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Robin Parry is the husband of but one wife (Carol) and the father of the two most beautiful girls in the universe (Hannah and Jessica). He also has a lovely cat called Monty (who has only three legs). Living in the city of Worcester, UK, he works as an Editor for Wipf and Stock — a US-based theological publisher. Robin was a Sixth Form College teacher for 11 years and has worked in publishing since 2001 (2001–2010 for Paternoster and 2010– for W&S).

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Walking in a Worship Wonderland

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'?

5 comments:

Andy Goodliff said...

Amen Robin. Some of us Baptists are trying to develop some more real life worship.

Liam Byrnes said...

Some Great Thoughts, Im HT'ing you as we speak.

Caleb Clements said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Caleb Clements said...

This is a great thought, and I deeply struggle with it as a worship leader. I must confess that I probably have been guilty of encouraging people to set aside their earthly circumstances in order to focus more clearly on responding to God. Lately, I would say that I have leaned more toward encouraging people to worship "in spite" of the realities they face.

I just wonder how this relates to some of the ancient practices that are increasingly popular in the modern church, such as centering prayer and other Ignatius exercises. In our services we often lead the congregates in a prayer of release or prayer of surrender. The goal of this prayer is to release our agendas in order to hear clearly from God.

Not sure if that makes sense, any thoughts?

Caleb Clements said...

Also, such a great thought about the worship 'experience'. I've certainly had some great experiences in a corporate worship gathering, but at the end of the day, if our worship doesn't lead to transformation, then what's the point?