Monday, October 8, 2012

Toward a theology of worship

Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you. All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name." Psalm 66:1-4

Many years ago, a dear member of a congregation where I was once pastor felt the need at the end of worship services to bring me a checklist of mistakes made during the worship service. The prayers were too long; the sermon lacked biblical depth; too many praise songs; and not enough of the great hymns of the faith; the bulletin had three errors...

Week after week, this dear saint felt compelled to present a checklist of what didn't work in worship.

After awhile, I asked for a meeting; and over Subway sandwiches, talked about our theology of worship. The conversation yielded the source of the problem: worship as a flawless performance vs. worship as an offering to God.

Worship as flawless performance is worship at the human level; this is worship for the benefit and satisfaction of the audience. This style of worship is always limited to a time--Sunday--and a place--a church building. Worship as performance is controlled, results oriented, and superficial--how did I feel today? Did I get anything out of the service? If the person determines there is nothing to be gained from the service, they also determine that the quality of the worship service is retrograde.

On the other hand, worship as an offering to God is always worship focused on God and for the sake of God. This approach transcends style, checklists, time, location, and feelings. This is worship as a way of life that invites, and offers up all that we do, and all that we are as an offering to the Lord.

In today's reading, notice the direction of God-saturated worship:
1. shout for joy to God
2. sing the glory of his name
3. give to him glorious praise
4. say to God, "How awesome are your deeds!
5. all the earth worships you and sings praises to you

The heart of worship is entirely about God, who is revealed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit and never, ever about us!
As long as we make worship about us then we gain nothing from the exercise.