What business is it of yours how other people worship?
What gives you the right to force your way on me?
We all have different personalities, learning modalities, and preferences.
Our different expressions in our love to God are valuable to Him and that is all that matters.
You should have confidence in individual Christians to make discerning decisions for themselves.
I get this kind of response a lot here on the blog and on social media. Basically, just, “Mind your own business, Jonathan.”
There are a lot of aspects of faith in which minding ones own business is good and proper and right. Just as Paul wrote to the Romans in regards to the church’s sticking point about eating meat, there are times in which we should be gracious toward other believers when we diverge in matters of conscience.
But worship in the church is not some lifestyle decision to be made. It is not a place to mind ones own business. Especially not now, not here.
For most of church history, this idea of individual worship preferences would have been nonsense. Even as schism and separation and reformation and succession divided us, the concept of comfortable, entertaining worship was a non-issue. Liturgy was liturgy. While theologies grew more diverse, the basic pattern remained the same. Liturgy was how the church worshiped. The church was nourished by Word and Sacrament. Ritual wasn’t derided as dead and meaningless, it was a discipline to anchor our minds and hearts to transcendent reality. Symbols were cherished as visible reminders of our life-long need of grace.
Most of all, more than anything, worship was truly corporate in nature. Liturgy wasn’t a preference, it was of paramount importance.
But pop worship and sentimental blue-haired worship breed individualistic selfishness. Come in, sit back, relax, be comfortable. Emote your heart out somewhere in the Almighty’s general direction while our cover band plays some rockin’ good tunes. Hear a helpful, “relevant” message. Then go on with your fun weekend plans.
Sure, if the entertainment is good enough, it might get some butts in the seats. It might draw in a lot, actually, if the cover band is good, the sound system is expensive, and the “pastor” is charismatic. But getting butts in the seats is not the point. Drawing in outsiders is not worship. Providing good entertainment is the antithesis of the missional church.
If that’s your draw, you teach people to, in the words of that great American hymn-writer Smokey Robinson, shop around until you find “worship you enjoy.” And in the long run, that consumerist church model implicitly tells people to leave if they can’t find a church that’s entertaining enough.
But the gift of liturgy isn’t bestowed upon us individually. No, this gift is presented to the church, to strengthen and mold it as Christ’s body here on earth.
As we say here in Texas, it’s not for you and you and you and you, it’s for y’all.
In our contemporary situation, when many professing Christians make their tenuous or downright nonexistent church affiliation a point of pride because their “spirituality” is personal, private, and “between me and God,” we need a robust liturgical theology to stop the bleeding. We need a worship reformation. You cannot serve Jesus faithfully while continually forsaking his church. True liturgical worship is evidence of this. Called out of the highways and byways, we gather. We listen to the Word proclaimed in the community, we hear the communal invitation to Table and together we are fed.And then we’re sent out, the body of Christ like a burning coal on our lips and in our stomachs, and we begin to see things just a little bit differently. Like the body and blood of our Savior, we are fractured and poured out for the world around us.
Dear brothers and sisters, this is why liturgical worship is not a matter of conscience. It’s not a matter of preference or comfort. Liturgy is the life and breath of the church. It is where we are made ready for our mission as Christ’s hands and feet.
The ancient standard holds true: Lex orandi, lex credendi. As we worship, so we believe. The church’s mission is at stake here. That’s why I write, and why I keep on writing about this. It’s why I won’t simply stay quiet.
The church’s worship is my business, and it is yours, too.