September 17, 2007

Worship as Solidarity

I've been mulling over worship the last few weeks, ever since Brian McLaren visited Truett to talk about the challenge of radio orthodoxy. In the hour discussion, Brian shared some lyrics from this song.

Then a week later I read in Jonathan Wright's The Mission of God that mission creates praise and vice versa. And tonight I read Sally Morgenthaler's article over at Allelon. She sums up her experience with worship evangelism, which she can be rightly called the initiator or innovator of this movement. In grief, she admits the church has become narcissistic and misuses worship as the chief means of getting people inside the walls of the church building. As she described the perception of a nonbeliever experiencing this worship evangelism, I was struck by this quote,

No sad songs. No angry songs. Songs about desperation, but none about despair. Worship for the perfect. The already arrived. The good-looking, inoffensive, and nice. No wonder the unchurched aren't interested.
The church has become insulated from reality by its own worship. In Romans 12, Paul urges Christians to worship. He does not say that we should gather on one single day and allow nonbelievers to gather to us. He does not say that we should spend all our time, effort, and money on a single event for adore and praise God. He does not say that we should seek relevant songs or tunes. No, instead Paul says that worship by being transformed, living our lives as a sacrifice. A sacrifice! Now, if you allow me to pull this out of the "spiritual" talk of daily quiet times or prayer times into reality; I think Paul is saying that we must go into the world, into our communities, into our neighborhoods and seek solidarity. For most of us, that means opening ourselves to the grief and suffering of those who don't have their lives together. That means giving up our self-referential, self-sustaining, narcissistic, consumeristic lifestyles in order that others may be experience wholeness.

Most nonbelievers will find Sunday morning worship at most churches irrelevant and probably annoying. Who can fit into this picture of continual happiness and praise? Is there any room for the suffering? Is there any room for the pain of the world? Is there any room for the grief and tears shed over those who don't yet know God?

So, what do we do with Sunday morning worship? Do away with it altogether? No, connect it with reality. We realize that worship is a time for Christians to be transformed for God's mission, not a time for happiness or comfort. This should be a time of discomfort sometimes, lamenting the pain in the world as well as the weakness of the church to meet it. Then, and only then will true praise for God flow, since it is here that we meet God. In our weakness, seeking to find him in his strenght among our neighbors, communities, and nonchurched.

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