Sunday, July 6, 2008


There has been and continues to be an on-going discussion in our home lately. Within a worship service, what is the place of patriotism?

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?
I hope this presents a struggle within you. I look forward to hearing ALL of your comments. If you're reading, again, please comment. But don't quote me any Scripture out of context. I hate that.


Ryan Nelson said...

Let me just say that I did not commission this entry but you can be certain that I will watch to see what Sara's readers from around the country think about these issues.

After all, "Where two or three are gathered in His name..." Just kidding. I know for a fact Sara hates how that verse gets abused....haha.

Please respond.

Kari said...

This sounds like an interesting discussion. However, I havent had my first cup of coffee so Im going to have to come back and reread before I leave a comment with substance!

Just remember "Jesus wept!" (and you should too!) I used to tell my mom that but it got NO sympathy!

Stephanie said...

Oh my, this is way beyond my intelligence. In fact, it took me 3 times to spell that word and I hope it was correct. Well I personally hope my dad responds because he seems to know things.

However, my take on the guest standing when the rest of the crowd did not follow suit goes like this. With the song "God Bless America" it is a tradition to stand, therefore it is simple and nonthreatening for everyone to rise. When the praise team began singing, my assumption would be that the crowd was not told to stand so they did not. So my question would be do you stand during all songs or do you rise and sing sometimes, or sit and then stand? They might be waiting for directions instead of just deciding to stand on their own. They might need directions or maybe they need to be directed to stand when they feel like it.

I like traditions. I like honoring mothers, teachers, veterans during Sunday service.

Dad said...

Here goes in order of your thoughts.
1. This is where our non-instrumental brethern would be quite safe. They feel that you shouldn't honor one day above another (scripture is available for that), so they do not honor mother's day, etc. So no problem with standing for a patriotic song. I agree about most "holidays", but am a bit more patriotic than that.
2. This is a good question. Get's to the heart of personal pride. I think I would love to be in another country and see them express love for their country, no problem with me. However, we Americans do tend to think that we are the top and all should worship like we do. We may pay for that some day.
3.I like the flags in their normal place, with the cross centered. After all, America was originally "discovered" to bring the gospel to the indigenous (sp) peoples.
4.As long as gospel basics are not the issue, traditions are best replaced by teaching, then allowing the time for the truth to settle in the hearts of the people. Slower than legislation, but much more solid a change.
5. Personal convictions, when not directly akin to the basics of the gospel, should not be allowed to create problems. "In faith unity, in opinions liberty, in all things love." Still a good motto.
I do have a question. Are your people used to standing at the worship time? Maybe they sat down because they are used to that. Maybe they did not put 2 and 2 together. Simple error, no slight intended. In everything, love must rule the day.
How is that for easy and glib answers. (Not enough room for real depth here.)
Your questions show growth. I am concerned about people who never question anything. They scare me.

Gary said...

Sorry. The "Dad" comment is from Gary. I am so used to commenting on my girls blogs, I just signed in as Dad.

Chris said...

Well, I want to comment not specifically to each point but to your thoughts in general.

As a worship leader myself, I will tell you that when special events like this come, I usually take time in the service to acknowledge it. Yesterday, at the beginning of the service I said, "As you know, this past weekend we celebrated our countries freedom and independence. As Christians, we should be excited about celebrating how God has blessed us as a nation. We need to also make sure that we not think our selves self sufficient. Our blessings come from GOD, not by what we have done as a nation. We need to remember that we are in dependence of God. Lets pray and thank God now." And that was it...we moved on to the rest of the service. Same thing for Mother's Day and Father's Day. "We want to honor and thank our Mom's for being here today...while you watch this video the guys are going to pass out a small gift to you from the church." We give it a moment and move on. I think placing parenthood and how God has blessed us as a country in our service is good. It just needs to maintain is role. We dont go to church to worship America, but a God who has blessed America. The rest of the country does a fine job of being patriotic. Hallmark does a great job with Mother/Father's Day. We are to point to Christ. So to sum all that up...should we honor special okay with it but I certainly dont want it to take a major role. We shouldnt fit our worship for God around worship for country/parents.

