For the longest time the United States were the leading country sending out missionaries to other countries. Helping needs of the needy, preaching the Gospel, giving hope to the lost. And we still are doing that, and we always should. But boy has things changed. Did you realize that the United States has now become the mission field? Especially missionaries coming from all over the globe to preach the Gospel in the United States!
I don’t find this off putting at all, but wonderful in a way. Maybe it feels a bit humbling, that no longer is the United States seen as the “most Christian” nation in the world (whatever that means). But it is remarkable how much the word of Christ has spread to other nations, and that individuals felt so deeply moved, that they too decided to become vessels to outreach to others as well. Good News is good news after all, regardless of where it is coming from and who is telling it!
But as a pastor it also feels a bit alarming hearing from people around the globe telling me that they are praying for the churches in the United States. Butat the same time I feel comforted that there are Christians around the globe that are praying and showing concern for the American church.
The American church is slowly dying. Last year our church had a membership of 64 and now we are down to 62. We have gained a few new families to come to church, but we have also experienced death in the church, people who have been called to be in heaven with Our Maker (which is still Good News). But this is happening all over the country, in every church in the United States. So as a parish minister in the Word of Sacrament serving a church in the United States, what am I supposed to do?
Is the answer to try and take on social issues of the day in our church? Or is it to be more politically involved? Are we to make a gym and make some program to attract and maybe trap newcomers? Or should we preach hell, fire, and brimstone to scare people in coming to church? Or do we need to develop a contemporary style of worship? Well, those could work, if you decided to do so, but I am not all that comfortable with any of those strategies.
What I would like to see is a revival. Now I’m not talking about the big tent revivals, megaphones, out in the streets screaming about the coming of Jesus. But a revival that isn’t just s weekend event, but a revival of church worship. I want to folks coming into church to be reminded of their Christian roots. Sometimes, worship isn’t about what is said on the pulpit, but what is spoken in prayer, what is confessed in our confession of sin, and confession of faith. Sometimes it is about what we sing.
When I first arrived at Ward Ave. I tried to use a lot of the contemporary style of hymns found in our most recent published hymnal, but I wasn’t feeling anything. That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the most current hymnals, but I just personally wasn’t feeling like it was reaching out to the congregation. Music is so vital to worship and life! The music that gets you out of bed, the music you listen to on your commute, or the music you use to study, or the music you use to get you out the door to workout. Music surrounds our daily living, and we should have music that not only moves us and motivates us in our daily life, but also in worship.
So, I made a quick change, and that is changing the music to be more traditional in worship. Songs that we could just remember the first verse because we remember singing it as a child. Yes, the music that is considered to be of the past. In the past but very much relevant. Music that could move worship and move hearts.
American churches need worship that will move us, inspire us, and motivate us. Sometimes that is a simple change in music. I love singing the old hymns because it reminds us of our faith, it reminds us about what church was like when we were younger. And now becoming a de facto choir director who has no knowledge of music what-so-ever, I decided that sometimes the old time hymns of church choirs of old are the most passionate it can be.
Whatever you think that will work for your church to create a revival type of experience, do it! Sometimes it isn’t about a big event, but a small change in daily worship that could make all the difference. Sometimes the answer isn’t about trying to find the new fad or newest method of worship, sometimes it is about going back to our Christian roots.
And sometimes all you need is a message to let people know that they are children of God, and that God loves them no matter what. Sometimes we just need music and word from the pulpit and choir that says that there is nothing we can do to separate ourselves from God's love, and that there is nothing more that God wants is to be with you and hold you.
Hey this is Rev. Brian Choi's random thought throughout my week. Most of this stuff, will probably be about family, church, fishing, music, movies, food, whatever I think of, hopefully it will have some sort of theological reflection (maybe).