Wednesday, December 05, 2007

THE EXPERIENCE OF WORSHIP

The difference between performance and relational is huge. I'm talking about worship. I know to worship God is basically to obey Him as Abraham understood when he said in that mountain experience "the lad and I will go yonder and worship." He was simply correctly saying to obey what God commands is itself worship.

But to worship corporately as a Body is what I'm refering to here. It is what is meant by the writer of that Hebrews passage where it is said "forsake NOT the assembling of yourselves together.." This is the only time that word for "assemble" [it isn't ekklesia] is used in the NT. It is a word that refers to the place of gathering wherever that might be. [They got the word synogogue from it.] This is the only time that.. where the Ekklesia gathers.. is even talked about. They didn't talk much about going to church. They were the Church. It is this Body experience that I am addressing in this post. It can be a performance thing or it can be a relational thing and the difference between the two is, as I said, huge.

An emphasis on performance in our gathered times is the norm. God is the audience. [So to speak] Let's be careful to do what we do right. He's watching. We want Him to be pleased with what we're doing. If He is pleased no doubt He'll bless us.

When you think about it, that really sounds more tribal than Christian. If we appease the gods our grass will grow, the cattle will be fat, our wives will bear children and, generally, things will be on the up and up. But if we fail to worship correctly [or often] drought, barrenness and sickness will come and, boy, will we be in trouble. In fact, let's establish a whole different order of religious leaders to help us worship and do it right. We'll call them witch-doctors. [Or clergy depending on the culture.] They can dress, sound, perform, and just be different than the rest of us so we will get it right. They will even have greater persuasive powers over the gods because they will know all kinds of religious stuff the rest of us regular guys/gals [or laity depending on the culture] don't know. Sound familiar? It's a system. It's performance and it's religion but it's not Christian at all.

Relational worship is experiencing the reality of the presence of the one being worshipped and hearing from Him and each other. It is always a work of His Holy Spirit. We have to know that "worship" is basically, as any good dictionary will tell you, "paying homage." It is to "recognize the worthiness of" or to "regard with reverential respect" or to "express and admiration or devotion to." It is an attitude that is to be reflected in all of life, to be sure. That's why all our living is an expression of worship. But when we gather corporately we are to share that attitude as a whole Body in a relational manner. [And will when His Spirit is at work among the people.] This means we are to be real with each other as we talk, share, sing, and He is to be real to us as we do so.

A whole lot stands out here to me. [Apart from it being a work of the Spirit which is a given,] One thing is that all who choose to do so should participate. All have been gifted to do just that. There is an orderliness about it all to be sure, but, that said, it is not restrictive except where confusion or disrespect would result. Anything done by anyone would have as it's goal, it seems to me, an edifying of the Body and.. a recognition of HIS PRESENCE..right now. It may have many moods like celebration or contemplation or adoration to it, but those things that are done are only valid as tools to experience HIM and each other relationally.

This sounds like a family reunion to me. Maybe that's more what a NT worship service is suppose to reflect. Maybe if we examine a real family reunion and learn to create that environment each Lord's day when we gather, we will be closer to a true biblical worship experience than what we often experience at the present time. In fact, it could be, the use of liturgy, hymns, choruses, choirs, drama, sermons, and a host of other things, are valid, not in and of themselves, but as opportunities for His reality being experienced by all. Even sermons would have as their goal the reality of Christ and His Word being heard and understood relationally. Wouldn't that kind of experience shake up a typical Sunday morning crowd. This would mean the question is NEVER what kind of things are we doing in a worship service but WHY is anything we do being done? The answer to that question is, to me at least, to make Him real to all in that moment. If what I'm saying is correct, much of what is being done in modern Church-life worship is not biblical worship at all. We've got our work cut out for us as worship leaders don't we. And, it may be, the question of each worship experience is not,"how did I do?" but "did we meet and experience Him and others as well?"

I realize I've addressed what the target of worship is in this post and not the instructions for hitting it. That will probably vary from group to group. But I'm wondering if maybe we've forgotten what we're shooting at in worship. [So to speak.]

Paul B.

13 comments:

Bob Cleveland said...

Paul,

When I punch up Strong's on my computer Bible, it says "worship" (most of the references I looked up) is proskuneo, or to prostrate oneself, as a dog licking its master's hand. That says all it to me.

That's where I try to get when we worship.

Paul Burleson said...

Bob,

That's a good place to be and even to live. While much is made of worship in the Old covenant, there is little said of it in the New covenant. I like this statement by one whose name I do not have.


