Author Archives: Elizabeth Moyer

Elizabeth Moyer ~ The Unity of the Faith: Gifts of Congregational Authenticity

If I agree that the gifts described in Ephesians 4:11 emphasize living outside of the church’s internal life, I must accept responsibility for my gifting. What does this text say?

“The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13 New Revised Standard Version) 

If gifted as an apostle, I acknowledge that God sends me. If gifted as a prophet, I boldly and unapologetically proclaim the will of God. As an evangelist, I spread the good news, as a pastor I minister to and protect the congregation, and as a teacher I serve as an instructor of the Christian life.

With my acceptance of that responsibility, I must be sure that I carry out my work in such a way that I am equipping other followers of Christ for the work of the ministry, since we are responsible for building up the global church until all of us come to the unity of the faith. These gifts, whichever you may possess, open up the opportunity to move the body of Christ to a place of unity, emphasizing a continual, dynamic relatedness of diverse peoples – to work toward moving the whole congregation toward intercultural life. 

There are desires for the worship on Sunday to reflect the residents of countless communities, for our communities of faith to become more culturally diverse. Does the average faith community understand the implications of such a racial shift? Does the average faith community understand that this move is about becoming an agent of racial reconciliation and authentic diversity? Are whole congregations willing to pursue intercultural life? And how would this intercultural life be authentic and not just visible in the community?

For one thing, such a shift requires an ongoing commitment to diversity in worship and understanding that other people’s experience and response to the Holy Spirit in worship may be different. For another, congregations must be willing to discuss openly the pain of racism that persists in America. There must be acknowledgment of the ever-changing nature of the church, relationships and contexts; calls for real engagement and mutuality; and attention to narratives of large and small similarities and differences (Branson & Martinez, 2011). Ultimately, it takes action to bridge the divide, which will prayerfully propel us to authentic community. 

If intercultural life is to be authentic, then whether you are called as an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, or teacher, each of us must perform responsibilities in such a way that the congregation understands these implications and benefits. As a congregation, people of faith must hear and validate the narratives of every individual’s ethnic heritage and those of the surrounding cultures in our community to understand better our identity and our responsibility in the world (Branson & Martinez, 2011).  

While leading the migration toward social reconciliation across cultural barriers, the focus is not solely on demographic data but encompasses discerning and moving toward unique ways of unity and diversity. Congregations should look at the gifts diversity brings. Cultural diversity within a community of faith can be found within the unique heritage of those who gather together. Many Anglo congregations have members, regular attenders, and casual seekers from Europe, Asia, South American, Africa, and the Caribbean; however, these influences play silently in the background to a Euro/Caucasian American experience. The challenge that we face and are working to overcome is to allow these influences to be a visible part of our experiences together. 

While there is no clear map toward goals of shared intercultural life, attitudes and convictions must continue to drive the congregation toward completing the work necessary to understand our unique gifts, celebrate our diversity and stay the course toward becoming a multiethnic church, allowing our various ethnic and cultural backgrounds to come together to form an authentic congregation (Branson & Martinez, 2011).  




Branson, M. L., & Martinez, J. F. (2011). Churches Cultures & Leadership: A Practical Theology of Congregations and Ethnicities. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press. 

United States Census Bureau. (2014). American Fact Finder. Retrieved February 3, 2015, from 


Elizabeth Moyer ~ Anxiety in Worship

Note from the Editor: We’re pleased to feature this important piece on mental health, anxiety, and communal worship. It also may be helpful perspective for clergy leading Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday services.

“Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.” – Hebrews 11:25 (MSG).

What if worship has become so creative that 18% of the population is on the outside?

The pendulum for creative contemporary worship has swung so far in many regions across denominations that segments of the population cannot assemble with others. Many Christians gather weekly and experience a one-sided worship celebration. It is one-sided because, even though everyone is welcome, these worship gatherings are not for everyone.

Welcomed may not mean hospitable. Someone living with an anxiety disorder (or any medical condition) that makes being in loud, dark areas or separated from family  unendurable does not feel welcomed. This is not a commentary on the theology or religiosity of the “turn up the volume and dim the lights, no children allowed” movement. The concern here is how the Body of Christ meets those who would dare join in for worship.

Collectively, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America, affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population (National Institute of Mental Health). Moreover, in the name of the contemporary worship experience, the real needs of this segment of the population are disregarded.

What are anxiety disorders? Anxiety disorders are panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and separation anxiety disorder, to name a few. It is not uncommon for an adult or child to receive a diagnosis at some point in their lifetime (Anxiety and Depression Association of America). Still, in the name of the experience, the church turns a blind eye, and in many cases, does nothing to reasonably accommodate these individuals or their families. (Reasonable accommodation here would refer to any change that would not cause undue hardship to the house of worship.)

