Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Worshiping This God

We trust not because "a God" exists, but because this God exists.
-- C.S. Lewis, “On Obstinacy in Belief”


As the segment of ostensibly evangelical worship directed somewhere roundabouts "a God" who cares about our feelings and who wants us to tap into the "divine potential" in all of us grows and grows, more and more determined evangelical worship redirects to "the God" who has a name, who rules and loves and saves in history, who can be accessed and enjoyed through the divine Person of Jesus.

I've sat through some Christian worship services that could've been directed toward Allah for all we knew. We have shaved off the specificity (to better comfort) and slouched away from intentionality (to better entertain) and consequently we have ceased, in N.T. Wright's words, "rehearsing the mighty acts of God" in our corporate worship.
"Telling the story, rehearsing the mighty acts of God: this is near the heart of Christian worship, a point not always fully appreciated in the enthusiastic, free-flowing worship common in many circles today. We know God through what he has done in creation, in Israel, and supremely in Jesus, and what he has done in his people and in the world through the Holy Spirit. Christian worship is praise of this God, the one who has done these things."

-- N.T. Wright, Simply Christian

Here's praying that the evangelical church continues reforming its worship culture and how that is played out in the worship gatherings.


British Nathan said...

Hey our Jared (et al). Hope you're well and getting more of a summer than we have over here =o(

A question for you:

So then. "Rehearsing the mighty acts of God" - heck yeah! Absolutely right. If we're not spending time remembering the character of our God and what he's done for us and for his glory - especially through Jesus - our religion becomes poor, tasteless and nutritionally worthless.

But I wonder why we always stop at AD90? Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not complaining - I could sing And Can It Be till the cows come home - but it's interesting, isn't it? We've had 2,000 years of the Spirit of God working in his people, and yet we don't remember much about it and sing even less.

Should we write some songs praising God for -

- keeping his church alive through the Roman Empire
- the wisdom of the early church fathers
- the ridiculously improbable spread of Christianity throughout the world, often in the face of much persecution
- A Kempis, Luther, Tyndale, Wesley, Whitfield (spelling?), Livingstone, Carey, William and Catherine Booth, Wilberforce, Amy Carmichael, Billy Graham, John Stott and okay fair enough this could easily turn into hero worship but it'd be more interesting than "These are the days of flippin' Elijah"
- the abolition of slavery
- the growth of the church in China, Africa and South America
- the fact that try as the hardliners might, you just can't keep Iranian Christians down

and so on?

Jared said...

I think we could sing praises to God for those things.

Sadly, I think many attempts come across as praising the church.
By contrast, when we praise God for what he's done as recorded in Scripture, we are praising him for what he's revealed about himself.

And I certainly think we ought to praise him for the glory of the gospel which is a mighty act of God each of us has historically experienced.

But, yeah, I don't think praising God for what he's done over the last 2000 years is off limits. Depends on the context and execution.

Just as an example: I was in a service where Ben Harper's "Two Hands" was sung. The lyrics are all about how "I can change the world with these two hands."
Made me wonder who exactly we were supposed to be worshiping.

British Nathan said...

Mornin'! Thanks for the response.

Re. sounding like we're praising ourselves: oh yeah, good point. Yeah, you'd have to be careful about that. On the other hand, praising God for those things, done well, might actually stop us from taking credit for it by reminding us that whatever cool things may have happened in the history of the church, we're not the Messiah*, nor are any of the heroes we thank God for, but actually He is.

(*We're a very naughty boy.)