My Top 5 Corporate Worship Experiences

This is a hard post to write, because I typically don’t do “favorites”, but I’ve thought a lot recently about worship. That always floods my mind with memories of corporate worship highlights in my life…or favorite worship moments. I have had many. To me, worship is when God fills me with Himself. It’s when God has all of me and all I want is all of Him. That doesn’t have to happen in a church service…and often doesn’t for me…which is why I titled this “top 5 corporate worship moments“. I do believe, however, that there is something special about worshiping with other like-minded believers. (In fact, I would contend we are commanded to do so regularly.)

Of course, any time of worship is an incredible time. The fact that a holy God would choose to allow me into His presence should bring me to my knees constantly in worship. Honestly, however, there are times I’m just going through the motions of “worship”.

Here are my top 5 corporate worship experiences:

Los Angeles – It had been a long week at a business conference, and truthfully a very non-spiritual week. I was so busy that all week I read one chapter…Psalm 150. As is our custom, we went looking for a church on Sunday morning. I thought I had found a California mega-church online, but, after getting lost several times and nearly missing the service, we arrived to find out it was a very small church. There were less than 100 people and we were very obvious visitors. We decided to visit in spite of my introversion and on the marquis, permanently inscribed was a single verse: Let everything that have breath praise the Lord. Psalm 150:6. It turned out to be one of the most meaningful times of worship in my life.

Brooklyn Tabernacle Church – Cheryl and I were there for a Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir experience. I had heard people talk about this, and usually if I’m anticipating something it isn’t as likely to happen for me, but it did. I felt God’s presence like never before. I can still capture the memories of that moment today.

Brazil – I was about to speak via a translator for the very first time. Prior to stepping on stage, we were led in almost an hour-long time of worship, although it seemed like only a few minutes. Hearing Portuguese and English together proclaiming the goodness of the same God humbled me to tears.

Promise Keepers – I went to many Promise Keepers events, and they were all good, but on this particular occasion my boys went with me. They were probably both pre-teens at the time and at this conference, not only did I worship, but I got to witness, for the first time, my two boys worship. It was indescribable!

Passion Conference – I had gone with our college team, but for this session I slipped away by myself. I was alone in a crowded room…if you’ve ever been there. I knew no one around me and for 30 minutes, I gave God everything in my heart. I’ll never forget the jubilation. (I don’t get to use that word very much…but it seems appropriate here!)

Some may wonder, why didn’t you name your own church? Well, that’s a great question. I’m a very strategic-minded person, so on Sundays, to be candid, it’s more work that it is worship. Still, I’ve had some amazing times of worship at our church…especially backstage, which is why it didn’t make the list here.

I’d love to hear from you.

Tell me one (or 5) of your top worship moments.

Developing a Discipleship Culture

Last year at Catalyst Conference, I attended a breakout with 3DM, a ministry which helps pastors and churches think about the importance and future of discipleship. I had participated in a pilot coaching program Catalyst was conducting and this breakout talked about some of that experience.

The one thing which impacted me most was a slide that was shown. I don’t have a copy of it. I captured one with my phone, but it’s quality is not good enough to share here and I can’t seem to find another, so I recreated the concept in the picture here. (I know what you’re thinking…I’m an artist…right? :) ) Anyway, this one paradigm shaper has impacted my teaching and church leadership as much as anything in recent years.

You can see the diagram, but in case it isn’t clear, here are some explanations:

Invitation - This refers to the atmosphere and degree of welcoming a church or an individual message provides. Do people enjoy being there? Do they want to come back? Is it inviting? Is a message fun to listen to? Is it encouraging and helpful?

Challenge - This refers to the degree others are encouraged to grow in their walk with Christ. Are they challenged? Are they held accountable? Are personal disciplines encouraged? Are sins exposed? Are expectations strong?

