Sunday, January 8, 2012

Worship Lite

The following is an advertisement for worship services with indisputable and universal appeal.

Join us any Sunday you happen to feel like it.(1) We have services that are calculated to make you feel good and send you forth with a smile on your lips and a cozy feeling in your heart.(2)
Gather with others who look and dress like you do,(3) to give personal thanks for the success you enjoy(4) and rejoice in the prospects of more of the same and even better.(5)
Listen to swinging music sung by attractive choristers(6) broadcast on surround-sound and watch it all in state-of-the-art videos on television screens on each wall.(7)
Hear inspiration conveyed with humor and jocularity by a congenial and heartily friendly fellow.(8) We only use a snippet of Scripture and almost never have Communion, so the service is guaranteed to end in time for you to make it home before the football/baseball/basketball/hockey game.(9)
Nothing is required of you to belong to our fellowship.(10) As the saying goes, “See you in church…maybe.”

1. One of the biggest problems for the church of Jesus Christ today is that it has become the “church of convenience.” Roman Catholics benefit from a more efficient form of intimidation than Protestants—it’s too easy for us to beg off attending. It’s not the atheists and agnostics that are the issue here—it’s the self-proclaimed followers of Jesus who just sleep in. What is missing is any sense of discipline among too many Christians.
2. Feel-good worship is running rampant on the religious scene these days. It crowds out any prophetic challenge or call to discipleship. It’s very difficult to view the suffering of others as a summons to sacrificial action. A gospel that is only good news of comfort and not Good News of empowerment from God is plainly not The Gospel.
3. The church is an exclusive gathering, in one sense, but in one sense only—that God has called the People of God to be God’s own representatives in the world. Otherwise, the church is to be inclusive, welcoming, hospitable, embracing people of all colors and socio-economic backgrounds. Shame on us when we aren’t.
4. Whatever else you do, don’t forget to confess and await the awareness that you haven’t earned or likely deserved anything you claim as yours. Sorry, it’s all God’s—you have it all on loan. A great deal hangs on whether God has made a good investment in you or not.
5. The future does not come with any absolute guarantees. But, with God, there is Hope—not the same as wishful thinking. The trick is learning to live keeping your eye on God’s promises.
6. Deliver us, O Lord, from the entertainers—and their totally forgettable music. Let’s sing the Psalter and the Hymnal and create new songs with tunes that stay with us and carry theology of God’s grace and glory. And let’s all sing—even if we don’t sing so well, only a “joyful noise” is required.
7. Just because we have the technology doesn’t mean we have to use it. Let’s share the worship space with each other, and stay alert for the presence of our Lord who promises to be in our midst. Cut out the techy distractions.
8. The hail-fellow-well-met (or the hail-lady-well-met) can be the biggest obstacle to communicating the Gospel. Never will the comfortable be afflicted by such, and the afflicted probably won’t hang around to listen. What’s needed is authenticity and enthusiasm (from the Greek √©ntheos meaning “having God within”).
9. When there’s minimal use of Scripture and rare Eucharist, worship is eviscerated. Furthermore, putting the clock on the worship of God is the surest way of making it a production or something other than worship. Worship of God happens on God’s clock, in God’s own time, quite beyond our calculation—eternal time, sometimes called kairos.
10. What agent of the devil convinced so many people that being Christian in this world is easy and has no demands or requirements? Not only do we make commitments to follow God’s directions, but also commitments to support the rest of the people in the church, those next to us in the pews and those around the world, as they try to follow God’s directions.

I like to think this advertisement is pure fiction, but I know that one or more parts are tempting at least in some situations. Like most advertisements, this one won’t deliver all that it promises anyway. As it turns out, “Worship Lite” is far from the Real Thing.

What parts of the above advertisement have you encountered in churches you’ve visited? In your own church? What would you do to “beef up” worship in those instances?

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