Scooching Over as an Act of Worship! An FAQ with Jeff about the Coming 10:15 FLC Service

chairsWhen you’ve ever attended the 10:15 worship service at GHC, you’ve probably been asked to “scooch over” to make room for more worshipers, right?

Soon you 10:15 attenders will be asked to do a major scooch over–all the way to the Family Life Center (FLC).

This post allows us to catch up with Jeff Noel, GHC’s very own lead pastor, to do a little Q&A about this new service.

There’s another service coming to GHC. Where? When?
We are starting another worship service at 10:15 in the Family Life Center in the CORE youth worship area.

What is the first Sunday it will be available?
Sunday, September 13.

Why start this service?
Have you been to the 10:15 worship service? It’s more than a bit crowded and has been for about 2 years. This service allows us to make room for more worshipers! For many reasons, this is the worship service that most people choose to attend. If we do not make more room, some guests will simply not stay or just conclude that we are too big.

How are you going to preach in both places at the same time?
As much as I’d like to, I just can’t! The sermon will be displayed on a large screen in the FLC. It will be the exact same sermon preached in the other services.

What about the worship team?
The 10:15 FLC Service will enjoy their own worship team who will sing the exact same songs as the 10:15 service in the worship center. We have an amazing team of talented worship leaders who will alternate in which venue they lead.

Why not just add onto our current facility?
Millions vs. thousands. Our current worship center is designed for us to expand by making the fan shape even bigger by going toward the back parking lot. But, that comes with a big price tag for construction, carpet, chairs, sound & lighting, an entire new roof, retro-fitting sprinklers into all of the existing facility . . . can you hear the cha-chings?

What about student small groups on Sunday mornings?
They will still meet at 9 a.m., just like always.

How many people can attend the 10:15 FLC Worship Service?
We will have about 250 chairs in that venue. And, this brings up a huge way to serve! We are in great need of people with the gift of chairs. I’m not sure that’s in the New Testament, but the gift of hospitality is! We need a team of people to set up the chairs every Sunday morning and then to stack them after this service and set up the tables and chairs for Wednesday Night Alive—our mid-week youth celebration.

So we need people with the gift of chairs?!
Ha. Well, it really is a way to minister in a very real way. Imagine a new family registering their children, grabbing a cup of coffee, and then actually having space to worship and focus on the worship because some very kind people moved chairs!

What happens when this service gets too crowded?
We can simply start an 11:30 FLC Service! We already own all the technology and have the tools and know-how to make it happen.

Where else do you need help?

  • Greeters at the doors in the FLC
  • Greeters at the doors to the CORE to hand out bulletins
  • Servers for communion
  • Hosts for offering
  • Servant leaders to make coffee & serve in the FLC lobby
  • People to give technical help in our media ministry

If you’d like to help, call our office at 270-769-1808 and let Teri know how you’d like to jump in.  We will get you in contact with the right ministry leader.

Jeff Noel, Lead Pastor

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Why Study the Psalms?

psalmsIs there any value in a study of the Psalms to teach us how to worship together?

In my last post, the focus was about why we worship together.  In this writing, let’s consider why the Psalms are still so important to our worship experience. In the coming weeks, our sermon series will focus on the Psalms: Worship Together—Focusing on Jesus.

Worship Together – The Psalms

The book of Psalms was the hymnbook of old covenant worship. The collection of 150 Psalms are poems, readings, responsive readings, songs and more which are divided into sections and written by multiple authors. Most of the Psalms were written by David, but Moses and Solomon were among some of the other authors.

These songs were used to

  • worship,
  • celebrate,
  • lament,
  • cry out to God,
  • ask for mercy,
  • demand justice,
  • coronate Kings, and
  • declare the glory of God!

In truth, it is a textbook for corporate worship and its value is priceless.