"There are few doctrines in the New Testament that give us as much surprise as the doctrine of worship. One might even say we are stunned. Although there are references to worship in the Gospels, the book of Acts and Revelation, the New Testament Epistles - the doctrinal/explanatory part of the New Testament - is completely silent as to worship. This is all the more incredible when we consider: First, 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14 is an extensive treatment of church life and interaction with no mention of worship. Second, 1 Timothy was an epistle written to make known "how thou [Timothy] might behave thyself in the house of God." Surely one would expect a reference to worship here, yet there is none. Third, our Lord tells the Samaritan woman that "the hour is coming ... and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in Spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship Him" (Jn 4:21-23). With such a definitive statement of future devotion, it is inconceivable that worship would be passed over completely in the instructional part of the New Covenant, the Epistles, yet this is exactly what we find."

Lee said...

One of our worship leaders and I were having a conversation about this back in October. We've had some worship experiences in our contemporary service recently where the Holy Spirit has shown up in response to our praise and worship, and we were talking about how we needed to respond to that. We want to help people be aware of his presence and make a connection, open to whatever the Spirit wants to do in their life.

Of course, in a Baptist church there can be some pitfalls related to people and their response to the Holy Spirit, but we both decided that we do not want to hinder the Spirit's work, and that God will not put us in a position where we have to compromise in order to truly worship. We just want people to sense the Spirit's presence, and take the next step by responding to that, and then seeing what God does with it. I believe a true encounter with the Spirit means that you leave the room changed, different, than you were when you came in.

Bryan Riley said...

It seems we try to make everything into a performance and God keeps saying, "I just want a relationship."

Paul Burleson said...

Lee,

I know what ou mean about "pitfalls". some people take advantage of freedom to use it as license.

I do remember, however, a statement my good friend Jack Taylor was known for making often when he said "I'd rather restrain a fanatic than raise a dead man anyday." I know what he meant and agree...but...I sure understand the caution that must be present. Several portions of the NT letters were written to restrain.

Good thoughts and I commend you for your longing for authentic worship. Keep it up.



Brayn,

I've heard your outcry for a relationship emphasis in a multitude of comments and posts. Whether it's being heard or not, I do not know.. but.. I hear, agree, and cry out with you. Thanks and you keep it up too.

Paul Burleson said...

Lee,

That is "you" NOT "ou". BUT..with "OU" playing so well what can I say? :)

Paul Burleson said...

Bryan,

It's WAY too early in the morning for me..SORRY.

Chuck Andrews said...

Paul

Yet, the style of worship is still a major divisive issue in most Baptist churches. Maybe if the relational aspects of worship were to be emphasized and His presence be recognized then the Person and purpose of worship would become more important than style.

I know we’ve discussed this before -- it appears to me that there is such a gift of the Spirit that is today commonly called worship leader. This person seems to be able to bring the relational aspect of worship into a real worship experience. It’s hard to define, but it is obvious when that gifted person is leading. Also, it is obvious when someone who is not gifted is leading.

Chuck

Paul Burleson said...

Chuck,

I think you may have it right on all points. Good comment.

Alycelee said...

Simply beautiful.
I would like to plug a book (or videos) from Bob Mumford called the Agape Road. It is a map to a relationship, this road is leading us through Jesus Christ to intimacy with the Father. It changed my life, my families lives and the life of our church.
In the series (and others) Bob said...'if God had a frig, my picture would be on it.'

Paul Burleson said...

Alyce,

You plug anything you want to and welcome home. Your slideshow is great. I left a comment saying so.

musicman said...

Paul,
I fundamentally agree with you on the concept of our gatherings. Let me take it another step.

For a long time, I have been uncomfortable with many churches and their concepts of "worship", particularly having to do with their assemblies. My favorite passage in the Bible is Romans 12:1-2. This tells me that with the passing away of the old law, we are no longer bound by the physical acts of worship that were performed by the temple priests, but we are free to really embrace what God wants - our hearts totally focused on Him. Worship becomes an attitude rather than an action, and that attitude flavors everything in our lives and drives actions such as sharing, giving, loving, praying, edifying, lifting up, listening, teaching, etc.

When we look at the first Christians in Acts, we see them meeting every day sharing meals, praying, talking about the Apostles' teachings and sharing those teachings with others, helping each other, and other such things. But I don't see one mention of "worship." In 1Cor 14, Paul talks to the church at Corinth about their gatherings and encourages them to keep doing what they're doing as long as they are building up the church and edifying each other. Again, not a mention of worship. I think that's because those first Christians really understood and embraced this new concept of the kind of worship God really wants from us. If we are truly worshiping, then everything we do is worship, not just something we do for 90 minutes on a Sunday morning.

So, I suggest we remove a couple of phrases from our Christian vocabulary. Let's not talk about "worship services" and "worship experiences" anymore. Let's not talk about getting together "to" worship, but rather let's get together "because we" worship.

Just my thoughts. Hope you and Mary are having a great holiday time. Charlene and I would love to see you sometime. Maybe we can all get together at Ozzie's some Saturday morning (not too early).

Love you guys.

Bill Morgan

Paul Burleson said...

€Bill,

I couldn't agree more. Thanks for stopping by. Breakfast would be great. Let's do it.