The theory is that churches tend to fall into one of these four quadrants:

  • Low Invitation / High Challenge – Produces a discouraged/burnout culture.
  • Low Invitation / Low Challenge – Produces a bored culture.
  • High Invitation / Low Challenge – Produces a cozy/chaplaincy culture.
  • High Invitation / High Challenge – Produces a discipling culture.

I wouldn’t attempt to put churches in one of these categories, but I could. I know some of each of these. Chances are you do too.

If you put Jesus, the master disciple-maker in this diagram, we find He was both high invitation…people loved to be around Him…they were attracted to Him…yet He continually challenged them. He confronted them where their life needed to change.

That’s the kind of church I want to be. Those are the kind of messages I want to deliver each time I speak. To be a discipling church, we must find ways to be high invitation and high challenge.

Have you seen each of these type churches?

In my NEXT POST, I’ll share one way this has altered my Sunday teaching and the way I evaluate a message.

Two Messages from the Book of Mark

For whatever reason, apparently some of my readers like to listen to my Sunday messages. My hope is that listening online to anyone’s message is not an excuse for failing to connect with a local church. I believe that’s where the best discipleship occurs. If you are having trouble connecting somewhere, read THIS POST. If you want to supplement your church experience, you have to miss for other reasons, or you just want to hear my teaching, welcome!

We have a teaching team, so I don’t preach every week, but share the messages here when I do. Currently our podcast host is experiencing some problems with the embed feature, but if you are interested, we are walking through the book of Mark this summer. Here are a couple messages I’ve not yet posted. I’ll post the messages as a video here when that feature is repaired.

Week 1 - Mark 8:1-13

To hear this message, click HERE. To view this message click HERE.

Here are the questions for reflection on this message:

  • Do you believe God is able to do whatever you need Him to do?
  • Do you believe God will do what you need Him to do?
  • Do you have people in your life who you rust more now than you did when you first met them?
  • Do you have people you trust less now that you know them?
  • How do you think you could develop more trust in God?

Week 2 - Mark 10:17-31

A key to developing a sincere, growing faith in Jesus is to discover what holds our heart more than Christ. Join Ron Edmondson as he looks at a familiar passage illustrating that point.

To hear this message, click HERE. To view this message click HERE.

Here are the questions for reflection on this message:

  • Did you grow up in church?
  • Would you consider yourself a good person?
  • Do you think you are better than average?
  • What would be the hardest thing for you to give up if God asked you to?
  • Do you sometimes think you have already given so much…and wonder when you’ll get your reward?
  • Does the concept of grace, God’s forgiveness and mercy, freely given, ever blow your mind if you think about it, especially considering how well you know yourself?

I love hearing from you if you are listening to these messages.

Scripture Memorization, Week 24

This week we continue looking at The Roman Road, as it has been called, a brief walk through the book of Romans, that when combined, can help a person process through what it means to be saved; to be a follower of Christ. If you missed any of these, go back to LAST WEEK and follow back from there.

Here is this week’s memory verse:

What thoughts come to mind when you read this verse?

That Sacred Place…for a Sacred Moment

There is a special moment of worship that happens occasionally where I sense so strongly the presence of God that all the troubles of the world disappear. I don’t have a care in the world except the glory of God. I call it a sacred place…for a sacred moment… It doesn’t last long, but it lasts long enough that it changes me in that moment! It certainly renews my faith and strengthens me for the journey of life. I find myself filled with tears of joy, resolved that God is more real than I imagined, and determined to serve Him more faithfully. I’ve also learned, through experience, that when these times are more frequent, it often leads to God doing something new in my life, challenging me in a new area, giving me a new passion, even bringing me through a time of testing. (Wow, that’s scary to type, but it’s true.)

I’ll be honest, it doesn’t happen often, but it happened several times this week.

