Monday, October 12, 2009

Chew on this awhile

After a brief hiatus in order to recover some psychological energy, I have resumed my reading of Harold Best's Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts. One of the primary underlying premises of the book is that worship is our response of countinual outpouring in response to God's continual outpouring of Himself toward us. As one beggar telling another where he found food, I share this paragraph from page 119.

We make and offer art because we worship, we should not make it to lead us into worship. We can carry the above concepts into the weekly corporate gathering. Since Christians come to such gatherings as continuous worshipers, it should now be obvious that it is erroneous to assume that the arts, and especially music, are to be depended on to lead to worship or that they are aids to worship or tools for worship. If we think this way, we fuel two untruths at once. The first is that worship is something that can start and stop, and worse, that music or some other artistic or human device bears the responsibility for doing the starting or the facilitating. The second is related to the first: music and the arts have a kind of power in themselves that can be falsely related to or equated with Spirit power, so much so that the presence of God seems all the more guaranteed and the worshiper sees this union of artistic power and Spirit power as normal, even anticipated. This thinking lies behind comments of this kind, "The Lord seemed so near during worship time." "Your music really helped me worship." And to the contrary: "I could not worship because of the music." These comments, however innocently spoken, are dangerous, even pagan. Senior pastors, ministers of worship and worship teams must do everything to correct them. If we are not careful, music will be added to the list of transubstantiation, turned into the Lord's presence. Then the music, not the Holy Spirit, becomes the paraclete and advocate. God is reduced to god and music is raised to Music. Thrones are exchanged, lordship reverts to its fallen hierarchy, and conditioned reflex replaces faith.

I have some thoughts related to what Best wrote that are not fully formed in my head just now, but they run along the lines of:

  • Do we get that worship is not something that starts and stops ... and more specifically that it's not tied to the music?
  • Do we get that all of life is to be lived as a continual response to God's outpouring of Himself in everything we experience?
  • Why does a "worship leader" have to be a talented musician?
  • Why can't a worship leader (in the spirit of Romans 12:1-2) be the director of a group of people responding to God's love by giving themselves to a mission project?

It's enough to make my brain hurt a little ... but I am convinced that these are thoughts that we need to be thinking.


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