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Wednesday, January 28, 2009
I just come for "the worship."

It happened again the other day. . . . . I was talking to a friend about where he goes to church on Sundays. He said this, "I go to (fill in the blank) for the worship and then I leave and go to (fill in the blank) for the teaching." 

why is it that people tend to refer to the musical or singing part of the service as "the worship" and presumably everything else in the service as something other than worship? let's unpack that and analyze what may actually be being said.
posted by John David Walt | at 1/28/2009 05:34:00 PM

 

19 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

J.D.

I have nothing constructive to offer but am so glad that you have raised the question. I am uncertain if this odd division is the result of a poor understanding of what we are to be about as the Church, or if it just a result of our sloppy use of language i.e. "that was a great three-song worship set."

Looking forward to what thoughts and comments might come...

Randy S.

8:38 PM EST  
Blogger Amanda Kay Bowers said...

J.D. i offer the idea that we, the modern church, see going to church as being more about us being fed than God being glorified. It is a natural outgrowth of the "it's all about me" culture. How strange it will be for all of us when we have eternity in Heaven to do nothing other than fall on our faces in awe and adoration to the King of Kings.

8:52 PM EST  
Blogger KellyLawson22 said...

The church itself perpetuates the problem (causes it?). i.e., in many worship bulletins you may have an order for a worship service broken out like: Opening Prayer, Praise & Worship, Scripture Reading, Message, Benediction... so the label is given to the singing part only as "worship". Rather than saying something like "Worship through Prayer, Worship through Singing, etc." And then the pastor stands up and opens his sermon by saying, "Wasn't worship great this morning?" We as pastors do a poor job of teaching about worship by the way we ourselves view it.

Thanks for the challenge.

Kelly L.

9:00 PM EST  
Blogger David Wofford said...

theology, blah, blah, blah...but let it be known that worship has been taking place for eternity. Worship is not an hourly event nor it is something that turns on at the flip of a switch. Scripture says that the angels and the heavens are in ceaseless worship. You know this, but for the record, worship is not an act but rather a continual reality. Worship just is...

...how we as a Church do that is our own shortcomings. If we believe this is something to be consumed, then pitch the lightning rods because worship is much larger than human beings and much more expansive than even Creation.

9:36 PM EST  
Blogger sandra r. said...

I would think a person would get tired hopping from church-to-church. How do you get connected into community with that approach?

I think in these instances, it seems like people who come for "the worship" haven't come to the realization of the true meaning of worship. Perhaps they haven't had someone invest this in them. How can they know if they haven't heard?
I think we understand that worship is seeking God with all that we are (all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength), living our lives in such a way that others see what Christ means to us (for all He did on the cross, for all He's doing in our lives, for all He will do...)
Romans 12:1-2
Hebrews 13:15-16
Realizing that the entire church service is worship comes from knowing these truths...

What I think most people mean when they say something along these lines is that they like the style of music... If it isn't something they connect with on some musical or emotional level, then "the worship" is not for them. This happens so much!

Interestingly enough, I was in a situation once in a New Member's Workshop for our church. A new member actually shared with me that she came to service late - on purpose - and asked me if that would be a problem. When I asked her the reason, she said, "I really can't stand the music. I would rather just come hear the message."
I told her it probably wasn't a good idea to come late and encouraged her to ponder the lyrics of the songs. (My next thought was to tell her to bring earplugs, but seriously???)
Thinking about it now, I wonder what her definition of "worship" would be...

11:39 PM EST  
Blogger dan said...

i think the big problem is our language. every sunday the pastor says lets stand and worship...what happens next we sing. what happens after we get done sining we sit down. Now are we done worshiping when we sit down?

I've never heard anybody ever addresses that issue. If we'd say something like, "let's stand and sing" we might eliminate some of the issues...

12:44 AM EST  
Blogger Joel Yap said...

Yes, this must be constantly brought up because people tend to see worship as singing only. But singing is just one way of worship only.

A challenge- Why don't churches start to change the title of 'worship pastor' or 'worship director' to 'music coordinator'? oh, and 'worship leader' to 'song leader' too?

9:52 AM EST  
Blogger John D. Palmer said...

arg!

11:15 AM EST  
Blogger Markio said...

More than a confusion over theology, or the place of worship in modern churches, this to me represents a failure in "free market" church going. It shows an underlying pick and mix culture where people are more concerned about having the most fun, and are not dedicated to serving their community.

