Friday, December 04, 2009

The Little Things

I read and reposted a link to words from Mike Slaughter yesterday.

His Twitter account offered this little bit:

@RevMSlaughter: How many grandparents would give their lives 2 save grandchildren but won't give up their style of worship to reach them?

This Tweet hit me hard in several places. My first reaction was simply to say, "Yes! Way to stick it to them." And then it occurred to me that I don't even preach or teach that way right now.

I have come to realize that so many of us worship so differently from one another, and that we need different things to help us focus our attention on God. Some of it goes to the models of Multiple intelligences. Some of it goes to the fact that we in the church did such a good job of sorting for Sunday School through the years, that we made it an imperative that everyone have their own little group, and that the groups shall not blend. We sent kids off to kids worship, and youth off to youth worship, and then when they became young adults we wondered why they didn't stick around.

We had told them they were not a part of us, and we had not taught them why we worship why we do. In fact, I would offer that we don't even know why we worship the way we do. It is comfortable for us to worship in the ways that we do. Some of us do so because we came from a generation where we followed orders, and learned to find meaning in following orders. Some have learned to live with the worship style because the people we worship with are so very dear to us. Others worship in their own style in the midst of some other style.

When we do come to an understanding of why we worship in the way that we do, we still do not do a good job of explaining it so that others can hear and understand, and even participate. So how do we make the method of worship as clear as the reason we worship - to praise God, and give Glory to the King.

I think that when we do this, we will find ways to make worship relevant to all, and more importantly in my book find ways for all to come to worship, be together, and be the Triumphant Church, before we pass into the Church Triumphant (Church Triumphant, meaning together with those who have died, which would in turn mean that we have died [just practicing]).


At December 04, 2009, Anonymous George said...


I read that tweet on your Facebook and it really bugged me. As you have worked through it here you have hit on a major part of my problem with it.

I agree that we have never really taught our children how to be in worship, and then act surprised when they don't develop an appreciation for the richness of the diversity of worship experiences.

One point made at the "Rethink Church" training was that PEOPLE WANT TO WORSHIP WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE LIKE THEMSELVES. This is natural, normal, understandable. We want to be known. We want to be understood. The promise in 1 Corinthians 13 is that "then we shall know fully even as we are fully known." One of the joys of the incarnation is that in Jesus God knows what it is like to be a human being. So people seeking a place to worship want something which speaks to them, and to do so with people who are like themselves.

This desire is why young people are turned off by a room full of grey-haired people, regardless of the style of worship.

It is also the reason that the Sunday morning worship hour is often called "the most segregated hour in America."

How do we know at first glance if someone is like us? Through what we can see. Oh sure, if given a chance led into community, people will see beneath race, gender, and age to discover that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," and that "we are all one in Christ Jesus." They will discover people who are like themselves in many, less-obvious ways. But you have seen the research; you know that people decide within the first few moments whether they will return to a worship community. The decisions are made on the superficials.

So just telling grandma that she must sacrifice her means of connecting with God, in order that her grandson will be saved is a lie. She's gotta pay for the building, and the high-tech equipment, and the musicians, and the sound and light show... and then she has to disappear!

But there is one more piece that bugs me. The metaphor leaves out one of the parties: it isn't just the grandparents and the grandchildren. It is the unnamed expert.

Go out on the street. Find some old people. Walk up to them and say "Hi. Your grandchildren's lives are in danger. Let me kill you or I will kill them."
-- that is the set-up of the analogy, by the way -- Some might be willing to sacrifice their lives on behalf of their grandchildren.

1 - they have to believe that their grandchildren are in danger
2 - they have to believe that their grandchildren can be saved
3 - they have to believe that their sacrifice will save the grandchildren.

Most of the faithful grandparents in the church have been through this before. They have heard their pastors say "if you just give up that which connects you to God, young people will start coming here." When it doesn't happen that way, they tend to stop believing pastors. They may see that their grandchildren seem very happy worshiping somewhere else, and doubt that their grandchildren are in danger. They may see their grandchildren actively rejecting the theology (rather than practice) of the faith and ask whether they need saving. Most importantly, they may doubt that the sacrifice of their authentic style of worship, on behalf of half-hearted and poorly executed worshitainment will make a difference.

Of course if you were to go out and do this, you would have lots of time to contemplate this all from a jail cell.

Which, come to think of it, is where Paul did some of his best evangelism.

inauthentic attempts to pretend

At December 04, 2009, Blogger David said...

George. Thank you for taking the time to post, and to share this depth. You hit the nail on the head that I think seems to be crucial to understanding much of the debate, that we do an injustice to the faithful when we tell them that in order to reach those who are not with "us" on Sunday morning we need to be something inauthentic to ourselves. At the same time I want to cry at the hollow nature of church in so many instances, and it is where I am grateful for many of those who seek not just to make worship traditional, but to explain it and make it powerful for the people present. You also tend to the idea that church is but a moment in the week, and that so much more ministry is to be happening during the week. As such I think we have some great discussions with our community in the coming weeks, months and years, in order to build the relationships that can intimate the power of God's faithfulness to each of us, and how that can translate into the life of another.


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