Wednesday, March 22, 2006

How To Worship Well

Worship is not entertainment. Though there may be some entertaining qualities to worship and those who are enthralled by the entertainment industry do exhibit characteristics of worship[1], nevertheless, worship and entertainment have two differing and conflicting agendas. Entertainment is predominantly passive, whereas worship is predominantly active. Entertainment is audience-driven. Worship is God-driven. This is a key component to understand if we are going to worship well.

Unfortunately, too often, what we want in worship is entertainment because this is what we get during the week. This is really what most of us (young and old) are asking for without even knowing it. You see, from television to the theater, from computer programs to computer games, from instant messaging to instant coffee, this generation is treated to a wealth of entertainment, information, and resources graphically and instantly. It is fast-paced. It is always new and improved. This creates a low threshold for the slow-paced, meditative, reflective life that is often Christianity. The result is an easy boredom, and a lack of appreciation for the quietness and stillness that often are required in hearing from God. Thus when we come to church, we want in church what we so readily receive all the week long – fast-paced, up-to-the-minute, quality, graphic entertainment. Unfortunately, many places on Sunday morning give them what they want in an effort to reach them, or more accurately, woo them into membership. When this happens, according to Marva Dawn, “the focus then becomes not so much to display the glory of God as to delight the people who come” (How Shall We Worship, p. 67).
What is not realized is that these places are doing nothing more than scratching where people itch. They are perpetuating a superficial faith. They never penetrate to the deeper places of humanity and substantial Christian experience. This superficiality fails to lead people to see that a relationship, a lasting relationship with God is not accomplished in a fast-paced, hurried, entertainment-driven mode. It comes in getting before God and spending time, often long and quiet times, with Him. This indispensable exercise of Christian devotion is what church is supposed to prepare people for. This is what the church is to prepare people to encounter – a God who is bigger and better than we first imagined, but is never boring, even in the most quiet times.
Side Note: Our brother Eric Washington has recommended With Reverance and Awe by D.G. Hart and John R. Meuther as an excellent primer on Reformed worship by two reformed OPC thinkers. I would agree.

[1] According John M. Frame, “There are some criteria for good entertainment that are also criteria for God-honoring worship. In worship, sermons should be well-organized and clear, maintaining the attention of the worshipers. Music ought to be of high quality led by skillful (1Chron. 15:22; 2Chron. 34:12; Ps. 33:3) artists. It should be memorable, bring its text to dwell in the heart and mind. Thos in attendance should feel welcome, among friends. Humor is sometimes valuable in worship, since there is humor in Scripture itself. When these criteria are observed, worship inevitably becomes something like entertainment.” Contemporary Worship Music: A Biblical Defense (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Press, 1997), p. 60.

1 comment:

Heather said...

Hi,

I juast came across your blog while reading about Psalm 115. I'm an Australian and am currently a Theology student. I really like your blog. Non nobis, Domine, indeed! It's refreshing. :)

God bless you brother!!
I don't have a blog, but my email is pilgrimite@hotmail.com if you feel like responding. :) Psalm 117