17 July 2010

Worship – A Dialogue on the Purposes of the Church Part 3

cymbals Ever watch a group of people who will stand and shout when their favorite team makes a great play or wins a hard fought game? Or how the audience at a concert will stand and applaud a talented musician who just gave a great performance?

I once attended the matinee of a mediocre Mozart opera with a friend. When it came time for the tenor to come on stage, Plácido Domingo came out to sing the role. Everyone stood and gave him a standing ovation--before he even sang!

Compare this reaction to the picture that John gives us in Revelation 4 and 5, of the One seated on a throne surrounded by 24 Elders and angels, and the response of all creation to the Lamb seated on the throne in chapter 5.

Note what N. T. Wright says about this scene:











There are a few ideas in this quote from Wright that resonate with me:

  1. Worship means, literally, acknowledging the worth of someone or something. All creation worships God, humans, animals, birds, et. al. because he deserves to be praised.
  2. Humans have something more to say when they join in the song of worship: They know Why God should be praised. He has made all things, and he has ransomed saints from all languages, people and nations.

I like what Wright says: This is God’s world as it should be, and the way it is in heaven already. I get goose bumps every time I read these two chapters of the Book of Revelation.

The question is, then, how do we worship here and now in our lives that somehow hearkens beyond us and replicates this heavenly scene?

  1. How can our worship acknowledge the worth of the one we worship? Who does that work out in a practical way?
  2. Do we fully understand the Why of worship? Do we grasp the full implications of what it means to say that God created all things, creature, nature and human, and that he has ransomed saints from all nations, tongues and peoples, to be a nation of Priests?

For me, the practical question is how can I experience or enter into worship that is worthy of God the father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Again, Wright gives us two ideas:

First, you become like what you worship.

What happens when you worship money, sex or power? We are shaped by our desires to conform to these objects of worship. What happens when we begin to truly worship the God who created all things and has redeemed us for himself through his son Jesus Christ by the power of his spirit?

Because we are made in God’s image, worship makes us truly human.

You discover more fully what it means to be human as well as you begin to shrink as a human; you are no longer the center of the universe.

Good start, but a long journey. I think Carson Pue (p30f)  has given me some insight on this journey. He has stated that we often fall into two camps in our approach to following Christ.

The first group is similar to power-boaters, for whom the destination is of primary importance. The primary concern is to get to the destination as quickly and as safely as possible, and once there, concern shifts to having fun and enjoying the destination. This is what makes the journey worthwhile.

The second group are the sailors. The journey is as important as the destination. They enjoy the various aspects of the journey along the journey as the proceed toward the destination.

I’ve discovered that I need to become more of a sailor and less of a power-boater in my walk with Christ.

I won’t dwell on the implications of the two metaphors, but hopefully they are food for thought.


01 July 2010

Worship – A Dialogue on the Purposes of the Church: Who do we Worship?


Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Psalm 96:1b

This post is a part of an ongoing dialogue about the five purposes of the church. The first post addressed the question of Who Do We Worship?  I want to continue to interact and dialog with Marva Dawn as she dialogs about the “Who” of worship in her book How Shall We Worship?

There is an interesting observation in her book (p. 20) about the nature of our cultures today, described by social analyst Christopher Lasch as a Culture of Narcissism.

Lasch stated that social developments in the 20th century, such as the end of World War II and the rise of a consumer culture in the years that followed, gave rise to a narcissistic personality structure in which peoples’ self-concepts led to a fear of commitment and lasting relationships (including religion), a fear of aging (e.g., the 1960s and 1970s "youth culture") and a overdeveloped admiration for fame and celebrity, nurtured in part by the motion picture industry and television. The result is confusion, anxiety and uncertainty about how to live and relate in the world today (see a review of Lasch here).

Marva believes that this culture of narcissism has entered the church, which has resulted in attitudes and views that ask the question, What’s in it for me? (p. 21) Ever have anyone say to you, “I didn’t get much out of the

worship service today.”

Since worship is the response of all creation to “God’s gift of being,” any response that we have that is “hunting for what will please ourselves” can be nothing more than sin.

A couple of the results that we see in churches today is the tendency to see Sunday morning worship as an evangelistic rally, i.e., using the appeal factor of the worship service to attract those who are not yet Christ-followers by appealing to their immersion in our narcissistic culture. Thus a church can entertain and give people the impression that they have been part of a worship experience.

But if worship is for God, can those outside the community of faith enter into worship? Or more bluntly, can we say that these kind of services qualify as worship?

A pastor friend made a comment to my previous post, “One of the things we teach about worship is that it includes every aspect of life, not just what we do together on a Sunday morning. Worship is also our service to God as we serve His people.”

That to me is the paradox of the question of worship: Worship is about God, but yet as we worship, we can also serve the people of God.  The example I have in mind is the Milepost 13 Band that recently came to Grenoble. I saw some aspects of worship that I hadn’t notice before. They are a worship band, so their main purpose or goal was to worship God. But yet they were also evangelistic in their concerts, and one of the biggest benefits was how they served the two congregations in Grenoble –one French speaking and one English speaking, and the fellowship and community we enjoyed as a result.

So for me, this is a marvelous picture of what worship can be, it is more than an subjective experience on Sunday morning. As Marva points out, worship is the glad response to the immense grace of Triune God.” So when God’s grace is pouring out on us, we can experience the outworking of that grace through fellowship, evangelism, service, et. al., which in turn should rebound in our response to that grace.

Yes, grace is amazing!