Matthew: Alternative Worship

On this Saturday night at Refuge, we didn’t do traditional worship (singing songs).  We didn’t preach a traditional sermon.  Instead, we sat up tables, gathered at those tables, and worshipped by discussing God’s Word together, and praying with and for one-another.

If you were unable to attend our alternative worship gathering, and would like to have this discussion in your small group, or understand the rational for alternative worship, my full notes are below.  (Brian)

Tonight we are exploring an alternative way to worship as a church at Refuge.  Or as one of the youth group kids referred to it this week …  Cringe-fest 2018.

From the beginning, Refuge was to be an experimental church.  Unlike large churches, with years of established traditions, we are small and new, and free to re-think how Jesus would have us fulfill our purpose … A church of disciples, making disciples.   

OPEN QUESTIONS

  • Where have you experienced the greatest spiritual growth? 
  • Why did you grow? (because you were outside what was comfortable)

We like comfort, don’t we?  But if COMFORT is the GPS that guides your life, it will lead us to apathy and laziness.  It will give you wrong directions just to keep you comfortable.

Tonight, is an experiment.  Getting us outside of what is comfortable.  A new format for worship and study and fellowship.

I don’t mean to be critical of how we’ve done things, or how other churches do things … but in the last several months I’ve continued to consider our LAWNS. Those things we continue to do, but really don’t know why, or haven’t stopped to consider if it is helping achieve our mission of being a church of disciples making disciples.

Often, I’ll post things like: this week we’ll be discussing …  but it’s not really discussing.  It’s me downloading on you for a half an hour.

Or I’ll say: we want to allow the Spirit to move during our time together … yet we’ve programmed things so much, there’s no room left for the Spirit to work in flexibility and spontaneity.

Anyone been to a Broadway play?  Or at least Barbara B. Mann?  Take me through what that looks like? 

  1. Arrive // Greeter by a greater?
  2. Maybe they give you a playbill?
  3. Go into the main auditorium
  4. Find your seat (politely step over others)
  5. Might whisper excuse me, but most of us won’t stop and have a conversation.
  6. Read the bulletin while you wait for the show to start (see who the main actors are)
  7. Eventually hear some instruments began to play, let’s you know the show is about to begin.

SOUND FAMILIAR? Does Church ever just feel like a show to anyone else?

Act 1, the band begins to play, with a leader (one of the stars of the show) singing a selection of soft rock hits, meant to stir a little emotion, but not too much.

Act 2, might include some announcements about upcoming church events.

Act 3, features the main star (the preacher), who comes forward to deliver a sermon.  There is a mix of laughter, some heartwarming stories, a strong challenge at the end.

The show ends, everyone is dismissed.  Some try to escape as soon as possible.  Some might talk about the quality of the show they just watched (that sermon was on point, the band was a little loud for my taste) … everyone gets in their cars, and heads home.

Is that too harsh of a critique?  Valid? 

Please hear me.  I love the Church deeply.  And I’ve loved our worship gatherings.

BUT — sometimes the tendency is to make everything feel comfortable.  To be sure everything runs smoothly.  To be sure everything is well planned and rehearsed.  That the sermon is well thought out … And suddenly, what we do here becomes a show and not believers sharing with each other, and worshipping God.

As we get into the routine Saturday after Saturday, we can lose sight of the fact that it is not about production, or excellence, or how many people are here … but it’s about coming together to worship God.

So tonight, is a little bit of a re-boot.  An alternative form of worship.  Allowing more flexibility.  Attempting to be a little more organic.

QUOTE FROM RE-IMAGINING CHURCH (by Frank Viola)

Institutional churches are a lot like trains. They are going in a certain direction, and they will continue in that direction for a good long time even if all hands try to make them stop. As with trains, the options for turning the direction of institutional churches are limited at best. If a switch or siding is available, the train could turn. Otherwise, it just follows its tracks. So everyone aboard had best hope that he is on the right train headed in the right direction.

 Organic churches, like those in the New Testament, are different. They are not trains, but groups of people out for a walk. These groups move much more slowly than trains—only several miles per hour at the fastest. But they can turn at a moment’s notice. More importantly, they can be genuinely attentive to their world, to their Lord, and to each other.

