Family, Church, Community, Kingdom
Four - Worship Services
"You have to hold service gatherings in an earnest manner. As the last days approach, you must gather more often and with more devotion to worship service." (Belvedere, March 5, 1995)
I am of the mind that the weekend service is the organizing point around which the entire church life should revolve. At the core of its community presence the church offers one consistent, excellent, unchanging, heart-winning and church-building program every week: the weekend service.
We should design the weekend service from the point of view of the person who walks in off the street, or the skeptical parents whose son is thinking of joining World CARP or STF, or the journalist who wants to see what our church is like. As Father said, "I only speak the way God instructs me to. But sometimes, in order to match what people need, I will speak to match the level of the listener.... Everyone must speak at the level of their listeners so they can understand." (WSL 1, p. 113)
Father makes this point even more strongly when he discussed the type of worship services we should do in America. "If someone says, `I have always wondered about the Unification Church, I think I'll go and see,' and goes to the Washington Church, if that person leaves saying, `What was that all about?' then it is the same as if you cut off their head." (WSL 1, p. 122) Father could not be clearer about this, and we can only benefit by putting his words into practice in building our church.
Bill Hybels, leader of the Willow Creek Church, picked up this same insight when he was a teenager.
On Sunday morning Bill picked [his friend] up, drove out to his little white church in the country, and experienced the longest sixty minutes of his life. It was the first time Bill had attended a traditional church service with a genuine, downcast, openhearted unbeliever on his elbow, and it was an unmitigated disaster. Everything that happened was wrong for an unchurched kid. During the prelude, the kid looked as if he were going into shock. The `already convinced,' who had grown upon this liturgical diet, were accustomed to hearing ancient hymns `interpreted' by ten-year-old flautists or less than proficient pianists; they appreciated the `heart behind it.' But it was unlike anything Bill's friend had ever heard in a public setting. `Why aren't people throwing things?' he asked in a bewildered whisper.
From there it went south. They did a stand-up-sit-down thing several times, and the kid never did catch on. He listened, mystified, as a vocalist sang of seraphim and cherubim. Then there was the Creed. This was a hit, since the veterans had it memorized and Bill's friend had to stand there conspicuously mute. The Law was a hit too, because he'd broken nearly all of it, which made him think he was probably not too welcome there. Then came the sermon. No, please no, not the minor prophets, Bill pleaded silently. But sure enough...Amos...locusts...
Later, Bill's friend gave him his reaction: "I've always appreciated the fact that you are normal. You dress normal. You drive normal. You play baseball normal. You talk normal. But what you took me to on Sunday was not normal." (Rediscovering Church, pp. 31-32)
Could this story have any relevance to the lack of guests at our Sunday services?
I hope it is clear that Father's approach to worship service, in the context of the local church, is exactly what succeeds in America. Many churches other than our own are putting Father's words into practice without knowing it. As a result, they are growing much more than we are.
Consider another statement from Father: "You need to give lectures appropriate to the particular atmosphere." (WSL 1, pp. 123) Father is saying that we have to be sensitive to the atmosphere. He does not mean the weather; he means the spiritual situation of the guests! We cannot talk over their heads, or we will, as Father put it, cut off their heads, spiritually. He means that they won't come back, and they will lose their chance for spiritual life. And it is very easy to talk over their heads, because they are ducking.
Worship as a Condensed Workshop
We have to compete with a vast array of powerful external attractions. Our service has to have life and content, which comes through investment and creativity in getting across the message of True Parents and the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. What I am going to do here is review the components of the weekend workshop I listed in the last chapter. I believe that they each have an important place in the weekend worship service.
Elements of an effective workshop that cannot be duplicated in the service, but should take place elsewhere in church life:
Worship Is All About Creating Spiritual Atmosphere
What an effective "workshop-in-worship" does NOT have:
In Martin and Mclntosh's analysis of effective worship services, they deal with how difficult it is to integrate announcements into worship services. While offering several options, they never come to Father's conclusion that we simply not make public announcements. But consider: in the middle of My Fair Lady, or Les Miserables, or a Beethoven concerto or Backstreet Boys concert, does someone come out to make announcements about the cast rehearsal time, or next week's program schedule, or that people should pray for the lead singer? Of course they don't. To do so would destroy the spiritual atmosphere. It is a work of art that is going on. Now, shouldn't the worship of God be the greatest work of art? Shouldn't it have the deepest and most profound atmosphere? Why should the devil create all the spiritual atmosphere?
