- On July 15, 2010
- 1 Comments
Infinitely Wide and Inches Deep Part II
Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men. I intended to post no less than once a week, but summer has a way of shuffling even the best of schedules. So, here I am with a follow up to my last post. If you missed it, please read or even re-read it before you dive into this one.
In an effort to reach out to such a diverse congregation, I have outlined how many different communication tools would be required and the level of “thinness” that is inherent in trying to provide those methods in a single service. In all honesty, it is impossible. So how can we become a deeper worshipping community and still provide opportunities for people to worship God in their own voices? One answer comes from the wonderful comments by John Garland on my last post. He points out an incredibly wise observation by Kierkegaard that has been echoed by top worship theologians and even CCM song writers; we worship for the glory of an audience of one-God.
If we as leaders continue to try and “reach” the diverse groups that make up our congregations, then we leaders become, as Kierkegaard puts it, the “performers” for the enlightenment (entertainment?) of the congregation, or “audience.” As a result, a consumerist reaction of approval or disapproval is the only avenue of response for that congregation. I have never ascribed to this way of thinking. In my approach to worship, the leaders are providing a collection of expressions for the congregation to embrace and reflect to God along with their own independent worship creations. In essence, the service is the palette, we schedule a variety of worship actions (the colors and types of medium), and the congregation takes these materials and paints a picture each week- of God, about God, to God, for the glory of God.
A great example of this pattern is congregational prayer. The individual leading in prayer provides a verbal framework that opens the door to the congregant to participate at the level in which they can best express their feelings to God. One individual may simply listen to the prayer being offered by the leader and silently (or out loud) agree with periodic “Amens” that say, “yes God, I agree with _______ and ask that you hear our prayer.” Someone else may be listening to the leaders prayer and while following the direction of the offered prayer will supplement it with petitions of their own. While the prayer leader may be praying for the church, such a participant might insert names or situations that he or she wishes to specifically bring before God. Both of these methods are seen in the traditional “Prayers of the people” model, but can also be seen in any church prayer tradition. Still another congregant may not even really hear the leader, but will use the time set aside in the service for prayer to lift their own prayers before God, thereby participating in the corporate worship event but yet doing so in a way that expresses their own desire to speak to God as an individual. Still another may block out everything and simply listen for God’s voice, recognizing that prayer is not just a one way event, but rather a conversation between believer and God.
If we take this approach to every event in a corporate worship service we understand that each event is not simply a time to “watch” but rather every event is an invitation to participate. Yet participation is not always done in the expected fashion. I have heard many people who say that while they enjoy listening to the music, they prefer to pray the text rather than sing along. Others have told me about how they reflect on the text and seek meaning in it. Others have said they let the music wrap them up and they are carried away in an expression of praise that goes beyond the actual words and music being offered and they “spend time with God.” Of course many people sing the songs. My belief as a worship leader is that the songs I choose for worship must be closely examined because I am providing words for the congregation to sing back to God. These surrogate words are another opportunity to tell God how we feel. In all of these instances the end result should be a congregation who is performing for the glory of God, not simply attending a performance for their entertainment and edification.
Assuming that all of this is true, what about the one action in which the congregation regularly sits and listens: the sermon? I will address that in my next post-Infinitely Wide and Inches Deep Part III.
Ok, post your answers and let’s keep this going. Thanks to everyone who is reading this blog and those who are sharing their thoughts. As you can see by my post above, your comments count.