But under the New Covenant we know that the “Presence” of God is not limited to a place or even a time. Acts 2 is the record of the birth of the Church and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on believers. Now the “Presence” of God is with His people not in a “temple built by human hands.” The bodies of believers are the “temple of Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor 6:19)

So, yes, people were free to worship in His Presence on their own wherever they desired!

Yet, we see that the practice of the early church was to meet daily “in the temple courts and in their homes” (Acts 2). Why? I think the reason is clear, there is something obviously different about gathering together in worship and it cannot be substituted with personal or individual worship experience.

There is no question that a personal worship discipline is important – even essential – but it is not a replacement for gathering with the people of God. The first church gathered regularly for “teaching, breaking of bread, fellowship and prayer.” (Acts 2:42) The writer of Hebrews encouraged early believers not to “neglect the gathering together” (Hebrews 10:25). All of this happened because we–the believers of today–need to be together in worship of the Lord!

When we gather together in worship we proclaim that the Lord is God and that He is “our” God. Psalm 1 & 100 trumpet the necessity of this practice. The need for that did not die with the institution of the New Covenant of Christ.

  • Together we are the “Body of Christ” on earth.
  • Together we experience His Presence in a way that is multiplied because we all come with our shared experiences and testimonies of His work and ministry in and through our lives.
  • Together in worship of Him we encourage one another to faithfulness in our walk, healing of our sickness and strength in our battles.
  • Together we proclaim to the world that God is and that He created the universe!

Primarily we need to gather together to worship God to be reminded that we are here for His glory. Psalm 134 even declares that our corporate worship is a “blessing” to Him! We literally bless the heart of God as we gather to exalt His name and declare our love for Him and our devotion to His mission on earth.

So, what about the Psalms?

What is the advantage of studying the Psalms for New Testament worship? I believe we need to study the Psalms for two reasons. First, they teach us the reason for worship. Second, they reveal the focus of worship. I have already stated the reason for worship – to exalt the Lord and to be encouraged as His people through our corporate gathering. But the focus of worship is Jesus!

The Psalms speak of the glory and majesty of God. They tell of His deliverance and love for His people. They speak of His judgment and wrath on His enemies and His mercy and grace for those who turn to Him. Every one of these promises and claims, each pronouncement and every prophecy is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. The one and only Son of God is the answer to every question and every lament. He brings fulfillment to every word of the Psalms. The Israelites saw these promises fulfilled through a King or the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…and they were correct but they never imagined Jesus. In truth, nothing prepares us more thoroughly to worship Jesus than the Psalms because He is the fulfillment of every line and every promise proclaimed in the corporate worship of Israel and every worship service of the church. Let’s worship Him . . . together!

Jeff Noel, Lead Pastor

Worship Together?

“I can worship God anywhere.”TRworshipanywhere
“I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian.”

Heard these excuses before? Yeah, I have too. Far too often.

Usually, they are given as explanations of why someone does not attend worship services. Can we worship God anywhere? Sure. Can someone be a Christian and never go to church? Maybe.

There is no doubt people question the practice of attending worship services. And, certainly, there is a bit of truth to these statements.

But, is it really accurate to think a personal experience with God in nature, or in the comfort of one’s home, is a valid substitute for gathering together with the people of God?

Granted, this is often an excuse for not wanting to attend worship! And, I am certain the “private worship experience” never occurs in many cases.

Instead of teasing out all the reasons the above excuses may or may not work, let’s ask some better questions.
1) What is the purpose of gathering for worship?
2) Is there any value in a study of the Psalms to teach us how to worship together?

What is the purpose of gathering for worship?

From the establishment of a covenant between God and man, the people of God have gathered to worship Him. The ancient Israelites worshiped Him in the Tabernacle then continued that practice when the Temple was built.

Why? Because, corporate worship happens in God’s presence.

Second Chronicles chapters 5-7 detail the account of the dedication of the Temple. Solomon asks God to hear the prayers of His people when they pray to Him “from this place.” God responds by promising, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways then I will hear their prayers and forgive their sins and heal their land” (7:14).

