Here is some commentary on the worship questions Special Gathering struggled with during our retreat.  On Friday evening, we listed these in order of importance to us. That is we tried to determine which our teachers and volunteers (our elders) think are important.

1) What do we like? I think often this becomes the primary issue that determines what worship services for mentally challenged persons look like. Those who are in charge often structure a worship service that is meaningful to them (those in charge) or they structure a worship service they feel would be meaningful to children.

2) What is educationally sound? This became an issue for me personally when I realized that most of my sermons were not educationally sound. We often used object lessons that were figurative. The first video we made of The Special Gathering showed me with some test tubes. One of the test tubes (which was ¾ full of a clear liquid) represented a person. There was a second test tube that I poured into the first that represented sin. Now the first test tube turned blacked (to ooh and ahs). Yet the third test tube which had red liquid in it (representing the blood of Jesus) was poured into the first test tube turning it clear again (to yet more ooh and ahs). A mentally challenged person has to mentally make abstract connections between test tubes being humans, The devil, and Jesus. Even though people enjoyed the trick I think they missed the point. The object lesson did not make it easier to understand and in fact may make it harder to understand. One of our teachers asked me lately, “how many of our members could tell you who Moses is?” I then asked myself what was important for our members to know? For me the list would be Christ and Cross focused. Also knowing we are sinners.

3) What is theologically correct? For the purpose of this discussion we are not referring to your systematic theology or belief system. The issue to be considered is weather there is a correct way to “do” worship and an incorrect way to “do” worship. Or is it only a matter of preference? I like contemporary music, you like hymns and yet someone else likes southern gospel, but are they all equally valid? Are there types of worship that are false fire (Lev 10:1-3, Heb 9:1). Or are there things you just should not do like – You just shouldn’t do communion with Mountain Dew and Dorritos? 1 Cor. 14 is about what should not happen in worship. One of the standards used is what the unbeliever would think.

4) What is meaningful to those attending? This really is not about the service being “seeker friendly” as much as it is about worship being ‘man” centered or “God” centered. Are our sermons more about what we need (how to have a better marriage, more happiness, better finances, etc) or is it about the greatness of God, the cross and the sinfulness of man.

5) What does God likes? Are there types or styles or forms of worship that are more pleasing to God? If we are to give God our best does He prefer more sophisticated music over simplistic music? Does it sadden God when we dress better for a job interview than to worship Him? Does he want our first fruits and not our leftovers? a) Those that have liked more traditional worship to high worship have at time made the case that contemporary/charismatic worship was not up to par and looked down on it. b) Likewise many who liked contemporary/charismatic worship felt that others were just missing God. That they were more spiritual. c) If God does not have a preference then it does not matter what we do. d) What is in Spirit and in Truth.

6) Disability Sensibilities? How does the culture we are trying to reach change what we do? It is the puppet/clown question. Many if not most of the people we serve are offended by being treated like children. So do we never use puppets or clowns?

7) Good enough for retarded people? No one would ever say that, but it can become an attitude we have. Does it empower mentally challenged persons? What part of what we do can be done by our members. Parts of worship like praying, scripture reading, etc.

8) Is it being well done? Doing everything as well as it can be done. Is this the way you would do “it” in your home church? If not, why not? Is it different because of the needs of mentally challenged persons or is it different because we put less effort into “it” when “it” is for persons with disabilities.

9) Being mystical? We know that when we worship something is happening on the spiritual domain. That none of us are able to reach God so God reaches us. That is what Jesus is all about. How important is cognitive understanding?

This is a comment submitted by Richard Stimson to the Friday, October 30 post.