Hillcrest Worship Program Goes to Seminary

“Every person, regardless of religious profession, has worshiped their way through every day of their existence.” The comment from author Paul David Tripp is a key quote in Hillcrest’s outline of the worship program. On Friday last week students unpacked their mission in the worship team with Dr. Brad Pribbenow who said, “Worship, at its truest and best, is to hear and believe the Word of God.”

Students packed in to the Lutheran Brethren Seminary chapel. The room filled with light pouring in the stained glass window above Dr. Pribbenow’s head as students leaned in to the worship teaching. “Worship is both Vertical and Horizontal,” Dr. Pribbenow continued. Some students feverishly wrote down notes. Others were picking key points of the presentation for their debrief session planned for later in the day.

Over the shoulder of one student two words were written as headings. Vertical and Horizontal had subpoints that followed Dr. Pribbenow’s chain of logic as he unpacked the idea of worship for students. His section was on the four dimensions of worship: encounter, expression, edify/educate, and evangelize. The abstract ideas were made tangible with his questions to students. “How can I help the guy who sits in the fourth row to express trust and praise to God?”

Dr. Pribbenow settled the students’ minds in 1 Kings 18. He unpacked the event where Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a worship of their gods to see whose god would display his true existence. He shared this story because worship is an encounter. He says God comes down. He also says that Worship is an expression where there is giving, listening, adoration, or silence. He noted these are the vertical dimensions of worship.

“If you attend church you will be educated in what your church believes the Bible says. When we sing certain songs and we say creeds you will hear, if you pay attention, what your church believes the Bible says.” The words seemed revolutionary to some, that the worship songs are also educating and can edify the Scriptures. “This goes back to the idea of, ‘should worship be fun?’… I would hope that as you leave church on a Sunday, that your Spirit is lifted up, you’re encouraged.”

“Some of you may have heard the term seeker sensitive churches.” Dr. Pribbenow continued, his powerpoint screen held the word “evangelize” as the fourth dimension of worship. “That movement really said, ‘let’s get people to come to church and let the pastor sort of convert them to Christ.’ How do you win people?” Dr. Pribbenow asked the students if you win seekers by bringing them into a church pew to pray? He outlined some practices that happen in church, like hymns and sayings that are thousands of years old. His point seemed to hang in the air as students considered the evangelistic place of worship in the church.

“When you completely go to church as evangelism you say, ‘Well, let’s get rid of those things that are no fun.’” Dr. Pribbenow unpacked for the students that the church is a place where we go to hear what is true. He explained how the worship experience in a church can drive followers of Jesus to see their sin and need for a Savior, showing them in a powerful expression through faith practices that Jesus has paid the full penalty for sin. “We come to a community of faith, that’s multigenerational, where we can hear what is true, for our own soul. That’s where evangelism happens, when we continue to tell the story of Jesus. When we sing about it, and we recite the creeds saying exactly who God the Father is, God the Son is, God the Holy Spirit is, what they’ve done and what they’re doing.”

The worship team wrapped up their first of three sessions with Dr. Pribbenow with a debrief of the presentation. In their hand students held notes and a packet of the Hillcrest worship program. The packet closes the vision of the worship program in saying, “We desire to equip and raise up young musicians and leaders to fulfill the call on the Church to be a sending community.” This first session with Dr. Pribbenow is representative of an active arm of the Lutheran Brethren in being a disciple-making movement.

Wayne StenderComment