It doesn’t seem to be something I can plan. If it were, I’d stay in that place and moment, but I’ve discovered there are a few things that might trigger such a time:

  • Listening to a special song that was meaningful…
  • Studying a favorite passage of Scripture that has impacted my life…
  • Disciplining myself to be totally removed from the chaos of life…
  • Meditating on one thought…of grace…of His love…of His provisions…
  • When I’m sitting at the beach…or looking at a sunset…or the stars…

Have you ever been in that sacred place and sacred moment as I describe? Have you been there lately?

What triggers those moments for you?

My Last Blog Post Ever?

Will this be my last post ever? It will be according to a recent prediction. It’s been the buzz all week, so perhaps you heard it.

Christian radio host Harold Camping states that the Rapture (the taking up into heaven of God’s elect people) will take place on May 21, 2011 at 6 p.m. local time.  The rapture will sweep the globe time zone by time zone) and that the end of the world as we know it will take place five months later on October 21, 2011. (This according to a Wikipedia article.)

It’s been the subject of jokes, and teasing, and possibly some concern. What if it were the end?

I’m not jumping on a bandwagon of people making fun of Camping, nor am I going to assume no one is impacted by Camping’s prediction. The issue of End Times is serious business. It’s a sobering subject for some, as the subject should be.

I’m reminded of the concern of Jesus’ disciples following the resurrection. Consider Jesus’ answer in this passage from Acts 1:6-8:

So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

For the believer, this should never be a time of stress. I’m leery of anyone claiming to know a date, but Jesus said it would be soon and we would know the signs. He also reminded us, however, that we should not be afraid, that we could cast all our burdens on Him, and that He was with us to the ends of the earth. I’m not stressed today, not because I don’t believe Camping, even though I don’t, but because I have a faith in the person of Jesus Christ, who raised from the dead!

If you are not a believer; a follower of Christ, let this moment soon to pass cause you to question where you stand with your Creator. Eternity is not a laughing matter. Call on God now and ask Him to save you. Place your faith in the risen Christ! I would refer you to another verse in Acts 2:21: “But everyone who calls on the name of the Lordwill be saved.”

If you serve a risen Savior, let me hear a hearty AMEN!

Friday Discussion: Eternal Security

A recent college graduate from our church sent me an email recently. She’s struggled with her spiritual past. She became a believer early in life, got off track for a while, and now she’s on fire for God, Her dilemma is whether she lost her salvation during that time. She wonders what would have happened to her eternally had she died during her time of wandering. She wanted to know why I believe in eternal security.

I realize I’m stepping in dangerous territory with this discussion question. This issue divides people theologically as much as any other. Some of my closest believing friends would disagree with me here, believing that one can lose their salvation, but I believe in eternal security. I am not a theologian so I look for simple answers.

Here is my quick answer to my friend:

Dear _______,

These are standard questions most people wrestle with at some point in life. Great questions.

Here’s a short answer. I believe in eternal security, because:

  • The Bible says “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you SHALL be saved”…not you might be saved…

  • The Bible says “Do not worry”…How could you not worry if you were constantly wondering if you’ve gone too far…if you had lost your salvation?

  • It takes grace to be saved, why would it take works to remain saved?

  • Works are the result of salvation, not to earn or keep salvation…

  • Was there ever a time when you were “living in sin” when you didn’t “believe”? I’d say probably not…you may not have looked like a believer…but Jesus looks at the heart, not the outward appearance…

  • If we start drawing lines of how to lose salvation, where does the line stop? Could we ever remain saved? It’s just like the law…Jesus even added higher standards…one bad thought…one lust…one hatred…one dishonoring of parents…one idol placed in front of God…and we’re doomed…who then could be saved? Read the rich young ruler story…”What’s impossible for man is possible with God”…

The bottom line though is what difference does it make about what could have happened then? The bottom line is, are you saved now? Which, from watching your heart and life, I believe you are indeed.

Rejoice in your salvation!

Love your heart!

Hope this helps!

God bless,

Ron

There is so much more to this issue, but I suspect many others, including me, have wrestled with this same issue.

How would you have answered?

What questions do you have about eternal security?

Does this testimony resemble your own?

Share your thoughts!