To ignore is not to be concerned about the “one.” When the church is not worried about the one, the church ignores Jesus, our example. Like Jesus, the Body of Christ must be concerned about the one (see Matthew 18:11-13, Luke 15:3-7). To turn a blind eye is to ignore the command to love.

The heart of the matter is that by disregarding these issues, the church may be causing many families to separate for worship or not to worship in community.

Loving the people of God, desiring to live out the mission of God, and suffering from varying degrees of anxiety disorders is a battle my family tries to navigate weekly. What does this mean for many families like mine during worship? It means a constant struggle between being part of and serving within a faith community that continually divides.  It means surviving an entire worship service, with immediate discomfort when the lights go down and the music goes up. It means feeling unsafe in a dark worship space full of strangers, Christ-followers or not. For those suffering from anxiety disorders, there is something profoundly disconcerting about the inability to truly see what is going on around.

Yes, the focus should be on the worship experience, the Word coming forth, and not the aesthetics. But families comprised of individuals who have suffered childhood or adult trauma struggle make it through the entire service. From the moment the lights go down, there is a need to escape the darkness, the loudness of the drums, the sheer uncertainty of the environment and the familiarity of the dangers of such uncertainty. Many people have a clear and distinct need to hear and especially to see what is going on in a room. Understanding or feeling as if they are in the minority and believing that there is no place for them to hear the Word is disheartening. Many followers and would-be followers of Christ forsake assembly to avoid the discomfort that may lead to a panic attack, flashback or other undesired response.

Having had countless conversations with individuals from all walks of life who love God, follow Christ, and yet forsake assembly, there is not an easy response. When children are not allowed in worship,  families may immediately find themselves on the outside of the local church. Separation anxiety is a disorder that impacts many. When music is deafening, those with any number of anxiety disorders are adversely affected as well as those with hearing impairments and those with chronic daily headaches.

So while I enjoy some elements of contemporary worship, it saddens me that the church is unashamedly leaving many on the outside. I am not naïve: I do not expect any local church to change what is working for them. However, I would offer the following points of accommodation:

*A multi-service congregation might consider offering family or traditional worship.

*Turning the lights up even slightly can make a difference for many.

*Adjusting the bass would be life-giving for some.


*Be honest and upfront and consider adding a disclaimer to the church website that simply states, “may not be suitable for those with anxiety disorders.”

To reach the one, the church must remember that one size truly does not fit all.

Elizabeth Moyer ~ Easter’s Frayed Red Carpet

450px-2013_Golden_Globe_Awards_(8379844352)Resurrection Sunday was a couple weeks ago, and Christian congregations rolled out the red carpet to welcome all who would come. The “church” was on its best behavior: egg hunts, special music, sunrise services, breakfast, foot washing, and so much more as local churches gathered (mine included), all in the name of Jesus. On that holiest of Sundays I was tense.

I can now articulate the source of that tension.

I was frustrated with the fakeness demonstrated by the “church.” Yes, I, a seminarian, college and young adult pastor, called the actions of the church fake. Why?

Because we, the churched minority, rolled out the red carpet – the same red carpet we put away for this week – and we did not always mean it. On the day when we had the least amount of time to tend to the needs of others, we boldly said come join us. Our families were visiting, our special dinner needed to be prepared, we were in a hurry, or we had brunch reservations, but we still asked people join us. I spent most of Resurrection Sunday thinking about this week. What would we do this week? What face would the stranger see this week? No fancy banners, no breakfast, no foot washing, nope – nothing special going on here…this week.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these. Mark 12:30-31 (NRSV)

In the middle of my tension with the church, God inquired of my love for my neighbor.

I had the opportunity to see or ignore a stranger, a first-time visitor. I saw her tears as she bolted to the restroom at the end of worship. I saw her fighting back more tears as she sat in the lobby. Honestly, I was even tempted to ignore her: I was tired and frankly not in the mood to deal with someone else’s brokenness.

But truth, my love for God and my love for myself would not let me ignore my love for my neighbor. I asked one simple question: “would you like me to pray with you?” She said yes. I found a quiet space and we stood silently; I let her cry, and we prayed. I hope she knows that I was sincerely happy that she and her daughter chose to worship with us, and that I sincerely hoped they would join us again.

Here is the deal: the church should not be in the business of rolling out the red carpet if we do not have time to see people and meet them in their brokenness.

If I am not going to show you love, I should not invite you into my home, let alone the house of God.

Be intentional about seeing people; be intentional about meeting people in their brokenness…