Friday, June 2, 2023

Dynamic Worship

Just to be clear, because I know that there are those who cannot fathom anything but charismatic worship when I mention rejoicing, I am not advocating for charismatic worship. I'm not suggesting that our churches be full of the holy roller-type, faith healing sort of worship that draws to mind images of big tents and guys in loud suits. 

What I'm advocating for is what I'll call "dynamic" worship. 

I'm advocating for a type of worship that draws you into it, that helps you connect with it in a variety of ways throughout the course of an hour or two. I'm advocating for a type of worship that is designed to help guide you into the multifaceted reality of who God is in His heart and doesn't depend on you to create your own emotional experience. I'm talking about a worship that is intentional in what it wants to teach you about God.  

I'm talking about a worship that is truly communal and not some private act that we happen to be doing together in a shared space.

See, that's the challenge of trying to be a church in an era of contemplative Christianity. Stand at the doors and conduct a poll on the way out, and you'll get a different response from almost every worshiper about what they encountered in church today or what they learned about God. Because contemplative Christianity creates this kind of vague spaces where it's up to you what you walk away with. 

In our postmodern culture, we've called this good. It fits right in with the notion that your truth is your truth and my truth is my truth and we all have our own experiences in the world and no two experiences are alike. This is part of how we got here, by the way. Our culture says we're supposed to be creating these kinds of experiences because they are "for everyone." Everyone can come and get something out of it. 

But for the church's history, her role has been to bring persons into contact with the true and living God, to introduce them to His heart, to guide them through a dynamic relationship with Him. And that requires making sure that we experience God's grace, His mercy, His love, His judgment, His wrath, His joy, His truth, His covenant - the whole gamut of everything that God is. 

And that requires that we have experiences in our churches that are designed to bring us into contact with these things. It requires the church teaching us how to come to God no matter what we're experiencing. 

Look at the Psalms. Look at all the things that we learn in fear, in anger, in hurt and disappointment, in abandonment, in rejoicing, in victory, in defeat, in peace, in purpose. We could go on and on. Contemplative Christianity says all these things are okay, if you happen to be having them in your life right now. Dynamic Christianity teaches you how to embrace these things, no matter what your season. 

That means that sometimes, church is an atmosphere full of joy and clapping and smiling and shaking hands. Sometimes, it's a quieter service of reflection. Sometimes, it's self-guided; sometimes, it's communal. Sometimes, it's stations of different experiences; sometimes, it's a single lesson on an important truth. Sometimes, it's doing together; sometimes, it's being together. Sometimes, it's loud music with a full band; sometimes, it's just our voices. Sometimes, it's lights; sometimes, it's dimmed. Sometimes, we're sitting in rows; sometimes, we're clustered in groups. 

The church, for so much of her history, has been so good at this. She has taken great joy in developing this kind of dynamic atmosphere for her worshipers. Then, somewhere, we settled into 3 songs, a prayer, a song, a sermon, and an invitation, and we're just kind of stuck there. Too many of us, anyway. We've given up planning intentionally for planning invitationally - planning to create a space for as many diverse persons and experiences as possible instead of planning for the goodness and glory of God. 

Oh, how I long for the days of dynamic worship. I'm sorry, but I do.

Maybe it's just me. 

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