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Monday, June 23, 2008

This morning I got a good tip from Drew about an article over at The Ooze about worship.  After reading the article, I find it incisive on a number of points despite the "ranting" tone of the writing.  Here are a couple of excerpts that capture for me the main idea.  

[[I'm always amazed when I hear people talk about worship as though it is something we use to get results in some fashion or another. The whole subject of worship kind of reminds me of Duct Tape. The purpose for which Duct Tape exists is virtually unknown to most of the American public because people spend more time using it for other things and almost NO time taping ducts. Worship conferences and seminars are nothing more then a Duct Tape Convention where people gather to talk about all the interesting ways they can put it to use.........

The attributes and characteristics of the purpose of worship have been re-written by today's pastors and theologians. We now advertise the power of worship to the world as something that literally takes the place of Christ Himself. In many respects, we have exchanged God for worship. We've taught ourselves to rely on worship to perform miracles that only God Himself could perform. Like consolidating our bills into one low monthly payment, we have decided to pay to worship and rely on it to take care of everything else..........

We get these teachings from stories in the Bible like where Paul and Silas were in prison praising God and the ground began to shake, and all the prison doors supernaturally opened. I am not debating whether or not that really did happen. I am however debating whether or not Paul and Silas were praising the Lord FOR THAT PURPOSE. Herein lies the key difference from the New Testament experience of worship and today's Christian mentality. When we praise and worship God out of a true heart connection, doors open. When we praise and worship to GET doors to open, there is NO heart connection whatsoever! That's not worship, that's manipulation.]]

Let me close this post with one of my own observations.  Perhaps the most common way I hear people speak of worship is via the metaphor of a "filling station." Worship is a place we come to get "filled-up" or to get our "battery" charged in order to go back out and accomplish the mission. Doesn't this run the risk of making worship an instrumental reality-- to "duct-tape" us up so to speak, making it a means to something else? Isn't worship an ultimate reality? Do you see my point?
posted by John David Walt | at 6/23/2008 11:06:00 AM



Blogger Timothy Miller said...


But in the preposterously taxing world of leading a church it is so easy to lose sight of what matters - knowing Christ - and turn to methodology and result thinking: pragmatism, I guess. Structures, programs, plans, evaluations, tests, scores...

I've been thinking about what you said about self-actualization instead of cruciformity (not my will but yours be done). I think that's somehow related to this.

3:01 PM EDT  
Anonymous Isaac Downing said...

I don't think the issue is that worship is being done in a non-Biblical way (which is the way I interpreted the article you referenced). It seems more like a symptom of the church leadership not sufficiently teaching people to grow deeper in their faith.

It would make sense that an immature believer would gravitate toward the emotional experience music offers to define their faith and to base their spiritual progression on that experience. And in doing so, it would be VERY easy to slip across the line from a holy motivation to a 'manipulative' or even evil one.

3:06 PM EDT  
Blogger JAy. said...

JD, I like you. I honestly do. But I have to disagree with you again.

I agree with most of the article you linked in your post. Yes, I think a lot of the church is over-using worship as an excuse from doing the rest of the Lord's work.

However, I have to ask if you aren't also over-emphasizing worship when you say, "Isn't worship an ultimate reality?" I only see worship as half of the Christian reality. After all, as one of the commentors to Mr. Hufford's article points out, Jesus emphasized two commandments for us to follow (1) love God, and (2) love your neighbor.

If we look to worship as an ultimate reality, are we missing the second part of Jesus task for us? Likewise, are we making progress on the Great Commission?

Worship is only part of the Christian equation. Yes, it is important, but it won't get us to our goal.

As for your "filling station" concerns, I think that this is actually one of the intents of worship. God joins us in worship so that we may be one with his heart. By worshiping, we are concentrating on God's purpose for us. I can think of nothing that is more "re-fueling" to my Christian life than taking time to concentrate on and connect with God while putting my own needs and desires at a lesser level of importance.

So, is worship merely a tool, or as you phrase it, an "instrumental reality"? No. But it is not the "utlimate" end either.

3:34 PM EDT  
Blogger drew said...

i forgot my screenname was still iheartpadrons...haha...well now it's not..

anyway, I'm glad you found it interesting... Hufford and I seem to have traveled in similar circles at times. His push to not let worship carry functions it shouldn't is compelling, though I don't think it frames up with the idea that worship is much more than singing. (and maybe that's his biggest argument...that worship as it's framed in the church is not what we find it to be in the scriptures...it's not selfish, it's not manipulative, it's not the solution...it's the heart's outward response and attitude towards God)

that being said, i think i need some clarification:

"Worship as (ultimate) reality" bring me to the basic question of worship-as-being versus worship-as-doing: which I would argue for the later, or that the doing springs out of the being... to which i would argue that worship as ultimate reality is a response to the Kingdom-Now-as-reality...or that that paradigm is a responsive one to the larger paradigm of the story of God...
...but that could just be me needing a little more fleshing out of your point (but I'm not the quickest ninja in the dojo.) so maybe i don't get it yet...clue me in, JD...what are you getting at?

