“To change lives, our worship must connect with its congregants. God’s story must enter into dialogue with our stories, and vice versa. Unfortunately, this is less and less the case. Too much of our worship is sadly out of step with the lives of many, if not most, of our congregants. Unwilling to address life honestly, our worship floats above the fray in irrelevance. Rather than recognize that pain is an important part of contemporary life, we anesthetize our existence. We fail to allow into our worship the dark side.” – Robert Johnston
It’s an ugly world.
And while we sit around in our houses of
worship entertainment, feeling good and pious and all connected with the god of our emotions, the ugliness persists. Right now, the darkness is falling and the winds are blowing. And we’re running out of excuses. With every act of violence against people of color, the contemporary church must push it’s bloated head further and further into the sand in order to continue with its business as usual.
It’s an abomination. The whole thing. The performance. The slate of worship options. The rock star worship leaders. The insipid psychologizing sermon series that substitutes relationship advice or moral lessons for the power of the gospel. The living room sanctuaries. The imprecise and careless language. The cute marketing campaigns. The illusion of connecting people with God, while disconnecting them from the brothers and sisters out in their communities. The
altars and chancels platforms stages devoid of our beautiful symbols; reminders of our life-long need of grace. Orders of worship that give congregations nothing to do but sing, you know, if they feel like it and love Jesus. Worship that culminates in music instead of the Eucharist.
This type of “worship” has spawned clichés and catchphrases that have called us to go deeper, to grow more passionately in love with Jesus, but we’ve only grown more lukewarm.
That ugliness around us demands better worship.
Worship that won’t let us obsess about our felt needs.
Worship that isn’t driven by butts in the seats.
Worship that isn’t driven by preference.
Worship that isn’t comfortable.
Worship that calls us to question our priorities.
Worship that doesn’t unite us by a targeted demographic, but by the call of God on our lives.
Worship that calls us to put our hands out instead of up.
Worship that dares us to forsake our positions of power and privilege.
Worship that won’t let us rationalize the terror we see going on around us.
Worship that doesn’t reassure us in our self-focused anxieties.Worship that compels us to call out injustice.
Worship that names and repents from apathy.
Worship that helps us see Jesus in those who don’t look like us.
Worship that helps us see ourselves in the oppressed.
Worship that wakes us up to our calling to live out God’s justice and mercy in the world.
Because, friends, true worship doesn’t meet our felt needs, it awakens us to the needs of the community around us. It is so disruptive that we cannot continue with our lives as planned. Something in us must change, so that we can be the change we want to see.
We need to say, “Enough!”
How much longer can we sit around and watch the jesusy show? How much longer can we arrogantly stand around and croon “My chains are gone!” while fellow image-bearers are being tackled, bound, and shot dead right in our backyards? Can we really continue to inebriate ourselves on the wine of consumeristic Christianity, and ignore the silent tears of our neighbors?
When will we realize that only through rich, gospel-centered corporate prayer, can we become God’s prayer for an ugly world?
It is to our own sin and shame that we continue worship like there’s no one around but me and Jesus. There’s a big, ugly world out there.
Now let’s worship like it.