’s Leadership Team meeting, we talked about this issue and decided that we will do our best to limit our worship to about an hour and a half by implementing the following:
1. We will no longer hand out the baptism certificates during worship because we already recognize and celebrate with those who are getting baptized at the time of their baptism. Instead, we will pass the certificates out at the side tables.
2. Although we realize the significance of sharing and hearing people’s stories and testimonies, we will not inundate our worship with them. We will limit testimonies to one per worship.
3. We will also have only one The Arrival Kit testimony per month. At the time of writing this letter to you, I have eight people who have completed The Arrival Kit who need to share their story with us. New Life takes this one-to-one discipleship/mentoring very seriously, and we appreciate our Maturity Team for doing such a great job of providing encouragement, people and resources. We have required everyone graduating to share his/her story during Sunday worship, but now that there are so many, there isn’t enough time for everyone to share.
The purpose for the testimony was two-fold. The first was to provide the person who went through the discipleship with the opportunity to review and reflect on what she has learned and how much she has been blessed by the discipleship. The second was to encourage and challenge those in New Life who haven’t gone through discipleship to do so.
Because these two purposes are still very important and must be fulfilled, we will implement the following measures along with the one-testimony-per-month limit:
? Everyone who finishes The Arrival Kit will be asked to write their 3-5 minute testimony and turn it in to me.
? If there is more than one person who finishes the course for that month, I will carefully select one and see if he or she would be willing to share his/her story on Sunday.
I have heard from several house church shepherds that there are some of you in house church who refuse to do The Arrival Kit because you are afraid of sharing your story on Sunday worship. This new decision by our Leadership Team must give you a huge sigh of relief! So, go head and do The Arrival Kit! You will not be required to share your story on Sunday.
Attempting to control God is a foolish thing because He just can’t be, and it is harmful for us to try. But we can control what goes on during our worship to make it more effective. Let’s try this for about six months or so and see how it works out for us.
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