It was one of the most exruciating “worship services” I’ve ever endured. As part of the conference I attended last week we were subjected to an experience that was put together by a worship design studio, whatever the wacky thing that is. There was singing, talk of God, and even communion. It was supposed to show the conference new and innovative ways of “worship” and I’ll admit that everyone around me seemed to be enjouying it. At least they were participating, but so was I. Unfortunately it never allowed any of us sustained engaement with God. We were constantly being interrupted to do little worship activities that seemed more suited for a five-year old. No, it wasn’t childlike, it seemed childish, and incredibly tedious.
How far out of the box have I wandered?
They started the service with asking us to write a six-word definition of worship. I know they were meaning “worship” as a service, but I see “worship” as a lifestlye, so I wrote, “Our lives lived in loving engagement.” It’s not what we say or sing to God it’s how we live in him and share his love with others around us. At the end of our ninety minute experience, however, I crossed out my original definition, to write what I had just experienced: “Groping for reality in contrived illusions.”
And I wrote it with sorrow. There were hungry hearts all over the room, people really wanting to connect with God, and instead of being given that opportunity they were put through a host of excercies and instructions and told this was their connection to God. I thnk many of them believed it and I honestly wanted to cry. Has our engagement wiht God become so abstract that we need activities to keep us amused or an ever-shifting set of exepriences to keep us from getting board. I find wherever God makes himself known and people are genuine and authentic, that is more than enough to keep people’s interest.
Yes, there were moments I could lean into God and have some time with him, but it would soon be interrupted with our time to lament, or to focus on our brokenness. It got so I hated to hear the voice in the microphone offering me yet another thing to do.
When it was over I turned to the person next to me who used to be a worship leader before they became a “done.” I showed them my new definition of worship and they laught heartily with a knowing nod. And then she leaned over to me and whispered, “Once you take things out of the box, it’s impossible to get them back in again.”
It was my turn to smile. True as true can be!
I remember groping from reality in so many contrived and artifical settings. Yes there were moments God made himself known, but many more that were repetitive, boring, and seemed to require a high degree of pretense to make it work. It’s better to take the things out of the box and find out what is real that invites us inside his reality and which are human engineered exercises to make us only think it is happening.
But beware. Once you take them out, you may not be able to get them back in. But you won’t regret it!