3:56 PM EDT  
Anonymous Nikki said...

JD, I love the Duct tape and the filling station metaphor. I would add a vending machine!
One of my biggest frustrations is to hear people say "I just don't get filled there", or "I just didn't get anything out of worship today".

I would say that worship IS ultimate reality only by defining worship as the orientation of my whole being toward God.

Often our problem is our language about worship.

We know that worship isn't just singing or even just the hour we spend together on Sunday mornings. We know that worship is the continual presenting of our bodies as a sacrifice - alive and active - to God. But somehow we communicate "worship" as this tidy act we fit in between "sunday school" (don't even get me started about sunday school) and lunch.
We tell the congregation to please stand for worship. This means stand for singing. We say, "As we move into a time of worship" as if those things we were just doing - praying, reading scripture, etc. were not worship.

On top of that - we even say things like, "We hope you leave today filled and changed". This sets up worship as something that is supposed to fill me and change me as I leave.

I think part of Christian education is helping people to frame worship aptly for what it truly is.

And THEN we can begin to shape their understanding about its purpose - ie. worship is not merely a means to "get doors to open" or a means to "getting filled up" or "recharged". Rather it is as Drew says, "the hearts response and attitude toward God".

5:24 PM EDT  
Blogger J.D. Walt said...

ok-- thanks for pushing me on this. what i am getting at by ultimate is that the worship of God is the ultimate reality-- as in this is the picture we see in the Bible of how reality will ultimately be constructed.

let me try John Piper's famous quote: missions exists because worship doesn't. i think it would be wrong to say worship exists because missions doesn't. in other words, we don't hold worship services in order to accomplish the mission. this would be to make worship an "instrumental" means. we hold worship services to celebrate the success of God's mission. isn't this what Heaven will ultimately be- the endless celebration of the success of God's mission. (I don't think it will be non-stop singing, but you see my point). worship is the state of ultimate reality.

Evangelism and mission are penultimate. Worship is ultimate.

Here's the interesting point, though about worship. When we give ourselves away to God and one another for the sake of the World-- i.e. 'offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,' we find ourselves strangely "re-fueled." This is the paradox of the Kingdom-- that in giving you receive. But if we are coming in order to receive, or said another way, to be served, we will likely find ourselves coming away either 1) more empty, or 2) even more deceived in an immature state of narcissism. This is why we call them worship "services" after all. The word service is translated from the Greek term "Leitourgia," which means to serve. In Romans 12:1 note it says this is our "spiritual act of worship." The word is Leitourgia. We come by the Spirit, in the way the Son of God-- not to be served, but to serve.

This brings me to my final point of this comment that should have been its own post. For about 1800 years, the culminating act of worship in the Church has been the Eucharist (Lord's Supper, Communion, etc.). In the Eucharist, we enact the self-giving sacrificial love of Jesus through the bread and wine. It's a meal-- a natural place of being filled up. Only we are eating the meal that itself becomes multiplied and broken through our bodies to feed others. We are enacting a feast whereby both the love of neighbor and the love for the lost and broken world is one in the same.

I will close with the part of the ancient communion prayer that makes the case that worship is not preparation for mission, but mission itself-- bringing together the Love of God and neighbor in an inextricable fashion (as I think the great commandment intends to do).

"Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here and on these gifts of bread and wine. Make them be for us the Body and Blood of Christ that we might be for the World the Body of Christ redeemed by His blood. By your Spirit make us one with Christ and one with each other, in ministry to all the World until Christ comes in final victory and we feast at his heavenly banquet."

5:42 PM EDT  
Blogger Rob Mehner said...

i certainly don't like the idea of worship as filling station, but i'm not sure how there's not some of that idea in the prayer you shared.

you're making the point that the eucharist is the center of worship, and the prayer is saying "make it the body and blood of christ THAT..."

the "that" is so we can be the body of christ to world...in ministry (mission) to the world. i'm not disagreeing with you, jd, so much as advocating balance again; balance between action and reaction that is worship.

i still say its a dance...we just tend to want to lead and dance to rhythms that the master is not playing.

11:25 PM EDT  
Blogger J.D. Walt said...

in my mind this makes precisely the point I have been pressing for--- the SECRET IS CHRIST IN YOU. The Eucharist celebrates this mysterious, miraculous, misssional reality. i.e. you are what you eat. ;-)

The Lord's Supper celebrates and renews the indwelling identity and initiative of the incarnation.

we are filled with Christ not so we can go out and do the mission, but so that He can go out and do the mission through his own Body.

In my thinking, the Lord's Supper is the place where identity breaks forth into vocation.

i guess I resist the notion of "balance." I just can't be convinced that "you have died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God" is balance. it is total abandonment of the self to God.

