Stories of Worship Renewal 2018

From the early days of IWS, stories of personal and corporate renewal began to surface. Inspired by course work, campus conversations and thesis projects, worship renewal initiatives have resulted in spiritual transformation for countless lives through a deeper awareness of the living Christ in and among his people. We will never hear them all, but here are a few more accounts of worship renewal from IWS alumni.

Singing the Psalms in Contemporary Worship

Doug Bell, D.W.S. (Upsilon 2018)
Associate Worship Pastor, First Baptist Church, Tempe, AZ

Two years ago, First Baptist Church began a sermon series in the book of Psalms. I lead worship for one of our contemporary services and decided to find a way for our people to sing the Psalms. The method I hit on is based on the metrical psalm idea, but instead of using hymn tunes we are pairing the psalm text with modern worship songs. As you might imagine, this requires a bit of tinkering but we have had a great deal of success with it. Now that the sermon series is ending, I am working on compiling the songs that we created into a resource book for individuals and other congregations. We are also in the process of recording demos of each psalm to help facilitate their use. Moving forward, I am planning to use the lectionary to match our sermon text with a psalm so that we can continue to incorporate psalm singing in our service. You can read a more detailed version of the story and hear a few of the songs on my website.

Lenten Hymn Festivals

Lee Cooke, D.W.S. (Xi 2009)
Director of Music and Worship Ministries, Asbury United Methodist Church, Lafayette, LA

My thesis was on worship planning for the spiritual types in the church based on the work of Corinne Ware. Since then, planning and leadership have been geared to the typology of my church where God is experienced primarily emotionally and intellectually. Worship combines elements of liturgy and music that appeal to both the heart and the head while finding ways to motivate those who favor contemplation and mission-oriented activities.

We hold a hymn festival late in Lent. Last year’s festival focused on heaven and the latest one was entitled “Lift High the Cross.” Many of the Asbury faithful have been very affirming about their worship during the hymn festivals.

I am always grateful for the role IWS has played in my ministry and the life of the church where I have served since 1991. Without IWS, we would not have experienced the change in focus and understanding that have led to spiritual growth.

Symbolism and Sacred Action

Dale Dirksen, D.W.S. (Gamma 2003)
Executive Pastor, Forest Grove Community Church, Saskatoon, SK, Canada

My church ministry continues to be challenging and rewarding as we experience growth. We are learning how to reach out to post Christian, postmodern, post-Christendom as we launch our third site. This requires training as it is a cross-cultural task, at least in Canada. We are learning about how to use deep symbolism in our gathering for our second site. We have found that this connects with many in our city—both people of faith and people of no faith. Many are hungry for rootedness that is experienced in the meaningful rites and sacred actions we share in community.

Art in Worship

Ryan Forbes, D.W.S. (Alpha 2002)
Music and Worship, First Baptist Church of Clemson, SC

This is my 5th year of ministry at FBC in Clemson and it’s a great match.  I also have been able to teach at Southern Wesleyan University in Central, SC, for the past few years as Affiliate Professor of Church Music. When I arrived at the church, the congregation was in the process of implementing a long range strategic plan, carefully developed in the previous year.  The congregation’s hope was to seek more passionate and energetic worship, not a manufactured passion or energy.  Over the past 4 plus years, the staff has sought to “set the table” for a renewal of worship.  One area of focus has been on the worship arts.  We have, when liturgically appropriate, added art displays, images and banners in the worship center to emphasize the gospel story being proclaimed in worship.  The music ministry is constantly seeking a wide variety of musical expression in style and medium.  One significant addition which has added energy to our worship is the development of an instrumental ensemble recruited through establishing music internships and seeking volunteer players from the congregation.  The addition of orchestral instruments has encouraged increased engagement of the congregation in worship.

Global Songwriting Renewal

Frank Fortunato, D.W.S. (Psi 2013)
Co-director, IWS Global Renewal of Worship Center

Frank recently traveled to India with Paul Neeley (former MWS 504 teaching team).

We taught a group of 35 pastors and musicians from Rajasthan, who brought a repertoire of songs based on themes from Genesis to Revelation. Almost all the songs were the same style no matter the lyrics: an upbeat tempo in a call and response format, accompanied by vigorous playing of hand drums. I introduced four-fold worship with a special focus on the sending: using a benediction song with a charge/commissioning based on the truths taught in the sermon. Paul then divided the pastors and musicians into three songwriting teams and gave them Scripture passages to work with. Each group worked together for less than an hour to write an original sending song. Amazingly, with no consultation among the groups, the three teams created new songs in formats they had not previously used. They realized the drums were not needed and they avoided the call and response format. When asked how they came up with these new melodic genres—melodies that were slower and stylistically “devotional”—each group indicated they had no models that they referenced. Each group instinctively realized they needed to create original benediction/sending songs in a completely new melodic style. We witnessed an historic moment take place among these Rajasthani Christian leaders.

