Summary: Building God’s Church through Worship (Bob Russell - When God Build’s a Church)
There are many different kinds of church. One unique form has been dubbed the Missouri Church. Here is how you can tell if your church is a Missouri church.
You might be in a Missouri country church if...
1. The doors are never locked.
2. The Call to Worship is "Y’all come on in!"
3. People grumble about Noah letting coyotes on the Ark.
4. The Preacher says, "I’d like to ask Bubba to help take up the offering", and five guys stand up.
5. The restrooms are outside.
6. Opening day of deer hunting season is recognized as an official church holiday.
7. A member requests to be buried in his four-wheel drive truck because, "I ain’t ever been in a hole it couldn’t get me out of.
8. In the annual stewardship drive there is at least one pledge of "two calves."
9. Never in its entire 100-year history has one of its pastors had to buy any meat or vegetables.
10. When it rains, everybody’s smiling
This is the ninth sermon in our series based on Bob Russell’s book “When God Builds a Church.” Today’s topic is worship. For those who are beginning to wonder, the series ends next week with “Evangelism.” You might take a look at you bulletin cover which has all of the topics listed and think about how many of those you remember. The last eight sermons in the series are posted on the web site if you want to fill in any gaps.
Russell considers the issue of worship style to be the most divisive issue facing the church today. I’m not sure that is true, but worship style discussions can be passionate.
I remember the most abrupt change in worship style that I ever experienced. Once I filled in for a couple of weeks at Hill Street Christian Church. That is an African American congregation in Louisville. Now, I don’t normally sound anything like a black preacher, but with the congregation shouting “Amen” and “Preach On Brother” my sermons came out differently than they ever had before or have since. All I can say is that the Spirit came over me.
People sometimes act as if changes in worship style are a new thing. They aren’t. There have always been differences in style and practice among various groups within the church.
The first major split that the church ever faced, the split that separated the Roman Catholic Church from the Eastern Orthodox Church, was driven in part by political issues. Still, for the average church member the impact was mostly about language and style.
Five hundred years ago, one of the reasons for the Protestant Reformation was the desire to conduct services in the language of the people instead of Latin. In fact, the Catholic Church did not give up on the Latin Mass until Vatican II which lasted from 1962 through 1965.
Our own heritage includes a major split over worship style. During the latter part of the nineteenth century, progressive, upper class, liturgical churches largely in the north were characterized by their use of organ music. Organs became a real status symbol for a church, like having a steeple. Rural, informal, predominantly southern churches turned their lack of instrumentation into a badge of honor and became the “Non-Instrumental Churches of Christ.” The presence or absence of an organ told you immediately what the church was like.
I remember back In the 70’s when people were doing folk services with flutes and guitars. Those were different. Long hair, flowers, and beads everywhere, and that was just the guys
There have always been different styles. When I was in college I attended a little church in View Texas. That was where Linda and I got married. It had a completely different style from the more sophisticated church that was across the street from campus and was attended by many of the university professors.
In the late seventies I moved on to leisure suits and white shoes. Do you remember those wild print shirts with the oversized collars? Those collars were worn over the top of the coat lapels. Do you remember those? That was what the well dressed young preacher was wearing. I even had a pair of those clunky shoes with three inch heels. They must have weighed a couple of pounds apiece and were almost impossible to walk in. One of the local churches had theater style seating with an inclined floor. I had to side step down the aisle because I couldn’t face forward without falling over.
One of the most striking displays of differences in preaching style I ever saw was when I was in college. I went to a Southern Baptist College in West Texas. I had a double major, Math and Biblical Literature. Probably about a third of the Biblical Literature students had come to college straight from high school and were headed directly for seminary. The rest were people who would be going directly from college into the ministry. Actually, many of them were already pastors of churches while they worked on their BA’s. One of the required classes was a sermon class. Most of that class was spent listening to my classmates preach short sermons (ten to fifteen minutes) and critiquing them mercilessly. The range in styles was amazing. Imagine me wearing a black robe and delivering a cerebral meditation on the implications of Bertrand Russell’s critique of the modern church followed immediately by a classmate who was a Baptist evangelist from Muleshoe. You might not believe it, but my good friend Paul, the future seminary professor, was even more highbrow than I. I remember one sermon in which he described people who had no purpose in life as, and I quote, “grey gossamers of blasé nonentity.” Did you catch that? I bet he spent at least an hour coming up with exactly the right words for that one phrase. “Grey gossamers of blasé nonentity.” Has a ring to it, doesn’t it? I couldn’t help it. As soon as he said it, I shouted out “Amen Brother.” The class started laughing so hard that people were falling out of the pews. Paul, who was a redhead anyway, turned as red as a beat. I apologized profusely for ruining his message, but I don’t think he ever really forgave me.