Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Worship Sucks

*Please note that the extract below is just that, an extract, and does not fully reflect the journey of the argument or the context into which this is written. The book is dealing with a personal reflection on the experience of desolation focusing on Psalm 22, in light of the writers own experience of bi-polar disorder and the Christian belief that God the Son suffered on the Cross. The extract below is there to get us thinking and engage in conversation, but to understand the writers intention fully you need to buy the book! The chapter this is from is reflecting on Israel's worship and experience of darkness and then reflecting on the Church's worship and experience of darkness. I do not want to mis-represent the theology and argument of the book, but rather use this snippet to get people thinking!*

'The leading of worship is a theological task, requiring significant theological reflection...worship is reduced to the singing of one song after another, often for no better reason than the personal preferences of the musician leading the worship; there is little sense of direction, progression, or journey. Moreover, the leading of worship is an extraordinarily totalitarian process...a worship leader tells me to stand or to sit and leaves me little option but to participate in whatever is being sung regardless of my personal circumstances or mental and spiritual disposition...This style of worship focuses almost exclusively on praise, adoration, and thanksgiving, usually at quite up-beat tempo, with clapping and other expressions of unqualified exuberance. Nor is this unremitting cheerfulness mitigated by more thoughtful reflective and inclusive prayers - more often than not, interjected prayers sustain the mood of joyfulness and gratitude, sometimes (frankly) in disturbingly superficial manner, offered...entirely unprepared, highly repetitive and liberally interspersed with the vocalised punctuation marks of 'Lord', 'just', 'really', and 'great'...The presence of children prompts the very worst from this style of worship with trivializing songs that provide sufficient cause for any thoughtful child, approaching adulthood, to jettison Christianity along with Father Christmas and Fairy Godmothers....Moreover, the totalitarian manner of this form of worship renders it difficult to opt out, to observe, to sit and to pray quietly while the performance proceeds. For the person...wrestling with any form of clinical depression, for the person tortured by the breaking up of relationships, for the recently bereaved, for those who have just been told of terminal illness (their own or that of a loved one), all this is unrelieved torture.

...Any liturgy of worship that excludes lament, therefore, is not just carelessly exclusive, it is encouraging dishonesty and unreality - and if the psalms and the Scriptures generally tell me anything they tell me that God looks for honesty rather than pretence; the Scriptures offer me no encouragement whatsoever to take refuge in fantasy. Here, I suspect, is the more profound reason for some apparently lively and flourishing churches having 'big back doors': that which initially was attractive and contemporary proves ultimately superficial and non-sustaining.

...My purpose is not to encourage a self-indulgent wallowing in negativity but rather to make space for realism and honesty.

...There is no resurrection without the Cross; there is no Christian discipleship other than under its shadow; there is no Christian ministry without participating in the sufferings of Christ...those who seek a theology of glory are seeking God in other place and form than that in which supremely he has revealed himself. The Cross of Christ stands at the heart of the Christian gospel and at the heart of Christian discipleship.'

'Why Have You Forsaken Me?' John Colwell pp 69-75


Sarah Crane said...

I knew during the first line that these were the words of John! Hope the book is helping you reflect on meaningful worship, I must read it at some point.

Jimmy Orr said...

As with most of Colwell's ponderings I find myself agreeing with bits, disagreeing with bits but being challenged by all of it!
I wanna read the book now to fill in the gaps!

Karl considering 21st Century Mission said...

You are clearly on a roll Joe! Fascinating reading.

Tony Mayes said...

Wow chunky stuff to chew for breakfast - sounds like I need to get a copy and seek the pearls in it.

I suspect theres some context with what John as written.

Thanks Joe

Peter M.G. said...

A pianist accompanying worship complained of how much he missed of the worship because he was concerned about the mechanics of the music.Musicians are victims too.We all need liberating by the Spirit of God for" where the Spirit of the Lord is ,there is liberty" 2Cor3:17

Joe Haward said...

I wonder what liberty looks like though Peter? Is liberty about making a 'joyful noise', or is it much deeper than that; liberty in worship includes lament perhaps?

I get your point about the musician, but being able to play music does not mean you should be in a worship group. Perhaps we too readily assume this when the leading of worship is a deeper, more theologically challenging role than sometimes we allow for.
Good to hear from you Peter! Hope you are well?

Spurgeons Crew - Good to hear form you all! Much love!