Most of us have been around contemplative Christianity for so long that we have in our minds there are only really two ways to worship: the way we've come to do it and the "charismatic" way that puts too much of the world off. We can do it how we've been doing it, with quiet swaying and one hand raised, or we can go full fire and ecstasy.
Most of us have forgotten that there is a middle way. And that it wasn't too long ago that we were all worshiping that way.
It wasn't that long ago that we were clapping along with the music, just keeping the beat while the whole congregation engaged in song. It wasn't that long ago that we were part of the experience, not just having the experience. It wasn't that long ago that we were bouncing a little as we sang, not saying yes but just celebrating. Just letting the joy of the Lord put a little spring in our step as we stood before Him.
There was a time not that long ago when the joy of the Lord was the hallmark of our worship.
In fact, I'll be honest and say that that's what drew me into the church. The persons I encountered when I first walked through the doors of church were people who were full of joy. They were happy to be there. They enjoyed coming on Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening, and any other time the church had something going on. They sang with a smile on their face; a grin that the weights of this world just couldn't wipe away.
We had some really silly songs, songs meant just to hype up our joy. Just to get us truly rejoicing with the Lord as we turned our hearts toward praising Him. We had songs of greeting, designed to get us up and moving. Nothing crazy, but we used to sing about shaking each other's hands. Just, you know, to encourage everyone to shake a hand.
We used to come together and be a people rejoicing about the goodness of God.
No more, right? Now, we're so busy thinking about the goodness of God that we don't dance in it. We don't even smile that much during worship. The best worshipers, in our new contemplative style, aren't the smiling ones; they're the serene ones. When did that happen?
We sing some of the same songs that we used to sing, but most of us have gone years without clapping to the beat. Some of us have gone so long that many of us can't even find the beat any more to clap with it. (And some, probably, never had it to begin with.) If you clap along with the music in church today, everyone turns around and looks at you. More than one will probably give you a look.
How has this happened? And how has this happened so fast?
I'm just thinking about all of this because I'm thinking a lot lately about that joy that we used to have every single week, and I'm wondering where it went.
And I think its absence explains some of the other trends we're seeing in the church. Let me explain a little bit about that tomorrow.