Let me pause here for a moment. Consider Father's words: "In a course that is mandatory, the phenomenon of revival does not occur. It has to be exciting." (WSL Part 1, p. 114) He is saying that our music and our preaching has to be exciting. It can-not be mandatory, just an obligation. When I attended a Johnny Lang concert at the Manhattan Center last year, I saw not much talent but overwhelming emotion. The place was packed. Why? Because people thirst for emotional experience. The church in worship CAN and SHOULD offer emotional experience, centered on God. That's what revivalism is all about.
Continuing with Father's words: "Without any direct experiences, a spiritual leader can do no work.... The most valuable thing is a direct experience-based faith." (WSL 1, p. 114) The minister, you and me, CAN DO NO WORK unless we give the people DIRECT experiences. In our worship service, we give direct experiences. But to give them, we ourselves must have them and share them. The only time I've given direct experiences of the Holy Spirit to others is exactly when I'm having the same experience.
Then we can appreciate another thing Father said about how to bring people to God: "Witnessing should not be done centered on words. People follow because of their own self-realization." (WSL 2, p. 84) He is telling us that we do not convert people; the minister does not convert people; God converts people. What we do is create the environment in which God can do His work.
1 min Prayer
3 min Announcements / hello's to all / welcome special guests
7 min Drama / offering plate goes around
4 min Fill out registration card / solo performance 15 min Scripture and message
4 min Meditation / meditative song
6 min Closing song and benediction
Obviously, to keep your service this tight, you need to do what? Rehearse! Yes, rehearse. Your service is your public face; it is your self-presentation to the world. More than that, it is the doorway through which God can enter someone's life. It's worth the effort!
The WestRock Church (Westchester and Rockland counties, New York) has been doing a 40-minute service, because of pressure from the Sunday School for their worship space. The members love it. When most of our services are just getting started, theirs is already done. I hear testimonies of God's spirit entering into the service strongly.
The Psychology of the Seeker Service
Once we create a true love atmosphere, we do not need to TELL people that we are creating a true love atmosphere. We just go ahead and create it. If it's real, they will feel it and join us. As Father said, "If you make a fire in a stove during the wintertime, even if you do not explain to the people which one is the cold stove and which one is the hot stove, because people can already feel the heart, they will naturally gather around the hot stove." (WSL 2, p. 152)
We have to realize that people want to avoid being converted. Call it Satan or just coping with the pressures of modern life, most people are resistant to something very different from what they are accustomed to. The more common and natural and recognizable we are in the worship service, the better. We want to be recognizable as the friends, family and community that they have been looking for. The guest should be able to relax. When the guest is relaxed, then he or she will start to absorb things.
To accomplish this, our service should reflect the culture of the guest. Father has gone so far as to tell us that he creates his sermon on the spot, based upon his feeling for a guest who is there. "There are many times when I haven't prepared that I pray after reading the Bible and the topic comes to me," he said in WSL 1, p. 111, "After seeing what? After seeing the people. As soon as you see a person, you say, `ah, that one is this type' and you compare that person to yourself. `Oh, when I was like that, I was in such and such a circumstance, and my heart was like such and such.'... It is like giving a sermon to yourself." What a beautiful sentiment! Father tells us to derive our message from our own life experience, based upon how our life connects with the life of the listener.
This means that we have to know the culture of the listener. We have to speak his language, to his heart. Consider this comment from two Baptist leaders who have had great success in planting churches in various cultural settings: "Culture forms the matrix in which people's lives are shaped. Things like values, codes of conduct, dress, language, family, attitudes, and many other human characteristics are imparted by culture. ..." Therefore, the presenter has to fit with the cultural expectations of the listener.
"The further a person is removed from his or her culture the more difficulty he or she experiences in coping, adapting, and feeling comfortable." (Ahern and Thompson, p. 33) A church that is in harmony with the local culture is what Rev. Michael Jenkins calls a "public church." In a public church in America, we need Jesus and the Holy Spirit. That's why, I think, when Father first came to America and spoke publicly, he gave classic messages about Jesus and Christianity. After all, Jesus is working primarily in America. We can let him work in our worship time.
