What's in it for ME?

In my Evangelism class here at SMU/Perkins, we are reading a number of good books. In one particular book, Missional Church edited by Darrell Guder, there are some critiques of today's Church in North America much like those found in other books that are so popular among young enthusiastic Christians right now (I am unsure as to whether the popularity of such critiques is a good thing, or a symptom of yet a deeper problem in us - that is probably worth pondering).

In any case, as I was reading, I came across a very rich passage that I think says much of what I have wanted to say about the ways we have bought into our culture's values and then judged the Church and even the Gospel by them, instead of the other way 'round:

"North America's dominant culture reaches into the church as well. Church becomes defined apart from community, in terms of individual choice, individual morality, individual self-actualization, and individual decisions about where to obtain the best spiritual goods and services. All too typical is the woman who, after attending worship and disliking the sermon, asked her friend, "Now tell me, what did you get out of that worship service?" The woman was taken aback when the friend replied, "That's not a question I ask myself. I ask myself, 'Did this community of God's people worship God today?'" It never occurs to many people to define worship in terms other than meeting individual needs, or to put God rather than personal satisfaction at the center of worship." (p. 112)

One of the many reasons I became really intrigued by VERY traditional, liturgical, and sacramental worship is related to this attitude that I found in many more 'contemporary' churches.

I was tired of going to services that were designed to be 'entertaining,' or even 'user friendly'. I was tired of going to vendors of relgion who used all the latest techniques of the big buisinesses to attract the largest share of the 'market' and package the truth in hip and familiar ways - just like Starbucks.

I was ready for something that wasn't all about me and my feelings. I was ready for something communal, something bigger than me. I was ready for something that was awe-some, demanding, and holy - worship that was truly and obviously set apart from what goes on at the mall or the concert hall. And something that was actually not invented by Americans!

And most importantly, I was ready for something that is primarily about praising the name of the Trinity (most traditional liturgies from before the 20th century are highly Trinitarian) - praising Him regardless of what "I get out of it." That part ("what I get for me") seems to me very much beside the point of worship: rather we worship because He is Worthy. Period.

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Anonymous Josh Britton said...

Amen, Daniel. Great points.

1:43 AM, October 26, 2005  

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