Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ready to Surrender

As a Christian and as a pastor, worship is important to me. How we worship, why we worship, when we worship, the ways we worship, and what/who we worship are all important to me. Yet, so often these things are not important to the others I am talking to. Often times when talking about worship with pastors and leaders the conversation is reduced to "How many were there?" and "How moved were they?"

When I talk about the need for a renewed worship, people respond with discussions of transitioning from "traditional music" (hymnal) to "contemporary music" (everything published after the hymnal). Or I hear statements like I did a couple of weeks ago with a group of pastors, when one pastor stated publicly, "I actually quit going to worship for a period of time before becoming a pastor. I mean, I understood why we worshiped but I just didn't have anything in common with the church people. But now that we have a "cowboy church" I just feel such a great sense of unity."

I have heard the same thing said about "skater church," "biker church," "smells and bells church," "robes and stoles church," "Skipbo church" etc. (you pick the niche). Don't get me wrong - I have nothing against cowboy hats (I have one hanging in my Dodge) or clerical collars (I have one hanging in my closet) the problem for me is that, as Christians, our unity and community should come not from our means of transportation or our apparel choices but the person of Christ and His table.

I am afraid that we have confused worship and evangelism, and in an effort to be culturally sensitive in our evangelistic efforts we have failed to be counter-cultural in our Worship Practices.

I am afraid that if we are not careful, even the more "liturgical forms of worship" (formal high church) will become just one more style of worship to be marketed to a consumer minded worshiper.

Sometimes I feel like giving up. Sometimes I want to surrender and just begin appealing to the largest market share of the population in my community, but then I find myself standing around the Lord's Table with people in our congregation that I seemingly have nothing in common with. They dress differently, they like different kinds of music, drive different kinds of cars, vote along different party lines, eat different kinds of food and some of them even speak a different language than me; but there we are, all together in community and unity, because of what Jesus did and has promised to do, and I can't help to rejoice and think, "you can't market this." This is something that only Jesus can do.

Is this something that anyone else struggles with/deals with? How can we communicate this danger with other pastors/leaders? Do we need to?

Am I just being hyper sensitive?  I look forward to learning from your responses.




Todd Stepp said...


That was a good post! Most of us who "hang out" at this blog probably know what it feels like to seemingly bang our head against the wall.

It seems so often that so very many just don't get it. It is very much like we are speaking an entirely different language.

And yet, when you are gathered at the Table, or, as the Psalmist says:

"If I had said, 'I will talk on in this way,' I would have been untrue to the circle of your children. But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisom task, until I went inot the sanctuary of God . . . " (Ps. 73:15-17)


Eric + said...

You have hit the nail on the head. The problem with "free church worship" is that all forms of worship are ultimately reduced to a preferred style (preferred for any number of reasons). Nothing short of a denominational worship with resolve this tension.

As a Nazarene, part of me loves the idea of a "big tent." But another part of me (a very BIG part) fears that we have made our tent so big that any real meaning is lost as a "non-essential." In our die hard quest to reduce the faith to "just the essentials thank you very much" we have lost so much of the depth of the faith that is near impossible to regain in a given local congregation.

Jeremy D. Scott said...

Thanks, Brian. Yes, I do feel that way, sometimes.

SusanU said...

"How moved were they?"

I have actually been told by a pastor and also by those involved in leading worship at a church that the worship music is picked solely based on how much it will make the congregation physically react. Then they will "know" that the people were worshiping. I call this the "wiggle factor". Makes me sick.

On the other hand, I have also been in a worship service in which the pastor's prayer and desire was for the congregation to be led into God's holy of Holies and revel in God's presence. It was the only time that the disunified church was unified. It was truly a glorious time in worship. No one cared about any of these external things such as how were they moved, how many were there, etc.

You are correct, that can't be marketed. It is only something Jesus does. And for impatient Christians, it is only something that happens after time has been invested in prayer, seeking for God's presence and being open to how God wants to reveal himself to us.

Brannon Hancock said...

What in the world is "cowboy church"?!

SusanU said...

I believe it is a church that targets the cowboy culture.

BThomas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rene said...

I am with Todd when he said, "It is very much like we are speaking an entirely different language."
The concept of worship as focusing on, pleasing, and communicating with God, taking myself, my feelings and desires off center stage just doesn't seem to compute.
I've noticed that even to suggest that we tend to make worship about ourselves is either highly offensive or accepted as "of course it's about us."
The sad thing is that the more we try to meet our own needs in worship, the emptier worship becomes.
In the end we must be faithful to the light that God has given us, and pray for eyes to be opened.