haven’t changed a word for 15 years… until now

March 28, 2015 — 3 Comments

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It was almost 20 years ago now. We sat around a stack of pizza boxes, yellow legal pads and number number two pencils in hand, and we agonized over language that would clarify our purpose and our values as a Worship Ministry team at a church in Bloomington, MN. It was painful.

But it was fruitful. This was the brotherhood. My team of Levites. Worship leaders and lead worshipers and partners and my best friends. We wrangled and argued and refined and prayed and read the Bible and fought to find the words that would guide us in worship ministry over the next decade and a half. Further, it would come to be the guiding document for the worship ministry in a new church plant that I would join a few years later. We have co-opted these words and leaned on them as a guiding path for ministry in several capacities since, including the worship and arts ministry of the church I am serving as Pastor as of this year, St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Though I am a lead Pastor now, the first 20 years of my ministry life were spent leading worship ministry teams.

When I speak to churches about worship ministry, I strongly advocate entering into the process of developing and clarifying a team-wide biblical ministry purpose, and values that reflect the overall mission and values of your congregation. Clarifying words give the ministry team a TARGET. It’s hard to measure whether or not your ministry is accomplishing it’s goal if the ministry has no clear idea what that goal is. But the process of writing our purposes, mission statements, values… ouch. You sweat blood. So I’m not talking about banging this out in a couple hours over some delicious Papa John’s on a Friday night. Nope. It will probably take you months. And lots of frustration. And a few blessed light-bulb moments. And prayer.

But then, when you get to the end of the process, and the whole Team is on board and committed… the synergy and the unity and the depth of fellowship in that ministry is hard to put into words.

For more than 15 years I haven’t changed a word from what we started with in those pizza box sessions in Bloomington. Not a single word. Because I BELIEVED in them, and I believed God had granted us clarity, blessing, and direction. I still believe that.

However, purpose statements are only valuable to the degree that they point you to a biblical target that reflects the heart of God and is rooted in the truth. Purpose statements ought to be developed CAREFULLY, and PRAYERFULLY, so that they coalesce a ministry Team around a clear and truly God-honoring rallying cry. To the degree they reflect scripture, they will be helpful. To the degree that they misdirect away from scripture, they will be harmful.

So here we are. More than 15 years later. And we needed to make a change.

I guess this was born out of a season of looking at our theological positions under a microscope. Having just launched a new website for St. Olaf Lutheran Church, our deacons and I have been dissecting and finessing the wording on our site in the “who we are” and “what we believe” sections. As I went to post our Worship and Arts Ministry Purpose and Values, I realized something that flew under the radar for all these years.

Our original purpose for worship ministry looked like this:

“We exist to model and facilitate deeply significant worship expressions that result in transformed lives.”

My focal points in this statement have always been on (1) both modeling AND facilitating worship, and (2) transformed lives. In other words, we don’t just lead worship, we model it. And secondly, we expect God the transformer to change people into His image if His Spirit is moving as we worship.

But we need clarity when we express theological positions. And here’s the rub… I realized that in these words we had actually taken on responsibility here as a Team that we were never intended to carry. Because worship is always RESPONSE to God the initiator, “worship expressions” don’t RESULT in transformed lives at all. That is assigning power to the act of worship that it does not and can not hold.

So, lo these 15+ years hence, I have made a change. Our purpose statement now reads, “We exist to model and facilitate deeply significant worship expressions that REFLECT transformed lives.”

BOOM. The power of the GOSPEL changes people. Worship is the response.

NOTE: Feel free to read or download our full page “Worship and Arts Ministry Purpose, Vision, and Values” here.

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“haven’t changed a word for 15 years… until now” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://www.jskogerboe.com/2015/03/27/havent-changed-a-word-in-15-years/ ‎.

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Psalm 24:7 & Luke 10:42 >> Like David, and Mary, I'm in pursuit of my one thing. I'm the Pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Pastor, teacher, writer, communicator, designer, and drummer. I definitely got the better deal in my marriage to Amy. And I couldn't be any more proud of my five amazing boys. Deeply grateful.

3 responses to haven’t changed a word for 15 years… until now

  1. You, my friend, are a tremendous pastor and leader. Many would overlook the significance of a single word, yet you faithfully steward language and its impact. Theology matters, as do the words we use to reflect these positions. Thank you for holding a high standard and shepherding well.

    • Thanks much Kevin! This was a small change on the page, but I think a very significant change in understanding what we do. It is also coming to the surface in light of what I see happening in many contemporary worship ministries, which see themselves as the change-makers. This is, of course, a very broad brush, and many many many churches have teams full of humble, spirit-led servants who model and lead worship for their congregations in very God-honoring ways. But the power is always in the truth of the Word, empowered by the Spirit. We as a Team must keep that in mind, and then be “response-facilitators.”

      Anyway, thanks for the encouragement, brother.

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