Sometimes I just have to stand back and wonder “What are we thinking?” I don’t know how your church worships, but at my church we really like to sing. We like to sing so much that my oldest grandson ask me one Sunday morning as we were heading for the car, if we were going to “the singing church again?” And true to our Charismatic/Pentecostal roots we like to pray as a group, out loud. As you can imagine, things can get pretty “lively” at times, and that’s okay... Most of the time.
I am a “preacher’s kid”. My dad was a United Methodist minister until he retired in the mid 90’s. I spent my youth seated next to my brother and sisters, in the front of the church, with my hands folded in my lap, my eyes forward, and my mouth shut. I was taught that being quiet and sitting still would make my Sunday afternoons much more enjoyable. So when I started going to “non-denominational” churches as an adult I had some issues. Maybe that’s all that is going on here…and maybe not.
Anyway, as we were worshiping, we were exhorted to shout, and clap and to spontaneously praise the Lord. We were instructed to get louder and louder, to jump and clap and dance and just generally raise the roof. I started hearing a small voice in my head…It was reminding me of a bible story I've known since my youth. In 1st Kings 18 the Prophet Elijah and the Prophets of Baal had a similar thing going on. Elijah had challenged them to make a sacrifice and get their god to light the fire himself. They prayed, and chanted, and jumped and shouted, and howled and cried and even cut themselves in a vain attempt to get Baal’s attention. Elijah, of course, was mocking them. He asks them if their god was asleep or busy elsewhere or just not interested. The longer they tried the louder they got, trying to talk their god into doing something but nothing happened. When it was Elijah’s turn, he prayed and God answered. Then the prophets of Baal had the same kind of after church experience that I would have had as a kid if I had acted that way in church. (Sorry Mom)
I guess my point is this. I think it all comes down to why do we do worship the way we do. If we jump and shout and clap and sing because we are trying to get Gods attention, or talk Him in to doing something, it is at best a waste of energy. If on the other hand, we sit with hands folded and lips clamped shut out of feigned piety then that is its own reward also. It’s all about motivation. Worship is something that needs to be led by The Spirit, not by man. We really need to judge ourselves here. Why do I sing, why do I raise my hands, why am I shouting praises, why am I sitting quietly? If we are the authors of those actions they are at best dead works. If the Holy Spirit is the author then those same acts are powerful living things. We need to judge ourselves in this, and we need to refrain from judging anyone else. It’s all right or it’s all wrong depending on the author.
So where does that leave us? Who is right here? Mom? The worship leader? (Although being told to do something spontaneously strikes me as odd) Both? Neither? The question is wrong. It’s not about who’s right or who’s wrong. It is questions of who’s the author and how can you tell?
Well that should give you something to think on 'til the next time.