Singing Biblical Songs

Teresa Ho, D.W.S. (Nu 2008)

While I continue to teach online for the Alliance Bible Seminary, I am now at the final stage of my writing project. Meanwhile, I have been engaging in some preaching and teaching ministries at different churches in Vancouver. Recently, I taught a Sunday School course called “Biblical Songs which Enrich Worship Life“ in a Chinese church in Vancouver. The aim of this course was to investigate the theological content of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs and explore ways to apply these songs with relevance in a contemporary worship service. As a result, we concluded that congregational songs that teach the truth (Col. 3:16) should be an indispensable part of worship. I thank God for giving me this opportunity to teach and reflect. Singing biblical songs is crucial in building up the worship life of God’s people because this leads to spiritual growth. These songs help to equip our minds, nurture our souls and enlighten our spirits. As we sing what we believe, our faith will be cultivated. Biblical songs not only inform what we think, they guide us how to live and they teach us the right view of God.

Praying the Psalms

Jonathan Jones, D.W.S. (Theta2 2018)
Associate Pastor, First Baptist Church, Slaton, TX

During the summer of 2017, I carried out my doctoral thesis project on corporate prayer. I led my choir through the Psalms using them as a model for corporate prayer. Shortly after the project implementation was complete, a lady told me that in praying for her ill daughter she noticed how the corporate prayer class had impacted her personal prayers. She believed her prayer life had deeply matured because of the class. I observed indications of her deeper understanding of prayer when she prayed during our church’s worship gatherings. This is one of the many stories I could share which point to the vast impact IWS is having on worship renewal. My church family is experiencing worship renewal, and I am certain others are as well due to the training students receive at IWS.

Fourfold Order

Bill Kirkwood, D.W.S. (Theta2 2018)

My doctoral thesis focused on how the fourfold order of worship can facilitate the divine-human dialogue. The intervention included the pastors and other significant “worship influencers” at the church. Previously the church paid little attention to worship structure, instead focusing on simply supporting the sermon topic of the day. As a result of the intervention, which helped the attendees consider how the church could restructure worship toward a fourfold order, the pastor and worship director insisted on using that order for all future service planning. Services now include a call to worship and benediction along with more frequent and creative Scripture readings.

Scripture Presentation and Worship Planning

Jim Knarr, D.W.S. (Iota2 2018)
Dean of Students, Wave Leadership College, Virginia Beach, VA

I am currently serving as the Dean of Students at a small ABHE accredited Bible college where students earn an associate of ministry degree. I also teach Old Testament Survey, Church Growth and Discipleship, Foundations of Christian Worship and Introduction to Church History.

Three examples of worship renewal have taken root at the college where I teach. I am responsible for our weekly chapel service. We did not have the regular presentation of Scripture prior to my education at IWS. I have implemented intentional presentation of Scripture in all our weekly chapel services. This change has been embraced and looks to continue. Second, the idea of worship in the flow of revelation and response has been hugely influential in both the classroom and in preparing chapel. In addition, through my conversations with the worship music pastor, this has brought nuances of change in the church as well. Third, the students involved in the music for chapel have embraced a thoughtful review of song lyrics—the meaning, the Trinitarian content, and the impact of songs selected. Students often sit in my office to discuss the lyrics of a song and why it may or may not be suitable for use in chapel.

Renewal through Worship Education

Budianto Lim, D.W.S. (Psi 2014)
Director of Master of Program of Theology, Lecturer of Worship Theology and Old Testament,
Reformed Indonesia Theological Seminary, Jakarta, Indonesia

We have observed directly how churches struggle to navigate the ‘how’ of worship in Indonesia. Worship education is an ongoing process that is happening right now in Indonesia. Worship education has happened for the last 7 years and created further recognition that Christian leaders and servants need to equip themselves before doing any changes necessary. We are deeply grateful to see several pastors who have taken signficant steps to renew worship in their local parishes. Worship renewal has slowly happened by means of worship education. Let me give a specific example. We have a student who presented what she learned from our classes (Old Testament and New Testament Theology of Worship) to her small group. She created the interest in her group that worship involves more than what they had thought for many years. Through a simple sharing of worship theology, God’s Spirit worked in their hearts creating the hope that more believers in that local church will want to learn more about worshiping God.

Church Calendar

Khiet Lin, D.W.S. (Sigma 2013)
Worship Pastor, Toronto China Bible Church, Markham Congregation, Ontario, Canada

In May 2017, I presented a workshop titled “How to Plan Worship Services According to the Church Calendar” to a group of children’s pastors and ministry workers.  Most participants were not familiar with the church calendar, but they found it interesting to make the circle with the liturgical colors for the seasons of the church year. In November, I received an email from a pastor who said the workshop was meaningful to him. He wanted me to help him rework his worship plan. In February, I went to his church and spent two hours discussing his worship plan. I recommended Dr. Webber’s Worship is a Verb book, and The Worship Sourcebook by Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.  A few days later, he wrote, “I learned to balance my liturgy with revelation from God and response to God. Later that evening, I was able to plan the rest of my year according to the church calendar. Praise God and thank you again.”

