Worship

Nearly everyone who has commented the past week or so has agreed that the focus of the church, as a body of believers, is worship.  This is the reason for the body coming together and meeting as one.  This was what the Holy Temple was about in the Jewish faith.  This was what brought believers together.

 

So just what exactly is worship? What should it look like?   How do we do it?  How often should we do it?  Why do we do it?

 

That last question is actually where I’d like to start, because this will drive the answer to everything else.    Why do we worship God?  Does God need for us to worship Him?  I mean He’s got all the angels with Him.  Why does He need us?   If we look at the various covenants God has made with His people, we can see a trend.  The common refrain seems to be, “I will be your God and you shall be my people.”   God wanted a people to call His own.  Worship is one of those visible things that differentiate us from the people who are not God’s.  In the days of Jesus, the sacrifice was the center of Jewish worship at the temple.  One could make the case that it still is to an extent in the Catholic Church with communion being the center and purpose of mass.

 

For Protestants, this is generally not the case.  In fact, it seems as though the most central part of worship has become the music.  Whether it be the choir, hymns or a praise band, it’s hard to argue that music is a very big deal in the 21st century church and is a very central thing in a typical service.   Can you even imagine having a worship service without music?  It just doesn’t happen.  Geez.  What about those of us who can’t carry a tune in a bucket?  Do we sort of mouth the words?  Or do we belt it out, anyway?  Or is it even that important?

 

God likes it when we worship Him, but is it for what it does for Him or for the good that it does us?  He opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble, and nothing humbles us more than worshipping a creator and recognizing who we are in the creation.  His significance and our insignificance.  It’s good for us to realize that we are NOT gods, and that we are dependent upon Him and we actively seek to connect with him.  And to connect with each other.

 

God is the center of all worship, but our brothers and sisters are also part of it.  We are to build each other up, encourage each other and love one another.  We offer ourselves up to God as well as lift one another up.  One another: this is the central feature of corporate worship.  It is all of us, jointly participating together.  We sing together, we recite our creeds together, we confess together and we pray together and for one another.  All of these are part of a worship experience. 

 

In all of my various experiences, I would have to say the charismatics actually had the most diverse ways of conducting worship.  There was speaking in tongues, there was interpretations, there were prophecies, there were testimonies, there were confessions and professions and all manner of hand clapping and hand waving and laying on of hands and healings.  In some services there were people that were overcome with the Holy Ghost.  There was much dancing and grooving.  Worship was definitely an experience and everyone participated. 

 

The southern black churches also have spirited worship services.  I attended a funeral this last summer and was one of maybe 5 white people.  They were loud, and clapping and dancing and jumping and there was a lot of movement and participation.  However, the altar was still where it was directed from, for the most part.

 

Which begs the question: is there a wrong way to worship?  As long as God is at the center, is there a wrong way?

 

Welllllll…

 

There is this church in Kingston, Georgia, where they would take out rattle snakes and drink poison.  And then there was the Atlanta preacher who would have parents bring their unruly children to the front altar and then let the entire congregation take a whack at them.  These are both good examples of what to threaten your kids with if they think church is too boring!  They are also prime examples of the flock being led astray by the shepherd. 

 

Worship is very personal but at the same time, somewhat public.  That public expression and profession of faith is important.  It is more that just music, but some confession with the mouth as to the grace and strength and magnificence of our Creator should be a staple part of it.  There should be some acknowledgement of our fallen state as sinners and to the sacrifice made on our behalf of a risen Savior.

 

These are pretty common threads running throughout most churches today.  So what’s my beef?  Why am I suddenly struggling, here?

 

I think it has to do with the personal part of worship.  I want and need to have His presence beyond just going through some motions.  A liturgy-based service does just that.  How can the Holy Spirit move according to a schedule that was typed and printed in a bulletin a week in advance?  How does the Spirit move freely in a liturgy that is centuries old? 

 

In the CGM churches, there is never a profession or confession outside of the music. 

 

So who leads a worship service?  Or Who leads the worship?  This is the crux of my complaint.  I believe that we would be better served if the Holy Spirit were leading the service through each member of the body according to his/her gifts.  Not just the people on the stage.  Not just the people wearing robes.  Not just those gifted with musical talents.  Not just the people with a seminary degree.  Not just people we pay.

 This is how the body of believers can be lifted up, encouraged and strengthened.  Xi made an observation of how his church dropped the time of testimony from their worship and how much he had learned from those other believers who stood up to share.

