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.