Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fear and Trembling

I sit in a coffee shop at the food court-esque lobby of Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City, Kansas. I can see the live twitter feed from the National Worship Leaders Conference between two well-groomed faux hawks scrolling on a large flat screen TV on the wall. Brushed aluminum Mac Books as far as the eye can see. I blend in quite well save for my collared shirt and boring right to left hair-part.
A thought has been growing like seed in the bad soil of my mind since being here. And it is this: The aim of true worship finds it beginning and end in God and is concerned solely with His Glory. To that end worship is a response, not an initiation. It’s a reply to God’s perfect “Let there be… It is very good.” For worship to be an attempt at an appropriately weighty response to this GOD, it must find its birth in a true sense of our own diminishment. It is as though the King of Kings has called us into his court by name. We know we are not worthy to be there and yet there is nowhere else we can be. In front of that throne all at once we kneel blushed with shame and yet aglow with the irony that this King’s desire is to be with us. Fear and delight comingle giving way before the truth of holiness and the grace of love found equally in abundance before this triune King.
This week concern has turned to legitimate panic as I hear people speak of worship as initiative. Worship is planned for the people who are being invited to participate. The dominant concern seems to be “How can we reach the worshipper?” It seems that God’s glory has become an afterthought. We have made worship about us. People work hard at making worship palatable for the masses in the name of Jesus. Instead of humbly entering the throne room hoping to honor the king we have sauntered in with our heads high and have asked the King to play jester. Reach out to us. Bless us. Entertain us. Meet our needs.
In pawning this off as worship we sell costume jewelry to the masses and advertise it as priceless. We nibble on the scraps beneath the table calling it the banquet.
Liturgical churches do this by appeasing their masses with the comforting form of ancient liturgy seemingly unaware that we have grown illiterate to its language. Contemporary churches do this by calling "worship" something that is not much more than a marketing strategy to the masses in order to offer well intentioned help in the name of Jesus who, ironically, is the King they have just asked to play jester.
Lord have mercy on us.


  1. Nice post Scott.

    "Who ironically is the King who they have just asked to play jester."

    Sums it up well.

  2. Very well said. May the Lord have mercy on us, indeed.

  3. Which came first the chicken or the egg? The question every generation must as of itself is why are we doing this. Gen 4:4-5 "The Lord looked on with favor at Abel and his offering, but with Cain and his offering he did not look with favor". Both brought their best, but their hearts were in different places. Many a half millon dollar pipe organ went into churches to bring in people who liked organ music (away from the baseball field). Faux hawks and Soul patches are as relevant to a generation as are new choir robes and brass plaques are to another generation. Jesus went to people who didn't "have it going on" up in the Temple in Jerusalem. If we glorify God, preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and reach people who don't have a relationship with Jesus Christ, that is the half the chief end of man. If you choose to call an "Evangelism Program" a "Marketing Strategy" does it make it less effective? Ultimately, if it is man inspired it will not succeed, if it be of God it can not fail. God seeks us out. What he uses to reach others isn't as important as how the community of believers embraces them. That's the other half -enjoy him forever.

  4. Well said, Scott. But what's the solution? If they don't come, we can't introduce them to the King. But if they come and our worship is totally unitelligible to them and seems irrelevant to (what they think are) their real lives, they won't come back.