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July 18, 2005

Comments

Brandon

Your answer is much along the lines I expected, and I, as you may have guessed, agree with your treatment.

I've long been irked with the concept of 'demographical worship.' That is worship that is pursued because it's 'appealing' to people. However, this same appeal leads people to believe that it's okay to worship in the 'status quo'. Demographic worship is just the kind of worship that allows churches not to pursue their biblical mandate to reflect the diversity of the Kingdom of God.

Why? Because it's not appealing? Death on a cross doesn't appeal much either--fortunately Christ placed higher value on the kingdom than he did on his own selfish whims.

Thanks, Greg, this was a great post.

jvpastor

That was a thoughtful examination how awry our gatherings (not worship services, not even church) have become. There are alot of things I want to say...

Good quote:
"The real question is, I think, does the collection of practices in which we engage of a Sunday morning make me a better Christian or a better consumer."

We read the gospel as consumers, and think of it as product to sell and market (Newbigin exposed this thinking). I think our gatherings expose to the world the shallowness of our faith (if you can even call it that).

You are going to kill me, but I'm going to trackback again, i know it is starting to get old, I should just take down my blog and put a link pointing here.

Jim

All those questions you (hypothetically) pose in your post regarding the collection of practices in worship. Based on those, I would say that what we're trying to do in our church (bias alert--I'm the assoc. pastor) is create worship that yields opportunities to give ourselves away. And you know what? Our church is dying. Our efforts have been met with (pretty much always successful) resistance. It's exhausting, frustrating, and depressing.

I don't disagree with you, not at all. Great post. But you left out the warning. Affirming and (worse) acting on the things you called for in your post is maybe the best way I know to kill a modern north American congregation.

That's probably not a bad thing, but it's HELL on my career!

Keep up the good work.

greg

Jim,

Grace and peace. You're absolutely right; it will kill the typical American congregation. And you're right that I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing if a good thing can be built from the ruins. I think we're living in a time when the only way forward is to be faithful knowing that it will cost us size, "success," and the trappings that come with cultural acceptance. In my more hopeful moments I believe it's a dream we can realize. At other times, like you, I'm prone to despair that churches that practice this will die. We have hope though, because "lest a seed fall into the ground and die..." Blessings.

Account Deleted

Another in a line of posts calling us to a worship that is honestly honoring God rather than propping up the individual idiosyncresies that form our places of worship into nothing more than shopping malls of pablum to make us happy - as jv mentions, Newbigin is great at this point, as well as others ...

jnelson

Jim, right there with you. People in my congregation are mad for other reasons at the moment (I'm a pastor in the UCC), but before that storm hit the chief thing to be mad about was worship. It's VERY frustrating, because some complaints are exceedingly self-serving. 'No change, because this is how I like it.'

sense light

Greg - I love this one...I feel this so much in the "rich church on the hill" I work in. Well put.
However, I found one fault. You said and I quote, "We spend 46 of them on problems related to the individual...We spend two on Christmas, one on Easter, two on America, and one on Mom." BUT the first sunday of the year - WORLD COMMUNION SUNDAY...hell you forgot New Years. Please don't leave out the one that allows me to come to church with a hangover - cheers!

goz

Wow. I was bowled over by this think piece. I stumbled across your site today. I'm from the UK so have a slightly different slant/ experience on things than you but as a songwriter and worship leader found the truth in your eloquency both humbling and direct.

I would make one point. Two of the choruses you have quoted from were written by friends of mine in the UK. While I understand the point you are trying to prove I think taking their words out of a wider context and dressing them as a scapegoat for simplistic lyrical flair, slightly unfair. A text without a context is a pretext and, in the two cases you pointed out, the context of both songs is a wider body of rich and Godly material that generally meets your own crtieria for success: to instruct, praise, and uplift.

That certain songs from the modern hymn/ worship chorus canon should be simplistic or only emphasise one aspect of praise/ worship to God is no crime. Not every worship song can meet every need and to suggest that past hymns have always done so would be misleading.

That said I applaud your points and the heart of your post. It is a challenge to us all.

greg

Goz,

Thanks for your thoughtful response. I actually was reluctant to include Martin's and Matt's lines in my selections. I decided to go ahead for one reason: with so much good stuff to choose from these two songwriters, American churches have chosen the "youth camp" choruses instead of the more theologically sound offerings that both these men write. Some of the hymnody coming out of the British side of Worship Together has been powerful and theologically complex. I should have communicated my dissatisfaction with the Church more than the songwriters in that bit. Thanks for taking me to task on it.

Monk-In-Training

There is a Latin saying "lex orandi lex credendi", which simply translated means "the law of prayer is the law of belief".
I would say it means how we worship reflects our beliefs and inescapably will determine how we will live. I know I like the ancient Liturgy of the Church for a lot of reasons, but one of them is, it forces ME to change, and isn't always easy or about me.
I can easily say that my leaving the large mega-churches behind some years ago has caused the biggest change in my life that they could not even begin to understand.

May I continue to be come how I worship.

Lorrie

Greg - your posts have been blowing me away lately. This is one is too true to my heart. I left the mega-church, and you know before that, where worship was/became self-focused entertainment.

The biggest transition for me coming back to the Catholic church was for me to deal with my perceptions of "worship."

I've had to put down my ingrained expectations of what worship was to provide to me and learn/accept/embrace that worship isn't about me. Sounds simple, but so clear now that I'm away from the spoon fed entertainment focused worship service.

