WORSHIP NOW AND THEN

Flip Wilson Rev Leroy You may recall the 1980’s TV comedy series, What’s Happening Now. Baby Boomers will remember even further back to the old Flip Wilson TV show, and one of his whimsical characters, Reverend Leroy, pastor of the Church of What’s Happenin’ Now. Many pastors and worship music leaders of our day seem convinced that their primary objective when planning worship is to present an image as the Church of What’s Happenin’ Now.  And that is a truly babyboomers’ idea.  Please hear me. I’m not calling to question sincere desire to connect to today’s culture with the gospel, but care must be exercised never to imply a shortsightedness whereby the eternal God is confined to a tyrannous practice of the presumed latest and greatest. To the contrary, worship stretches across the expanse of time.

WORSHIP NOW AND THEN needs to have a completely different meaning than implying that we drop by for corporate worship every “now and then.” Rather, Christian worship should situate us as individual believers, and as church in clear connection of now and then. In fact, maybe a stronger understanding of how now and then are connected in worship would help to get us past the lackadaisical attitudes that foster occasional church attendance as so commonly practiced by so many Christians in contemporary society. In order for substantial changes to be made we need to elevate our understanding of the significance of time in its relationship to worship.

What does worship have to do with time anyway? Genuine Christian worship bursts through the bonds of the present moment to connect us with eternity. I don’t just mean eternity forward, but eternity both directions. Any student of basic Christian theology is familiar with Christian teachings regarding the difference in Chronos and Kairos, the two Greek words referring to time. Chronos being quantitative as in days of the calendar, and Kairos referring to an indeterminate time or season in which something in particular takes place at “the appointed time.” In a particular (appointed) season, whether a moment, a day, months, or years, spiritually significant events take place with long term ramifications. Spiritually significant events happen in the life of a person, a church, or even the whole world. These qualitative periods of whatever length in history present kairos.

Worship, as an engagement with God in Christ by mediation of the Holy Spirit, occurs in real time. It happens in the “now” moments of gathered worship. In healthy Christian worship, worshipers gathered together in the present reality engage in connection to the “then” of past realities, and the “then” future of coming realities. We worship Him Who was and is and is to come! (Rev 1:4) In worship we remember, anamnesis, and we project forward, prolepsis. These are much more than just fancy words, as if a secret code, like a fraternity handshake, for believers. They are also our means of proclamation, as we declare remembrance and hope. Proclamation that belongs not to the professional clergy, but to the gathered body in every word, note, and motion of the liturgy, the worship itself. It is the story of God in Christ, reenacted week after week among His people. The God story. Certainly, the preached Word is central in this engagement for evangelicals, but grasping and pronouncing our place in time, the relation to the present moment (Now) and the past (then) as well as the coming future (then), is the joyful reality of what it is to worship, and that belongs to the entire gathered body!

In evangelical circles I fear we have abdicated witness and proclamation to the professional clergy. Along with such abdication comes unintended consequences of ever-less-connected congregation members, and sad personality cults that center around charismatic pulpit or tv dynamos. We find ourselves touting names of “Christian artists” and dyamic speaker-preachers who attain to substantive airtime on “Christian radio.” Certainly, these leaders may have effective ministry, but the problem occurs in our expectational immaturity. If our church leaders are less than entertaining to us, we become dissatisfied, and risk harm to the message of the gospel when we blame them for our own displeasure. With eyes toward our own satisfaction, or lack of it, we can lose sight of the part we play in proclamation and praise, helping to retell God’s story.

In Eastern Orthodox churches before they begin participation in the Divine Liturgy, the Deacon proclaims, “It is time for the Lord to act.” It is the understanding of the orthodox church that the time of the liturgy is an intersection with eternity. In evangelical revivalist churches the movement of a worship service toward a time of invitation is rooted in prayer that the Holy Spirit will move among worshipers to draw men and women to Himself, and that decisions for Christ will be made. In either instance, the sense is that God moves upon His people in worship.

One clear characteristic of culture in our day is that we are busy! We have lots to do. Do we really need to drive to some church building somewhere to worship God at a particular time on a particular day of the week? Is it a big deal that we get together with other believers to worship all at the same time? Well, the Bible surely appears to teach so. See Hebrews 10:25. For further word on “Prioritizing Church Attendance” read the linked blog from Gospel-Centered Discipleship.  Might be a good investment of a few moments of your time.

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

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