Worship At Woodmont

read on behalf of the shepherds on sunday, August 26, 2018

At the beginning of the year, the shepherds and ministers set aside 90 days for prayer and study regarding God’s desire for worship. Importantly, we were reminded that the lives we live are our worship to God. But our worship assemblies are also an important element of worship.

For our worship times together, four foundational principles were identified:

-Worship should honor God;

-Worship should be transformational;

-Worship should be edifying; and

-Worship should be missional.

After the end of the 90-day period of discernment, the shepherds and ministers affirmed that we found no scriptural requirement that the worship music in our Sunday morning assemblies remain a capella only. We also believed that including instrumental worship in our assemblies could enhance the four foundational principles for some of our members.

After publicly announcing those understandings in April, the shepherds and ministers hosted listening sessions, inviting all to come, ask questions and share their perspectives. The listening sessions were well attended and provided a richness in varied perspectives – with some excitement and some angst. Also in the month of April, a Worship Renewal Team was commissioned to study our worship assemblies… get feedback from our members… get feedback from other churches who had already wrestled with the same questions… and then to bring a recommendation back to the shepherds and ministers, for the consideration of the shepherds.

During May and June, Jeff and the teaching team presented a series of lessons painting a grand image of worshipping the God of creation. We were exhorted to love one another, assuming the best motives in our brothers, and to submit ourselves and our own personal preferences to our brothers and sisters in unity.

Throughout the months of May, June and July, the Worship Renewal Team met and worked on their charge. Most of you – 578, to be exact – participated in the church-wide worship survey. All of the survey responses were not only considered in the formation of the recommendation, but significantly influenced the recommendation. The team was also influenced by best practices of other churches like us.

Next, the Worship Renewal Team presented their recommendation to a larger focus group of our church members, to receive feedback on how it was being heard. That process largely affirmed the recommendation. At the beginning of August, the Worship Renewal Team met with the shepherds and ministers to present their recommendation, provide its rationale, engage in conversation and answer questions.

At this point, we want to thank the members who participated on the Worship Renewal Team, including: Jeff Brown, Calvin Channell, Helen Derryberry, Brad Fisher, Sara Harvey, Lauren Sheppard, Jon Tate and Will Walker.

After hearing the recommendation, we met together on two other occasions to further discuss our worship assembly practices. I want to let you know that the shepherds are in agreement with each other and have decided to make the following changes in our worship assemblies.

First, concerning worship music in our Sunday morning assemblies, the second service on Sunday morning will begin to use instrumental praise in a significant way. The first service will continue the tradition of a capella music as it has been done to this point.

Second, as to our communion practice, worship leaders are encouraged to think creatively and use variety in the form of communion. While some enjoy the regular practice of family-style communion, many of you felt that the current practice of family-style communion does not uphold our four foundational worship principles.

Third, worship leaders are encouraged to increase the number of testimonies shared, as they can be one of the most transformative aspects of our assembly time.

Fourth, worship leaders and the church are encouraged to invite a broad and diverse group of people to share their gifts with the church family during and in support of our assembly times.

Finally, the church will make available the necessary resources to support these changes, specifically, by hiring a full-time worship minister to work alongside Michael and the other ministers.

So what comes next?

The full text of this announcement will be available on our website later today. Also, sessions are being scheduled for this Wednesday and next Sunday so that you can provide feedback to shepherds and ministers and ask questions you may have about the upcoming changes.

We have not yet developed specifics about how any new practices will be implemented, but we will certainly communicate them once they are confirmed.

I want to assure you that from the very beginning of this process, our desire has always been to be led by God’s Spirit. Our study showed God’s desire for our worship to be authenticated by the lives we live in the 167 other hours each week when we are not in the Great Hall. Even so, God’s word also emphasizes the importance of our assemblies. We know a capella music has been a defining characteristic of our tradition, but we wanted this process to be much more than a question of a capella versus instrumental music. Considering how to embrace the freedom we enjoy in Christ and introduce instrumental praise into our assemblies was the issue that was most difficult to discern. Some want to embrace both styles of music in all of our assemblies, yet we do not believe that right now is the time to make that move. Ultimately,

different worship practices are transformative to different groups of our body, and we want to make space for all.

We do not believe we have now reached the finish line. You may see other new worship practices at Woodmont Hills that were not specifically mentioned in the four points that were just presented. Worshipping the infinite God of the universe is not something that we have “solved.” If we were to spend 100% of our collective lives pursuing this end, our efforts would still be a thin glimpse of the glorious praise the angels know.

So… thank you for the grace you have shown to each other and to us throughout this process. And please continue to pray that God’s Spirit will lead us forward in unity and beautiful harmony.


Worship at Woodmont

Read on behalf of the shepherds on Sunday, April 8 2018

An Update from Shepherds and Ministers on Our Discernment Process

Woodmont Church Family,

On January 14, we announced that the shepherds and ministers were entering a 90-day period of discernment concerning worship at Woodmont. For several weeks we have been praying, reading, listening, and discussing the intersection of worship, mission, and heritage in our church life. We are considering the core values that should shape our practices, including, but not limited to, our practices concerning instrumental music. While we have not completed that 90-day period, we want to update you on what we are discerning at this point, and we want to invite you to join us in this process.

