Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pickin' Nits

I have a nit to pick concerning our Sunday morning corporate worship service. Before I lay out the nit, let me first explain that we attend a fairly formal Reformed church that is steeped in the traditions of Presbyterianism. We Presbyterians have been laughingly described as folk who wouldn’t recognize an emotion if it hit us in the face. Supposedly, we are a very unemotional lot. Presbyterian worship services in the past have been described as stodgy, dull, boring, prudish, and reserved to say the very best.

Well times, "they are a changing"! First, a little more background. My wife and I recently built a home theatre in our basement. At the urging of my son I was encouraged to purchase the very best sound system since this component is the one that makes the movies really, really come to life. Well, not being able to afford the "very best" we invested in what I would call a very good sound system. Especially the "sub-woofer". A sub-woofer is the speaker that picks up those deep, deep bass sounds that can literally vibrate through your body. Powerful, powerful stuff!

What does this have to do with "corporate worship"? Here’s my "nit". Lately I have noticed that corporate worship appears to be devolving into individual worship. Sunday’s service is a typical example. When the choir or the orchestra (on special Sunday’s) hit that highest crescendo during a worship song the "sub-woofer" effect takes place and someone feels compelled to jump to their feet. Now, the entire congregation is worshiping in a seated position. When the "sub-woofer" effect compels this person to stand, the people around her/him also feel obligated to stand. And like dominos that have faltered halfway through their tumble, part of the congregation is standing and part are seated. Very confusing. Is this fleshly-individual worship? Bear in mind this urge never, never happens at the solemn reading of the Word. Never, never happens during prayer. Never, never happens during worship with tithes and offerings...but this "moving of the spirit" happens only when the "sub-woofer" effect occurs during an emotional song. Fleshly? I’ll let you decide. Pickin’ nits? Yes. Is there a noticeable drift toward individualistic worship?

You must understand that I am over 50....well over 50. This age factor may explain my concern. I do however, long for corporate worship in spirit and in truth and.... With Reverence and Awe...which, by the way, is a plug for a book I just read by D.G. Hart and John R. Muether by this name. This book is approximately 200 pages long and outlines the essentials for Reformed worship. I’ll end the picking of my "nit’ with a quote from the book, pg. 139: "...the means of grace are fundamentally corporate in character. When we come to worship, we are not engaging in an individual experience. Public worship is always in the company of the saints, and its activities are for the participation of the whole congregation."


Pearlygate said...

Dave, I have observed much of this type "nit" over the years in various churches and yes, even in our church at times. I have come to conclusion that very little, if any, of it has to do with the moving of the Holy Spirit. We have so much "worship culture" diversity now that drifts into our worship services and it seems people often, with disregard for the other worshipers, do whatever they "feel" like doing, or whatever they experienced at the last church where they worshiped. I would guess that well over 90 percent of church goers today do not know what the word "worship" means, particularly as described in Romans 12:1. You may have hit the proverbial nail on the head using the term "individualistic." That always points back to the purpose of worship and to the "its about me" syndrome rather than "its about Him." It becomes an event rather than worship and therein lies a problem when we become an "event driven" church rather than a "God presence based church." I think Terry Tekyl (a Methodist revivalist) described it well in his book, "The Presence Based Church." Whatever we truly believe about God and our worship of Him permeates throughout how we express that during our corporate worship times. It is a disconcerting issue in our worship times today and one that is not so easy to resolve.

All seriousness aside, I'm reminded of that old spiritual song, "Somethin got hold of me" and I just had to move. Hmmmm...Maybe that was a sub-woofer or better yet, how about Ray Stevens and "The Mississippi Squirrel"?

Dave Van said...

Pearlygate, Yes seriousness aside, it could be the The Mississippi Squirrel Revival Effect rather that the sub-woofer effect.

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

I have observed this as well Dave.

"Is this fleshly-individual worship?"


Dan said...

The language of worship is both corporate and individual. Plurals and singulars abound.

I think that is the way it should work. That cuts across both the emphasis in the east on the group and the emphasis in the west on the body. It's never either or in this setting, but always both and.

Which makes worship (and church) more complex than most of us would like to think.

Some of us love the vertical aspect of worship--honor and glory to God alone. Amen and amen. Bring it!

And we can forget the horizontal aspect--for instance sing to one another.

Maybe that reflects something of the two great commands--to love God and to love one another. Vertical and horizontal, individual and corporate.

Add to that the specific cultural aesthetic we each value the most and it gets very complex indeed.

Just about everyone I know says something like--I wish I knew God better. One part of what they mean is, I wish I could worship better.

We all have much to learn.

Dave Van said...

Dan: You ol' peacemaker you! Blessed are the peacemakers.