stealing time  Last week’s article on Media and Worship prompted some good discussion and further reflection both in written and verbal communication.  Some of the verbal conversations in response to the subject matter have further indicated the need for deeper thinking on the matter.  One lengthy conversation with a Worship Leader ended with a strong sense that we had just spent 45 minutes talking past each other.  That conversation along with other experiences of the past week have led me to further contemplation as to where we are as worshipers in American culture, and what some of the long-term influences of some of our methodological choices may be.

Recently I listened to a sermon by T. David Gordon in which the media ecologist and theologian noted that on occasion he hears ours referred to as a “media savvy culture.”  In fact, in the aforementioned conversation that I had, that very term was used by the Worship Leader as justification for heavy use of multi-media in the worship environment.  In his sermon Gordon contradicts the assumption of a “media savvy culture” by concluding that we are instead a “media naive culture,” and perhaps the most naive of all time.  He appropriately notes that emersion and understanding are not the same thing.  In other words, just because our culture is saturated with and in digital media does not mean we have even begun to think deeply or critically enough upon the effect its usage is having in our culture, much less the way in which we seek to engage with God as faith community.  His point in this sermon-lecture rooted in 1 Corinthians 1:21 is precisely in the vain of the concerns I sought to express in last week’s blog.  Cultural presumption is that digital media and mediums are neutral.  The conjecture is that since persons are exposed to and, in fact, utilizing digital media in the general culture, then it is smart to use it in the worship setting.  Like Gordon, as well as other scholars and practitioners, I am convinced that modern technological conventions bring with them certain values and when used so freely in the gathered worship environment clearly influence the ethos of the worship itself.

One of the values that tends to be attached to digital technology’s use and overuse is the “my time is important” mantra.  Perhaps this brings a whole new twist to the conversation, opening the proverbial can of worms related to service scheduling, broadcasting of worship, and the like.  We are convinced that using digital technology speeds the process, as well it may, but are we considering the effect of truncating the form and/or even the substance of worship?  In experiential terms, just because you flash pictures or words at me in a brief timeframe, does not mean I can process the thoughts or conclusions implied in those pictures or words.  What’s more, seems a central point of worship is that we offer ourselves to God as our “spiritual act of worship (Rom 12:1), and this surely involves surrendering “my time” to Him.  By its nature worship is counter-cultural in that regard.

As a case in point, Saturday I attended a memorial service for a friend whose family-run company had provided custodial service at the building in which my office is housed.  Orlando was a black man (did not like the term “African-American” as he said he had never been to Africa), a musician, a faithful family man, a strong Christian, and a leader in his church.  His cheerful, fun-loving spirit was contagious.  The memorial service lasted for nearly two hours.  It included several pastors with whom Orlando had been associated, several scripture readings, remarks offered by family members and friends, as well as a healthy dose of Gospel music.  I found myself getting fidgety about halfway through the service.  My primary awareness was “my” time.  Really?  Mine?  Not only was I in this service to honor a dear friend who had often freely offered his time as we sat “after hours” and talked and laughed, but more pointedly, I was here as an act of worship, to commune with God in the presence of friends and family of this beloved Christian brother.

While driving home from the memorial service I could not help but reflect upon the service of worship.  Certainly, the conviction I sensed regarding my attitude toward time weighed on my mind, and called for renewed commitment.  Of note, as well, was the realization of how much more person to person interaction occurred in the worship environment than what seems to have become common practice in many of the Anglo churches I attend and/or visit.  I know that some of the things I experienced in the church Saturday are traditions within the African-American church culture, but their influence is, nonetheless, refreshing reminder of a central tenet of gathered worship – that we are gathered with one another, many members – one body.  As I evaluated factors contributing to the worshipful and interactive atmosphere, I could not help but note the use of verbal guidance for the worship.  A minister spoke to begin the service.  She walked through the entire service order helping us know what was to come when, and gave a sense of the why in the liturgy.  Her demeanor was personal and ministerial.  I found Gospel present from the beginning.  A triumphant tone.

As we continue to contemplate our worship environments, let us be certain we surrender the time to the One Who holds time in His hand, beginning to the end.  Instead of contemplating (even bragging) how we might save time for ourselves, let us redeem the time for His Kingdom.

Explore posts in the same categories: Leading Worship, Singing Worship, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

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