The Belief that Shapes our Worship Gatherings

Two beliefs shape the specific way we approach worship in our community.

The first (I’ll address the second in another post) is this:

We approach worship as a rhythm, not as an event.

Increasingly, approaching worship as a rhythm,

or a pattern,

or a habit,

or a ritual (in the best sense of the word)

is rare in our culture.

Our culture is shifting toward seeing worship as an event.

What’s the difference?

And event is an exception.  A rhythm is the rule.

Events can also be very valuable.  They can also shape us.  But they shape us on a different level.

Once my college roommate and I went to a Grateful Dead Show in the Oakland Coliseum.  It was an unforgettable event.  We listened to some amazing music, took some pictures,                 felt very loopy afterwards.  It was an experience. A memory.

It falls into the “been there, done that” category.

Now, there were some for whom the Grateful Dead was a rhythm, a daily devotion, a way of life…they literally followed the Dead around the country.  For them, a Dead show was far more than an event.

My wedding was, for me, a memorable event… a powerful event.  I’m thankful for it.  It set us on a course and continues to serve as a touch-stone.

But, as great as our wedding was,  it doesn’t sustain our relationship almost 19 years later.

Healthy, regular habits do.

Truth-filled rituals do.

Good patterns do.

It’s interesting – and it’s a source or real frustration for me – our culture is becoming more and more focused on weddings as huge amazing events, and less and less concerned with the healthy practices that actually sustain good marriages.

In a similar way, in our culture, worship is seen more and more as an event,

as a concert,

as a show,

as a conference,

and an exception…

and less as a rhythm, a pattern, a ritual, an every week practice that sustains life.

Both events and rhythms can be valuable.

Interestingly, in historic Christianity, there are both:

Baptism is a one-time, life-changing event.

Communion is a regular, life-giving rhythm.

But we design our Sunday gathering as a rhythm.  It is designed to be experienced regularly and consistently, and therefore to shape and form us, to be a central part of who we are and who we are becoming.

It’s Not Too Late

There’s this extremely sad tendency in many of us that – even after we’ve sinned – makes confession difficult.

Like Judas, we might even admit we’ve done wrong, but still come up short of seeking forgiveness.  That’s the worst part of the tragedy.

People say, “It’s too late for me.”  “It’s too late for me to be a good parent.”  “It’s too late for me to learn to pray.” “It’s too late for this relationship to be saved.”

It’s not too late to humble yourself, to admit you were wrong, to seek forgiveness.

Jesus extends that offer to all people until our last breath.

If you’ve been wrong, if you’ve made bad choices, if you’ve been deceived, if you’ve sinned and hurt people, you don’t have to end in despair; you can end in hope.

Because of Jesus.

What happened to Judas?

Exactly what can happen to us,

when our history is not healed,

when we fail to see that God chooses us for his purposes, not ours,

when our character slips and choices become increasingly selfish,

when we’re deceived by the devil,

and when we’re too proud to seek and receive forgiveness from Jesus.

A Call to Worship

I struggle nearly every Sunday to “want” to go to church.  There’s a battle that happens in my soul while I’m showering and shaving early, in the dark, before anyone else is awake.  Sometimes it’s pretty intense.  But every single Sunday, by the time I step out of my truck and walk into the building, I’m ready.  I’m excited.  I want to be there.  And this is why: I believe that what I’m about to do matters.  I believe it matters to people.  I believe it matters to God.  


I love it when other people preach at Emmaus.  But recently I’ve made this unhappy discovery: It’s harder for me to worship God when I’m not preaching.  I think it’s because I haven’t prepared for worship in the same way.  I haven’t prayed for God’s help.  I haven’t fought through the early morning doubts and distractions and demons.  I haven’t actively reminded myself that what I’m about to do in worship matters.  


But here’s the point: It does.  Worship matters.  The worship gathering is not a spectator event.  It’s a participatory event.  It’s not a show about God.  It’s an interaction with God.  These words matter.  What I’m doing with my body matters.  The condition of my heart matters.  It matters so much that I should prepare for this all week.  I should step out of my car on Sunday morning like I’m walking into the most important appointment of my whole week.  Because I’m about to worship God.

It’s the Becoming…

“Miracles may show me the saint, they do not show me how he became a saint: and that is what I want to see. It is not the completed process that intrigues me: it is the process itself… Tell me what was churning in his soul as he battled his way up from selfishness and the allurements of sin to the great heart of God.”

– M. Raymond, O.C.S.O, quoted in Seeking God, The Way of St. Benedict, by Esther de Waal

What do you expect?

Do you expect to become more courageous, less fearful, stronger in areas of weakness, healthier – more at peace – in the parts of your life marked by conflict and pain?

Do you expect to grow in wisdom?
Do you expect to become more generous and less worried?
Do you expect to overcome your addictions?
Do you expect love to replace hate?
Do you believe your life can be transformed?

I think you should.
I think you should expect journeying with Jesus to dramatically change your life.

Not once – like just at a moment of conversion…

But continually.

And thoroughly.

God works in and through all kinds of people – even sons of thunder.*

He wants to work in and through you.

* hear my teaching on the Apostle James at

Rock to Satan

When Simon confesses the truth (Matthew 16:16), Jesus names him “Rock” (greek: Petra; or Peter).

Moments later (16:23) when Simon’s own desires cloud the truth, Jesus calls him “Satan.”

Fascinating, isn’t it, that our identity could be so rooted in our confession?

Perfect Name

“What is your name?” is one of the easiest, most automatic questions to answer. 

It’s one of the first questions we learn to answer.


“Who are you?”, on the other hand, is more complicated. 

It might be one of the more difficult questions to answer. 

Some of us have been trying to figure out how to answer that question for years. 


Names matter for two reasons:

what you’re called matters

and who you are matters.

The challenge is that 

what you’re called and

who you are

         are not always the same. 


Sometimes you’re called things that are not true.

But you believe the lies.


Sometimes you’re called things that are true. 

But you don’t believe the truths.


In Heaven, according to John’s Revelation, you will be named.

At the end of his vision, John sees Christ writing a new name on the foreheads of his servants, those who see God’s face.

What does that mean?


It means that

what you’re called and

who you are

will be exactly the same.


It means the deepest truth about who you are

will be what you’re called.