Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Get Educated about Worship

I admit to curmudgeonly responses when confronted with certain attitudes and actions surrounding worship.  (You’re welcome by the way.)  I figure that someone needs to be, since playing nice tends to be taken as affirmation of worship attempts that are strong and boisterous in volume and enthusiasm, but weak and feeble in content.  Matters are not always as dreary as I make them to be.

Recently, I came across three blog posts at Reformed Worship that deal with the relation of worship and education.  The first by Joy Engelsman, entitled Worship and Learning, is a response to someone who insisted that worship was to be experienced, not educational.  One good takeaway from the piece was this paragraph:
Learning is an integral part of worship in the reformed tradition because it reinforces key tenets of our theological understanding.  Learning requires integration of a person’s mind/body/soul-spirit rather than emphasizing separation.  Worship-learning is covenantal as we learn from each other and assist each other in the learning process.  Learning offers us the humility posture of discovering God in his Word and world.
I would replace “reformed tradition” with “the Church” but otherwise her thoughts are accurate.  She understands that worship is a time wherein we teach one another the truth of Scripture, and if the singing, speaking, teaching, etc. is not delivering or communicating the truth of what we confess, then the  message is the problem, regardless of medium.

Next, there are blog posts by Syd Hielema in a two-part series thus far: Reflections on Worship Education, and Worship Education Part II: Backdoor Worship Education.  The first describes what happens when a worshiper is educated on what worship entails and how critical-thinking skills develop to evaluate worship.  Proper instruction should deepen the worship because the experience is more informed than felt.  As the post states, “Our first responses to worship tend to be somewhat visceral; our “gut” guides our engagement.”  This is how too many congregations see worship—focus on the emotions.  The author rightly goes on to say
When that visceral response is partly shaped by an awareness of the biblical foundations of worship, its historical unfolding, the purposes of the various parts of the liturgy and the complementary ways in which different generations and varying temperaments enter into worship, that response will tend to be less reactive and hold a greater capacity for integrating one’s personal response within a corporate response.
In other words, when worshipers understand the scope, purpose, etc. of worship, they move from an individual response to a corporate response.

The second post looks at how to educate people on worship, primarily during the worship itself.  The author points out that “Worship requires education.”  This is most certainly true, and most of the education will happen via the backdoor method of learning through doing and by snippets of teaching throughout.  For example, he mentions the following:
Worship leaders learn to slip short phrases and sentences as they lead that almost “trick” the community into growing educationally (but in a good way, of course).
At this point, I offer a caveat, in that some of the teaching points mentioned deal more with social justice than sound doctrine and practice, but the general tone is worthwhile.

Worship practice demonstrates our attitude towards the object of worship.  When we teach about ourselves in song and sermon, or do so according to personal taste, we are worshiping ourselves.  Let us be committed to teaching one another both of the God we purport to worship and what Scripture tells us is the proper conduct and content of worship.

Who’s ready for a study through Psalms?

We will not hide them from their children,
    but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lᴏʀᴅ, and his might,
    and the wonders that he has done.  (Psa 78:3-4)

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