Cell groups, small groups and Sunday school classes can certainly help fill in some of that.  But then, why are we all still meeting together in huge worship centers?    

I ‘ll give readers a break and let you all listen to a podcast where 3 ex-pastors discuss meetings.  Even if you don’t feel like going for the full 40 minutes, the first 8 minutes include a hilarious skit based on Napoleon Dynamite.  Even if you’ve never seen or heard of Napolean Dynamite, You’ll still get a kick out of it.  I think.   I found it helpful to imagine FTN as Napoleon, but maybe that’s just me.

 

D.

 

 

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4 Responses to “Worship”

  1. FTN Says:

    GOSH!

    Sorry, that was my best Napoleon Dynamite voice.

    All of your recent writings have given me some wonderful things to discuss with a few other guys at Starbucks tonight.

    One thing that has been on my mind goes back to church size. There is nothing inherently wrong with a growing church. People are hungry for God, so it’s often natural that a good church is going to grow. But when it gets big, it becomes more difficult to have a “less-structured” service. I agree that it would be better if “the Holy Spirit were leading the service through each member of the body according to his/her gifts.” But that could become rather problematic, sadly, if you’ve got 800 people or so in a service.

    After all, it could take forever. People DO have to get to lunch, you know. 🙂

  2. therese Says:

    One does not need a specific time on Sunday in order to worship God, right? Worship can be done through private prayer and meditation if you are seeking something in addition to a regular church service.

    While in theory, the idea of the Spirit just moving people according to their own gifts for community worship is a nice idea, I think that if that were to happen, still only a few people would end up doing something, and the rest would watch or feel awkward and out of place. The purpose of the liturgy actually IS to engage everyone. When people can recite or read the prayers, sing the hymns all together, then it is, or is more likely to be a corporate worship.

    Human nature being what it is, if there is no structure, then I tend to doubt that much would go on other than a few people standing out and everyone else saying, “What now?”

    I agree with FTN that there really isn’t anything inherently wrong with a large church. I have generally attended smaller parishes, which is nice and I prefer. But when I have attended massive ceremonies, like at the Vatican for example with thousands of people present, people are still able to participate because they know what is going on. They know the responses, they know the form of the Mass, and in many cases, know the songs. This is actually part of the reason the pope has called for more use of Latin in the Mass at the parts where things don’t ever change (ordinaries) and people can easily learn. Having certain parts in Latin at any Mass in any part of the world means a person could go anywhere and participate, even when in a foreign country. I think that’s kinda cool.

    Although I do admit that going to a Mass may seem like the congregation is just observing a select group of people doing all the work (priests, servers, and deacons), it is designed for participation and really it is often laziness that prevents it from happening more.

  3. xi summit Says:

    One (of the many) things I struggle with is directing worship to its rightful focal point, that being God. So many times worship end up reflecting on the ‘performer’ or the ‘presenter’ or the ‘preacher’ instead of the God who created all for us in His name.

    Most difficult for me is when I have a part, either large or small, and find people making an effort to thank ME for whatever it was. As I have a hand in many aspects of our churhc worship (Sound system, adult and youth drama, singing, etc) I am faced with this more frequently than I’d like. Unto myself I have very little desire for compliments to begin with- I guess you might call me self-satisfied, when I accomplish something I know it and typically would prefer it would be appreciated but not acknowleged, if that makes any sense.

    Within the Church, however, I often find myself in the awkward position of receiving compliments for even the slightest of efforts and sometimes find it troubling. Deflecting such praise to the Creator often results in blanks stares or perhaps “oh, yeah, you’re right” but seldom results in a change in regard and behavior to recognize that it is God whom the praise needs to be directed to.

    In these days I find we have a newer Pastor who thrives on positive feedback and will ‘go fish’ for it more often than not. Not that his replacement was any different, in fact in many ways he was quite the same and would often turn a compliment around- “That was a terrific perfomance in that drama, very realistic and touching. Did you know that I started the drama team, making your performance possible?”. The retired Pastor struggled when I deflected ‘his’ credit to God and, so far, the new Pastor has the same struggle.

    What about those who can’t carry a tune in a bucket, you ask? The Bibler says “make a joyful noise” not “emote a beautiful rendition”. I think that about covers that ….

  4. Readings on Church « Unsolicited Advice: Wordpress Version Says:

    […] Worship Baptism Church Service Sheep A prophetic post about churches going into debt And then the entire month of May 2007 […]

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