Friday, September 08, 2006

The Babel of Worship

One of the results of our increasingly connected age is the exposure we gain to other worship expressions of real Christians. One assumes that differences have always existed between, say, the manner in which Scots Presbyterians and colonial slave Baptists approached the Lord. For a very long time we knew those differences existed, but we were not forced to think too hard about them.

With the advent of mass communication and the internet in particular, we are now put in a place where we have to think through what everyone else is doing (and, more importantly, what WE are doing) in worship and ask if it is in line with Truth.

Lots of these conversations are off the mark from the start. A few work hard to stay Biblical. What I rarely hear much of, however, is the joy in the difference.

Adrian Warnock has been engaging some others in the essence of being a charismatic. It has been an interesting read, and although somewhat unrelated, I think the prod that got me thinking about this.

I wonder if too much of our discussion on worship forms (if we limit ourselves to just that for now) is trying to accomplish something the Bible does not command – a uniformity of practice that crosses all times and cultures? Not only do I think such a thing is not commanded, I think its pursuit flies in the face of the Scriptural emphasis which is always – Old and New Testament – on the heart.

You raise your hands. You kneel on a kneeler. You rarely pray out loud. You clap when you sing. You dress formally when gathering with other saints. Which of these is Biblically (and, in this sense, I mean “morally”) good or right? You could find Biblical precedent for each one, I think... but those actions were based more on the time and circumstance in which the worship was offered.

To try and boil Christian expressions of worship down to one set of rules is to try and build a tower to the glory of man, not God. Certainly there are actions and such that the Lord condemns as unfitting for His worship (animal sacrifice in the New Covenant comes to mind). There are also positive things that He commands we must do (like public reading of the Bible). But beyond these parameters, I say, rejoice in the difference – and stay away from high towers.