Friday, November 14, 2008

Together Worship ... I Learned Something

I was a nervous wreck last week preparing for our combined worship service. What got me wound so tightly was that I so desperately wanted the service to be as connection-friendly to as many members of our congregation as possible. We all too easily divide along the lines of musical style preference in worship, or screens, or furniture … and last Sunday's combined service was supposed to be all about together. We've not been hugely successful at combining our services in the past, but this past Sunday was a welcome exception for which I am extremely grateful to God. I learned things in the service, but I also learned in the planning ... or rather, I should say that I learned in the aftermath of the planning. I learned more than I’m writing about here, and given a little more time I could say it better, but …

Here’s the deal with me: I have long been frustrated when I have heard my Christian brothers and sisters criticize styles of worship that may be different from their own personal preference. We are prone to limit ourselves by saying that we “can’t” worship if everything is not just so, whether that means that drums are used … or not; that the organ is played … or not; the screens are used … or not; and … here it is: the right songs are sung by the right people in the right key in the right order at the right time in the right tempo at the right volume with the right transitions between … etc. As I agonized over that very thing, trying desperately to select the right songs with all the other right stuff happening, I was in many ways enabling a continuation of that same erroneous mindset. If it seems a little too much like the other service, then up go the obstacles. I wanted so badly for there to be as few obstacles for both congregations worshiping together that I couldn’t focus on the fact that God desires for us to connect with Him and with each other even more than I do. Harold Best says:

… worshippers, along with those who work so hard trying to tell us how to worship, … should be relieved of the temptation to believe that if the music is just right, if the order of worship is just so, and the styles all patty-cake and blessing, faith will be bettered, more souls might be saved, or worship would be more “meaningful.” … We should never confuse the power of faith and the power of work. Remember, worship is full of works and can therefore degenerate into a self-consciousness about the earning power of works. The expressive power of music and art, as well as any sequence of liturgical events should never be mistaken for the presence of God or the increase of faith.

Now, does that mean that I don’t think long and hard about what we sing and how and why? Of course not. I will always be very intentional about those aspects of worship planning. But I also must learn to listen to the Holy Spirit and trust God’s transcendent power to reveal Himself to His people within the context of any worship style.

That’s enough to think about for now. The peace of Christ to you.


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