Wow…the longest post to-date, a two-parter…maybe even three! There is SO much to talk about! While I like to be right or have the answers, I mainly want you to take these questions and my little tidbits of input back and chew on them. You won’t get all the answers from me anyway, since I try to bring up more questions than answers because I want to encourage you to be led by Someone Greater than I. I want you to remember a few things as you read this. Remember that the point of this blog is about finding Life, real Life right in the middle of the question marks. Remember that questions are good.
Let His Spirit illuminate properly what I am trying to say, and more importantly what He would want to say to you through my writing.
Let His Spirit guide you to the Scriptures and properly illuminate them to you.
Finally, remember to keep your arms and legs are inside the roller coaster at all times, take a deep breath and here we go!
Barbeques and Jesus
In the middle of a family barbecue to celebrate my father-in-law’s birthday this weekend, my wife and I took our 1yr old son to a nearby park where the rest of our kids and their cousins were playing. Even though there was a constant wind blowing throughout the day, it had been a beautiful day and the evening promised more of the same. We settled our son into one of those swings that have the four sets of holes so a toddler can safely sit facing either direction and began to push him. Oh, how he LOVES swings! Giggles upon giggles came from our son, little shrieks of laughter, his smile as big as it could be, eyes lit up in pure joy, the wind moving through his hair. He was enjoying every single moment as mom and dad took turns pushing him and “getting” him.
Let’s say that Jesus came up to my wife and I right at that very moment we were playing with our kids, and He wanted to join in and spend the next thirty minutes with us. What would be the best way to spend time with him?
Would thirty minutes of singing songs to Him be the best way to spend that time?
What would any of us, including Jesus and our children, get out of my wife and I just standing there singing, arms up, hands open, eyes closed, swaying back and forth?
Wouldn’t it be rather…awkward?
A few minutes in my son would’ve been crying because the momentum from the swing would be slowing down and we just left him there so we could worship. Our girls coming up wanting to show us the cool tricks they are learning over on the jungle gym would get a quick look of irritation because, after all, can’t you see we are worshipping Jesus??
Doesn’t it all seem a bit, ridiculous?
Wouldn’t you say that we were missing the point of our time with Jesus?
How is a church or a “worship service” somehow better or more important than simply living life; spending time with family and friends?
Isn’t there a better way?
How much better, how rich would it be to interact and share laughs with Jesus as He pushed our son a couple of times in the swing, enjoying his little laughs and giggles, to be with Him as He picked our son up and held him. To see the way He would talk to me and my wife and to my girls. Jesus (I imagine) would even follow the kids as they moved around the playground. Just as my wife and I did. We’d get to talk, really talk to Him. Here’s the best part: He’d be open to anyone there at the park.
We Christians actually choose a ‘special time’ once, twice, or more weekly, where for the most part the kiddos are tucked away in a separate classroom while the adults gather to spend time in the “Presence of God” in what is called “God’s House” or “The House of the Lord”. The impression is given that doing that is better somehow. There are a few, bless them, that worship God privately, every day. Singing songs in their ‘prayer closet’ or one their way to work, listening to the local Christian radio station or to their favorite –insert worship CD here – songs. I’m not picking on any of these people. If you think about it, even in a ‘corporate’ setting, worship is a very personal and internal thing. The majority of people worship with their eyes closed. Why? Think about it.
In his book, “Epic”, John Eldredge brings up the topic of worship when speaking of heaven:
I’ve heard innumerable times that “we shall worship God forever.” That “we shall sing one glorious hymn after another, forever and ever, amen.” It sounds like hell to me. Seriously now – even though we were given Eden as our paradise, this whole wondrous world of beauty, intimacy, and adventure, [but] in the life to come we will be sent to church forever because that’s better somehow?
At the very least, there is an impression that is given about worship and I’m not the only one to notice it. Somehow a gigantic premium has been placed on singing songs as worship. Even to the point of invading our view of how Heaven will actually be.
There must be a better way to worship.
Back to the swing set…
As we enjoyed this moment with our son, these thoughts started to form in my head. Ideas and articles, books and blog entries that I had read before started to make even more sense, things that I had thought during my times serving in churches began to surface. The questions began to come. I told my wife how thankful I was that we got to enjoy these extra moments with our children since we have taken this break/journey away from going to “church”. I reflected on how right now we’d be at church, in the middle of “worship” instead of enjoying this time with our kids and family. My wife knew where my heart was with these questions, we spoke more about it on the way home after the family gathering was over. Our conversation and the thoughts we were having is the reason for this post.
What is the point of a worship service as we now know it?
Why is there a “system” of worship in place that is dictating worship in this particular manner?
Is there a better way?
I believe so.
A premium is placed on worship
If you’ve been going to church for any amount of time, you will notice how special the worship service is. You should see behind the scenes of any church in preparation for any given service. The drama, stress and all sorts of other stuff it actually takes to run a “worship service”…my God. Really?!? Granted, we are dealing with people, but shouldn’t that be a sign that maybe, just maybe this form of gathering isn’t how things should be? I have the luxury of saying this because for a good long season, I was a sound man for my first church’s worship team. I got a front row seat to this stuff. After that experience, I steered clear of volunteering for anything with worship services. Speaking with people on the worship team of my second church and the sound guys confirmed it was the same old story. Why?
Worship services are a hot commodity. Believe it or not, but people actually determine whether to attend one church or another based on how worship is. People who want to visit another church will ask: How is the worship there? Worship is literally half the “experience” of going to church. For all intents and purposes, a worship service will basically set the tone for the rest of the church service. As long as worship is good, the pastor could be mediocre at best in his sermons because the worship is good. The congregants have a good experience in “God’s presence”. Granted, I have seen the opposite effect where people stay because the pastor is a dynamic speaker (whether or not his ‘talk’ is Scriptural or offers Life to his congregation or points to Jesus at all is another matter that I may or may not get into in another post). Most churches will worship first and then have the message shared. Why is that? Some adventurous or more worship oriented churches will actually have worship before and after the sermon. It seems as though in all cases, it’s the experience that matters. Why?
No, I’m not going to start a rant about an experiential spiritual life and how we should or shouldn’t focus on that. I’ll just say that I do believe that along with other facets of our walk with God, there are, there should, there must be things that we experience in this life. I’m more concerned with experiencing the Life Jesus promised us. To me, if I can’t understand and experience the Life that He is offering and walk with Him, then every other spiritual experience is worthless to me.
Oh…to be led by the Spirit of God.
It’s funny. Here I am writing about worship and I come across two separate things about this topic. One is a quote that a friend of mine shared over in Facebook-land from A.W. Tozer, a man whom I respect. I’ve read one book by him and I would definitely be open to reading more from him. The quote was this:
“A church that can’t worship must be entertained; and people who can’t lead a church to worship must provide entertainment.”
Now, I don’t know the context of Tozer’s statement here, so I’m not passing judgement. I think I “get” what he is saying in the context of a church service, entertainment being the indicator there. But even in this quote, questions can be raised to help us grow.
To the first part of the quote I ask:
Why is there a disconnect that prevents worship?
To the second part:
Why must people be led to worship?
To the whole quote:
Entertainment has become a large part of worship nowadays, hasn’t it?
The second thing I came across, and more, will be discussed in Part 2.
To be continued…