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What is Cutting Edge?

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The description of the ICON service at my home church, First United Methodist Church in Pensacola, FL, states that the service is:

  • Cutting Edge
  • Tradition Rich
  • Art Embracing
  • Christ Centered

This worship service just celebrated its second anniversary, and I was happy today to see that the sanctuary was largely filled. It has been both amazing and gratifying to me to watch the success of this particular worship service as it has been the entry point to church fellowship for a large number of people, especially young couples. I must confess that I often feel a bit old attending.

Today associate minister at First UMC, Geoffrey Lentz, preached on cutting edge. He noted the things that make people think the service is cutting edge–large, high-definition screens, state of the art sound, and the embrace of social media. But he said that wasn’t what makes it really cutting edge. The one genuinely new thing under the sun, with due apologies to Qoheleth, is Jesus Christ. He told us that the most cutting edge thing we could possibly do is to follow Jesus Christ.

Now I like many of the elements of worship in ICON. I think many of those elements, and the way they are blended, has helped make the service successful. But if you had asked me before this service why I think First UMC is growing, I would tell you it is because the pastors are preaching the gospel and making every effort to put it in practice. If you attend First UMC, you’re going to hear a gospel message.

I don’t say this to belittle any other accomplishments. I just don’t think those are the key things. Large, high-definition screens showing well-produced videos can help bring people into the room. Well-done contemporary music can catch their attention. But if the message behind those things is not Jesus Christ and him crucified, there will be nothing to keep people in church. And if you don’t get there, you also don’t get them into ministry, and I would say that if one doesn’t get into ministry (or more directly stated mission), then one hasn’t really brought that person to Christ.

I was glad to hear Geoffrey make that point. While I have just argued that the worship service is worship, even though everything we do is to be worship, I also believe that a major test of the success of a worship service is whether or not it gets us engaged in those acts of service–and worship–that are to go on all week.


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