First, let me say we are very proud of our country and those who serve it on a regular basis. We know we have no idea how the sacrifice that has been made for our country. Our freedom should be honored and celebrated! We hope we can pass on an attitude of respect and gratitude to our children, as well as an understanding of what our freedom means. We also recognize the values of our founding fathers were grounded in their faith in GOD! Our country was established under the grace of GOD!
Second, let me also say that through his studies for his Masters, Ryan has become very comfortable with the idea of the role of tradition in worship. Tradition is a relevant tool to point people towards God. This is not just a "contemporary worship" issue.
And, let me say I was not in the service this morning, so I cannot attest to the events firsthand. I was in the nursery.
After a lot of personal struggle, discussion, and study, Ryan shaped a service that highlighted our country, but made God the focus of our worship. The service opened with Ryan leading the congregation (from the back) in an a cappella verse of "God Bless America." One man immediately stood up and the congregation followed. A few minutes later when the praise team began leading in the worship songs, no one stood (except, oddly enough, a guest) for the first verse, until Ryan prompted them to at the chorus. Very disheartening when the people stand to honor our country, but really give no thought to standing to honor God.
So, some of the questions up for discussion are:
- Is it appropriate to use a Sunday morning worship service to honor someone or something other than God and what he has done for us? (e.g.--"God works through mothers," but should we use Sunday morning to give awards to the mother with the most children; or "Our country needs our prayers," but should we highlight our love of country in a worship service?)
- How does our view of our country as God's chosen people affect our view of world missions or the universality of Christianity? How would we feel about a similar service in a different country?
- Where should flags (American & Christian) be placed within a church building? (Not flag etiquette, but as symbols and in relation to the cross.)
- If a tradition is found to be unhealthy, what role should it play as education is taking place? (i.e.--Should some elements be left in to appease those who cling to the tradition, or if the conviction is strong, should the change be complete immediately.)
- What do you do if you, as a leader, believe something, but it is not upheld by the leaders around you? If all the leaders do not agree, what do those with the conviction do?