Why go to Church

I was attending a committee meeting at church this week. We began by introducing ourselves. A pattern unfolded in the introductions that has stayed on my mind all week. I introduced myself as a church member who had been in the church since 1994. Another committee member smiled and said, “We have been in the church since 1987–we began coming when our children were born.” Another committee member said, “I shouldn’t take pride but I am proud that I was on the board that started this church.”

Does all that church attending have any meaning or add any value to this life?

A young man in the group described how he wrestled with the idea of  being a part of the church and whether it was necessary for a life of faith.

When examined from an earthly perspective, church participation can seem like just one of a thousand choices we make in life of how we spend our time. It may seem very unnecessary if you are looking for an earthly pay off. After all, what have I got to show for 24 years of church attendance?

James K.A. Smith has helped me ask this question from a God perspective.  His book helped me see what God has been up to over the years of my church attendance. Smith argues that we are essentially desiring creatures driven more by what our hearts truly love than thinking creatures driven by information, ideas or arguments.

So in the week in and week out repetition of worship, Smith sees God training our desires and reordering our love.

“Being a disciple is not primarily a matter of getting the right ideas and doctrines and beliefs into your head in order to guarantee proper behavior; rather, it’s a matter of being the kind of person that loves rightly.”

In The Worship Pastor, Zac Hicks writes that worship because it is full of “rituals of ultimate concerns“serves as a habit forming practice that aims our hearts toward the right end–Jesus and His Kingdom. It should not surprise us that God uses with our heart training the same method that we use for learning things on earth –repetition aimed at habit formation.

All of this made me grateful for every Sunday –some weeks dragging and some weeks delighting — that I have spent in church!

 

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Our Worship and Our Fears

Tullian Over Thanksgiving, my daughter Casey has been preparing for a CRU small group meeting next week. She wants to talk with her freshman girls about the meaning and importance of worship. 

Because of Casey’s interest and because I have been reading Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different by Tullian Tchividjian, his blog post on our worship and our fears caught my eye this morning.  I find his writing clear and concise – he said in a few paragraphs what it takes some authors a book to say!

Sing to Him a New Song!

During the Christmas season, our congregation was blessed with many gifts of music. 20159955 One week stood out above all the others.  A young college student returned for vacation and offered to play his marimba while his friend joined him on flute. 

Since it was the Christmas season, these two extraordinary musicians did a medley of Christmas carols.  They were original compositions–arrangements that kept the basic melody but with embellishments and lilting lines that made you know you were in the presence of incredible musical gifting. 

I can remember listening and my heart wanted to jump out of my chest while my mind excitedly thought, “I may never again be allowed to hear anything this gloriously beautiful!”

Interestingly, my reaction was not shared by all who were listening.  22860490 Some were disturbed that anyone would “mess” with the traditional melody of “Away in the Manger”  or “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” 

Rather than being awed and grateful to be in the presence of such rare and precious gifts, some were angered and felt this “new” music was robbing God of the honor due His name. It sounded too “jazzy” and certainly not traditional.

Since that day I have been grieving over how we as the church have allowed ourselves to crawl into the deep trenches of “Worship Wars.”  We are deciding what we think God would like to hear and then climbing into camps lobbing verbal grenades at those who do not agree with us. We are willing to fight to the last breath with brothers and sisters with heels dug in–convinced that God only likes to hear what we like to hear.

Scripture seemed to speak to the war zone atmosphere as I began the day reading Psalm 33.  One verse jumped out as though it had been bold printed. The simplicity of the words seemed to clear the smoke of confusion and brought clarity.

“Sing to Him a new song;”

Is it possible that the Psalmist knows our inclination to fall in love with the sound of the “old” songs and to forget who we are singing to?

If I repeated the exact same words with the exact same tones to my husband day after day and year after year would he begin to doubt my sincere affection?

Could it be that the psalmist is encouraging the incorporation of the “new” as a protection for our hearts becoming cold and disengaged? 

Does he want our affection for God not to grow stale and mundane in expression?

gma36_tomlin_redman2

Good people, cheer GOD!

Right-living people sound best when praising.

Use guitars to reinforce your Hallelujahs!

Play His praise on a grand piano!

Invent your own new song to Him;

give Him a trumpet fanfare.”  

Psalm 33:1-3, The Message

Wonder what the psalmist thinks about clapping in worship?