Let me continue on this point. Father preaches from the Bible. Have you ever heard him quote the Qur'an? How about the Bhagivad Gita? How about the Bible? Yes, he teaches and preaches from the Bible. He once explained how he uses the Bible when he preaches: "If you say, `sermons are only for Sunday,' when it becomes Sunday you say, `Where in the Bible shall we read? Come out you holy song, come out.' This is not what you should do. Do not do this. Center on your knowledge of people, center on the living resources, extract relevant miracles from the Bible, and give a fun sermon comparing that person's experiences with the content of the Bible. Then the listener will be completely blown away. When he hears his own experiences, he will like it. You must go do it like this." (WSL 1, pp. 114-5)
Did you note everything in that statement? Father said, "give a fun sermon." Have you heard any preacher make people laugh more than Father does? He told us to compare people's experiences with the content of the Bible. That is, make your sermons practical, useful. Allow people to IDENTIFY with it: "When he hears his own experiences, he will like it." That means that guests are not going to be very moved by a sermon on the next blessing campaign, or on the ten points of being a Tribal Messiah, or on why we should go fishing in the Pantanal. We should give sermons about what people are going through, based on our own insights and the scriptures, biblical and Hoon Dok Hae.
Before I give a sermon, I spend more time praying for the members than I do praying for the sermon. After you have gathered your heart and prayed, "Father, I have to bring these people up but how do I do it? Is it this way or that way?" You preach according to your heart's commands. (WSL 1, p. 111)
The seeker service is designed to be an easy first step into the life of the family church. (Another first step is the small group, to be discussed in a later chapter.) You should design your service with your guests in mind. Many new paradigm churches offer catchy rock-style music played by their young members. Sope worship-team members dress in jeans and tee shirts, even the pastor. Others are more formal, in suits, ties and choir robes. Some don't announce the offering; instead they just pass around an oversized movie theatre-style popcorn bucket. Kids sit on the floor in the aisles. We needn't copy any-one in particular. The point is that these people found a way to reach others. They help them feel at home so that the word of God can reach them. We have not yet, in America. We need to reach and move people.
In the early days, we are told, Father would dress very casually for worship services and sit in the back until it was time to speak. New guests thought that President Hyo Won Eu, the worship leader, was the famous Reverend Moon. President Eu wore a suit. They did not even pay attention to the man in the back who wore laborers clothes. In later years, Father would dress up. But he always speaks appropriately to the audience. He often asks people who haven't seen him before to raise their hands. The point is that Father reached the people where they were at and brought them to have an experience with God. We must find the way to do the same.
Youmust go to the lowest position and pull yourself up.... you cannot wear a suit. Does a laborer wear a suit? I started wearing a suit to do sermons after 1970. And it wasn't even a real suit. I wore a laborer's uniform. (WSL Part 1, p. 112)
There is a great deal of competition to our message out there in the world. People hunger for the experience of the holy. There may be many ways in which it can come. All you need to do is find one. But if you don't find even one way, then you have failed and you are not worshipping God but paying obeisance to your own way of doing things.
The KEA Principle
As Father says, we must speak to where the people can understand us. New guests have no idea what is indemnity or a John the Baptist. New guests cannot be expected to under-stand broken English. This means that Koreans preach for KEA, Japanese for JEA and Hispanics for Hispanic Church. For the same important reasons, we must have Americans preach for the American church. In other words, we must speak the language that people understand. A language is more than just words. It is idioms, phrasing, cultural signs and signals, a sense of what will move people and what won't, style of music and so forth. We all know how difficult it is to convey what is funny about American jokes to non-Americans. Non-Americans have no idea of the significance of the phrase, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." But all Americans of my generation do. It's not saying Americans are better for that. It's just to say that part of living for the sake of others includes being able to communicate to them.
There are equally problematic gaps in Americans' understanding of the significance of Korean or Japanese communications. We need to bridge these gaps. That is why we have international marriages, missionary teams and church communities. But the worship service is not the place to bridge the gap. There are too many other gaps to bridge on that occasion. The KEA principle is exactly right. According to Ahern and Thompson, "The indigenous missions principle states that congregations are healthier and more productive, and require little or no outside support, when started and developed in the context of the socioeconomic conditions and culture of the people who are to be evangelized or congregationalized." (p. 32) Dan Fefferman shared a lesson learned by the Latter Day Saints, one that enabled them to break through in foreign missions. "They opened up to the local culture. Churches outside the U.S. are no longer required to have basketball courts; now they can have soccer fields or whatever the local people like. They are not required to celebrate American Thanksgiving, but can honor local cultural traditions."