We spent considerable time discussing the theological aspects of our worship practices. Years ago, Woodmont concluded that there are no scriptural prohibitions against the use of instruments and that this practice was a matter of opinion, tradition, and heritage. While we maintained our acapella heritage in the Sunday morning assembly, we have used instruments in many other settings, including First Wednesday Worship, Good Friday Services, Youth Worship, Camps, Children’s Worship, Sanctuary for college students, and more. During this season of discernment, we have unanimously affirmed that there is no Scriptural command to use acappella singing only, and that we are free in Christ to reconsider this practice. So we have determined it is time to lift that restriction and begin a process of evaluating what changes should be made as we think more broadly about our worship. Affirming this freedom means we must now think about our assemblies theologically and missionally. We are in full agreement that the way we worship should be determined by how we honor God, are led by the Spirit, build each other up, and are transformed by our time in worship and fellowship.

We then moved from theological discussions to consider the relationship between our assemblies and our mission. Over the years, much has changed in our culture, our church, and even among other Churches of Christ and our shared institutions. We believe that we must consider whether our current practices in our assemblies will help us or hinder us from reaching unbelievers, discipling our children, and welcoming those we invite to our gatherings. Our focus cannot be on what any of us personally prefer. Our focus must be on the mission that sent Jesus into this world and called us into God’s family. Whatever decisions we make should be driven by our mission to love God, love each other, and love the world. Our discernment has led us to a consensus that reconsidering some aspects of our assemblies could help us accomplish God’s mission.

Our most recent discussions surrounded the pastoral implications of any decisions we may make about our assemblies and worship practices. We know that each of us is impacted personally by how we worship. We know that some have left our church family because of changes we have not made, and some may consider leaving if we do make changes. And we recognize that many of us have strong feelings about worship that involve aspects of our assemblies other than the way we sing—including the way we pray, take communion, and more. Whatever decisions come from this season, we are committed to lead us to love each other, listen to each other, and respect each other.

When Mark Phillips made the initial announcement on January 14, we pledged that this season would conclude with open and honest communication and that we would create space for dialogue as a church family. We are inviting you now to join us in that dialogue. We are asking you to continue to pray about these matters and to share with us what comes from your time in prayer. We aren’t asking for us all to push for our personal preferences. We are asking you to join with us in prayerfully discerning what God’s will is for our assemblies, how we can best fulfill our mission to reach people with the good news, and how can we continue to join together in worship and life as the Family of God at Woodmont Hills. And we want to hear what you feel God is saying.

We value your input, so on Wednesday, April 11, and Sunday, April 15, we will provide some focused opportunities to talk together about our assemblies, with more opportunities to follow. We also anticipate a survey of our church family. In the days ahead, we will take time for study, teaching, and prayer. No decisions have been made about what specific changes will be made in our Sunday assemblies, nor about when such changes will be made; and we will not make any changes without time for us to talk and pray together. Please continue to pray with us as we seek God’s will.

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant us to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together we may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6)

Your Shepherds and Ministers

Worship at Woodmont

read on behalf of the shepherds on sunday, january 14, 2018

At Woodmont, our desire is to be led by the Holy Spirit into worship that honors the Father and transforms us to become more like Jesus. Last January, we, as your shepherds, made a commitment to prayerfully consider the intersection of worship, mission and heritage. In the 2017 Vision and Mission Booklet that we handed out, we communicated, “Where heritage gives us effective and helpful expression to our love for God, we should listen. Where it does not, we must find other and new ways to express this love.” We said, “It is wise to keep our focus on mission rather than heritage as we encourage others to love God.”

We want you to know that the shepherds and ministers have been engaged in continual dialogue about worship at Woodmont. In the first three months of 2018, the shepherds and ministers will enter a time of discernment as we seek God’s will with regards to worship at Woodmont. Over the next 90 days, we will look intently at the intersection of worship, mission and heritage. We will be discussing different ways to structure our Sunday assemblies to engage seekers and longtime members alike. We will be evaluating our current policy regarding the use of instrumental music. And we will be looking for new ways to call more people into the mission of God. We are overwhelmed by God’s heart for the lost. The Good Shepherd left 99 sheep in the open field to pursue the 1 that was lost. We believe God’s people should reflect God’s heart!

This period of discernment will conclude with open and honest communication to the Woodmont family. We will consider worship policies and practices through the lens of our mission: Love God, Love Each Other, and Love the World. Yesterday, the shepherds and ministers gathered to consider worship from a theological perspective. We seek to honor God, above all others, as we worship. In February, we will be considering worship from a missional perspective. We want to mirror God’s love for the world with our assemblies. And in March, we will assemble to consider the pastoral implications of changing or maintaining our current worship policies and practices.

Insights that emerge from our time of discernment will be shared through congregational teaching in both large and small groups. We invite and encourage your questions, concerns, encouragement, and prayers. We value your input and we will create space for dialogue. While we know that we cannot “please” everyone we fully intend to lead everyone. Any changes in policy will be communicated well in advance of implementation. We are asking you to pray that God would lead us all. We are asking you to pray for us and to trust us. We are committing to open and honest communication. Above all, we are committing to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.

We are excited about these discussions and the movement of the Spirit in this place. We are confident that God will continue to guide us and lead us as we seek to Love Him, to Love Each Other and Love the World!