Don’t Leave Us Here

It has been almost a year since I last posted to the NSM site. Whoa. In this time, a new Version 2 of No Small Matter (renamed “Bigger”) has been produced and is available for group and individual study/conversation. At Ames EFC we have had three groups so far during Fall 2012 and Winter 2013. The conversations have been really fun, enlightening and hopefully somewhat of a catalyst as people consider the idea of growing a bigger worship. Today I wanted to respond to a fun little video that has been going around the web pretty furiously (275k views so far) in the last couple of weeks. Take a couple of minutes and view it here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhYuA0Cz8ls&feature=youtu.be

Funny. Really funny. I especially like the fact that everything has to be “in flames”.

My intent today is not to criticize or laud this video and its tongue-in-cheek messages about some of the current music being used for the gathering of God’s people. As far as it goes, the video is probably helpful in pointing out some potential considerations for folks who are involved in writing, choosing and leading these days. But at its core, it leaves us wanting more–simply because it leaves us at what I refer to as a smaller worship.

A smaller worship is basically this: the sole focus on what happens “for about an hour a week and what we like or don’t like about it.” It is interesting to me that in this case, the perspective of “what I like or don’t like” is not completely jettisoning the concept of modern worship forms, just the particulars of what the author regards as apparently simplistic, formulaic, and not worthy of our time or consideration. I am imagining that this video has (under the surface) some attempts at promoting what the author feels are more worthy principles (maybe complexity, innovation and creativity?) for worship music. But at the end of the day, we are still talking about preferences here. Mine, yours, or somebody else’s. This is a dead end for the Body of Christ no matter which way you slice it.

Paraphrasing John Piper from his excellent study on worship “The Gravity and the Gladness”: the New Testament is almost completely devoid of the details, forms, and artistic expectations of gathered worship.

Why?

Because if the spread of the Gospel depended on maintaining any given set of cultural or historic criteria for worship, it most likely would have stayed localized to First Century Palestine.

Not such good news for those of us who live in a setting significantly removed both by time and culture. Thanks to God that this is not the case.

A smaller worship (…an hour a week and what we like or don’t like about it) has two tragic consequences that we might not see at first glance: 1) a trading down of the unbelievable privilege of continually dwelling with, loving and serving God to something bound by the constraints of time and form, and 2) the invitation of disunity—ultimately resulting in the Church fighting internal battles, while a lost world looks on in disbelief and disinterest.

We can do better than this. We have to do better than this.

In fact, let me propose that taking some steps in growing a bigger worship can lead to three really great outcomes: 1) coming to hold God and others as more important in these issues than ourselves, 2) a willingness to engage in growth and change when mission-critical and heart necessary, and finally 3) a beautiful life rhythm of “deeper in and further out.” I am convinced that these “soul tattoos” of the Body of Christ will be exactly the attracting factors that Jesus talks so powerfully about when He says that the world will know we are His by our love for one another.

Thank you, Messy Mondays, for giving me a chance this last week to think a little deeper about the music we use to engage in the improbably amazing prospect of knowing and meeting with God. I did laugh at myself a little. In fact, I had to think twice about some music I was writing just a couple of days ago. That seems like a good outcome.

But please don’t leave us here. We need something bigger, much bigger.

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