Friday, October 05, 2007

Worship Thoughts

I've recently discovered Facebook (a fact most of my current readers already know, because they probably read the feed from this blog directly there, rather than the actual blog page itself, which is fine, except that I'm not happy with the lack of proper formatting--italics, picture placement, etc--in the Facebook version). Among the friends who I've reconnected to is my former drama professor from college.

Although we reconnected several weeks ago, I only got around today to reading some of the notes he's posted. I was very amused to hear him say this about one of his recent classes
the written comments suggest about half the class would follow me over a cliff... and the other half would push me.
I can attest that this was true back when I was in college with him, too!

But more interestingly, he has the following comments on the nature of worship (the topic of the class in question).
It seems to me the central question of worship is "Did our offering please God?"

Unfortunately, the church is often asking: "Does our youth group think worship is relevant?" "Do major donors object to the use of a projector?" "Can senior saints read the lyrics?" "Are congregations offended by incense or dance?" "Do I have the time to actively contribute to worship?" "Were the people in the pews moved by the beauty of PowerPoint?"

But the Audience of worship isn't in the pews. He's on the throne.
I recently audited a class on drama in Christian worship here at Fuller, taught by the professor who is now my wife's PhD supervisor. While working on her PhD, my wife has also started working as the Assistant Director of Chapel here at Fuller. So the topic of "worship" is one that I have had occasion to talk about quite a lot recently (or I should say, especially recently. I have spent the past decade studying and working in a seminary environment, after all!). The revelation of my drama professor's comments is nothing new, but it does highlight what seems to be a very real issue in churches (and in seminary, perhaps ironically) today. Even when we're supposed to know better, a lot of our attention when it comes to "worship" is taken up by details that have a lot more to do with pleasing those who are in the pews than with pleasing God.

I suppose that there are some obvious reasons for this. Even though we profess God to always be with us, there is a certain... immediacy to the presence of our fellow human worshipers that God sometimes lacks, or at least is felt to lack. If someone in our congregation doesn't like a song, or the way the speaker used that particular illustration, or what-have-you, they're sure to let us know in no uncertain terms. If God is displeased with our worship, he either is kind enough to "let it slide" a lot of the time, or at least his attempts to communicate his displeasure tend not to be understood so clearly.

But this is still a tragedy, because it causes us to forget what the point of it all is. I hope that this past Wednesday's chapel message is available soon on MP3, because Director of Chapel Doug Nason really got to the point of it all in his message on what worship is all about. Pending a proper link to the message itself, here's a link to the Fuller Chapel page, in hopes that it will be updated soon (this is a matter handled by the tech folks, and not my wife or those immediately connected to her office).

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