I've just been at a fantastic worship conference at London School of Theology. Of the gazzilion thoughts buzzing around my head when I left I offer up just one (which is not a new thought but one that was driven home afresh).
So often Christians - perhaps especially evangelicals (and double-especially charismatic evangelicals such as myself) - view times of collective worship as a form of escapism and entertainment. In the words of an old song, 'the things of this world grow strangely dim in the light of your glory and grace.' So when we worship we 'set to one side' all the things in our lives that might 'distract' us from God. Worship as escapism.
But that's very odd approach to the worship of the God who so loved the world. Worship ought to involve us bringing our lives (and global issues) in their totality before the Lord as we give thanks, seek help, lament and praise. Why do we feel the compulsion to lose ourselves in some kind of Disney-like wonderland when we worship?
If the call to worship is the call to temporarily forget the hassles of life and the sufferings of the world and to praise the Lord instead then we are in real danger of reinforcing the notion that God is not overly interested in, or involved with, things that go on outside of church meetings. We end up with a god who is into giving people warm fuzzy experiences so they can forget it all for a while. Whichever drug-pusher god that is, it is not the one in the Bible.
Do not mishear me. I am not against powerful and wonderful 'encounters' with God during times of communal worship. But does the revelation of the glory of God make the things of this world grow dim? Does it not rather set them in a new light? Does it not open our eyes to see that God is not found merely in public worship but in the whole of life (which can and should be lived coram deo - before the face of God).
So where are the songs and prayers that enable us to see the glory and grace of God during communal worship without loosing eye contact with the reality of life in the world? How can we reshape public worship to help worshippers to discover that they will find God just as much 'out there' as 'in here'?