TIME AND WORSHIP

Now-is-the-Time-to-Worship-300 Time is a big deal. Try as we might to control it, we have no power over the pace of passing time. We cannot save it, or pause it. We cannot speed it up, or skip over it. We are just in it. Some of us talk about managing our time, but that is a misnomer. We cannot manage the time, but only our activity in it. That’s just the way it is. In a culture where “time is money,” year-round schools and downsized offices have added pressure to our jam-packed calendars and workdays. Add to that an insane obsession with sports for kids at younger and younger ages, and it is little wonder that worship service attendance in so many churches has declined. Rather than addressing the myriad of conflicts in lifestyles, and especially those directly related to conflicts with Sunday worship, I want to move to consideration of a more fundamental understanding of time as it relates to Christian worship, and pray you might join me in seeing the Christian spirituality of observing time in a distinct manner.

First, I must confess. I struggle with managing my activities within the time the Lord has given me. I serve among pastors and worship ministry leaders most of whom likewise seem to struggle with time. They, as I, face most of the same pressures as the people in the churches we serve. We have families with needs. We feel pressure to perform, while we also serve on downsized staffs, but with higher expectations. We even have an exacerbated struggle since many of those we would call upon for help are some of those who themselves struggle to continue faithful involvement due to the same pressures. Obviously, skipping worship attendance is not an option for the worship ministry leaders. In addition the pressure of declining attendance compounds the pressure. Rather than coming up with yet another set of service times, more varieties of worship music styles, or other entrepreneurial concoctions, could we use a moment to consider our spiritual condition, and the heart of the matter of time? Could I take us back to some elementary thinking?

The Bible makes distinction between two kinds of time. Kairos has to do with episodes or periods when God moves in a particular action that one author characterizes as “a new dimension in reality.”[1] As we look back upon the actions of God through history we see a picture that forms what we know as the Gospel.  Chronos, on the other hand, is where we get our term “chronology,” and refers simply to the time on the calendar or clock. You might say the latter gives the palate on which the former is painted. The Incarnational truth is that God has stepped into time in the person of Jesus. What we see in scripture prior to His birth points to Him. His life, death, resurrection, and ascension form the center of the Gospel. Worship engages us in embracing time through anamnesis or remembering, and prolepsis or looking to the not yet. As we live the time (chromos) that God gives us there are events (kairos) when God acts in ways that transform us. Both kinds of time are critical to worship.

We can be ever confident that God is always “on time” in His actions.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6)

Given an unrelenting confidence in God’s power to act when He wills, and as He deems best, we surely must see our part as response to His invitation to come and worship. And speaking of time, the Lord’s Day remains foundational to our practice of Body (the Church) worship. Faithfulness in this regard means a designated time on this special (Resurrection) day of the week. By doing so, we set a pattern within our spiritual system, personally and corporately, whereby we practice those disciplines of Christian worship: gathered fellowship, prayer, singing, hearing, responding, being sent. Hebrews teaches us that faithful gathering is important to our well being, and even speaks to a bit of the how and why.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

We worship, offering moments given us to reflect on time past, to enrich time present, and anticipate the forever feast to come. The gathering sets the trajectory for our daily worship, so that worship is a continuum, never ceasing.

Yet a time is coming and now has come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth for they are the worshipers the Father seeks. (John 4:23NIV)

The Christian Calendar gives an even broader opportunity to pattern our worshiping lives centered in Jesus. Mentor, friend, and author, Dr Constance Cherry presents some of the benefits in observing the Christian Year:

  • The Christian Year reveals the larger narrative (story of God).
  • The Christian year presents the systematic truth of Christ (a systematic theology is unveiled).
  • The Christian year is innately Christocentric (the work of Jesus Christ is explained and celebrated).
  • The Christian year views time as sacred (all of time is holy, dispelling the dichotomy of secular vs. sacred time).[2]

This week begins the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday. Christians around the world will begin the 40 day (Sundays are excluded) path to Pascha (Easter) Sunday. I would encourage you to join this journey that encompasses personal and corporate worship. This is a time of prayer, fasting, self-examination, and remembrance of the covenant that binds and bonds us. Even as we see Christians being beheaded for their faith while calling out the Name of our Lord, let us pray for courage and renewal.

Below you will find a great new hymn for this season that I highly recommend:

[1] James F. White, Introduction to Christian Worship (Abingdon Press, 1990) 54.

[2] Constance Cherry, The Worship Architect: A Blueprint for Designing Culturally Relevant and biblically Faithful Services (Baker Academic, 2010) 211.

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

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