Pastor Mark’s Blog 

SPIRITUALLY SPEAKING

July 17, 2018

 

     Worship remains a matter of discussion and even contention in our day.  Considering the world’s problems of war, destitution, hunger and drought, and big challenges facing the church in the public square and society at large, it seems almost narcissistic to have to even discuss and debate how we worship the Lord God!  But it may well be that our obsession with worship styles and music are nothing more than an over emphasis on individualism and self-centeredness. And this hurts the church’s witness.  So, I really hate submitting another article on this subject, but a recent article in Christianity Today moves me to share once again what might be a realignment in our thinking from “my worship” to “our worship.” 

     Jen Wilkin wrote this article, entitled The Sunday Gathering Is Not About You.  In it she notes that evangelicals correctly put an emphasis on our personal relationship with Christ.  But ironically, corporate worship came to reflect our individual experience.  Yet a post-Christian culture cries out for us to reclaim our once historic emphasis in our worship on us – a reminder that we are not alone in this world.  Corporate worship should emphasize the we, pushing back on the me that weakens our shared faith. People are lonely in this turbulent day, and the church should be one area where they can find community and comradeship.  

     Wilkins gives six emphasis that can get us back into a shared, corporate worship that promotes the we, which in turn will correct the abuses of worship, whether contemporary or traditional.  First, we need to re-evaluate our worship environments.  Stage lights and “stages” in general leave the congregation in darkness and “out there” creating anonymity from what is occurring up front.  We need to see each other and join together in worship.  We would benefit from a sense of shared sight and space that promote the we. Second, we need a sense of shared hearing. We use sound systems.  When the sound is too loud, individuals can feel isolated and anonymous.  When the sound is lower, we can hear each other in worship that encourages participation.  Also, if the music is too difficult to sing or has complicated melodies, worshippers become silent.  Worship music should be conducive to everyone’s ability.  Third, we should have shared touch to move us from me to us.  This goes back to the historic greeting in the early church – the “holy kiss.”  While we may not be comfortable with this, it can easily be translated into our greeting with eye contact, grasped hands or hugs.  Such remind us that we are with other living, breathing believers.  Fourth, we should have shared taste.  This is captured in the shared table of the Lord’s Supper, and the fellowship meals.  Nothing speaks of “communion” like sharing the Lord’s Supper or in fellowship meals.  Fifth – and this is one I have contemplated for we Baptist – and that is shared smell.  In the First Test Testament, the Tabernacle and Temple of God had much to say about the use of blended incense that was particular to their worship.  Most modern churches don’t use incense or scented candles, but might benefit from the shared smell of a fragrant worship through scented candles, especially during special worship times like Advent, Christmas, Easter, etc.  This shared memory through fragrance might actually be much like the smells we lovingly remember from our childhood days at home.  Sixth, there is shared words. To help move us from me to we, we should participate in the shared lyrics of songs, but also shared prayers (Like Lord’s Prayer), the creeds, and Scripture reading, all said in unison.  Some churches do this better than others, but all would benefit from a corporate involvement in the declarations of faith and petitions. 

     These are Jen Wilkin’s ideas for increasing the we in worship. Yes, salvation is a personal experience.  But this must never set aside the fact that when I come to the Lord in faith, I also enter the we of the family of God.  Only a shared faith can comfort and carry us through these troublesome times.  We are not alone!