Saturday, 14 April 2012

Ten Ways To Worship

Someone commented how nice it was to have a time of silence in one of our larger meetings.  And please could we have more.

I have a bee in my bonnet about much that passes off as worship.  I thumbnail it as "just trying to induce an altered state of consciousness".  I got taken to task about it at this morning's leaders' meeting.  As it happens my own comments led up to it, something like -"Have you noticed the irony that probably the most idolatrous generation of Christians for a long time, actually majors on worship?  We get the ooey-gooey feeling, then go away unchanged, to live the world's life."  I'll take a lot of persuading that the obligatory nightclub level of lighting at popular Christian events isn't a mechanism for altered state of consciousness (whether God shows up or not). I have friends on our own techie team who share my caution.

But to return to the silence issue.  There are at least ten ways that people of different temperament most naturally connect with worship.  And by this, I mean do meet with God and exchange something meaningful (regardless of their feelings).
1. Dance and other movement (like banner waving - the "kinetics" - I'm one).
2. Through close relationships and heart sharing (see 1 Samuel 20:42).
3. Engaging robustly in social justice issues.
4. Song, poetry, literature, recitation.
5. Spiritual gifts, including healing (1 Corinthians 14:25).
6. Acts of mercy and compassion.
7. Visual - art, symbol, mime, etc.
8. Shared action and activity.
9. Creation, nature and engagement of the senses and wonder.
10. Predictable liturgy and ceremonial.

The snare is that we settle that "authentic" accords with our own temperamental tendency, and thereby limit God to our preference.  He is, of course, Who He is, and entitled to disclose His presence according to His preference, in all the dimensions He may choose (some of which are undoubtedly troublesome)!

Leaders responsible for "worship times" must avoid subjective ruts and initiate different pathways.

Now to defend the "altered state of consciousness".  My leaders wanted to assure me that ECGs and neurological mapping have shown that our consciousness does alter with prayer, meditation, etc.  True, and I feel it, too, chaps.  However, there's a popular brand of spirituality (some pseudo-monastic) going around that talks about humbling, and emptying, but not meeting with the personal Holy Spirit.  And there's Christian entertainment that "works up" the feelings most professionally, and equally leaves people bereft of meeting the living and occasionally disturbing God.  These are the object of my pointedness.


n0rma1 said...

Good stuff Ian, thanks. You didn't include silence in your list of ten in the end (perhaps it went without saying since you'd already said it!)

I've been on something of a journey when it comes to connecting with different worship styles. When I was first baptised in the Spirit, it was charismatic worship or bust (bear in mind I was also in reaction against the 5-hymn-sandwich of my Methodist upbringing). But now, while I still value charismatic life immensely, I find silence and even liturgy and ceremony (your number 10) can be truly life-bringing.

I like that you've included engaging with social justice as worship - I think that can be easily missed. And I'm surprised you didn't include fasting.

Look forward to the next post!

Tschaka Roussel said...

Excellent thoughts. How much will filter through into church practice?

Em said...

When you are new to faith I think you do need to limit God to your preference and I don't think God has a problem with that. It is uncomfortable enough territory without feeling you have to jump up and down waving banners when you incline to silence as a powerful focus for love and worship.

There is a need for non judgemental facilitators, leaders of strong and sure faith and solid integrity who can nurture rather than clone those they lead.

Ian said...

An interesting clutch of comments in response to this blog. One included "a need for non-judgemental..." Meanwhile, an athiest jibe I read this week ran, "if the monkeys had a god it would look like a monkey, and if the tortoises had a god it would look like a tortoise..." Glad to have made the case for not confining God to our own image.