The scene that follows is incredible! The Spirit of God falls on the Temple and inhabits the Holy of Holies making it the place on earth where the people of God can gather in His presence to worship Him! Those few chapters demonstrate the value of the Temple to the nation of Israel. In the Temple:

  • praises were offered,
  • sacrifices were made,
  • forgiveness was sought and received, and
  • worship was experienced together.

Gathering together for worship was the way of the people of God. It still is. We still gather to worship our God and to cry out to him.

Do you see how pathetic those excuses look now?

  • “I can worship God anywhere.”
  • “I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian.”

And notice this—we don’t use this reasoning anywhere else! Can you even imagine people applying this lunacy to other things that we love:

  • “I don’t have to go to the Yum! Center and watch the games to be a UofL fan.”
  • “I don’t need to go outside to be a great outdoorsman.”

While UofL fans can watch games on TV, they’d rather gather with thousands of others who wear red & white and cheer loudly. True outdoorsmen are rarely seen inside—rain or shine, they are outside hunting, fishing, camping—whatever, so long as they are outside!

So, we don’t “have to” go to church to be a Christian or to worship; but, we “want to” go to church and to worship. We “want to” gather for worship just like those saints of old wanted to worship:

  • we offer praises
  • we make sacrifices
  • we seek and receive forgiveness, and
  • we experience worship together.

They gathered for worship in a specific place—the Temple. And, they gathered for worship to sing certain songs. We still have that song book—the one we call the book of Psalms.

In the next post, we will look at the question:

Is there any value in a study of the Psalms to teach us how to worship together?

And, in coming Sundays we will start a new sermon series: Worship Together—Focusing on Jesus.

Until then, invite someone to worship! And if they give you that line about not having to go to church to worship, well, you know what to do!

Jeff Noel, Lead Pastor

Focus on the Vertical: Lead Pastor Jeff Noel Shares 1 Great Lesson from 32 Years of Ministry

focusIn my 32 years of ministry, I have observed many trends and their ensuing impact on the overall ministry of the Church. One overriding lesson I have learned is this: the less a church focuses on having a relationship with Jesus as their primary mission, and the more a church becomes consumed with ministries that focus on the “felt needs” of people, the power of that church’s ministry fades into mediocrity.

These churches lose their passion for the relevance of the gospel and are endlessly swayed by the latest social need of culture. Want to start a . . .

  • Food pantry?
  • Clothing drive?
  • Fitness program?
  • Counseling center?
  • Home repair team?
  • Alcohol recovery group?
  • Community issues forum?

No doubt, many of these issues are great causes, but they can never become the main focus of the church.

The preaching at these churches uses Scripture as a support for these causes rather than using the Bible as the agenda for the message. What happens then? The gospel fades into obscurity. Sadly, this trend is the story of too many congregations and defines a majority of churches across our country.

Thankfully, I have witnessed the trend of churches that adopt a laser focus on Jesus and His Word as the center and purpose for everything they teach and preach. Instead of becoming irrelevant and weak, these churches attract the attention of people who are exhausted from seeking answers to their “felt needs.” Many of those same people gave “the church” a try and found it to be another self-help group cloaked in religion producing the same result – frustration and disappointment.

But, when they come to a church that turns their attention in a vertical direction—claiming that it is in Jesus they will find their source of strength—the story changes drastically! Instead of disappointment and apathy, they find spiritual strength and genuine transformation. These churches operate from a deeper sense of love and strength than those that focus on horizontal answers. Why is this the case?

I have come to believe with deep conviction that this trend is true because these scriptures are true . . .

Solomon was correct when he declared in Ecclesiastes 3:11: . . . he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. He captures the vertical truth of every human: we are all created to be in relationship with God (vertical) and we can never satisfy that need in the things of the earth (horizontal).

