When your church comes together to worship God, do they do so as a community or as a larger group of individuals?
I came across a situation I found slightly disturbing recently. In order to try to facilitate worship in a smaller group of people (about 20ish) I arranged the seats in a crescent with myself on acoustic guitar at the end of one arm (not in the middle) so that we were all closer together. Negative feedback ensued, with one person particularly declaring how, when they worshiped they didn't want to have to see other people and another how they preferred CDs to a live musician where they needed to sing out (this church has a long history of using CDs in place of a worship team).
Now *to me* communal worship is what we do together as a body, rather than simply as a group of individuals. I know that I have argued the opposite to this in the distant past, but that was before I discovered what it meant to actually be part of a worshipping body. So my questions are really:
1) Do you see communal worship as everyone together, almost linking arms, to worship God, or simply as a larger gathering of individuals who worship alone en masse?
2) Is the way we arrange worship (band, gig atmosphere, 'clever' songs, words on screen etc) producing more performance oriented worship for individuals and less worship as a community functioning together?
Replies are closed for this discussion.
@Cory - silly, or just 19th-century style in the poetic language? I would challenge you to sit down with a hymnal and think, not about the word order or the occasionally chokingly bad rhymes, but about what the song is actually saying, and see if such songs are still in a majority in, say, any denominational hymnal, or one of the major issues today.
Human beings wrote these things, human beings that put their pants on in the morning, went to work, got laid off from work, had diarrhea, lost kids and wives in childbirth, and all that, just like us.
@Stevo & Cory - I think I first inserted the term "lazy" into the discussion. A lazy poet is satisfied when he gets a rhyme even if it forces the words into weak expression, ugly metaphor or confusing theology. He just likes the way the words sound and bypasses the judgment area of his brain in order to get the song on its way.
"Depth" doesn't mean "cool, secret stuff." If you want shallow teaching, find some Christian guru who promises to teach you "deep things of God." I guarantee you'll get fluff. A person deeply in love takes time, effort and energy, sacrificing the shallower pleasures of life, to know their beloved better, to say things meaningfully. A deep poet takes the time to find the right word.
There are right words, and there are stupid words ("stupid" meaning mindless cliches tossed out giving a vague sense of meaning). Now in the Body we do have varying degrees of poetic ability. I set to music some songs by a nine-year-old boy. His poetry was very Jesus-centered and full of joy; but he had some words which were in the wrong order. I turned them around and showed him how they gave the song more meaning, and said, "It's your song - do you want me to change them?" He did, because he wanted other people to understand this very simple but special offering he gave to God.
Yes, hence my response to Toni. Handel's Messiah has some words, but not a lot of them. But the force and timing of those words is meant to indicate something very profound. I like your explanation of lazy - kind of like a lot of country music we hear these days. And sadly, a lot of Christian music. Some country songs could be written with nothing more than a cliche dictionary in hand.
@Stevo............. I don't know what you mean by, "it doesn't happen at my home church.
What I mean is that, I may be going through the motions of worshipping as one, but in my heart of hearts I know that this is not the case. On Sunday, after discussing on here, I made a conscious point of thinking about whether or not I was worshipping as one body, and I have to be honest and say 'No, I wasn't'. Why? Because I feel totally alone, on a different planet and all I can see is a stagnant church that needs a kick start!
Having said that, I don't feel at all frustrated, used to, but I let go of all that some time ago. Why do you think I spend so much time talking on WTR? Because I have the opportunity to talk and learn about God and other spiritual things.
You say 'It is the one time where crowd behavior is considered "good". Could you explain this a little further, I'm not altogether sure what you mean.
So you mean that your home church is kind of lifeless. Or is it maybe that they all have the stiff upper lip and the blue blood and say, "we don't find it culturally acceptable to be outwardly excited"? Could it be that they're happy on the inside?
