WORSHIP IS WORK

Worker in love  For sometime I have utilized David K Peterson’s definition of worship as a starting point for worship discussions.  He states that “worship of the living God is an engagement with Him on the terms He proposes and in a way that only He can provide.” (Engaging with God: a Biblical Theology of Worship)

Engagement implies activity on both sides of the equation.  God acts and humans act.  God has done a finished work in Christ, and is presently active in the world.  Thanks be to God, one of His means of activity is in and through His people, reconciling the world to Himself.  We have a part in His Kingdom’s work.  What a privilege and deep spiritual blessing to engage with our Creator that we may be equipped to enact His desires in our lives and the world.  But this means we have work to do.

Although it makes some of my Baptist brothers and sisters flinch, the word “liturgy” refers to worship, and is often noted to be “the work of the people” in the worship of God.  While a distinction is sometimes made between “liturgical” and “non-liturgical” worship, these usually just refer to the level of prescription given to the ritual of worship when the people are gathered for public worship services.  Either way, as resistant as some may be to a formal prescribed liturgy, there is a much more alarming trend afoot in many evangelical churches in our day that disrupts the spirit of worship as an engagement with the divine.  That trend is simply, non-participation.

Resistance to participatory worship may be seen by grotesque patterns of non-attendance, such as is the case when churches claim thousands of church members, yet would not expect more than half of the members to appear for regular weekly worship at any given time.  Even so-called “high attendance” days are scheduled to try and market their own worship service to those whose names are already included on the roles of the congregation, many of which would have a conniption fit should leaders hint at some disciplinary action for inactive status.  A further resistance to participatory worship that is just as disturbing may be seen by non-participative patterns in the acts of worship called for in weekly worship, such as singing, active listening, participatory prayer, and/or missional service.  Let’s consider a little more closely this second indicator of non-participation and steps toward healthier practices.

In a remote control – DVD recorder world the average church-goer may not come to worship with the understanding that this is work.  Combine a passive attendance attitude and pattern with endless efforts by pastors and worship leaders to put on a better show and you have a formula for worship that seldom finds spirit or truth, much less the spiritual meld of both.  I am convinced that leaders who (often unknowingly) work hard at entertaining would-be worshipers are, in fact, leading attenders astray.  Often in the name of attraction, or presumed relevancy, enactments are employed that have the effect of continuously placing the would-be participants in the spectator role.  The consumer culture already has them quite conditioned to be in observation-only mode.  When worship bands, worship music leaders, pastors, and others take on the role of performer, they are quite willing to default to their learned behavior of evaluating how well they are personally inspired, interested, or otherwise pleased.  This is a far cry from “the work of the people,” in which praise, prayer, yielding, discovering, and other responses lead to Jesus-following lives that are sent to live out daily worship of service, reconciling the world to the Triune God, Who is active in that world.

Engaging the imagination is to be about helping worshipers embrace the Kingdom, not about the perpetual motion in our video loop backgrounds, or the entertainment value in personal stories that sound more like standup comedy than gospel.  Let us consider how worship rehearses the God Story, reminding us of His activity in the world past, present, and future, and our place in it.  Let’s help engage worshipers in practices like preferring one another above themselves, serving one another, praying for the world, praising with grateful hearts, remembering their own baptism, and the new life it promised to usher in, a new life in which they committed themselves to walk given the help and direction of the Holy Spirit.  Let’s not be afraid of offering leadership that calls for response, and seeks to know reasons behind lack thereof.  In so doing we may salvage a fallen brother or sister from self-dismissal.  By working harder to build up our faith community’s singing voice than we do at practicing our band to make it sound great, we may well rescue the perishing and care for the dying as they are drawn to a unified voice of praise that is coming from a unified worshiping people seeking to love the Lord their God with heart, mind, soul, and strength.  Humbly yielding ourselves in corporate worship is one way we can love our neighbor as ourselves.  But be ready, it is work.

Explore posts in the same categories: Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

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