Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Replicating An Experience, Part II

So, here are the 7 sets of questions mentioned in yesterday's posts.  If you missed Part I, just click here.  I welcome feedback as you may be wrestling through some of these same questions.

1) What do I do in my private times of worship?  When I carve time out of my day to spend time alone with God, is music as big of a part of that time as it is during my corporate worship time?  Honestly, music is just a huge part of my life in general.  I am constantly listening to music and I know that much of that time could be considered "private worship."  There are a lot of my own musical preferences that cannot be accommodated in a corporate setting, and I have learned to live with that.  Is it possible that I reserve my own preferences for private worship times and anticipate that corporate worship might be the time when I need to allow for others' preferences to take precedent?

2) Do I like every aspect of every meal that I eat?  I have 3 young children.  Mealtime can be very interesting.  I can't count the number of times that my children debate my wife and I about certain aspects of the meal.  We have told them countless times that our house is not a restaurant and that they do not have the luxury of having meals served up to their liking every single night.  I probably did the same thing when I was their age, but over the years, my tastes have changed and as I have allowed myself to try different foods, I have grown to appreciate, not necessarily like or love, foods that I once detested or even loathed.  Is it possible that in our growth and maturity we might find ourselves being more open to different kinds of "foods" as we come together corporately?

3) Tagging off the last question, is it possible that we won't be moved, touched, or feel spoken to by every aspect of every corporate worship service every time that we come together?  If that's the case, can we be okay with that?  I might come to corporate worship one Sunday and feel like I heard the greatest message ever but the music fell flat based on my own preferences and desires, maybe even my mood.  Another Sunday, I might show up and feel that the music was so uplifting and helped me to worship while the sermon did not really speak to me.  Does that make me a bad person?  Can I be okay with the fact that I don't get what I want every time that we corporately gather?

4) Who is worship for?  The Westminster Shorter Catechism answers the question of what our main purpose (or chief end) is by answering that we are to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  Worship is about giving glory to God.  As I think through this, I can't help but think back to the story behind the song "Heart of Worship" by Matt Redman (click here if you have never heard it before).  Despite popular belief, worship is all about Him and we do it every waking moment of every day if we truly heed Paul's instructions (1 Corinthians 10:31).

5) When we change music styles to accommodate our culture, are we "dumbing down" the message of the Gospel?  Finally, the $1,000,000 question.  Some people would say "yes" and some would say "no."  I don't think so, but I could be wrong.  Paul was aware of his cultural surroundings in Athens when he spoke in Acts 17, making cultural references that he knew would connect with the people whom he was trying to reach.  I certainly wouldn't say that Paul compromised the message of the Gospel, but he certainly understood his context and changed the "container" in which the Gospel was housed in order that he might get the message across in a way that made sense.

6) Are we defined by a style more than we should be?  I will be honest and confess, I hate the word "blended" as it refers to corporate worship.  It is the most vague word that has the potential for misunderstanding, misconception, and disappointment.  My own experience has shown me that people see it as a 50/50 split in styles, which ends up disappointing everyone.  Is it possible that we allow our corporate worship to be purposefully directed towards God with purposeful, well-though out, and deliberate elements that are placed within the context of the service because they focus us on the object of our worship, God, rather than on the method of meeting Him?  Recently, I have compared blended worship to affirmative action, we place elements in the context of a service because we need to meet a quota rather than because there is purpose and meaning in its place in the order of things. 

7) What would happen if people asked the question, "What does this song/drama/video/hymn/anthem/etc. have to do with the theme of the Scripture for today?" rather than asking, "Do I like it?"  Would it help us in any way?  Would we seek purpose and meaning beyond style and preference?  What would happen if we began to ask not whether or not something ministers to us but if it ministers to someone else?

I will continue to wrestle with these questions.  People have been trying to come up with adequate answers to them for more years than I have been alive.  I know that everyone has opinions about them, and that's fine.  God has created us to be subjective beings, that's part of who we are.  Can we allow that subjectivity to help us answer these questions without skewing them according to our own preferences?  That might be the $2,000,000 question.


  1. #2 (the meal question) is a great analogy. However, if I really don't like brussels sprout by now ( they still taste like old used basketball shoes to me..:) I am likely doomed to not like them forever..but I can learn to love new music and worship styles for a whole variety of reasons....

  2. A very thoughtful post -- sorry I am coming to this late. While each of the seven questions you pose give me much on which to think, numbers 5 and 6 are salient in my mind. For five, I have heard of churches playing radio rock music (think Metallica) in order to "draw in" people. That type of "seeker/sneaker" ministry has no appeal to me...but I imagine it does to others.

    For #6, lately for me this has been on my mind in the concept of our true identity. We are all so quick to label ourselves and each other. Conservative, liberal, contemporary, traditional -- those are the simple ones. Our lives can involve these labels as well. I am often told how much people "admire my advocacy" for people with Down syndrome, just as the Dennehys posting above are known for their many children.

    But (preaching to the choir here, most likely), if our identity as a person - family - church is not Jesus, first and foremost, then we are letting ourselves come first before Jesus. Why do I advocate? Because I love Jesus. Why do the Dennehys adopt? They love Jesus. Why do we sing and praise God? Jesus. Style comes well after substance (and, no, I'm not going to get into the debate of whether one style has more substance, LOL). If Jesus isn't the first answer, then whether we sing "This is My Father's World" or "God is Not Dead" surely makes our message less honest and valid in a world that, honestly, could care less about chords and much more about a chorus of need for redemption.

    Carry on, Jon. Preach it. Live it. Struggle with it. If we sing plain chants next week, I'm all for it.