Crowd behavior comment - you mentioned that you wouldn't raise your arms just because everyone around is doing it. I'm suggesting that it's the one time where doing what other people are doing is good. Normally, we are taught to think for ourselves and only do something if we feel it't right. IF - "if the whole world was jumping off a cliff, would you do it?" But in this case, if everyone is raising their hands, that's not a problem to join them.
Yes, I am saying that my home church is lifeless. I've got to be honest with my opinion and say that I don't think they are interested in anything more than what they got. This is not based on guess work on my part, I have known most of these people for years and have talked with them. I was exactly the same a few years back until the Lord completely transformed me. Praise God.
I get what you are saying about crowd behaviour, thought this is what you meant.
This raising of hands has got me thinking. Now I am not sure why people raise their hands, it's a bit like being taught to pray as a child in school with hands together pointing towards heaven. Speaking for myself though, it is a spontaneous gesture when I feel the overwhelming desire to praise God. What I mean is that, I was never taught or encouraged to do it, nor was I ever in situations where I saw it done. So, if I am not in the right frame of mind and don't feel that sense of overwhelming desire to praise, then I feel very self conscious putting my hands up just because everyone else is doing it. Therefore, the raising of hands for me, means much much more than raising hands to be like everyone else. In fact, in my case it almost would feel hypocritical.
Don't know if any of this makes sense to you Stevo, it's kind of hard to put into words.
Well, it's basically how I feel about praying in public. Way too personal to share with the room. So I think I get it. But I've learned to adjust over time. Still feel weird doing it.
But the whole thing about raising hands or any other physical/outward expression during musical group worship has taken on a life of it's own. I hear people talk about it as if it's wrong not to and they talk of churches where this doesn't happen as being almost "heretical". If a person doesn't feel like it, don't do it. Is it important? Not at all. You can have spirited and engaging musical worship without it.
Most of this kind of thing comes from cultural and community roots and in my case, I never saw much dancing or clapping or hand raising in church. I never feel like doing it either because it has very little meaning to me. If it's something a group was taught to do - no big deal, to each their own.
I never genuflect either, but I know how. I go to my friends' Messianic congregation from time to time and there is a whole series of ritualistic movements and things they do. If the meaning behind doing it is known and in mind when they do it, it seems fine to me. I still don't get the rocking while praying thing.
In Psalm 28, Lamentations 3, Psalm 141, Nehemiah 8, 1 Timothy 2:8, and other places, we find believers with their hands raised to God, or encouraged to lift hearts and hands. We see Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof imploring God with hands raised, eyes wide open, gestures readily recognizable to the Jewish audience. It is so spontaneous and almost universally human a response to feelings of praise toward God (yes, feelings, for praise is more than duty) that sometimes I wonder if raising the hands had been suppressed somewhere in history; but I am no historian.
Yes, I know what you mean. Most cultures are all over it. And often, when I do see people in my culture doing it, it somehow doesn't seem entirely real or comfortable - like they read it somewhere and started doing it, but don't really feel it from inside.
@Stevo - Yesterday we had Cinco de Mayo at our high school. They had Mexican music going and a circle dancing all day - we cut our class short to join in, and for thirty seconds Mr. Moore got in the center of the circle, randomly hopping and raising my hands, twirling, jabbing my arms into the air -- becoming an ersatz latino - then ambling out to my car, once again a plain boring Anglo. I really don't get it.
@ Greg - that's rich. Thanks for sharing.
Stevo and Greg,
Re your last posts.........great points, and exactly what I am trying to put across........spontaneous response, not being entirely real etc. Hence the reason - and I have come full circle, as there is a discussion about this way back on WTR that Phil started - I often invite a congregation when I am leading worship (especially if I don't know the congregation) to worship in whatever way they feel comfortable with, and if that means raising hands, so be it, or sitting down, that's Ok too!
I once got shot down on WTR for saying that I didn't like being told how to worship eg. 'Now let's all stand up and raise our hands'. It was suggested that I had a problem with authority! Me, never : )