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Archive for December, 2007

Am I missing something?

This post dovetails with my previous post, but is different enough to have its own spot.

I’m from a very non-liturgical tradition.  Don’t really care for empty tradition or worship that just goes through the motions.  I’m not impressed with robes, candles, pomp and circumstance, incense and monotone congregational readings.

I’m from a tradition that takes the worship to the people.  Simple, heartfelt songs, informal services, conversational sermons, very little ritual or tradition.

Yet, I feel like I am missing something, especially as our worship has become more focused on the non-Christian and the “seeker”.  I am able to go to some of the most “successful” evangelical churches in our country which put on worship services which rival a Broadway show (or at least an off-Broadway show).  The music is my genre, the message accessible, the seating comfortable and the seats full of people.

But I leave the service feeling like I’ve been to a motivational seminar, a really good (and free) Christian concert, or a political rally for our favorite candidate: not like I’ve been in the presence of God with the community of believers.

I’m really longing for worship that is worthy of an Awesome, Holy, Reverent God who is to be loved and feared, you know, the one spoken about in the bible.  I don’t want a life-coach, I want a God who is bigger than me.  Yet, I don’t want just an empty worship with all the right words but none of the adoration.

What am I missing and how can we have reverent worship without becoming wooden and ritualistic?  Anyone else out there feeling this way?

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I was talking to a friend about worship services today, and it got me thinking. I am really longing for a return to holiness and reverence in our worship services and worry that in our attempt to make God more palatable to the unchurched that we are swerving dangerously away from a sense of reverence in our services. All this came up because I went to a more liturgical church for a Christmas Eve candlelight service. It was refreshing to be in a church where God and the things of God were treated as holy.

Yes, I’ve been in liturgical churches where the reverence is stifling and you get the sense that they are going through the motions but have no sense of the living God. That’s not what I felt on Monday; God was revered, but there was a sense in the worship that God was living, loving and gracious. Then I went home and turned on the service of a more evangelical church and the first thing I saw was a dude in a sweater singing “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” followed by another hour of cute Christmas songs… it could have been the Donny and Mary Christmas Special, but it was a worship service. Granted, it was a Christmas worship service so that was to be expected, but I know from other services that the “variety show” format is pretty typical: a bunch of songs performed by professionals (while the “audience” mostly just listens and watches and then claps at the end) followed by a short motivational talk short on scripture.

Here’s what got me thinking. My friend (who is as conservative as I am) suggested that there might be something to doing what it takes to get the message to people. Yet, something about that stuck in my craw. It just seems that we are indulging in false advertising. Selling God as this groovy, cheerful uncle up in heaven who is not all that concerned with being revered, who merely “tsks tsks” when we sin, and is more concerned that we have a fulfilling career then that we are in a right, holy relationship with him. Sure, we get more folks in the door when we do the variety hour service that is light on the type of “fall on your face and worship the Almighty God” worship that is found in the bible, but when do we tell them the truth about our Holy God?

Somehow I just picture the Old Testament priests saying, “Look, this One and Only God who jealously demands our worship and reverence thing is not working, people would rather just stay home or go to the local pagan temple where they can have sex. What would it hurt if we just put a Baal in here or an Asherah pole? That would get folks in the door and we can tell them about the holiness and exclusivity of God later.”

No, I’m not criticizing a particular style of church or worship, I’m really just thinking aloud. I’m in a very non-liturgical church and while we don’t have the “variety hour” worship (for many reasons, not all of them good), we don’t have the kind of awe and reverence that I think we should have. I’m really just thinking aloud, wondering if we are going the right way. It just seems that we are more impressed when a church figures out a new way to get a lot of people through the door with the latest program then with a church that takes the worship of the holy God to the level of reverence that He deserves.

I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t want wooden, stiff, empty worship by any means. But how can we keep the reverence that God deserves while still presenting Him to a jaded world? Any thoughts?

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