Why worship?

I read a very interesting post this weekend at Heart, Mind, Soul, and Strength that challenges the very core of contemporary church life: worship. If you attend a contemporary-style church, chances are you know that it’s all about the worship.  Walk into any of these evangelical churches—many with cool, new-age-sounding names like Daybreak or Morningspring, as well those with more traditional-sounding names, including one or 2 Lutheran churches—and you can expect to spend the first 20-40 minutes singing worship choruses.  This will be followed by announcements, the offering, a coffee break, and then a sermon, usually capped with another worship song or two. The more traditional evangelical focus has always been on the sermon. But, from listening to a number of these sermons in person or on the radio, it’s pretty clear that the focus is not there; it’s on the worship.

So, what if this contemporary understanding of worship is wrong?  I don’t mean off just a little bit, I mean completely and totally wrong. What if worship has nothing to do with creating a mood-altering state through hypnotic rhythms, major 7 chords, and repetitive chanting (hey, I’ve been on a few worship teams and even been a worship leader). The blogger at HMS&S even dares to suggest that God is not even interested in our worship songs:

If you were to search the commands in the books of Moses, you would not find a command where God asks for flattery. In the commands of the books of Moses, God shows remarkably little interest in receiving praise. In the Ten Commandments, the well-known command forbidding idol-worship is not, after all, followed by a command insisting on praising God. The Sabbath command does not contain a command to conduct worship services; it contains a command to rest from work. The kind of “worship” which God asks of his people as they live their daily lives is to be ethical: to be morally good. He requires of his people that they live good lives: not lying, not stealing, not murdering, not taking each others’ wives and husbands. He asks his people to be holy as God himself is holy. He asks us to follow him in his ways.

This is certainly in line with Romans 12:1. The Psalms, however, clearly call for us to praise God with music, and Paul tells us we should sing to each other. I’ve paid very close attention to the lyrics of the “worship” songs being sung in the churches I visit, and as odd as it may seem, there’s actually very little of either going on. Most songs celebrate human emotion, rather than actually talking about God. And most are neither encouraging nor educational (some are downright heretical).

But, this is not to say that singing worship songs—that is, true worship songs, focusing on God’s attributes and what He has done for us—isn’t a good thing.  I loved the songs we sang yesterday in the church I attend, All Hail The Power Of Jesus Name and At The Name Of Jesus (from an old Irish tune I decided to learn on the banjo). And I enjoy more modern songs, too, even outside of church.

So, I’m not sure if the blogger is 100% correct in her viewpoint, but I think it’s worth discussing. What do you think?



Abba does not mean “daddy,” okay?

Justified cringing

Being raised in a formal, liturgical church, I’ve always been uncomfortable with the current fad of calling God “Daddy.” In fact, I cringe every time I hear it.

I used to think this was my own issue, but as it turns out, I have been right to cringe because “abba” does not mean “daddy!” I cringed because I always cringe when adults talk baby-talk.

The abba-daddy myth

As Steve Caruso explains, the abba-daddy myth began in the early 1900’s when one guy you’ve never heard of suggested the “daddy” meaning. He didn’t base his thinking on real scholarship, but based on a hunch about how children learn language (which was wrong, incidentally). He (Joachim Jeremias) also admitted that “abba” was an Aramaic term of respect for older, wise men.

Somehow, someone who thought this analysis fit their own privatized, experiential version of Christianity started spreading the myth around, and now it’s believed by millions of people who are led to believe they must share this gushy kind of sentimentality or be emotionally challenged.

It’s okay to refer to God as “Our Father.” As Paul wrote, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child…” (1 Cor 13:11).

I don’t know how long I can go on cringing—the next time I hear someone refer to God as “daddy,” I may scream.  Just so you know.


10 reasons to [not] attend church

I found this post by Kurt Onken today at the Wittenberg Trail, and thought it was worth referencing.

The socially-palatable, seeker over-sensitive church has no future.  This may appear to some to show that Christianity is losing ground.  However, I disagree. I think Christianity has already lost ground in many churches.  This is why people like the Internet Monk talk about the coming collapse of the evangelical church.

It’s time to take it back.

Webber: The Divine Embrace 9: What now?

The final chapter in Webber’s The Divine Embrace is entitled Life Together, which is, of course, where all this ends, in church. One of my repeated critiques of a contemporary church experience is that it is essentially existential, focusing on the self. Webber agrees, saying that the problem is that spirituality itself is taught as generating from the self: “It is a view that seems to permeate the evangelical culture.

Webber proposes that when spirituality is situated in God’s embrace, church and worship then reveals that to us. We are no longer cheerleaders (my term) that have to conjur up some sense of worship and spirituality, but are rather participants who have God revealed to us as we respond to his embrace. 

Webber criticizes the modern business model of the church, which has created, as you’d expect, a consumerist mentality. This has followed a natural progression, with churches focusing on what the unchurched want, and making the church culturally relevant. As a result, many churches merely reflect not only the look, but the “narrative of culture.” Churches offer programs to meet the needs and desires of the congregation, as opposed to nurturing new converts and discipling them.

This chapter also discusses what Webber calls the crisis of worship. As I have mentioned before, contemporary worship sees God as the object God who needs to be worshipped by us, which originates worship in the self. Webber believes that a Biblical and historical view of worship is that “worship does God’s story.” Worshp proclaims God and what he is doing, and in worship we enact the story. A worship that is nourishing focuses on historical events (not emotions), uses Biblical language, and includes prayer that discloses and echoes God’s story.

Since I’ve started reading this book, I have paid even closer attention to what kind of worship happens in the churches I attend, and I think Webber is correct. The further and further we have “progressed” into evengelicalism, our worship songs have become more and more meaningless, offering little if anything of the truth of the Gospel. Even in my own Vineyard culture, the contemporary worship songs have become less and less doctrinal. No longer is the Trinity mentioned (in fact, often the Persons are confused). In fact, it’s rare to find Biblical language used that hasn’t been edited and lost among less meaningful phrases.

What now?  As I’ve probably mentioned in the past, I really don’t have a great deal of hope that the Evangelical church will stop the nonsense and realign itself with a Biblical concept of spirituality. I also don’t have hope for the emerging church, which to me is simply modernism will the lid off.  That’s not to say I haven’t lost  faith in God’s church, or his ability to pull it together.

As for what I do, I’m not sure. Next Sunday is Easter, and at the moment, I’m looking for a good church that remembers what it’s like to celebrate a resurrection. Then, I’ll go to our church with my family.