Thanks. Tulsa sexy lorrie (for the search engines - ha ha)


Tim Sean

Do the scriptures talk about worship much at all? BGy this, I mean specifically in the way that we have come to understand worship? People getting together in large groups, praying to God, asking to be transformed, having an experience of change, on a weekly scheduled basis? Planned worship with this end in mind. And this with such high expectations of those planned gatherings? I know there were gatherings in the temple, readings, hymns of some sort. But it did not exist in this form. Am I wrong?

I had a two hour conversation yesterday about starting a worship "experience" in our small town for college students and young adults because the churches in our town are not wroshipping (enter the adjective of your choosing here, they all apply) in a passionate, first century, God-honoring way, etc. In the middle of the conversation I thought to myself, "It isn't about this. It isn't about the planned worship experience. It's about relationship and community that urge one another on to deeper, more meaningful existence.

Art (as it is expressed inworship as music, reflection, narrative) helps in this process. I am moved to action through compelling art. But it is not the thing nor has it ever been. It has always been about relationship. This focus on a the planned worship event is missing the forest for the trees.

What do you think?

Bob Smietana

Fixing our worship won't necessarily fix the discipleship gap in American churches. Are Catholic being shaped by their worship towards living lives for others that evangelical or megachurch Christians aren't? Many Catholic parishes, which are the original megachurches in the U.S. have some of the same problems--worship as a spectator sport. It's an older version--more theater than movies--but it's still often a spectator sport, just a low-tech version of it, with smells and bells instead of power point.

Brandon

I don't know, Bob, perhaps it's just semantics but isn't fixing worship synonomous with fixing discipleship. I mean, isn't it true that discipleship falls under the banner 'worship.' And, if that's the case, the mark of a Church that's truly 'fixed' its worship practices will be discipleship.

Just my 2 cents.

Anthony

Greg,

Your thoughts here deeply resonate with me about worship. I just finished reading Debra Jean Murphy's book "Teaching that Transforms". She talks about worship as a transformative practice and how much of Christian worship in America is over-determined by consumerism, nationalism, and reductionist accounts of the gospel. Of course she does a favor by proposing solutions. The thing that sticks out in mind about your post is how we Christians can be shaped in formed by the various practices in our culture. And when our worship and discipleship is more informed by the "powers" then we are in trouble. It seems that the issue is whether or not worship shapes and forms us...the issue, to me, is about what "kind" of worship and what "kind" of people is our worship and discipleship making us to be. Good thoughts brother.

Ant

Bob Smietana

Brandon,

The problem seems much deeper than what happens in worship on Sunday mornings (or Saturday). It doesn't matter to me if the worship takes place at a megachurch or a cathedral—I'm more concerned with what happens the rest of the week, when our culture seeks to undo almost everything the gospel teaches us.

BlogIrony

Our small church went WAY smaller when we began to do some of the things referred to in today's blog. Did it kill our church? No way. It sifted out the folks who want to sit and listen, and not go out and serve. "Faith without works is dead". Our church survived. The work will survive. It's being done by the power of God, for Jesus' glory. I truly believe that Jesus is taking His people back to the basics. He is refining His people. Without the power of God by His Holy Spirit, we can accomplish very little.

Trevor

When was the last time your pastor said, "Leave your seat, find someone you don't know, and pray for that person?"

Happens every week at our church (www.the-journey.ca). Anyone who walks in is going to get prayed for. We're still pretty tiny, and amateurs at most of what we do, but praying for one another is something we hold onto like a life-line.

BlogIrony

Trevor - Amen! An old friend came from out-of-state to visit last weekend, and we met at our church. She was blown away by the blessing from the prayer she received in our tiny congregation. It was a renewal some thirty years in the making (we were all "Jesus People", living in a church commune back in the early 70's), and I do believe that blessing will be passed on in her home community when she returns. God is good!!!

Lorrie

Bob - Not sure what Catholic services you've been to lately - but I haven't seen any smells or bells since I was a kid - which was about 30 years ago.

"Are Catholic being shaped by their worship towards living lives for others that evangelical or megachurch Christians aren't?"

Speaking for myself - someone who has been in both for extended periods of time - yes, I believe I am.

I feel a deeper sense of worship and call to love and serve those around me and in my community than I've ever felt before. Worship is no longer stressful for me - it's no longer a spectator sport, or a participant sport for that matter. It's not a matter of entertaining me, takes the focus off of me, and places the focus where it should be. Peace ~

Brandon

Bob,

Truthfully, I think that we're really agreeing with one another. I think my understanding of worship bends it past it's normally understood definition. I see worship as the living intentionally that happens between services as well as the intentional living that happens AT services. So ultimately, I suppose that we're really arguing the same thing...I'm just applying the term worship to living as Christ intended between services.

Fr'nklin

You say, "The real question is, I think, does the collection of practices in which we engage on a Sunday morning make me a better Christian or a better consumer?" Your question presumes that Christians would be able to tell the difference...and that, I'm sad to say, may be presuming way too much.

Fr'nklin

I feel the need to answer your ultimate question - "Do the collection of practices in which we engage on a Sunday morning make us better Christians or better consumers?"

Seems to me that the evangelical church teaches us today that a “better Christian” is one who will 1) raise their hands, close their eyes, clap, laugh, and smile when they worship, 2) be deeply involved in the “ministries of the church”, 3) give $$$ to the church, 4) go on mission trips, 5) make a “faith promise” for missions, 6) go to a Sunday school class, ahem, an Adult Bible Fellowship, 8) bring their “unsaved” friends to church, 9) complete a discipleship course…and then do it again…and again…and…10) be able to quote verbatim the “mission statement” of the church!

So, do the practices in which evangelical Christians engage on Sunday morning make them better Christians? The answer, would have to be, “yes”, because a good consumer, in today’s evangelical church, is…a good Christian

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