Wednesday, August 05, 2015
The Unexamined Experience?
There are at least two “audience temptations” when it comes to our worship. The first I mentioned yesterday. It’s the most pervasive temptation among Christians in our day; I think it deserves a little more scrutiny. What is it? It’s the temptation to think of ourselves as the audience for worship. The worship service exists primarily to meet our needs, to inspire us, to instruct us, to fill us up so we can live faithfully for another week. Now, I should say that these things often happen when we worship, thanks be to God. But to make any of these the primary purpose of worship is a mistake. Worship is not for us, first of all, but for God. When we allow ourselves to become the audience of worship, we are actually putting ourselves in a place reserved for the Lord. (Never a good idea!) If we remember that God is the true audience of worship, then our minds and hearts will be primed to offer all that we are to him.I have two quick reactions to that. One is that I think it is too easy to dismiss our critical faculties from use in worship. At least not worship involving the presentation of critical thinking type information like a sermon. I would challenge Mark here to describe how a sermon, usually an argument presented to the congregation, makes the audience God? If so, I would think it would be a very different thing. If it is the preacher preaching to Go, on behalf of the congregation, is that not awfully close to a priestly role?
...you might ask the people close to you to help you learn to think of worship in a new light. For example, if the tradition in your family is to evaluate the music or sermon on the way home from church, you could agree together to ask new questions. Rather than, “What did you think of the sermon?” you could ask, “What helped you to worship God in the service this morning?” The support of your community will help you learn to live out the reality that God is the audience for your worship.
My second reaction is that if indeed God is the audience for worship, then all questions about what attracts people to worship are null and void. As are all questions about how I think it best or "feel" it best to express myself to God - what's going on with me is not the point. What is the expression God most desires is the only question.
I won't argue that a big part of what goes on on Sunday morning is to pull us out of ourselves - that's a good thing. But if worship is to be all about God, it's going to far more radically different than anything I am hearing anyone talk about these days.