When the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Academy of Religion meet together, they form the largest gathering of religion scholars in the world. I’m continually amazed at the depth and breadth of scholarship represented at these meetings, and grateful that I can attend as part of my professional development as a pastor.
This gathering is not, however, known for its worship, which explains why I could find just one worship service listed in the program guide. Good thing I’m a morning person since it started on Sunday at 7:30am! Compared to the thousands attending the meetings, the 240 of us who crowded into an upper room of the San Diego Convention Center were but a remnant.
So what was it like to worship with a room full of evangelical biblical scholars?
- I found it refreshing to worship in a setting where I wasn’t responsible for any of the planning or leadership. All I had to do was get myself ready for worship, thanks to the Institute of Biblical Research (IBR) which sponsored the worship time.
- We sang 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord); Praise to the Lord, the Almighty; and Take My Life, all of which I know from my home church, plus two other songs that were new to me.
- I enjoyed the mix of women and men in leadership, all extremely capable and experienced.
- at the same time, I also felt somewhat lonely as I didn’t see anyone I knew, and the people sitting beside, in front, and behind me all left immediately after the benediction without so much as a nod in my direction. There was definitely a commonality as we had sung and prayed together, but not the kind of community that has become a part of worship for me.
- the sermon opened with a story I had heard before, but after that it was stellar — well informed as one might expect of a sermon for scholars, fast-paced, energetic, funny in just the right places, and blessedly free of jargon after all of the head-spinning, abstract language I had been hearing in the sessions.
Here are a few choice quotes from “Not To Be Served But To Serve” (Mark 10:35-45) by Dr. Mark L. Strauss:
“The world’s leadership model is that those with power control others.” “Jesus radically redefines the meaning of leadership.”
1.”Servant leadership focuses on people, not programs.”
2. “Servant leadership leads by example not coercion.” Jesus “was his own school and curriculum.” “Servant leadership means modelling the life of Christ for others — with authenticity, integrity, not to glorify ourselves.”
3. “Servant leadership means empowering others to be all that God calls them to be” — not to write books or build mega churches or get the most Twitter followers, but to equip God’s people to be what they are called to be.
Thank you for this message, and with appreciation to IBR and all who participated in planning and leading.