Planning Worship


This morning, as I made my usual trip through my favorite blogs, I tripped into Maggi’s world. One of the good things about being 6 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time is that it allows our British friends to have their cup of tea and put together a good declarative sentence in time for my morning devotion. It also means that I often have comments to wake up to, which I appreciate.

Anyway, Maggi’s post this morning shared an experience at a worship service, the following words really resonate with me:

When we finally understand that God loves us, woos us, invites us, and doesn’t need our overwrought emotional energy to make worship ‘happen’, perhaps we’ll relax enough just to join in with the mutual adoration of the Holy Trinity (which happens continually, and did so long before 1980’s worship songs). It might be sung, or it might be silent adoration, but either way the initiative and energy won’t come from my depleted little human resources.

As one who serves a “traditional” church, it is very easy to hear all the worship planning voices denigrating your work. Trust me when I say that I truly believe that worship needs to be relevant, vital, experiential (thanks Len Sweet), and all those things that the worship gurus of today call for. Yet, we still find ourselves living out the heritage of Charles Grandison Finney, the great evangelist who first proposed that we could systematize revival. Thus, we describe all sorts of ways to make worship work, as if we can force the Holy Spirit into a box of our choosing. It’s the Minerva McGonagall experience of worship — say the right incantation and wave the wand a bit and suddenly we transform a sow’s ear into a silk purse. Worship becomes focused on a particular box of tricks — having the best musicians, saying interesting platitudes, removing religious symbols, or for that matter, bringing them back in.

I write this not to denigrate these movements, this work by the Sally Morgenthalers and the Jonny Bakers of the world, for what these leaders are doing is calling for worship that is authentic to the specific worshipping community. I write this to offer a word of caution that adding a few candles or throwing up a video screen does not guarantee the presence of the Holy Spirit. The only guarantee that we have been given is the promise that when two or more are gathered in the name of Christ that God will be with us. Our worship comes from the heart, “in Spirit and Truth,” Jesus said. Why is it that we so want to control the Spirit that we won’t let this happen?

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