WAGING WAR IN WORSHIP

iraqi-christians341x256  OK, folks, if you watch or read the news on the world stage at all, you know that things all over the planet are in a mess! I’m not talking about our US economy that still hasn’t recovered, or our healthcare fiasco. Those things are certainly problematic, but seem nearly insignificant by comparison to the explosive situations that characterize the conditions throughout the Middle East, and/or the convicting scenario that continues to develop on the U.S. Southern boarder where thousands of children are coming to the U.S. These are surely complex situations that have no easy solutions, and seem to perplex world leaders. Please note, that I do not care one whit (whatever that is) about getting into discussion of political solutions, ramifications of military involvements, or any other political science type issue. Pundits on TV and social media can handle that all they want. That is not what this blog is about, and seems there is already just too much talk that is just talk anyway. One can easily just feel overwhelmed with the weight of the current conditions in the world. We may feel that weight until, that is, we come to worship.

So, the question is, what is worship suppose to be like in the face of all this turmoil in the world? There is some bad stuff happening out there. Of particular note are the shocking conditions that our Christian brothers and sisters are facing in other parts of the world. Being starved to death for standing true to their faith in Christ? Crucified at the hands of terrorists in the name of religion? Where is God in all of this? What’s a Sunday worshiper to do? What is a worship leader to do? This is a bummer! And no one wants to think about depressing stuff in worship. Then again, perhaps the conditions of the world are something God will use to confront us with the timbre of our usual worship environments. Just maybe God is challenging us to wake up from our lethargic worship practices with their controlled, self-obsessed characteristics, to call us into a worship that enacts the gospel, opposes evil for what it is, and engages in the real struggle that “is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm.” (Ephesians 6:12)  Maybe that is the real war that worship is to wage.

Presbyterian Pastor Mark Labberton confronts us with the impotence of our discussions about worship, which end up really just being indirect ways of talking about us, and not about God. Discussions of real worship that humbles before the Living God, and bows our will to the Lord of all, will likely have us denying ourselves daily, taking up our cross and following him. (Luke 9:23-24) Labberton says the crises of our current church culture is that “our individual and corporate worship do not produce the fruit of justice and righteousness that God seeks.”[1] The author/pastor delineates what he calls False Worship Dangers, which he cries out for us to fasscscchallenge because of the temptation to give in to them as if they were for real. I believe these to be spot on, and thus want to simply list them as they are given, and encourage you to explore further on your own should you care (or dare) to investigate.

False Danger #1: Worship That’s Not Under Control

False Danger #2 : Worship That Doesn’t Seem Relevant

False Danger #3: Worship That Doesn’t Meet Expectations

False Danger #4: Worship That Isn’t Popular

False Danger #5: Worship That Isn’t Comfortable

False Danger #6: Worship That’s Unfamiliar

The author then turns to the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to give us the antithesis in his description of the real dangers of worship. Here I’ll give at least a teaser for each to keep the article in perspective:

Real Danger #1: Encountering God

Truly meeting the living God redefines all we call normal, and calls us to seek first the kingdom (Matthew 6:33)

Real Danger #2: Worship That Lies to God

Only one community has no history of lying ; the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is why our worship must be Trinitarian, caught up in this interaction of perfect union, perfect love. We are given to lose our love for neighbor, forget the widow and orphan or oppressed, and yet still try to tell God that we love Him. When we do, worship becomes a lie.

Real Danger #3: Worship That Lies About God

Whether the twisted inferences of so-called prosperity gospel, or the over-romanticized expressions that infer a Jesus who is like our boyfriend or girlfriend, or an implication of either cheap grace or no grace at all, God is never conformed to be the god we want him to be. Indication to the contrary surely have dire consequences for the church and for our watching, groaning world.

Real Danger #4: Worship That Doesn’t Change Us

Meeting with God changes us. If we go through the motions again and again, either failing to meet God or not prepared to let it affect us, we risk failed worship, or engage in idolatry. Our lives show no demonstration of difference from non-Christians, whereas the Word says, everything is becoming new (2 Corinthians 5:16) Comparing ourselves to each other allows us to remain unchanged, whereas comparison to Christ gives rise to true worship that changes us

Real Danger #5: Worship That Doesn’t Change the World

God’s provision for dealing with evil is the love of the Father through the Son by the Spirit. Worshipers change the world by embracing that love and justice, finding their lives in God through worship. It is demonstrated by Christlikeness. Ours are to be lives that “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.” (Micah 6:8)

Genuine worship does battle with the evil in the world by lifting high the Christ, the ultimate Victor. Hardly a bunch of feel-good songs with oblivious pronouns, or motivational sermons driving powerless people to work harder in their powerlessness.  Instead, Onward Christian Soldiers!

[1] Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship: Living God’s Call to Justice (IVP Books, 2007) 22.

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

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