Jesus was not lying when he said in John 3:14-15: And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. He was not simply referring to His crucifixion, but to the eternal purpose of the church –to exalt Jesus, and trust that He is our “evangelism program,” and the one thing that fulfills the vertical need of every human heart.

Paul spoke truth when he told the Ephesian church: Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (2:20-21). He revealed the truth of our power: it is from Jesus as he works in and through the Church. That truth declares the primary purpose of the Church – to proclaim Christ as the answer to our deepest need.

So, why do we emphasize “Vertical Church”? Because it is why we are here and anything less than exalting Christ would be an epic failure. There is no doubt we will be involved in ministries and programs that meet the horizontal needs of people—but only as they contribute to the exultation of Jesus and draw people into a relationship with Him. Otherwise, we are simply another organization dependent on earthly resources and human talent. The world has plenty of those agencies!

What the world needs is Jesus. The Church is the only organization on the planet tasked with the mission to share His message and equipped with the power to accomplish that mission. There is nothing that can substitute for the Church and the message we are honored to herald to the world. That is why we are vertical. It truly is all about Jesus and his Word!

Jeff Noel, Lead Pastor

Staying Before the Lord

before the Lord“I have just been staying before the Lord.”

It was a simple answer that still has a profound impact on me. Even years after the conversation, it is a mantra for my personal understanding of a life of worship.

We were conducting a renewal conference based on experiencing the presence of the Lord. Before the final session, I asked my friend and fellow speaker, John Elliot, “How’s your afternoon been?” That’s when he answered, “I have just been staying before the Lord.”

Paul uses the phrases “pray without ceasing,” and “keeping in step with the Spirit.” I think he means the same thing as my friend John did. Before we think about what “Staying Before the Lord” means, we do well to consider what it does not mean!

What “Staying Before the Lord” does not mean:

  • It has absolutely nothing to do with our geographical position in regard to the Lord.
  • It is not about going to a specific place or being at a service at a particular time.
  • It is not like the Temple in the Old Testament.
  • It does not convey the possibility that the presence of the Lord comes and goes as it did in the Old Covenant with Moses and the nation of Israel.

Moses knew the essential value of the Lord’s presence and pleads with God not to leave them (Exodus 32 & 33). He pleads: “What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other peoples on the earth?” No, His presence does not come and go as it did in under the Old Covenant. The New Covenant is clear: His presence in the Holy Spirit is in us as a guarantee of our salvation until the day He returns! Simply put, we are never outside of His presence. But, what does it mean to be in His presence?

What “Staying Before the Lord” does mean:

  • It is the assurance of His presence at all times.
  • It is more than this assurance—it is the conscious awareness of His presence.
  • It is a more profound awareness of His presence that Puritans called the “manifest presence.”

Sometimes the Lord’s presence is very vivid, as if he is physically in the room. At other times it is as if He is light years away. Why do these differences happen? What role do we play in this process? For me, it has everything to do with my personal pursuit of His presence. Sin and obedience absolutely play into my experience of His presence. Sin dulls my sense of His presence and obedience quickens my sensitivity of His Presence. In my own experience, here are some thoughts on the role that we play in the process of “Staying Before the Lord.”

How “Staying Before the Lord” happens:

  • Practicing spiritual disciplines are very important in allowing us to stay before the Lord: reading His word and spending time in prayer and worship draw us into a deeper realization that He is present.
  • Spending time with other Christ-followers greatly impacts our experience of His presence: koinonia (deep fellowship) with others who live in His presence is a precious gift that reminds us of His abiding presence.
  • Praying a simple prayer to “make me aware of Your presence” as we walk through the events of the day is helpful.  (Brother Lawrence called it “Practicing the Presence” in his book by the same title.)

All of these experiences are vital, not because they invoke His presence, but because they pull back the veil of the horizontal realm of this life in the flesh and open our spiritual eyes to the vertical reality of His abiding presence.

Being conscious of His presence, experiencing His constant, abiding, never-fickle presence compels us to worship Him!

