Warning: Rated PG-13 by the Meisheid Internet Rating Service for strong opinions.
I have been reading some things that have gotten my juices flowing. These readings are radical thoughts, these musings of Michael Spencer. I should say they are radical in today's Christian market, and I say market because that is what Christianity has become, at least from my perspective, a place where believers shop around looking for the experience that meets their demands and when they find it they say, "We are being fed." Or, "We have found real worship." Or they say some other nonsense along the same line of thinking.
I remember once having a discussion with a Christian of over twenty years at a former church, who was complaining and considering leaving our fellowship. When I asked him why he was leaving, he said, "I am not being fed." I looked at him for a few minutes and I know he was expecting me to commiserate with him about what he thougt was average preaching and uninspired worship. But against my previous attempts at not stirring up controversy, I said rather forcefully to him, " You have been a Christian for over twenty years, so don't you think it is time you do some feeding of those in real need, rather than complaining about not being fed yourself? After twenty years shouldn't you have matured in Christ a little further than that?" Needless to say he was not at all pleased and my challenge did not cause him to change his mind and he left. He went somewhere else, seeking a deeper experience of God. Sad, but all too typical.
Let me say, come, let us reason together. Worship as a Christian still in, but not of this world, is not an experience of God, moving into His presence, defined by some overwhelming internal feeling, similar I must say, to drug highs for those who came out of that environment like myself. No, it is instead the offering of ourselves to God; it is giving, applying everything we do and are to God. And as such, worship is living the life of a Christian for Christ, no matter what you are doing, if it is done to the honor and glory of God. Worship is work and play when done to and in homage to God. As a result, true Biblical worship is other-centered, God-centered, definitely not self-centered. It is never what you experience, but instead what you give to God. Worship is, or saying it another way, worship is being when that being is being in God in Christ. Only God says "I AM." Worship is us saying, "You are." Worship is not EROS, our own ecstatic experience of enjoying the other, even if that other is God, but AGAPE or the self-sacrificial giving of ourselves.
Now don't misunderstand me, I am not saying worship never creates experiences. What I am saying is that if there is an experience, it is the result of God's gift to you, not a demand to that He must be meet or an expectation to be sought after and most assuredly, not the purpose of what you are doing. To use an old analogy it is the fruit, not the root and if you seek it you have turned everything upside down. If that is so and you are seeking the experience, then you have distorted your pursuit of God into a nothing more than a fix for your experiential, existential habit. That is not worship, that is addiction and it is not to God but to your own self-centered experience however produced and maintained. You have turned everything bassackward.
Yes this is an indictment and it doesn't dwell on the solution, but first demands that we admit the sin, repent and then we can think about the proper course to follow. You say I am wrong and this is not sin. OK. Show me a scripture that backs up your experiential-based worship context and we can talk about it. As for my argument, let's start with Acts 2:42. "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Hmm… Where is that ecstatic worship in the overwhelming presence of God? Are you ready to think seriously about what God may or may not want from you in this matter?