I don't want to overstate the parish system -I go to church in the parish over from mine- but seriously; pick a local church, if you don't like the music, learn an instrument; if you don't like the preaching, go to seminary.

12:11 PM EST  
Blogger Jesse said...

I agree with Markio whole heartedly, people view church as a place where they are "served", and if they don't appreciate what's being "served" then there may be other options to choose from. I guess a good question would be: what should the purpose of church be in the believers life?

I suspect that renaming what we call the different parts of our worship gathering will not be enough to change this problem.

On the flip side, I've met some wonderful people who chose to attend a church specifically because they felt they could be of more use there, then the larger church that had fantastic music. That's always encouraging!

12:51 PM EST  
Blogger JAy. said...

I think that the "worhsip" versus "teaching" is an issue to be considered. Yes, our whole lives are worship. However, if we listen to what the individual mentioned is trying to communicate, we must consider what is the purpose of the local church.

The local church is there to serve. Yes, it should serve the community, but it also must serve the people who attend. Is part of the church's responsibility teaching? That is service, too. As is a worship service (meeting).

Does it seriously hamper a person's ability to integrate into a church if they are attending multiple churches? Probably. And yes, we can preach that the individual should try to get involved to help improve the church. But it doesn't change the fact that a church must develop Christians, and if this individual needs two local churches to do that, is it better for him to develop or for him to stagnate in a single church?

So, yes, people need to be educated regarding what real worship is. But churches also need to listen to what the participants are saying they need from the church, too. Perhaps, then, the church and the individual can grow together.

5:40 PM EST  
Blogger John D. Palmer said...

As I unpack this scenario my suspicion is our friend is more interested in being able to open up networking circles than he is looking for "good worship" vs "good teaching". I'm a cynic that way. This notion of service hopping for "worship" vs "teaching" is hokem.

The message is intrinsically worship just as is the music. The gap here is how we teach or recieve teaching about the subject of worship. And the reality is there is very little actual teaching that is done on the subject in the vast majority of congregations. Why? To make sweeping generalizations,(and I do love to make them)our clergy are not taught about worship. If they are taught about worship, much of it is a stick in the mud high liturgical teaching that can only be adequately pulled off if you have a two story organ, 60 person choir and all the bells and whistles that a High Liturgical Worship service offers. While the sermon is still an important aspect of proper worship, the service does not rest on the homily but upon the people and their responses.

So we send our seminarians into congregational ministry and they show up with all the vim and vigor, vision and passion and that first Sunday worship service comes around with the presumption that it will go off without a hitch. The seminarian wants to know about worship, and ask's for the last few week's bulletins. If its a small enough church this is no regular bulletin but a singular bulletin that was left by a well meaning predecessor 40 years before and that is the line of worship that the congregation has followed in recent memory. Might look a little something like this:

Prelude
Opening Prayer
Hymn
Hymn
Announcements
Offering
Lords Prayer
Gloria Patri
Bible Reading
Sermon
Invitation(optional depending on how deep you are in the south)
Closing Hymn
Benediction
Sending Forth

And then the recent semenarian is told "but if you don't like it this way you can do it however you like preacher." Which should be the title of a book, of what not to listen to if you want to survive in your first charge.

Because, inevitably the ambitious clergy person believes this statement from his well meaning congregants and in the month's to come begins to make the subtle or sometimes radical changes(check my forthcoming title "What to do if you really want to make your life miserable") that will create such commotion that you have members being called that haven't darkened the church door for 20 years(usually Lawyers and Judges and sometimes Pharmacists and Doctors)to speak directly to this new pastor about these changes that they couldn't care less about.

All the while. . . no one has been concerned about teaching what worship is but defending what it is not.

6:27 PM EST  
Blogger Kendra said...

Today I listened to the Passion podcast, and took away a reminder on the tabernacle. Tabernacling with the people - God living and being among them. While I strongly disagree with the method of hopping churches, I wonder that we as a church are thirsty for God.

"As for me I shall behold your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake." (Ps. 17:15) Was meditating on this this weekend. How am I at beholding and being satisfied?

I think we are very thirsty, so much so that we long for experiences in worship. But maybe are not mature enough to feed ourselves, in any circumstance, from who God is and what He is doing. Maybe we are a bit lazy, wanting to meet God once again at the burning bush, while He is no longer there. He is continuing on in His way, dividing the Red Sea.

