Friday, November 9, 2012

Boredom, Bedlam, or Beauty: What Is Your Worship Like?

Every gathering has purpose and organization, even if informally enacted, defined by the host or hosts.  If either is missing or not communicated, the gathering will devolve into bedlam or boredom unless the missing piece can be interjected.  Even worse, the purpose may be known but not adhered to because the host is not given his proper respect to preside over the gathering.  Corporate worship works in a similar way.  Given any Sunday morning, there are buildings wherein people come together for fellowship, prayer, praise, instruction, etc., but they may ignore the stated purpose, the host, or both.  What is the result of eschewing, by ignorance or design, the expectations of the assembly?

Attendees arrive with preconceived notions based on incomplete knowledge or attempting to apply experiences from other social gatherings.  Whatever the expectations, they will collide with reality if there is no understanding of the host's character and disposition.  Increased comprehension leads to an increased respect and desire toward the benefactor with the goal of close companionship.  Jason Braaten describes how we can fall short:
There could be a number of problems [for being bored in church], but the primary problem is us.  And what I mean by that is it's a failure to recognize who we are in church with.  It's a failure to recognize whose party we're at.

I have two young boys, and they love to play.  And particularly they love to play with me.  And they love to tackle and tickle.  They love to jump on my back.  And they love to swing from their arms in the air.  And we can do this for hours.  I'm bored because I'm doing the same thing over and over again.  But they never tire of it.  In fact, when once one boy's turn is over, they're immediately saying, "Let's do it again.  Can we do it again, Dad?"  And it's not because of what we're doing but who they're with.  I could be doing anything, and because they're with dad, that's all that matters.  And I think a similar thing goes on in church—that we come.… And we fail to remember who we are with—that we are gathered there with the Lord Jesus Christ, the risen Lord Jesus Christ.
Issues, Etc., Interview, 3 Oct 2012

The nation of Judah had lapsed into a stupor such that the Lord accused of the priests, "But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it" (Mal 1:13).  New Covenant believers are not above this malady as evidenced by the lukewarm attitude of the Laodicean church (Rev 3:15-16).

Another reaction stems from disquietude fostered by personal aspirations antagonistic with the intent and comportment of the gathering.  The host's purpose may or may not be clearly known but is held up as a pseudo-standard of works to be accomplished, yet teaching and applying self-gratification and self-promotion.  The church of Corinth is prime biblical example of this as varied attempts within the body to be biblical in the practice of spiritual gifts and living free in Christ had culminated in activities the surrounding unbelievers would find reprehensible.

It is this type of church that receives the notoriety because of the bizarre or peculiar  methods being used.  Yet those who practice such things are ultimately doomed to fail because they are built around the pastor's ongoing work, rather than Jesus Christ's finished work.  Burnell Eckhart warns concerning these attempts in his October 2012 newsletter:
The defense of them is invariably stated in terms of Christian freedom.  We are free in Christ, they say; free from the law and its constraints.  Therefore when the law tells them to behave a certain way, they demonstrate their freedom from it behaving in a way that is inimical to that way.  See, we are free! such behavior would seem to say.  It all sounds increasingly familiar in our midst, in varying degrees and called by various names.

But we know that this is frankly not Christian freedom at all, since what these things tend to do is distract from the Gospel and its real attendant freedom from sin and condemnation. Such freedom is freedom from Christ, and it is not Christian freedom at all.
The last reaction to mention is the outgrowth of a people desiring to please the host by gathering as suits him and his instructions.  When Moses was receiving instructions for the tabernacle, furnishings, and utensils, the Lord gave specific instructions to make everything after the pattern he was giving (Exod 25:9, 40; Num 8:4).  In addition, the high priest was regaled in garments "for glory and for beauty" (Exod 28:2).  While the place of God's dwelling and those who ministered to him were to have direct responsibility for demonstrating his glory this way, it extended to the common people coming near as they were exhorted to worship "in the splendor of holiness" (1 Chr 16:29; Psa 29:2; 96:9).

These pictures show that every facet of worship is to be properly respected.  We do a disservice to God and unbelievers if worship is approached in a lackadaisical or careless manner.  Too many believers interpret Jesus' words to the Samaritan woman
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
to mean that any worship practice is acceptable as long as we call it Christian and say it is for God.  Not so.  The Lord has given instruction and order concerning his holy things as we approach him in reverence and fear, lifting high the name of Jesus for saving work on the cross.  May our times of worship be demonstrating his glory alone.

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