If I’m honest with myself … most weeks, we’re just a small version, of every other large, fast-moving train in this town … and that was NEVER our intent or vision.

When the early church would gather, it was not a show where a few people talked/sang, and everyone passively listened.  The early church was about mutual edification 

Col 3:16

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing ONE ANOTHER in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

ONE ANOTHER.  The NT uses that phrase nearly 60 times.

Everyone participating was the dominant ingredient in the early church gatherings.  Building one-another up.  Mutual edification.  Sharing.  Learning.  Flexibility.  Everyone given an opportunity to speak.  (imagine what would happen today if you stood up and wanted to say something during a sermon).

The Bible gives very loose guidelines for our worship gatherings.  We’re to gather together in one place.  We’re to study God’s WordPrayFellowshipShare.

1 Cor. 14:26

26 Well, my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize. When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you. 

29 Let two or three people prophesy, and let the others evaluate what is said. 30 But if someone is prophesying and another person receives a revelation from the Lord, the one who is speaking must stop. 31 In this way, all who prophesy will have a turn to speak, one after the other, so that everyone will learn and be encouraged. 32 Remember that people who prophesy are in control of their spirit and can take turns. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the meetings of God’s holy people.

So that’s what we’re going to attempt tonight.  Mutual edification.  Sharing thoughts and ideas and questions with one another.  Learning from each other.  And most of all, worshiping God through ALL that we do.

This might feel a little uncomfortable (because you’re not used to it) … but I believe, when we are uncomfortable, that’s when we can have our greatest spiritual growth.     

Continue our time in Matthew’s Gospel and Jesus Sermon on the Mount.

OPEN DISCUSSION

If you were a non-believer, and read the SOM, what are some words you would use to describe it?  

(counterculture, anti-American, radical, offensive, controversial, strict, absurd, stupid, etc.)

Matthew 5:17-20 (NLT)

17 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. 20 “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!

  • What does this mean?
  • In what way(s) does Jesus fulfill the law?
  • Are we do obey the law? All of it? 

This text is a complicated, widely debated.  Some thoughts over the centuries … 

  • St Thomas Aquinas – Precepts and Counsels (requirements and suggestions)
  • Luther – Shows our depravity and brings us to repentance
  • Anabaptist (Quakers, Puritans, Amish) … say these are to be taken literal.
  • Liberal/Social Gospel – Illustration on how we can fix the woes of society.
  • Existentialist – not absolute, but a challenge
  • Schweitzer (interim ethics approach) … temporary set of codes to follow until the KOG is established.
  • Dispensationalist – applies to the Jews, but not the Church (today).
  • Inaugurated eschatology – Believers should attempt to follow the commands, but full observance will only happen after Christ returns (already/not yet)
  • Wisdom Teaching – Jesus was expressing his convictions giving us wisdom for a happy life.

At Refuge, we talk a lot about God’s grace.  That we are saved by grace, not by our works or obedience to the law.  But now, Jesus is going to take the law and “add to it”.

  • If you call someone an idiot.
  • Look at someone with lust.  (gouge out your eye, cut off your hand)
  • Must always turn the other cheek.
  • Someone tries to screw you over, let them screw you over, give them even more.

What do we do with this?  How do we handle his “addition to the law” when we say it’s all about His grace?

GROUP PROJECT (8-10 minutes at each tables)

  • Murder (5:21-26)
  • Adultery (5:27-30)
  • Divorce (5:31-32)
  • Oaths (5:33-37)
  • Retribution (5:38-42)
  • Love of Enemy (5:43-47)

At your table, please attempt to answer the following questions for your set of scriptures.

  1. Why is it controversial?  
  2. How is this text relevant in 2018?  
  3. Current events, trends, or issues that relate?  

It is my personal opinion that the entire climax to the SOM is verse 48.

Matthew 5:48

  • Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (KJV)
  • You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (ESV)
  • But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. (NLT)
  • Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (NIV)
  • So then, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (NET)
  • Therefore, you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (NASB)

Question // How can we be perfect?  

Jesus!  Jesus’ work FOR you is fulfilled.  He fulfilled the law.  But his work IN you is incomplete.  And now we get to participate in that work.

Written by Brian Culbertson

Sinner turned Saint because of Jesus.

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