Not the greatest example. But I see in JD's example a person with a desire. But the method short-changes the church of spiritual gifting, well rooted and at work. To me, he's saying, "I'm hungry and I need somebody to feed me."

7:23 PM EST  
Anonymous Rudy O said...

J.D.
In a recent post you suggested that we try too hard to plan music around the message. I believe the point of your post was that music about the Gospel was sufficient, not just music that seems to connect with the spoken word.

I wonder though, if we do try to connect our music to our proclaimed word if this connection doesn't help alleviate the disconnect that goes on in the thinkers of those who attend worship. I say this because I wonder if they think that these parts are so disjointed that it is a good idea to be part of the music in one place and the preached word in the other.

I agree with some other thoughts that we are to make disciples, so we need to teach and model a fuller understanding of community and worship and how they work together. And, like Dan said we need to be intentional about the language we use as we teach these things.

In the meantime though, I might suggest that when the casual, non-self proclaimed Christian walks in the door s/he might see the entirety of the time together as one worship service if they connect in some way. Thus the more we connect music to creed to sermon to sacrament to conversation the better.

10:18 PM EST  
Blogger Dan Lowe said...

JD...Western perspective = compartmentalization
Holistic perspective = worship is life; life is worship (much akin to what David Wofford said)...it's simple yet extremely complex all at the same time...your question is a worldview perspective; we're just unfortunate to be on the screwed up side of it as Western folk... :) [tongue in cheek...kind of...]

Moreover, it's like what I said last time in regard to your "Lost" post...every last little thing we do is worship; it just depends on what altar we're bowing the knee to...

And, you're right = what happens on the street manifests what happens at the altar (whichever altar we happen to be bowing at)....

10:46 PM EST  
Blogger Derrick said...

I am curious JD...at which church does your friend actually find his pastor?

I wonder if church-hopping in today's society is due to the increase of church as public space vs. social space (remember Joseph Myers' thesis). When the 'call to worship' takes place in an auditorium vs. a temple. Public spaces are designed for us to watch and spectate, not engage and personally respond.

What is more, like never before, we live in a culture of options. OT Jews didn't have it, NT Christians didn't have it, even our post-WWII grand-parents didn't have it to the extent we have it.

I am not disagreeing with the value judgments we have placed on what your friend said. I just wonder if we are missing it all together. Much of your friend's statement may be influenced by the fact that he/she lives in the 21st century, not a lack of depth or maturity.

What is more...who will take on the higher task of pastoring the guy/girl who will not choose just one church. It would take a pastor whose pride can handle it, who understands that the ultimate goal is to see him/her become more like Jesus in every way. (Interesting thought...did Jesus always attend the same temple every Sabbath? Did Jesus get to any temple every Sabbath? Is regular temple attendance and temple membership pre-requisites for the life that Jesus offers?)

But again, I think the greater challenge as pastors, leaders, and ministers is to lead someone whose outward expressions don't fully connect with our own. Maybe I'm wrong?

2:19 AM EST  
Blogger Joshua Andrew Smith said...

"A challenge- Why don't churches start to change the title of 'worship pastor' or 'worship director' to 'music coordinator'? oh, and 'worship leader' to 'song leader' too?"

I'm sure you meant well, but surely that's the sort of thing you evaluate on a case by case basis. Some churches say AND mean "worship director," and the person with the position is well qualified and gifted to oversee the whole of the corporate worship service.

As to the guy who says, "I just come for the worship," I would tell him, "Well, you just missed it."

1:02 PM EST  
Blogger Rob said...

Some of this is simply a language issue. If I say "I'm going home" and then walk in an empty house, we could get into a big discussion about "home" really being family, not a structure. Or if I say "I'm going up to church" and go to the building, we could get into a whole thing about church being people and not a facility.

The truth is that these words have multiple meanings. "Worship" has multiple meanings in our cultural setting - so conversation is needed to derive what we're talking about.

What if your friend said "My heart deeply connects with God during the musical praise at one church, and I feel myself really focusing on him and exalting him; while I come to know him more through the teaching by another pastor."

I'm not saying that's what's going on, but the language sure would seem more palatable and less like consumerism.

2:27 PM EST  
Anonymous John said...

And when did we start thinking that "worship" is only what occurs on Sunday inside a church?

Looks like you touched a hot one on this one, JD!

4:57 PM EST  

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