Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Worship is spiritual food

Bloggers note: The following was my Musings article from my rehearsals of 10/25/06. On Sunday, 10/29/06 the church celebrated the 125th anniversary of the founding of this body. Instead of our usual 2 very different worship services, we had one longer service ... mainly traditional in look and feel. I will probably write about it when I have more time, but we experienced a delightful sense of community that morning. I'm still thanking God for it 3 days later. The sanctuary choir received this article on the Wednesday evening prior to that service of worship.

“The problem in many congregations is not that the diet includes the wrong proportions of spiritual milk and meat; it is that the hungry are being given pacifiers and think that they are being fed.” ~ Paul A. Richardson, The Primacy of Worship.
The image of milk and meat to which Richardson alludes comes from Hebrews 5. The writer is frustrated at a lack of “getting it” in the people to whom he is writing because they are immature.

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! ~ Heb. 5:11ff (NIV)
I heard Richardson speak on the subject before it appeared as an article in the theological journal The Review and Expositor a few months later. He had just conducted a campus-wide survey of favorite hymns and used the results of that survey to craft a teaching worship experience in chapel at Southern Seminary. His analysis of the survey was that he saw a lot of spiritual “meat and potatoes” in the content of our favorite hymns, but very few spiritual “vegetables” (exactly how one would discern the difference between the two is still not clear to me some 20 years later). After he shared that observation, he made the statement that appears at the beginning of this entry. The analogy of worship as spiritual food has stuck in my mind for a long time with several permutations.

One of those is the image of a family holiday celebration like many that I experienced growing up. Because so many people come together with so many different taste preferences, there is often a wide variety of food available. With so much variety, it is easy to identify the picky eaters … just look at the food on their plates. When child will only eat a few different foods it is no surprise. When an adult refuses to expand his or her taste palate, it implies immaturity. I confess that I was a picky eater as a child (and, yes, even into my teens and perhaps early 20’s), but I have outgrown at least some of that pickiness. (Have so … have so …)

I could say more on the subject, but I will end with this: We have a church homecoming gathering this weekend and we’re all going to be together for worship in one service. There will be a wide variety of “food” available in the worship service – musical and non-musical. Will you be picky or will you enjoy a balanced diet?

That’s enough to think about for now.


Blogger JATB said...


I've used the food analogy a lot myself (because, hey, who doesn't love food?). This is what strikes me about a lot of worship music today: we tend to be unhealthy because we eat to much prepackaged, overprocessed junk food and fast foods.

The music industry is just that: a multi-million dollar industry. And often like the fast-food purveyors, they give us what is easy, fast, and cheap. Just as we don't take the time to examine what we're eating and make wise choices, often we stick to what's easy in worship (which is usually what we already know) and we're spiritually out of shape because of it.

9:28 PM  
Blogger Morris said...

The often abused statement from the church growth movement was "You've got to feed your people what they'll eat." My response was, "Yes, and if all they'll eat is pizza and we do nothing to help them learn to change their diet, then 10 to 20 years from now we'll have tons of overweight people with high blood pressure, heart disease, and colon cancer."

What they'll eat is a starting point, but we don't leave them there. We introduce healthier versions of what they'll eat, then gradually introduce healthier foods. And it takes time when we want it to happen overnight.

It really is a growth issue as well. Infants can't tolerate some of the things that are healthy for adults.

10:31 PM  

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