Something I've been thinking about a lot lately is how much church has changed in twenty years. Oh, sure, the technology has certainly developed and in a lot of places, the structure is a little - or a lot - different. People come and go; so do pastors. But those aren't the kinds of things I'm talking about.
I'm talking about...the posture of the church, I guess. Although I'm certain there's still a better word for it.
We haven't really changed our theology that much. Not most churches, anyway. We still have the same fundamental beliefs that we've always had - that Jesus is the Son of God, that He is the Christ, that He lived as a man, died as a criminal, and rose as a victor to bridge the gap between us and God. We still believe He lived a sinless life and that His teachings are authoritative. We believe in the Bible as the inspired Word of God, even though some of us are wrestling with what it means that it was also written by human hands. We believe in the promise of the presence of the Holy Spirit, whatever that looks like in your church's theology. We still go full-out for Christmas and Easter as the two biggest days of our calendar. We believe in the power of prayer, and not just the power, but the importance of it.
So...what we believe about the fundamentals hasn't really changed that much over the years. Some of the ideas we have that aren't core or fundamental to the nature of Jesus have changed; they always seem to ebb and flow a bit as culture demands that we re-examine them in new ways.
But our worship has changed. Our posture toward God has changed. Our attitudes and engagement have changed.
You've perhaps heard someone comment on the way that a lot of worship music tends to emphasize us these days. Humans. Worshipers. The people of God. The faithful. Whatever you want to call us. We have become so self-obsessed in worship that we even sing songs declaring that we're singing. Like...duh.
There was a time in church history when the songs were overwhelmingly about God and who He is. What He's done. His promises. His goodness. If you read the songs we're given in the Bible, which most of us don't even recognize as songs because they don't rhyme very well (at least in English) and we don't know the tune, they always recount the history of God among His people. Today, well, we just sing quite a bit about ourselves.
The same is true in our prayer lives. Our prayer has become really self-centered, too. About us. About our needs. About our wants. About our perspective. If you go through a book of prayers written by figures from years gone by, it's striking. You read all of these prayers about the nature of God. Thanking God for being who He is. Acknowledging the different attributes He holds. These ancient, historical prayers are really God-centered and we, well, we pray a lot to be heard. We pray, at least when we pray out loud with others, to deliver a message to the others who can hear us, not really to talk about God. Or to Him.
But there's more even than that.
It's not just, for me, that the content of our worship and prayer has changed, although that right there is enough to invest a lifetime in correcting. It's also, though, that the tone of our worship and prayer has changed. The kind of heart that we bring is different; what we expect from - and for - our heart is different.
We'll start talking about what I mean by that tomorrow.