Advent Art and Maundy Thursday

Dan Mullis, M.W.S. (Samekh 2014)
Associate Music & Worship Minister, Dawson Family of Faith, Birmingham, AL

Dan’s position has expanded to Associate Music & Worship Minister at his church. In addition to helping in the planning and implementation of worship, he leads creative arts, Sanctuary Orchestra, Chapel Jazz Band, Dawson Ringers and The Dawsonaires Choir. He also teaches trombone and jazz in local schools during the week.

This past year I was able to initiate two new endeavors. The first was a Maundy Thursday service lead by the Sanctuary Orchestra. Through poetry, instrumental music, scripture reading and congregational responses, the church experienced a Tenebrae styled service of Communion and remembering the sacrifice of Christ. Then, during Advent, I was excited to bring to the church the Advent Arts Gallery.  Visual artists from within the church were invited to create works that reflect on the themes of Hope, Joy, Peace and Love. They were displayed throughout the week at the church for the community to come and reflect on these themes as they celebrated the season.  In addition, one piece of art was brought into the worship services each week to aid the worshiper in visual reflection.

Corporate Lament

Jonathan Powers, D.W.S. (Chi 2013)
Assistant Professor of Worship Studies, Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky

On July 1, 2017, Jonathan joined the full-time faculty at Asbury Theological Seminary as Assistant Professor of Worship Studies. Additionally, in 2017, Jonathan was awarded the Vital Worship Grant by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship with a concentration on connecting the public worship of churches with worshipers’ personal grief by studying historical and biblical liturgies of lament. Jonathan is continuing to write his PhD dissertation on the Worship Theology of Robert E. Webber through the London School of Theology.

Too often it seems like church has to be a happy place and our heartaches and hardships have to be pushed aside in order to praise God appropriately. That could not be further from the truth. Over the season of Lent, the church where I help lead music (The Offerings Community of First United Methodist Church, Lexington, Kentucky) has decided to practice corporate lament. In particular, we have been singing Psalm 13 together followed by a time of open prayer, lifting our voices together in community to cry out against the suffering, injustices, and oppression that exist in our world. We conclude the time of prayer with a spoken corporate confession, a sung assurance and an absolution given by the pastor. The practice has been incredibly meaningful to our congregation and given many people space to lift their pains and sorrows to God as well as feel a sense of God’s prevailing peace and comfort. It has been amazing to see both how beautiful and how worshipful lament can be.

It’s Not Just a Piece of Bread

Bill Price, D.W.S. (Gamma 2004)

Dan just showed up on Saturday afternoon, a broken man. I had befriended Dan at a previous church, and we had not seen each other for about four years. In the time since we had last met, Dan had lost his family and his job. In his grief, he wandered from the church, but God’s love for him drew him to my doorstep. I spent the day listening, he spent the day talking. He went to church with us on Sunday. A good reminder, each Sunday’s worship must span the reach from the broken Dans among us to the rejoicing Karens. We can’t do that with clever planning but the power of the gospel always does.

As the service was about to conclude, I glanced over at Dan. Tears streamed from his face as he still held the Communion bread motionless in his hand. Moments later the congregation was dismissed and several members of the worship team whom I had introduced to Dan surrounded him for support. After a time of intercessory prayer, Dan ate the bread and drank the cup. Dan told us how the Spirit of Jesus had ministered to his spirit during Communion.  “I saw the bread coming toward me, and I just kept telling myself, ‘It’s just a piece of bread…it’s just a piece of bread.'” Then he looked up at us and said, “It’s not just a piece of bread.”

Dan’s problems didn’t go away that day. All he had lost did not return that day, but Jesus took Dan by the hand and began the process of bringing him back into fellowship with himself and His Body.   Whatever one’s views of the Eucharist, let us never forget that the Holy Spirit is at work and it’s not just a piece of bread.

Details Matter

Mike Waddey, D.W.S. Candidate
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Maury City, TN

I don’t think I realized the cumulative effect of IWS Practica until this past Sunday. I must admit that I felt a little roughed up at times during Practicum.  At the time, I couldn’t quite see how practicum and the classroom were working together for my good and the good of my congregation. I do now.

As a project for 704, I changed the way my church takes Communion. Rather than pass the crackers and juice, we received the Lord’s Supper by intinction on Easter Sunday. This change was a HUGE departure from our normal practice. Three weeks before Easter I began to educate our people about how Communion would look. I explained it and demonstrated what intinction looks like during those three weeks. I even did a Facebook Live video to make sure people were informed and prepared. We had two practice sessions in which we rehearsed each movement of the service. The deacons practiced their lines: “This is the body of Christ which is broken for you,” and “This is the blood of Christ which is poured out for you.” We thought through how people with mobility issues would be served. We practiced verbal cues with our sound technician so that nothing would become a distraction.

Our small rural Southern Baptist church moved through the service like we had been doing it that way forever. Details matter. Preparation and practice make worship on Sunday better, especially when introducing something new. Our people loved it!  I’m grateful for being roughed up a bit during practicum!

About the author

Alumni Director, Practicum Professor, and DWS graduate.