I attended a meeting last night at church, and after The Business was done (dying versus vital, forsooth!), the few of us at the meeting sat for a while and talked. The conversation wandered around, touching on this and that, and settling for a while on the topic of worship.
Joe (our pastor) mentioned how it is necessary to adapt worship style to appeal to a modern population (actually not what he said at all, I’m paraphrasing), and I said how I thought that was sad. I then proceeded to make no sense what-so-ever, trying to explain my opinion, leaving the impression that I thought we should all just merrily enjoy traditional worship styles, and not adapt at all. This is NOT what I think, so I thought I would take a blog entry to clarify my thoughts, such as they are.
The end of last week’s Sunday school lesson concerned worship as our response to our relationship with God. The author of the teacher’s lesson (which, if you’re keeping track, is nothing at all like the student’s lesson, but that’s another story), said that the word worship is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word which means worth-ship. We worship God because he is worthy of worship. Hold on to that thought, while I add another…
I mentioned in this post that I Iiked the song The Heart of Worship, and I actually used the story of the writing of the song as an illustration as I taught the lesson last week. Apparently Matt Redman’s church was experiencing a lack of spark in their worship. They decided it was because, and here again I am interpreting; the congregation was taking worship for granted. They had turned it into a spectator sport (to borrow a phrase from the teacher’s manual) and were bringing nothing of their own to the worship. The dropped the music from the service and spent a year bringing worship with them to the service; participating in the service themselves.
Joe, Carol, the worship committee – those involved in planning and organizing a worship service – are called to bring the Word of God to the People of God. That means speaking the Word in a language which will be understood – and I don’t just mean the words spoken, but the music, the visual aids, the sounds and the sights of worship. They are called bring people to God through worship, and that is what Joe was talking about. It is good and right that the “language” of the Word of God be “spoken” in a way that the people will hear it and understand it and in a way that will attract and persuade people to become disciples of Christ.
But as a member of the congregation, in this particular instance, that is not what I am called to do. I (and the rest of the congregation) am called to bring worship to God. To not sit back as if worship were a Broadway production, waiting to be entertained. We are called to bring worship to God – ourselves, our attention, our praise, our singing, our clapping (sorry), and our prayers – all of our offerings. None of that should depend on the type of songs that are sung or the presence or absence of nice flowers. We are to come because God is worthy. We are to be there because it is pleasing to God. We, the congregation, are to come to worship, because it pleases God, not because we are waiting to be pleased ourselves.
Then, when the congregation comes to participate, and the Word of God is spoken in a language that its members can understand and to which they will respond, God creates a vital church (and that can’t be measured on a form).
So there, that’s what I was trying to say. I think.
(Photo: Is it spring or not? Ice on the trees at work)