So, be blessed in your life of worship as you practice “Staying Before the Lord.”

Jeff Noel, Lead Pastor

Worship: Living Vertically

Welcome to 2015—the Year of Worship at Grace Heartland Church! What better way to start off a new year than with a blog? Every. Day. Worship. is just what it says—a way to help infuse worship into our everyday lives.

Our theme for 2015, “Worship: Living Vertically” flows from the understanding that God creates within us something beyond this life. He gives us a desire for eternity says the writer of Ecclesiastes. Some refer to this as our need for transcendence. We live in this realm of the physical world, but we long for something more. We innately know there is a God who is to be . . . worshiped.

As 2014 closes, news stories are filled with the “best of” and “worst of” lists. These stories read like a Who’s Who of celebrities from Hollywood, athletics, and fashion. These stars receive unimaginable worship from others—often leading to lives that implode into seclusion.

We were designed to worship. We need to worship. We find peace and contentment when we worship. When we seek to be the object of someone else’s worship, it ends in disaster.

Mankind is made to give worship, not to receive it. Sin began when Satan desired to be the object of worship rather than give worship to the Father. That pattern repeats itself in each of us as we seek to be the Lord of our own lives rather than submit to the Lordship of the King. Submission and recognition of Jesus as the King is the beginning of worship.

Every human being that walks the face of the earth deals with the subject of worship. The struggle with worship is its place in our lives. We either take the same path as Satan and seek to be the object of others’ worship, or we spend our lives seeking the person or thing that deserves our worship. Even if people do not recognize their struggle with worship, they demonstrate their innate desire to worship by what they give ultimate value to in life.

So what is the healthy response to the subject of worship? We look forward to mining the deep reserves of the subject of worship this year at Grace Heartland Church.

Worship: Living Vertically is the beginning and the life pursuit of seeking the presence of God. Worship is the practice of living everyday in His presence and in a way that honors that presence. Worship is not just about this life; it is the practice of heaven. Worship in this life is experiencing a glimpse of the complete transformation we will have when we are in the presence of the King for eternity!

There is a great deal to learn about worship and I look forward to our journey and to our discovery. Worship . . . living vertically.

A Marvelous Light!

I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in the darkness. John 12:46

Charlie Hall wrote the worship song, “Marvelous Light” which was popular around 2009. One Sunday while singing that song I began to envision a distant light coming towards the earth, growing as it moved closer. But then I realized: “No, this is not it. God is much bigger than an advancing light from a great distance. The light of God’s presence is so immense, so powerful, and so marvelous, that it immediately dispels ALL darkness in its wake. Surely He is withholding His marvelous light from our presence because the universe is completely dark?”

I recall the horrible ice storm that hit in February 2009 and the many dark evenings we struggled to function with flashlights and candles. At first, these small beams were terribly insufficient since we were used to more powerful lights. As time went on, we became accustomed to the soft glow and we learned to appreciate these lesser lights. Then, the electricity came back on . . . WOW! Instead of small, directional rays that only lit the path of the beam, we now enjoyed a flood of light from all sides that dispelled all the darkness!

Then it struck me, this is the current state of things in the universe—the Sun in all its brilliance is only a flashlight. It is a directional beam that gives light to what is in its path. When compared to God, it is only a flashlight. When Christ returns . . . BOOM! The light of the universe will be switched on and ALL darkness will be gone! The universe will be illuminated by His presence. The darkness of the universe will cease to exist—it will be filled with the all-consuming light of Christ.

We don’t sing the song “Marvelous Light” much these days but I will never think about the concept of the marvelous light of Christ in the same way. I long for the day that the darkness is dispelled and the light of the world shines His Marvelous light into the dark expanse of the universe.

Until that day, our worship allows His glory to shine in the darkness. People are then drawn into the marvelous light of His grace so that no one should stay in the darkness.

Jeff Noel, Lead Pastor