Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Worship begins with the Right Question

I genuinely believe that authentic worship meets people's needs because people need to worship. I admit that sounds like a little circular reasoning. But my point is this: Worshiping God is not simply a good thing to do; it is a necessary thing to do in order to be human. When all the clutter is cleared away from our lives, we human beings not only need to engage in corporate worship; we truly want to worship in communion with others.

So, what does that mean for planners of worship? One important thing it means for worship planners is that we do not make worship meaningful; worship is already meaningful. In other words, we don't manufacture worship that meets people's needs; authentic worship already meets people's needs. Another thing this means for planners of worship is that while worship will meet people's needs and thus will be attractive to people, not everything that attracts people to the sanctuay is authentic worship.

I also believe that worship is what happens when people become aware that they are in the presence of the living God. Worship is a lot like falling in love. When someone falls heads over heels for another, adoration flows naturally from the lover toward the loved one. This adoration is not primarily about anything else. Indeed, in the presence of the loved one, the lover cannot help but adore, and apart from the beloved, nothing can provoke adoration - not perfume, soft music, dim lights or wine and roses.

So what's the right question then when we worship planners contemplate the plan for worship? Here's what I would say about that: Rather than making a list of human tastes and desires and then trying to figure out how to pound the pegs of worship into those holes, we work from the other direction. How does authentic worship evoke from us what is genuinely human and satisfies our deepest longings? That's the right question.

Drawn from, Tom Long, Beyond the Worship Wars: Building Vital and Faithful Worship, The Alban Institute, 2001.