11:43 PM EDT  
Blogger JAy. said...


I like where you are going by bringing the Eucharist into the discussion. And you are 100% correct that the secret is Christ in You (in worship, in mission, in everything else we do).

I do agree with Rob about balance, though. I understand your "ultimate" description of worship now - we will ultimately spend eternity worshiping with the Father.

However, I also think that while we are here on earth, we do have to balance worship with mission. And perhaps again we are disagreeing over semantics. The discussion of the Ooze article was Worship as in Worship Service (hereafter capitalized). You are correct that everything we do should take the spirit of worship (not capitalized). The balance is therefore between dedicating time to Worship and dedicating time to live as worship.

And I think that is where the Eucharist can also play a major role for us, as Worship in preparation for spreading God's love through worship.

OK. Now that I have probably confused things more, I take my leave.

God Bless,

7:39 AM EDT  
Blogger Rob Mehner said...

i don't think you are trying to say this, but it comes across very much like our being dissolves and there is nothing left of us. that to me is anti-identity.

scripture tells us that one of the roles of the holy spirit is to witness to our spirit that we are sons and daughters, and therefore heirs of the kingdom. we are then asked to submit to the rule of the king in that kingdom. worship is the ongoing submission of our wills to his will (and therefore alignment - because quite frankly this will be the only way we align our will to his is to submit). there then is fruit to that - both in us in terms of character and through us in terms of mission.

the balance, to me, is less between worship and mission, but more between focus and recognition of Christ (his sacrifice and authority), and our responsive submission made possible by God's grace and power, but made by us.

8:57 AM EDT  
Blogger Rob Mehner said...

short version: it sounds like you are saying that worship is only focusing on christ, partaking in the eucharist, and suddenly the world sees nothing but christ in us.

i hear you saying "die to self," but it seems as if you are not counting that as worship...as something we participate in. it just mysteriously happens through the meal.

i don't think you are saying that, but that's how it sounds.

9:03 AM EDT  
Blogger J.D. Walt said...

thanks rob

i always appreciate your tenacity and care to clarify.

i fear we may be drifting into a semantical debate.

I will work toward a new way of framing this in a future post that will widen our dialogue. you are a great pastoral thinker.

2:05 PM EDT  
Blogger drew said...

i think you'd be hard-pressed to take the experience of filling out of worship. I think it's a natural by-product of partaking of the life of Christ: He becomes our very life. There is no life outside of Him, in the spiritual sense, so to be filled by Him is the natural experience of a branch drawing from the Vine for its very existence.

that being said, the goal of worship, which i think i echo with most here and the writer of the original post we're responding to, should not be "to be filled up". but we are filled up as we look to His sacrifice to be our daily bread. It's the nature of the metaphor, and Jesus picked it for a reason.

As for the Eucharist, and the centrality of His sacrifice to worship, as well as the whole balance of worship and mission, here's my take on it:

Mission, in evangelism, service, love, sacrifice, whatever...does not exist in a way that glorifies God if it doesn't spring out of worship. Or maybe a better way of putting it is that mission exists because worship exists... worship is about offering our lives actively to the One who offered His for us. This happens in the practice of faith; namely in what we do, in our action and our attitudes, loving Him with all our heart/soul/mind/strength AND loving our neighbor as ourself. All mission, all kingdom work is an extension and act of worship. It's our reasonable response to Him in view of who He is and what He's done.

I think this is why the Eucharist becomes central to corporate worship times; because all worship springs from what He's done; His covenant with us, His sacrifice for us, His dwelling in and among us--

So, in reading JD's response, the statement of worship being "ultimate" seems to point to it being the end all...not a means to that end...that reality is about and moving towards the worship of God. I'd agree, that yes, it's all headed that way, and that mission, love, etc... all heads towards worship. But it all comes from it too, and you could argue that all of it IS worship. Or to play off of the piper quote you gave, that missions exists because worship exists, but not everywhere yet...

2:25 PM EDT  
Blogger J.D. Walt said...

i've pondered matt redman's song lyric a lot along these lines Drew-- a point i think you are making well:

let worship be the fuel for mission's flame. let worship be the heart of mission's aim.

so are we agreeing--- the goal of worship is not to be "filled up," though if we worship in Spirit and in Truth, being filled up with Christ is the inevitable result.

i would say it like this: we become that which we behold. worship is the practice of beholding.

5:07 PM EDT  
Blogger Rob Mehner said...

drifting into semantics...the story of my life. just to tenaciously clarify...was that a compliment you gave me or a slam. ;)

Love ya, JD!

7:42 PM EDT  
Blogger J.D. Walt said...

high praise feet clean! jd

10:09 PM EDT  
Anonymous John Palmer said...

I'm just so happy you guys worked it all out. I will now be able to ultimately behold the missional worship of God balanced carefully by some rockin worship songs with a full glass of grape juice and bread while totally abandoning myself. HOOHA!

10:28 AM EDT  

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