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A glimpse of the church’s future (hopefully)

Filed under: A New Liturgy,church,God's movement — 10:59 am


Last Tuesday night, nearly a thousand 20 and 30-somethings from many church traditions and denominations packed in Historic First Pres Church in downtown Phoenix for a night of worship. And the God is Love liturgy came alive in a way I’ve never seen. (Check out the deeply compelling vision of Jeff Gokee for PhoenixONE here.)

I’m not exactly sure all the reasons why it was such a holy gathering, but here is one thing I can’t stop thinking about:

Ecumenicalism is the future.

Christianity has divided and specialized ourselves into a thousand small corners, and we’re all missing out on what the other has to bring. (It’s like every kid in a family deciding to only eat their favorite food…nothing else. They are happy for a while, but end up malnourished and sick.)

Tuesday night was a beautiful mingling of traditions. You could see the mainline folks digging deeply into the more liturgical elements. The evangelical folks lead the charge as we sang “One Thing Remains”. And thank God for our charismatic brothers and sisters – raising hands and dancing in the isles. We were all enriched by what the other had to bring.

And I guess this is the heart of what we’re trying to do with A New Liturgy.

Singing four worship songs and a hymn is a great way to worship God, but a little one-dimensional. A steady diet of only this could create malnourished worshipers. But as much as I idealize The Liturgy, many of my mainline friends are longing for more heart, life, and passion than the conventional liturgy. It seems that every tradition understands something profound about worshiping God, but we lack (1) A way to share this wisdom with other traditions who would benefit, and (2) A way to learn from other traditions who are strong in other areas. And so most of us end up spiritually isolated, one-dimentional, and malnourished.

Wow, I’m discovering (as I write this post!) how much this matters to me.

We Christians have become experts at defending our faith and sharing the truth. This is good in many ways. But I think we need to also recapture our ability to learn from those outside of our circle. Courage is a beautiful thing, but so is humility.

I suspect that the church of the future will be lead by people who know and admit what they don’t know…and then humbly partner with those who can teach them.

Can you imagine a church that said “Jesus is the center and focus of everything we do, but we acknowledge our limited vantage point. And so we will embrace and learn from any tradition or practice that elevates Christ and forms us into His likeness.” Reading ancient prayers? Yes. Singing pop songs with our hands in the air? Yes. Praying Jewish blessings from the Torah? Yes. Singing old spiritual laments? Yes.

As each member of a church is just one part of the body, I wonder if each church tradition needs to be understood as one part of the Bigger Body. Each is absolutely critical…but only one part of the Story.

Thank God for our fundamentalist brothers and sisters who remind us that God’s truth is profoundly important. Thank God for our Catholic brothers and sisters’ commitment to working for good in the world. Thank God for Evangelicals who remind us that we need to be saved. Thank God for the open hearts of our Episcopalian brothers and sisters.

Each one is a glorious part of the tangible Kingdom of God among us! And how can the foot say to the eye “I don’t need you!”… (1 Cor 12)

The big question is: How can we come together? Where are the safe places to lay down our tribal flags and learn from our “other” brothers and sisters? Who will create and protect more of these safe places?

We really need each other.


  1. So glad you were able to experience what God is doing in Phoenix. It’s a wonderful glimpse of local churches moving together as ONE in Christ’s mission. Aaron, I strongly believe that collaboration among local churches is the NEW reformation of the 21st Century Church. May our Father continue to forge in you His heart for His Church to be ONE so the world may know…

    With Love,


    Comment by David Hickman — June 12, 2013 @ 9:49 am

  2. Thank you for your thoughts Aaron! We hope to have you back out soon!!!!

    Comment by Mike Bhatti — June 12, 2013 @ 12:29 pm

  3. “Courage is a beautiful thing, but so is humility”…. love this, and will steal it for my thought of the day! Sometimes it feels like the “church” is looking for ways to say “no” it is pleasant to think of ways to say YES!!!
    So excited to see what this generation can do with God in the front seat ūüôā

    Comment by Linda — June 12, 2013 @ 12:53 pm

  4. I LOVE what Phoenix 1One is doing and I hope it continues to prosper. I love the idea of people from all the churches coming together and celebrating a common God, a common king and saviour.

    My only concern is that it targets 20s-30s. Keepin’ it hip and relevant, I appreciate that, but I’m 36 now and in three and a half years I’ll be officially “out of place”–no doubt allowed and even perhaps welcome, but untargeted and surrounded by much younger people. I’ve already been through this pain with a 20s-only group, and at the same time I don’t want to see it disrespected because I’ve also been through the flip side with 30s-40s group being filled up with folks in their 50s.

    I’m *not* complaining here, that’s not why I’m commenting. I am, however, concerned. People don’t just drop off the edge of the planet and out of existance at 40, and I would really like to see something like PhoenixONE happen in an open demographic manner. That’s gotta be really hard to do, I’m sure, since age groups helps keep people from being offended by the extremities of age variations–kids are offended by boomers’ and senior citizens’ ways just as much as seniors are offended by kids. But, to the point of everything that was said in this article, people getting offended should not mean that they forever be cut off; there is much value in bringing the diversities together, and indeed the offense people have is just the chemistry involved in trying to pool multiple elements together.

    How is age diversity really that different from denomination diversity?

    Comment by Jon Davis — June 12, 2013 @ 7:13 pm

  5. Jon,
    Great perspective! I think that age diversity is just as important as denominational diversity. we need each other. Thanks for mentioning this. Peace, Aaron

    Comment by aaronieq — June 13, 2013 @ 11:57 am

  6. We’ve been at Willow for nine months and are new members. I followed a link to your blog. We have appreciated your leadership in worship and am blessed by your creativity in honoring God together with the many sounds, words and tools He has given us. For me, worship diversity started with purposefully training at home from my parents. From a young age, my parents taught and modeled that we have the honor and joy to worship our King – no matter how the instruments or people led, no matter the sound or style, but that the King of Kings stood before us and we joined together to give Him all that we had to the glory of God. It is our responsibility and no one else’s – and what blessings we receive!

    Now I teach my two children (7 & 4) that in word or deed, in the name of the Lord, we praise our God. Recently we studied a short poem by Robert Browning…The lark’s on the wing; The snail’s on the thorn; God’s in heaven‚ÄĒAll’s right with the world!

    We talked about the beauty of His creation, how it works together for our enjoyment, the hope we have in heaven, His desire for us to join Him – how right that is! Then we memorized the words and raised our hands to heaven and practiced speaking the words with passion as prayer and praise to our Father. And no joke, a few days later we were riding our bikes and my daughter saw a bird and stopped in the middle of the road to raise her voice in worship, citing this Browning poem. This was a moment, not all our moments are so holy – LOL!

    This is the safe place, teaching our children at home – modeling worship in word and deed in the ‘ordinary’ moments of our day. That’s a foundation for growth. We’re learning and there are many more wonderful ways that my husband and I can discipline ourselves to teach and model the fullness of worship. Family worship is where it begins, hearts are turned toward the Father and from there flows the wonderful future of the church.

    Comment by Kate Wolfe — June 17, 2013 @ 10:21 am

  7. Very refreshing post, Aaron. I feel the same way, the more I think about it, the more I realize how important this is to me. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Aaron Williams — June 21, 2013 @ 11:45 am

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