Thoughts on Church and Worship

Because I can’t seem to stop talking about it.  I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve had some thoughts running around in my head lately regarding church and worship.  This is me expanding on those thoughts.

If you travel between Waco and Austin on I-35, you may have seen a building with a banner advertising 30 Minute Worship services.  The last time I went home to visit my parents I saw it, but I kept forgetting to look it up on-line.  I finally did today — here is an exert from their website:

Sundays @ 9am offers you a brand new way to go to church…30 Minute Worship. This innovative service is for anybody who is tired of the way traditional church has been done, has limited time, or has to work Sundays. The high energy, focused package will creatively engage you to personally connect with God. Our church website is www.vlcwaco.com.

  • Worship (10 minutes) Each service will have praise and worship lasting 8-10 minutes to connect you with God, lead by our full worship band.
  • Word (12-15 minutes) The most important part of the worship gathering is God’s Word! Listen to an actual message online.
  • Response (5 minutes) Every service gives you an opportunity to respond to God through prayer and giving. We know prayer is essential* for life!  (*– so essential they have devoted 5 minutes to it!)

I half expected it to be a gimmick — a jab at how commercialized the Church is becoming but apparently these guys are serious.

While most churches aren’t as upfront and honest as this one is, I think there are some similar (and dangerous) trends.

1.  Worship equals music.

Most churches would never say that worship is just the singing part of the service, but what they do every week speaks louder than what they say.  I think this has become more evident as the “contemporary” services have grown in popularity.  Even the titles we use seem to imply that worship is equal to music.  We no longer have music directors, we have worship leaders.  Instead of choirs we now have worship bands.  I have been a worship leader — I know I have lead people in music but I do not know if they were worshiping God.

2.  Worship happens during a finite period of time and it is a tool to connect us/focus us on God.

This one is a two-parter.  First, regarding time. This church may serve as an extreme example of this, but if you’ve ever been a part of planning or leading a church service you know that time is important.  For most churches the entire service is designed to last for about an hour.  This means that if the message or sermon takes up 30 minutes, everything else has to be done in 30 minutes.  I know, time is important and we’re all very busy (and there by important) people, but what if we are missing out on something by limiting our services to an hour?  I spent an hour with my buddy Felipe at AHOP and realized how short an hour can be when it comes to prayer and worship.

Part two — referring to worship as a tool to connect/focus us on God.  Something about this bothers me.  If worship connects us to God, then once we are connected do we cease to worship?  If worship focuses me on God, what am I suppose to do once I am focused on Him?  Worship!  Worship is the response.  We worship because we are connected to God.

3.  Church is something we “do” as Christians.

This church proudly proclaims that you can “do” church in 30 minutes.  If church were something you could do, I suppose there would be a minimum amount of time one could do it in.  Maybe there would be contests to see who could do it the fastest.  The average church, while not as blunt, broadcasts the same message — that church is a time and a place, like a college course or a club meeting.  LifeChurch.tv invites you to “try church online”.  This seems to contradict the idea that we, followers of Christ, are the Church.  We can say with our lips that church is not a building or a time all we want, but our actions reveal our true beliefs.

Okay, this may sound like I’m just getting worked up over semantics (and sometimes I do), but I don’t think that’s the case this time.  It’s not just about words, it’s about actions.  If we say we are the Church, do our actions reflect that?  If we say we worship God in everything we do, do our lives show it?

I don’t have all the answers, in fact I have very few answers.  This is the interactive portion of this blog post (you know, the part where you say what’s on your mind regarding the topics mentioned).  I don’t expect you to have any answers either, but I hope this stirred up some thoughts for conversation.

Heart Issues

I was listening to a Mike Bickle sermon a few years ago where he mentioned seven longings of the human heart.  He has since gone on to co-author a book on the subject.  He was clear to say that these are not THE seven, but merely seven which he observed in life and scripture.  Here they are:

To be fascinated
To possess beauty and feel beautiful
To be great and successful
For intimacy without shame
For the assurance of being enjoyed
To be wholehearted and passionate
To make a deep and lasting impact

When I first heard these (and even still today) I felt something well up inside of me.  It hurts to think about these things; I want them that much.  This life has much to offer, but it is not enough…