Gary said...

Okay, I don't know who Chris is, but I have to say "right on!" That's a good way to handle the worship service. Keep pointing everyone back to Christ.

Lisa said...

I love you, Ryan and Sara! I'm grateful you're in the leadership of my church.

Judy said...

I think God is a celebrator, just look at all the feast days in the Bible. Celebrating different holidays in the church service allows us to see God working in all sorts of ways. I love holidays. I've been to churches who just did the same thing every service, with no mention of special days, and I felt a little cheated. Where else better to celebrate? Of course we want to honor God above all things and anything we do has the possibility to turn into syrupy self worship.

What I understand about history is that in the past the church was the information and community center. The United States would not be who we are today, if the church had not encouraged the people in patriotism, brotherly love, and integrating God's way into daily life. I hope the church does not start buying into the separation of church and state brain-washing, that is not historical. Yes, we all need wisdom, but are we going to depend on the press, sporting events, and the school system to lead us in patriotism? The greatness of America is because of the strength of the church.

Our friends from South Africa love our flag. They love how we love our flag. I even saw on the news that some people in France (!) love America and our flag. Let's believe for a great revival in the church of Jesus, so we can continue to be a great nation.

Love you, your sis!

Shelly said...

I am not nearly intelligent enough to comment on this post by myself. Therefore, I say a great big "right on!" what everyone else before me has alreay said! :)

Holly said...

People do what they've been taught & what the majority of their culture does. Someone stood for that song because they've been taught to stand for that particular song. Or because it's tradition or our culture you know? Or maybe it's the one song they knew. Most Americans are simply not FREE in their worship *except for your church guest! And we have helped them be that way by sitting in our seats until someone says, "stand up with us" or we don't sit down until someone says, "be seated." I think it will take a very long time for the majority to feel free to stand and sit whenever they want, no matter how many Sundays we tell everyone, "Feel free to worship how you want when you want." I also think it only starts by example. When others see someone being free in worship, it either bothers them like crazy (& they claim they can't worship with that distraction) or the see they want to be that free in worship too and eventually their actions follow their heart. I have always found it sad that people wait for the leader to say stand or sit, even though I have been guilty of it before. I feel less weird being the only one standing at my own church (like this past Sunday) than I do at someone elses. btw, is "chris" Chris Strickland? Hey man! How are you guys doing?!

Anonymous said...

Sara, I am glad you posted this entry. I was wondering if I was feeling wierd about the whole thing until I read what you posted. I came away from church on Sunday feeling a little empty and I felt like somehow we hadn't really worshiped God.

Sara said...

I do appreciate all of you comments on the situation and hope that the dilemma has caused you to at least think (if not comment) on what our worship says to God and about us. The discussion is not closed--I encourage it to continue! I just wanted to comment to let you know I am reading and still thinking and still discussing...

Tonya (Tonyalita) Moore said...

I think a Sunday morning worship service can be used to celebrate/honor graduates, significant anniversaries, mothers, fathers, etc. Those are things that God has given us. Why can't we celebrate His gift of life? How that is carried out in a service is the important part. Why can't a congregation be free to celebrate/remember/honor in a corporate setting as long as God is the ultimate focus? Traditions are good as long as we aren't bound to them. It is sad that people aren't more free to sit/stand/clap/etc. in a worship service unless they're told. What kind of freedom in Christ is that? I think God is glorified and worshipped in our freedom to express ourselves through honoring/remembering/celebrating. Maybe that's too much free-thinking.

We're taught at a young age how to act in to act to honor our country. Some people just keep on acting like that.

Maybe some people haven't been taught different ways to worship God.

There's a lot to think about here.