Introducing Robert Locklear
Featuring PraiseCharts Posted on May 24, 2008
Robert comes to us as a new Contributor through one of our existing contributor-members. Robert has a huge heart for the Church-at-large and has a keen scope for evangelism and worship through a Biblical view. He earned a bachelors of music from Great Lakes Christian College and a Master of Arts in Worship and Spirituality from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. It was at Northern where he had the privilege to take six courses with Dr. Robert Webber (including three independent studies) and really start thinking critically about the message and formation that happens in a church's Sunday morning gathering. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, in Woodridge, Ilinois. He enjoys biking, cooking, NASCAR and hanging out with Jenny.
I feel I am called to do more than make pretty music. While fun to make and the major product of our worship ministry, pretty music seems a bit self serving. I also feel as though I am called to do more than lead worship services. While, it takes a multitude of skills and high levels of patience, I don't know that that is why he would call "me" to worship ministry. As I have reflected on this calling for some 10 years now I think I am finally starting to understand that my calling, like worship itself, is more than just about Sunday. Sunday is an end to a means. This means what I truly feel called to: create an atmosphere of connection and creativity for the artists God has called (or is wanting to call) into the work of His church. This understanding has led me to change my philosophy over the last year or so and truly seek to create an atmosphere of life-transformation and enabling of others within the worship ministry itself. We are not perfect people but we are all called to be on the road to Christ-likeness. I am seeking now to understand how artists can get on this road and how they should look on this road? Artists are supposed to be the pinnacle of free thinkers. I think it is an awesome place where their freedom meets the parameters of Christian thinking, living and teaching. Free thinking artists engaging the truth and beauty of God allow us to really see, hear, feel and know the truth that is otherwise read or taught to us.
The Christian Church of Clarendon Hills (CCCH) is a story of transformation. We just celebrated our 50th anniversary in 2007. It was cool to look back at the ministry we had done over those years but even cooler to imagine where the next 50 would lead us. You see, over the last 10 years we have been under an incredible transition from a model of church focused on building believers to something more representative of the church that is seeking and going. While at first this was a change in our style of Sunday morning worship, it is now showing fruits in our ministry and discipleship styles. We hold a unique balance in our seeker awareness and desire to build up and send out devoted Christ-followers. Our transformation saw great growth instead of decline. We lost very few people as we also sought to be open to and reach out to those who were seeking to know more about the Christian faith and build a relationship with Jesus Christ. We are now running about 500 people which is representative of nearly doubling in just about six years with the greatest amount of numerical growth coming in the last two or three years. We are about to complete a new worship center that will not only provide our church community a hub for ministry and a new set of tools to help us remember, celebrate and proclaim the works of God but will also give our surrounding community a unique presentation facility that is not made available by any venue around us for miles.
We are now on the cusp of a new era of ministry as we are learning how to become a reproducing church and are looking for new and impacting ways to serve the communities that surround us as we continue to be a beacon for Christ in the western suburbs of Chicago.
The worship ministry plays a vital part in the life of CCCH. Our culturally diverse collection of artists is marked mostly by achievements in musical and technical arts. Our worship planning team meets weekly and works on services six to eight weeks out. Utilizing scripture, music, video, drama, and the teaching of that day, we plan worship services focused on one main point. Our congregational singing, videos, Scripture readings and focus points are all themed toward teaching this one main thing. The focus of our worship songs are to sing of the works of God. We try to keep our focus on God and the works he has done. We believe that, through Christ, He has done the greatest work (re-uniting himself to his creation) and that we are now participating in it by remembering and calling others to participate in the grace made available to all. And in participation, we do the work of remembrance and transmission of His truth and transforming power. We have services for forgiveness and confession where we will have times of focus on the self and our works and so forth however, most of our worship time is spent on God and what he has done.
We also have a team of talented video creators who have recently joined the team and they are helping to improve our ability to tell the story of God and the transformative influence he is having on the lives of our people.
In the Old Testament though, the Israelites learned their new ways by looking at the old: good and bad. Remembrance was the root of their spirituality. From the piles of rocks that Abraham would erect on his journeys to mark the work God was doing in his life to the physical actions of the passover supper, the very lifestyle of God's people where founded on what they did to remember God's works through history.
So how are our worship services the modern day mile markers of God's work and devotion to His people? Is our main motivation the usage of the newest audio innovation or lighting wonder or is it using this technology to further our ability to mark the work of God in this world?
I think the root of developing services around Old Testament principles of remembrance is more participation between congregants and a bit more complexity in our worship planning. The very order we give to our service tells a lot about what we are trying to teach and what we are centering our lives on. An attender of our church, who does fundraising for para-church ministries (therefore sees a lot of churches), recently commented to our senior minister about the unique marks of our worship services. Among those remarks was a comment that caught us off guard. He noted that we don't adhere to the "new liturgy". Before I let the feelings of flattery come up I wanted to know if this was a good thing or not. Somewhere in the modern church's desire to buck the old systems of worship we had developed a new one: a "song set", announcements, non-participatory song with offering, creative/programmatic element, message, possible song after the message and the dismissal. What does this order say about our church? What is the pinnacle of our service on Sunday morning? Is it the message of our lips or the message of God conveyed through the confession and participation of His people in the worship service that he initiated and invited us too? While wordy, this second scenario is more in keeping with the Old Testament pattern of worship.
The first step to our worship services implementing Old Testament strengths in New Testament ways is to adopt the power of remembrance. Look at the sermon of Peter in Acts 2:14-40 or even at John's vision of Heaven in Revelation 4 & 5. The foundation of these accounts is the author's remembrance of the works of God.
What is the testimony of our worship? Do we simple proclaim the works 'we' want to do? Rome wasn't built on good intentions and neither was the church. It was built upon the faithfulness of God and the sacrifice of Christ. What is the center of your worship form? Is it the teaching moment? Or is it the encountering of the temporal with the eternal: the people with their Triune-Godhead.
To recognize and practice worship means to take it from the margins, which is where it has been placed for so many years, to the overarching concept by which we lead our lives. Historically, worship has moved from this macro level to the micro level: from the framing concept by which Christ-likeness is lived out to something that we simply do in the course of life along with learning, meditating, memorizing, evangelizing, etc.
Worship is the sum total of the Christian life. In worship we learn, celebrate, give and proclaim. So with a larger view of worship we have to re-imagine everything that we do in the course of our living: our lives are instructed by our Sunday gathering and our Sunday gathering is instructed by our weekly living. So in this way, we can't live apart from worship and we can't worship apart from living. It is this balance that keeps our learning and our practice in tension with each other (not allowing us to become to "heady" or too disconnected from the theology which frames our lives). It gives us something to sing about, a reason to learn and an awareness of God in the conducting of all that we do.
Worship is more than a spiritual discipline, it is the very ethic by which we live our lives. Worship happens at every step of the way. Paul uses the closing chapters of Romans (12-15) to fill-out this concept. It is more than just our Sunday activity. Worship is more than our bible study. Worship is more than listening to Christian radio or tv programs. Worship is the sum total of our lives. If you want to live out this practice, live your life worthy of the calling you have received. Serve those that God puts in your path. Speak kindly and encouragingly to others spurring them on to good works. Mind your home life and your thought life. Live a life of grace and peace. The list goes on. But in all these things, the life of worship, doing the work God has called us to do, will be done. And in our weekly gathering as the church we can remember what Christ has done, be inspired with new ways to live out this truth, be centered on the great work of God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit and be challenged to go forth and live a Christ centered life again.
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