Confrontation, or Conversation?
Most likely, the guest will know that what they are attending has something to do with Reverend Moon. They probably will be on the lookout for signs that everything is under the control of Rev. Moon or that these people all worship Rev. Moon, which is the last thing they want to become part of. Therefore, it is better at first to make an effort NOT to feature the glory of Reverend Moon.
We should speak the truth and let it stand on its own merit, not on the merit of Father's authority (i.e., "Father said..."), which may (or may not) work for members but will surely fail to influence guests in anything but a negative way.
On the wall I think we should not have the church symbol but we can have a nice picture of True Parents and of Jesus. Many churches have a picture of their founder on the wall. But in general we want to remove "sectarian signals," i.e., signs that we are foreign to the guest and hence not something that say they are interested in involving themselves with. Sectarian signals would include holy songs only the congregation knows but does not enjoy, a boring message with unfamiliar terminology, a long list of announcements, pledges that the guest does not comprehend, and so forth.
Transmute Felt Needs into True Needs
By looking at a successful business, we can clearly see how the principle of service brings life. A good shop puts the customer in the position of subject. Everyone wants to be served, and God's nature is that of a parent, wanting to serve. The store that can do this for us will succeed. This is the store that places the object in the position of subject. But we can see how the store truly is subject in the largest sense. Why? Because the store is more "other-centered." This means that the store is practicing a greater degree of love than the customer is.
Or what man is there of you, whom if his son asks for bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" (Mt. 7:9-11)
Now, why do not we have lines of people going into our video center the way people line up going into our restaurants? St. Paul explains it well: "There is none who seeks after God." (Romans 3:11) In other words, there is a distance between what people should desire and what they actually desire. The word of God is like aloe juice. People should want it, but they don't. We have to deal with the fact that people's felt needs differ from their true needs.
So, to get people to go beyond to a godly level of existence, we must reach them at the point of their highest felt needs and transmute these felt needs into original needs. What are the universal needs? They revolve around the need for true love in the family. For example, parents want their children to grow well and be happy. Therefore, the church should offer good children's education and childcare. Husbands and wives want a deep and eternal love relationship. Therefore, the church should offer marriage guidance, inspiration and counseling. Youth want to find purpose and meaning in life, centering on true love -- the search for their eternal mate. They are idealistic. Therefore, the church should offer youth service activities. It should offer means of self-development. And all of these should be centered on God. And each step should be easy to take.
... But We Don't Want To Be Just Another Church
There is a criticism of adopting a seeker-service format that we will lose our distinctiveness. I do not think that this is the case, any more than that we lose our distinctiveness by maintaining our present mainstream, doctrine-based, announcement-driven Protestant style. What I am saying is simply that we should remove the signals that make people defensive and resistant to God's love.
What Is Still Unique about a Unification Service If We Take Out Sectarian Signals
(The passages about the differences between us and traditional Christianity are from a speech given June 1, 1983, found in Way of Unification, Part 1, pp. 316-7)
Worship Service as a Part of Hobby Life
It is very important that you truly enjoy the service. If you enjoy it, the joy will spread to others. Do what you enjoy. This is the meaning of hobby life. Then even if people don't come, at least YOU had a good time! But they will come. You can teach about sacrifice later, in due course. A witnessing Sunday Service is a kind of performance, entertaining but also illuminating.
Pastor Dan Southerland tells a good illustrative story. A family is driving home from a Sunday worship service. The dad says, "That service was awful. The sermon was too long." The mom chimes in, "Yes, and the music was boring." The teenager adds, "Yeah, it was long and boring." Then the five-year old speaks up: "I thought it was a pretty good show for a buck." To improve our "show, "Father advised us to "develop music and songs; make a CD. In public, sing a song, pray and give your testimony.... Make powerful songs and spread them in your neighborhood.... Make it interesting for youth." (True Father, Bridgeport, CT, 1998.11.21)
Finally, whatever the style of service, it is absolutely necessary that it be consistent so the members know what to expect.
The Larger Strategy:
Worship As a Lead-In to Education
Practice, practice, practice.
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